Foundations of Biology: Human Genome Identity Project

Foundation of Biology students recently completed their Human Genome Identity Project, which explores the connection between genetics and human identity.

“Our DNA is more than 99.5% the same as those around us and much of our diversity comes from environmental factors and cultural influence,” said Kim McCabe, the Upper School science teacher leading the project.  “Looking at our genome can help bring us together – as humans – in new ways. It gives us a chance to unpack our biases and think about how they can effect the way we look at and interpret data.”

For the project – which was inspired by a 2013 exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History – students asked individuals around campus the same four questions about their genetic traits: (1) Do you have dimples? (2) Are your earlobes attached? (3) Can you roll your tongue? (4) Do you have a hairline peak?. 

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James Turner ’18 created this pie chart to visualize what percentage of people sampled fell into each group.

After collecting an impressively large amount of data, they worked in groups to create two visual presentations of their findings – a hallway exhibit (see top photo) and a video (coming soon) – all while taking into account Margaret Middleton’s article on how language can ostracize certain populations in museums.

“Students thought about how their representation of the data could be biased,” McCabe said. “They were continually assessing their narrative to ensure it encouraged inclusivity.”

You can see more pictures from the classes – and their final projects – on the Beaver Facebook page.

Hallway exhibit created by: Calli Bilchik, Nicholas Browne, Dylan Curran, Nicholas Duarte, Jackson Elmore, Gabriel Fields, Araisy Guerrero, Tess Huckaby, Sophie Kaplan (Project Manager), Maya Kinel, Jill Kirson (Project Manager), Paige LaCava, Ava Neely, Mackenzie O’Gara, James Turner, and Jason Waldman.

Video created by: Jennifer Barletta, Samantha Cutler, Annabelle Fulton (Project Manager), Dahlia Gordon, Benjamin Lehv, Matthew Rosenblum, Sydney Rosensweig, Samuel Scher, Lisa Winshall (Project Manager).

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