Epigenetics: How Environment Changes Our Genes


Fall 2018

Tuesdays, 6:00 - 7:30 pm, Edens 2A 401

Fourteen years ago, the sequencing of the human genome was the pinnacle of genetics. However, our raw genetic code is not the only determinant of our biological fate. In recent years, scientists have uncovered the increasing importance of the epigenome - the collection of modifications, compounds, and complexes that impact our genetic code and our lives. These complex regulatory systems help regulate our genes’ function and expression which determine our health, development, and evolution.


This course will introduce the field of epigenetics broadly, focusing on the most important and hottest topics in epigenetic research. Most classes will consist of journal clubs with the purpose of understanding secondary review articles that are based on primary research. We will also invite faculty guests who are leaders in different fields of epigenetics research and we will learn about their most recent discoveries for the topic of discussion every week.


We will also delve into the environmental, societal, and ethical implications of the epigenome. The course will have students discuss and analyze how a newfound understanding of the interplay between our genes and our environment impacts the policies and decisions we make for ourselves and our future generations. Through case studies, we will also look at how consumer products and byproducts such as plastics, food items, and pollution impact our epigenome. By the end of the course, students will be able to discuss what it means to live an epigenetically conscious life in which we make lifestyle decisions that can span for generations.

  • Kamyar Yazdani, yazdani@duke.edu
  • Anna Savelyeva, anna.savelyeva@duke.edu
  • Kathleen Embury, kathleen.embury@duke.edu
  • Beth Sullivan, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
Class Limit: