Written Assignment: Biology and Technology in the Real World

Addresses course outcomes 1-4:

  • recognize and explain how the scientific method is used to solve problems
  • make observations and discriminate between scientific and pseudoscientific explanations
  • weigh evidence and make decisions based on strengths and limitations of scientific knowledge and the scientific method
  • use knowledge of biological principles, the scientific method, and  appropriate technologies to ask relevant questions, develop hypotheses,  design and conduct experiments, interpret results, and draw conclusions

1. Select one of the topics listed below (a-e).

2. Find at least three reliable information sources related to your  chosen topic. You are encouraged to use the UMUC library in your search:

3. Write a paper with title page, introduction, several paragraphs  addressing the questions, conclusion and references. You must write in  your own words and paraphrase information from the selected information  sources, addressing each of the questions for your chosen topic. Your  paper should consist of less than 10% direct quotes. Your paper should  be 750-1500 words, excluding references and title page. Use APA style  for references:

4. Submit your assignment to the Assignment folder by the due date listed in the course schedule.

a) Stem cells. Your friend has suffered a spinal cord  injury after a bad car accident. The medical team has decided that he is  a good candidate for a clinical trial using stem cell therapy. Your  friend has not had a biology course since high school, so you decide to  write him a letter sharing your knowledge of stem cells. Include in your  letter a description of the biology of stem cells and how these cells  are unique from other cells. Contrast the different types of stem cells,  including pros and cons for each type. Explain how stems cells can be  used to treat diseases and injury, with special focus on spinal cord  injuries. Include information from at least one research study or  clinical trial. Conclude with your own opinion.

b) Genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A friend tells you  that she avoids foods containing GMOs because they are unhealthy. You  decide to use the knowledge gained from your biology class and some  additional research to form your own opinion on GMOs. Answer the  following questions backed up by reliable information sources. What is  the purpose of genetically engineering of crop plants? Include at least  two specific examples of commonly grown GMO crops. How are GMOs created?  Use the provided course materials and make a connection to the central  dogma of molecular biology in your explanation. Which foods in your  supermarket contain GMOs? Are foods that contain GMOs safe for human  consumption? What types of regulations exist for these foods? Clearly  explain your reasoning for each answer in your paper and conclude  whether or not you agree with your friend.

c) Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)  has been the most recent breakthrough discovery in bioengineering that  enables scientists to edit DNA. Because you have studied biology in this  course, you have volunteered at your niece’s Middle School Science Club  to monitor a student debate about CRISPR. The students will be watching  the following video before the discussion: and  you need to be prepared in case there are any questions. Please  research and write an answer to each of the following questions: What is  “CRISPR”? What role does Cas9 play in the CRISPR process? How does the  CRISPR-Cas9 system snip and replace any DNA sequence? What are the  potential benefits and drawbacks of gene editing? Include specific  examples. Do you believe that the inherent risks of modifying animal  DNA is worth the rewards? Explain. Do you believe that it is ethical to  genetically engineer humans and/or animals? Explain.

d) Vaccines. Your friend is worried about the many  vaccines that his newborn son is scheduled to receive and asks you for  advice since you are taking a biology course. Start with an explanation  of how vaccines work. Briefly contrast the traditional methods used to  create vaccines with more recently used biotechnology techniques. Then  list some of the diseases that babies and children in the US are  routinely vaccinated against. How has vaccinations impacted the  frequency of these diseases over the past 100 years? Why are some people  worried about giving their children vaccines? Is there scientific  evidence to support these concerns? Conclude with advice to your friend  in regard to getting the recommended vaccines based on what you learned  from reliable information sources.

e) Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and tar sands (oil sands).  With  society’s dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels, the oil & gas  industry is turning to hydraulic fracturing and tar (oil) sands  to extract natural gas and oil.  A friend asks you “What’s all this  controversy in the news about fracking and tar sands?”  Briefly explain  to your friend how hydraulic fracturing and tar (oil) sands are used to  obtain these fossil fuels. Then, in more detail, describe the  environmental problems that may result from these processes and why they  are controversial. Issues that should be addressed involves water, air  and soil pollution with special focus on global climate change, effects  on human health, and effects on other species and natural ecosystems.  Finally, give your opinions on possible solutions to these environmental  problems, with your reasoning backed by information from reliable  information sources.