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Suggested reading before you begin Part II Genetics

If you have signed up for Part II Genetics, there is no requirement to read books on the subject before beginning the course.  This is because most of the recommended reading for the course will be primary research papers and up-to-date reviews, rather than text books, and attempting to tackle this material before the lectures start would probably not be very useful (and  possibly off-putting!). The book suggestions below are therefore relatively light reading, to increase your enthusiasm for the subject! Please contact the Course Organiser if you feel you need some guidance on more in-depth background reading to help you feel more confident.

General interest, genetics-orientated, books  :

In the Blood; The Language of Genes; Darwins Ghost [and others] - Steve Jones
The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins
Abraham Lincolns DNA - Philip R. Reilly
[Anything by] - Stephen Jay Gould
The Seven Daughters of Eve - Brian Sykes
Genome - Matt Ridley [about the Human Genome Project]
The Common Thread - John Sulston & Georgina Ferry [Human Genome
A Monk and Two Peas - Robin Marantz Henig [about Gregor Mendel, and including a bit about the early days of genetics in Cambridge]
Living with Our Genes - Dean H. Hamer and Peter Copeland
Time, Love, Memory: A great biologist and his quest for the origins of
behaviour - Jonathan Weiner
The beak of the finch - Jonathan Weiner
Endless Forms most Beautiful - Sean Carroll

or perhaps Biography/ autobiography, such as:
Rosalind Franklin - Brenda Maddox
The Statue Within - Francois Jacob
Dorothy Hodgkin - Georgina Ferry
A Feeling for the Organism: the life and work of Barbara McClintock - Evelyn
Fox Keller

Revision / background course content on Moodle

If you have taken 1A Biology of Cells and 1B CDB, some revision of parts of the course content is recommended. If you are a medical or veterinary student,  or a NatSci who has not taken those courses, please see further down the page.

All incoming Part IIs :

  • If you have taken IA Biology of Cells, IA E&B and /or IB CDB, you will still have access to these sites on Moodle
  • If you did not take IA Biology of Cells, IA E&B [Evolution and Behaviour] and /or IB CDB [Cell and Developmental Biology], you are granted access to these sites on Moodle [for the previous year]

During the Part II course, lecturers regularly use basic genetics terminology and will often refer to techniques used to study molecular, cellular and developmental biology. Usually they will not have time to go through these areas in detail in lectures and supervisions, but will assume that you are familiar with this material from your 1A and 1B courses. We therefore strongly recommend that you refresh your memory of the information introduced to you in the NST1A Biology of Cells and 1B Cell and Developmental Biology courses, or read up on them if you are not familiar with them. Particularly useful:

IA Cells lectures from Dr David Summers on basic genetics, and the lectures of Prof Steve Russell.

IB CDB lectures of Dr Cahir O’Kane, which introduce many of the techniques routinely used (e.g. microscopy, sequencing, Southern, northern, western blotting, PCR, DNA microarrays, RNAi, transgenesis, systems biology), Prof Alfonso Martinez-Arias, Dr David Summers, and Dr Marisa Segal.

IA E&B  lectures from Dr William Foster followed by those from Dr John Welch  introduce evolutionary ideas and evolutionary genetics. The  lectures that follow (on early life, plants and animals) are also helpful.

MVST students, and NST students who have not taken NST IB Cell and Developmental Biology :

We strongly recommend that you read through the IA and IB material on Moodle over the summer. You may also find this resource a useful reference point during the year, as a source of information for basic genetics terminology. See especially :

NST Part IA: Biology of Cells This will introduce you to the structure, inheritance and expression of the cell’s genetic material.
1. Hunting the Gene (Dr David Summers) These lectures deal with the principles of genetic analysis in haploid and diploid organisms, the nature of genes and the role of chromosomes in heredity together with the genetics of prokaryotes and the advent of genetic engineering.
2. The Genetics Revolution (Dr Steve Russell). Recombinant DNA technology and its contribution, over the past two decades, to our understanding of cell biology and to the genetic basis of disease.

NST Part IA: Evolution and Behaviour provides a helpful introduction to material in our Lent term Module 5, Evolutionary Genetics. The most useful part of this course is the first term: the lectures from Dr William Foster followed by those from Dr John Welch, which introduce evolutionary ideas and evolutionary genetics. You may also find the  lectures that follow (on early life, plants and animals) helpful.

NST Part 1B: Cell and Developmental Biology (CDB) This second year NST course will introduce you to some of the ideas and experimental approaches in cell and developmental biology. It builds on the material given in the 1A Cells course. Several topics in this course are delivered by lecturers from the Genetics Department and these will be expanded upon at Part II. For example:
1. Genetics Systems of Prokaryotes (Prof Alfonso Martinez-Arias and Dr
David Summers) strategies of gene expression and organisation in prokaryotes - bacteriophage lambda, the prokaryotic cell cycle, nucleus, prokaryotic genomes (chromosomes and plasmids) and the genetic flexibility of prokaryotes.
2. Genome structure and evolution (Dr Cahir O’Kane). Eukaryotic genome organisation and function: genome content, sequencing, repetitive sequences and mobile elements, RNA and RNAi, strategies for studying cell biology.
3. Cytoskeleton (Dr Marisa Segal) the eukaryotic cytoskeleton and mitotic cell division.
You will also find useful the CDB lectures on Development in the Lent and Easter Terms. Reading through these should help you prepare for the Developmental Genetics Module 3. In the past MVST students have told us that they find the Developmental Genetics material the most unfamiliar and they have asked us for more preparatory reading suggestions.

For those of you who have not done any developmental biology and who would like to read further around the area in preparation for the Genetics module 3 a useful book, which gives a good overview, is Lewis Wolpert’s 'Principles of Development' (Oxford University Press). This book is also available in the Genetics Library for everyone to refer to during the year.