Audience and approach

This book is written to be an introductory genetics text that emphasizes the connections within and between topics.  For several years, we have used drafts of this book in the first semester of our introductory genetics and molecular biology course – a second year class – at Haverford College, a small US liberal arts institution; the book includes the topics that we are typically able to cover in one semester.   The students in this class have usually taken college-level chemistry classes but are just beginning the biology curriculum.

The four of us have co-taught this course numerous times.  The resulting synergy has energized our efforts and allowed us to combine our broad but overlapping areas of expertise to deliver a student-focused, coherent approach to teaching modern genetics.  We have found that students who have completed our introductory genetics class have a highly integrated view of biology and a strong conceptual framework that allows them and us to fill in more detailed information in later, upper level courses.  We feel that this integrated approach provides them with a uniquely flexible and contemporary view of genetics, genomics, and evolution.

Instructors and students can choose from numerous introductory genetics or molecular biology books, many of which attempt to cover all aspects of genetics and molecular biology.  So what makes ours different? We have tried to maintain an accessible narrative voice and provide analogies and references that engage students; in addition, we have only included the amount of detail appropriate for students at this level and that can be covered in a single term.  We have integrated the topics across many fields of biology including both eukaryotes and bacteria, drawing parallels and comparisons between them.  Perhaps most importantly, however, our text uses genomes and the information gained from genome analysis as its foundation, providing a truly contemporary approach to understanding genetics and evolution.

The book does not assume any particular scientific background in biology or other sciences, but most students will likely have a broad background either from a prior college biology or chemistry course or from advanced courses in high school.


The core of the book covers the topics found in most introductory genetics courses, with a strong molecular biology component needed to understand genome structure and function.  These topics are introduced and developed after a discussion of evolutionary history as recorded in the genome, and evolutionary perspectives are emphasized throughout.   Thus, you will find chapters that cover traditional topics in introductory genetics such as Mendelian genetics, single and two-factor crosses, X-linkage, pedigree analysis, mapping, meiosis, and linkage, but this coverage has been integrated with information about genomes from a wide range of organisms and viewed through the lens of evolution.

Teaching methods for a genetics course