- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
The eXtension Foundation will host a virtual chat with UC Cooperative Extension specialist Alan McHughen, author of DNA Demystified: Unravelling the Double Helix, on Connect Extension, Oct. 6, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. It is open to all Cooperative Extension professionals.
DNA has moved from research labs into applications in our daily lives, through – among other things – personal genetic testing kits and GMO foods. The technology is not well understood by the general public, and the topic is often surrounded by confusion and controversy. Research indicates that Americans are closely divided over the perceived health risks of food additives and genetically modified foods.
In this virtual chat featuring McHughen, who is a UC Riverside molecular geneticist with an interest in crop improvement and environmental sustainability, participants will have an opportunity to learn more about the basics of DNA and genetics, along with newsworthy topics, including genetic engineering in the food system. McHughen will also weigh in on the ethical and privacy issues arising from DNA and genetic technologies.
UCCE emeritus advisor Rose Hayden-Smith will host the chat, which will include discussing the role of Cooperative Extension professionals in communicating complex science concepts to clientele.
Join this chat for an engaging discussion with colleagues about one of the most important issues of our time.
To participate, Cooperative Extension professionals will need to have a Connect Extension account. Register your free Connect Extension account at https://connect.extension.org./span>
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
“I was inspired to write the book by the large number of basic questions I got from people curious about DNA and how it works, but lacking the technical training they thought they needed,” McHughen said. “They've told me the books currently available are either too simplistic or too technical. So DNA Demystified aims to hit that middle ground, being scientifically accurate, but also accessible for the nonexpert. In that respect, it is absolutely perfect for home schoolers, both the teacher-parent and the science curious student.”
What people know, or think they know, about DNA and genetics is often confused or incorrect. McHughen clarifies popular misconceptions people hear on the news and read on the internet.
The book begins with the basic groundwork and a brief history of DNA and genetics. Chapters then cover newsworthy topics, including DNA fingerprinting, using DNA in forensic analyses, and identifying cold-case criminals. For readers intrigued by at-home DNA tests, the text includes fascinating explorations of genetic genealogy and family tree construction-crucial for people seeking their biological ancestry. Other chapters describe genetic engineering in medicine and pharmaceuticals, and the use of those same technologies in creating the far more controversial GMOs in food and agriculture. Throughout, the book raises provocative ethical and privacy issues arising from DNA and genetic technologies.
“I also found some genetic experts also enjoy the book for exposing them to some of the applications they were less familiar with, whether genetic genealogy, forensic genetics, or genetic engineering and genome editing. I like to think there's something for everyone here,” McHughen said.
The book is available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/0190092963.
For more information, see the UC Riverside news release at https://news.ucr.edu/articles/2020/08/27/new-book-explains-dna-curious-nonscientists.