BIOL 1010 V - Biotechnology and Society

A course for students interested in the science behind recent advances in biotechnology. The different ways in which biotechnology is being applied in agriculture, health care, and the environment will be examined. Preclusion: credit will not be given if taken concurrently with, or after BIOL 2200 or BIOC 2200 or BIOL 2201. Students in Biology and Biochemistry programs may only take this course as a free elective.

Scientists are now creating three-parent human embryos, engineering crops to produce pharmaceuticals, and rapidly sequencing genomes. As the pace of advances in biotechnology continues to accelerate, we must ask and answer difficult questions, including: How do we determine which modifications of human and other life forms are safe and appropriate? Who should have access to your genetic information? How much of human behaviour is shaped by genes? And more generally, how do new advances in biotechnology affect our understanding of ourselves, our relationships to each other and with the rest of nature? The complexity of these issues demands that we approach biotechnology from several directions.

In BIOL 1010 we explore the scientific, ethical, legal, and socio-political dimensions of biotechnology. We study the scientific foundations of biotechnology through lectures, readings, videos and discussion. Students build a vocabulary and set of intellectual tools to understand and debate the future of biotechnology, including the roles of scientists, governments, patient groups, legal experts and citizens. Students who successfully complete this course will have the skills needed to allow lifelong learning about the complex and rapidly evolving field of biotechnology.

CRN for section V: 21140

CRN for section VOD (optional Video On Demand service): 21141

Instructor: James Cheetham

James Cheetham

About the instructor: I graduated with a biochemistry from McMaster University in 1987. I then did my graduate studies with Dr. Richard Epand in the Department of Biochemistry at McMaster. My PhD research studied the effects of lipid bilayer stability on membrane fusion of influenza and Sendai viruses with liposomes and cells. I showed that membrane fusion is inhibited by lipids that raised the bilayer to inverted hexagonal phase transition temperature of phosphatidylethanolamines.

I completed my PhD in biochemistry in 1993 and moved to the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology at The Rockefeller University in New York for a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Paul Greengard (Nobel Laureate 2000). At The Rockefeller University, I was introduced to the world of signal transduction in neurons. I did some work on dopamine signal transduction and Alzheimer's disease, but mainly focused on the synapsins, which I continue to study. In 1996, after several years in Manhattan, I returned to Canada and accepted a position as assistant professor in biology at Carleton University. In 2000, I was promoted to associate professor. In 2001, I completed the Canadian Bioinformatics Workshops, given by the Canadian Genetic Disease Network, and have an increasing interest in bioinformatics research. From 2003 to 2009, I was chair of the Department of Biology.

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