Online lecture series on genomics and bioinformatics

By Grant Jacobs 01/02/2012 3

A current lecture course surveying genomics and bioinformatics is available online, hosted on YouTube by GenomeTV. Handouts for the thirteen week course are hosted on the course website. We’re told that the course includes an update on technologies that have changed over the past two years.

These lectures are introductory. They are aimed at biologists who wish to learn more about genomics or bioinformatics, perhaps because their upcoming work intersects with it, rather those who already have some detailed knowledge or experience of the field. I would add that, being lectures, they are high-flying in the sense that they do not deal with the actual hands-on work involved, which introduces finer detail and further issues not covered in these lectures.

The lectures cover a wide range of topics; the full schedule is shown below. If you are looking for an overview on the field, you could do worse than sit through these lectures at your leisure.

Here’s the full course schedule:

  • The Genomic Landscape circa 2012 (Eric Green, NHGRI)
  • Biological Sequence Analysis I (Andy Baxevanis, NHGRI)
  • Genome Browsers (Tyra Wolfsberg, NHGRI)
  • Biological Sequence Analysis II (Andy Baxevanis, NHGRI)
  • Regulatory and Epigenetic Landscapes of Mammalian Genomes (Laura Elnitski, NHGRI)
  • Next-Generation Sequencing Technologies (Elaine Mardis, Washington University at St. Louis)
  • Introduction to Population Genetics (Lynn Jorde, University of Utah)
  • Genome-Wide Association Studies (Karen Mohlke, University of North Carolina)
  • Pharmacogenomics (Howard McLeod, University of North Carolina)
  • Large-Scale Expression Analysis (Paul Meltzer, NCI)
  • Genomic Medicine (Bruce Korf, University of Alabama at Birmingham)
  • Applications of Genomics to Improve Public Health (Colleen McBride, NHGRI)
  • Genomics of Microbes and Microbiomes (Julie Segre, NHGRI)

Readers looking for slides of the talks, should check the handouts available on the course website.

At over an hour long each, these are substantial lectures – you’ll want plenty of time before tackling these.

The Genomic Landscape circa 2012

The first lecture, shown below, opens with an overview of the course, before introducing the speaker, Eric Green. In this presentation he offers his perspective on the current ‘genomic (human) landscape’, in part working off his history in field.[1]

Those with some familiarity with the genome project may wish to move straight to the more ‘practical’ lecture. Some might prefer to skim fairly quickly through the first 13 minutes or so of the opening lecture. Green has a lot to say, much worth hearing for those new to it, but I have to admit I dislike that he initially spends a fair bit of time telling us what is going to tell us, rather than simply telling us it.[2] (My opinion here won’t be helped by that I’m already very familiar with this ground; others’ views might therefore differ.)

At the time of writing the next two presentations are also available online.

Biological sequence analysis I (Andy Baxevanis; a part II for this occurs as the fourth lecture)

I like that this lecture mentions very early on ‘the black box issue’ – where people paste sequence data into the text box of a bioinformatics web service, press a button to initiate some bioinformatics analysis and presume the results to be meaningful. The issues, of course, is that you still have to know how the tools work and thence how to relate the results to the biology you are investigating.

Baxevanis initially covers some basic terminology before moving basic analyses gradually moving to more sophisticated methods and aspects. Among topics he covers the BLAST family of sequence analysis methods.

Genome Browsers (Tyra Wolfsberg)

Getting at, viewing and manipulating genome sequence data can be done online through genome browsers. Wolfsberg opens with an introductory account of the main genome sequencing and assembling approaches (clone by clone v. whole genome shotgun sequencing) before moving onto more recent approaches (the so-called next-generation methods). She covers genome assembly approaches, reference sequences and other issues.

Further lectures in the series will appear over the next few months, as shown on the schedule on the course website.



1. One comment on the YouTube page for the first lecture reads ’Please let us also remember Rosalind Franklin whenever we speak of DNA DOUBLE HELICAL structure!’.

I would add to also mention Maurice Wilkins, who shared the Nobel Prize for the determination of the structure of DNA with Watson & Crick.

Wilkins’ story can be read in his autobiography, The Third Man of the Double Helix. Wilkins was born in New Zealand and raised there for the first six-plus years of his life and is New Zealand’s second Nobel laureate after Lord Ernst Rutherford.

(On the subject of name, a person very much involved in the genome projects is John Sulston who headed the British part of the human genome project. I was a student at the MRC LMB during the time that the British effort was set up and I can still remember, with some embarrassment now, being a (very!) naïve student asking John what he was going to do with the £200 million pound grant that seeded the British effort.)

2. I know some of my earlier lectures have been guilty of this.

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3 Responses to “Online lecture series on genomics and bioinformatics”

  • Since starting to work with Misha Angrist on the paperback launch of his book about the US PGP (Here Is a Human Being), I’m becoming increasingly interested in discovering different approaches to personal genome projects – still know nothing about anywhere but the US – do you know of a book aimed at the lay person that tackles the subject globally? Some of us are handicapped by not having studied science in depth and more than 40 years ago. 😉

  • Ruth,

    I recall there is a book on the ethics side of things written by two NZ researchers. I thought I had I mentioned it earlier on my blog, but I’m having trouble relocating either on my blog or elsewhere. I’m fairly certain there was a news item about it on the RSNZ website.

    While I’m writing, I have a ruminative article about personal genomics in the pipeline. Hopefully completing this will come about sooner rather than later!

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