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Genetics: Science and Society (IL023)


Will it be possible to edit our children DNA? What are designer babies and saviour siblings?
What are the ethical implications of genetic selection? Will we live in a world without Down's Syndrome?
Do films such as GATTACA and Jurassic Park play a role in the perception that society has of genetics?


This module will help you to explore all of these questions and to look at this global topic in its complexity, discovering the potential of an interdisciplinary approach.

It will give you an overview of the latest human genetic technologies and it will focus on the interactions between science, society, politics, and culture, in particular on the issues of the ownership of genetic information, the ethical controversies around the use of genetic selection and reprogenetics (e.g. designer babies, saviour siblings), the correlations between genetics and ethnicity and the relationship between science fiction movies (e.g. Never let me go, My sister's keeper) and biotechnologies.

Experts from School of Life Sciences, Chemistry, Warwick Medical School, Sociology, History, Film and TV Studies and History of Science will contribute to this module giving you the possibility to achieve a truly global approach to this very complex matter.

This module will utilise popular art and in particular films, to facilitate the critical discussion of scientific technologies and of the ethical, social and political topics presented in the lectures.

You will be directly involved at every stage of the learning process and at the centre of Group- and Problem-Based learning activities throughout the module.

If you are already familiar with the scientific theme presented, don't miss the opportunity to look at this topic from the point of view of other disciplines.

This module is truly unique for its holistic approach to the subject, for its transdisciplinary nature and for the type of learning activities proposed. It will allow you to learn how to tackle your own learning interests and research in a more interdisciplinary and global way.


No pre-requisites required. Students from all the faculties have attended to the module in the academic years 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.

Structure (2018-19)


The module will consist of ten two-hour sessions and one seminar (screening of the film GATTACA), for up to twenty students, from across the University's departments. Each week will be split between a subject-specialist led session and an hour in which the students and module leader will work with the week's set stimulus to develop student ideas. This latter part will embody an interdisciplinary emphasis and use IATL's Open-Space Learning alongside Group-Based and Problem-Based learning activities.
Students from School of Life Science, Economics and Film and TV Studies during one of the Group Based Learning activities.
Dr Elena Riva (IATL): Introduction to Genetics: Science & Society
Dr Matthew Denny (Film and Television Studies): Reading Cinema & Genetics
Professor Kevin Moffat (School of Life Sciences): DNA, Genes and Everything You Need to Know!
Professor Robert Old (School of Life Sciences): The Logic of the Human Genome
Dr James Poskett (History): History of Genetics
Professor Heather Draper & Dr Simon Jenkins (Warwick Medical School): The Ethical Implications of Genetic Selection
Dr Felicity Boardman (WMS): Genomics and Society
Dr Caroline Wright (Sociology): Reprogenetics
Dr David Kirby (Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine; University of Manchester): Genetic Age in Science Fiction Films


- 2000 (15 CATS) or 1500 (12 CATS) word essay. Traditional style essays, as well as essays that reflect scientific writing (i.e. scientific article style), will be welcome. (50%)

- Student Devised Assessment (SDA). Form of assessment method designed by you with the full support of the tutor whereby you will create a piece of work (an article, a short film, a talk, a play, a workshop, a painting, a podcast and so on) that offers a solution to a controversial topic or a question that has arisen during the module. You will be free to select your preferred topic/question and subsequently, you will undertake your own research utilising the methodologies and the holistic approach presented throughout the course. You must demonstrate and communicate the theories presented in the module in your piece. You will be given full tutor support both when planning your devised assessment and when bringing it to fruition. This will include some one-on-one time with a module tutor. (15 and 12 CATS; 50%)

The 2nd edition of the 'Genetics: Science and Society' Module Exhibition (2018) took place on the 21st of November in the SU Atrium between 12 and 4 pm. Virtual exhibition coming soon!

Here a virtual tour of the 2017 exhibition where you can admire the art pieces, read the stories and essays, listen to the podcasts and watch the videos of the students.


[Pictured artwork (cropped) by Jahazaib Johngir, School of Life Sciences]

Module convenor


Dr Elena Riva
(E dot Riva at warwick dot ac dot uk)



Term 2 (Spring) 2018-19
Fridays 14.00-16.00

An additional seminar will be held on the 16th of January in the Humanities Studio (1-4 pm).

Week 9 session will be in the Humanities Studio on Wednesday the 13th of March (1-3pm) instead of Friday the 8th of March.


Room OC1.09
Oculus Building


For 15 CATS:

- 2000 word piece of academic writing (e.g. essay, scientific article, etc. - 50%)
- Student-devised assessment (50%)

The deadline for the submission of both the assessments is 25th of April 2019 at 12.00 noon.

For 12 CATS:

- 1500 word piece of academic writing (e.g. essay, scientific article, etc. - 50%)
Student-devised assessment (50%)

The deadline for the submission of both the assessments is 25th of April 2019 at 12.00 noon.