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‘Genetics: Science and Society’ - Module Exhibition 2018

Exhibition Curators

- Dr. Elena Riva, Senior Teaching Fellow & Director of Studies

- Dr. Nat das Neves Rodrigues Lopes, Early Career Teaching Fellow

Exhibition Co-Curators

- Tiffanie Gould, Undergraduate Student in the Department of Psychology

- Jess Oliver, Undergraduate Student in the School of Life Sciences

Background

  • Will it be possible to edit our children’s 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?
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This module helps students to explore all of these questions while discovering the potential of an interdisciplinary approach.

It invites the exploration of genetics in all its complexity, giving them an overview of the latest human genetic technologies and the interactions between science, society, politics and popular culture

Studens worked directly with cross-faculty experts, engaged in team and problem-based learning activities and achieved a holistic approach to understanding genetics while developing a more global understanding of their own disciplinary interests and research.

Student Devised Assessments (SDA)

Elena Riva- Explanation of SDA's

The SDA offered students the chance to display their critical engagement with the themes and theories of the module and to take a considered approach as to how they might practically apply what they have learned in a medium of their choosing.

What does a SDA look like?

The SDA’s form is down to the student. They consider what issues and theories they want to address and then pick whatever form they feel best expresses them. They start by thinking of the key question they would like to investigate or explore in their SDA and then they choose how to develop their research and the medium with which they would like to communicate their findings.

The SDA can take any form they wish (a story, workshop, presentation, blog, comic, painting, video, essay, dance, website, poem, song, learning resource, collage, diary...anything!) and it displays their personal experiences of and thoughts about the module’s topics, questions and stimuli in the best way possible. They have to clearly demonstrate and critically engage with theory and give an explanation of their choice of medium. To help with this, they write an accompanying explanation or give an accompanying presentation to their piece together with a detailed bibliography.

Projects

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Becky Bedford | Department of Mathematics

Poem – The Birthing Programmer

Assessment pieces

‘(…) I decided to describe a dystopian future with an emphasis on genes and how they could become an essential aspect of society. I wanted to convey this description in the form of a poem and by using poetic techniques, I hope to highlight the slippery slope argument and promote discussion among the readers. (…) Dystopian fiction is a popular genre (…) I believe [it] is important in providing a springboard for discussion and allowing readers to evaluate whether the events could actually happen.’

‘(…) in The Birthing Programmer, I choose not to describe the exact science behind these base pairs instead mention them in the final verse “A C was better there than a G” to confuse readers as they do not understand the exact effect of this change. I hoped to convey how confusing and difficult it is for the public to determine their opinion on genetic selection and modification when they have limited knowledge of the in-depth science behind genetics. When faced with a decision about genetic modification and selection, I anticipated that parents within the dystopian future could feel pressured to make a certain choice as they do not fully understand the scientific jargon surrounding genetics.’

‘With the new invasive prenatal test now being offered to mothers with a higher chance of Down’s syndrome baby, there are concerns about the increased abortions as a result (Boseley, 2016) which is a form of informal genetic selection. Therefore I wanted to use my assessment as a way to explore the slippery slope argument surrounding genetic selection and how it could develop to be applied to minor traits.’

Isabella Clarke | Department of Philosophy

Website – Genetics: Science and Society

‘My inspiration for creating a website was due to my experience in the module. Coming from a philosophical background meant that during the initial weeks that were spent covering scientific material, I was at times confused. (…) I thought it would be a good idea to create a website that was a simple introduction to the field of genetics that explained basic concepts in an easy to understand way.’

‘I also took great care when considering what topics from the module to include. For the scientific pages, I included information on what DNA is, the structure of DNA, what genes are, the human genome project, genetic engineering, CRISPR, cloning, and genetic disorders. (…) For the ethics page I aimed at making it as interdisciplinary as possible, like our module, by including viewpoints and arguments from many different perspectives. These perspectives include religious ethics, psychological ethics (nature / nurture debate), philosophical ethics (autonomy objection), and socio-economic problems. I felt the way this module had been designed offered a really valuable insight into the subject area as you got to view from genetics from all angles. I tried to also have my website, especially the ethics pages, feel similar to this.’

James Lambert | Department of Psychology

Poster – The ethics of Biobanks

Assessment pieces

‘The reason I decided to focus on ethics was because this was the element of the course that most attracted me to it in the first place. (…) I narrowed this down to biobanks, as they incorporate many different and complex ethical questions. They are also an excellent example of ‘Science and Society’ interacting with one another, and so they felt like an appropriate topic for this course.’

‘Simply put, a biobank is an organised collection of biological samples and/or their associated data. (…) Biobanks have many different applications, including medical and academic research, clinical studies, biotechnology, and judicial purposes. By their very nature, they raise complex ethical questions, such as those regarding the rights of donors and informed consent.’

‘The aim of the project was to promote thought. (…) I wanted readers to think about, I was careful to include even those that I did not personally find convincing. (…) Debate and the consideration of different opinions has been important throughout [the module], and I wanted this to be part of my SDA as well. Indeed, I would argue that it is the only reliable method for tackling these topics – or at least, the one that is most likely to produce solutions that are truly beneficial to all stakeholders.’

Jess Oliver | School of Life Sciences

Primary School Workshop – How well do primary school aged children understand, interpret and reflect on genetics?

‘I wanted to bring an interdisciplinary approach around genetics to these children, as was done in the module (…).I wanted them to think not only about the facts of science and how it may affect them but also how it affects the people around them and society in general.’

‘During [the activity] ‘cracking the code’ I was asked if the body does the same thing and so they clearly understood how our body is using DNA. ‘Bingo’ showed that children were thinking about what is inherited (…) clearly they were thinking more in depth about their traits.’

‘When the discussion started [about ethics], I initially got the response that yes it was a good idea to design people because “you can make people look good” (…). However, as we talked more about the ethics of ‘designer babies’, the children really engaged with why this could be a negative thing (…). They came up with their own ideas such as designer babies ‘may take away their individuality’ and that if someone was not genetically modified and everyone else was then they may feel left out.’

‘(…) the results of this workshop support the hypothesis that young children can understand difficult and somewhat complex concepts that society is currently debating. They are indeed able to understand basic facts about genetics, interpret what DNA can be used for and reflect upon the risks and benefits of using it in different ways.’

Lea Hamelin | Warwick Business School

Collage – What are the moral and ethical implications of cloning?

‘I chose to make a collage, for people who are not scientists to visualize cloning, its history and its potential implications for future societies. By making people see and experience cloning by themselves, it raises their awareness, enhances their acknowledgment of the subject, and thus gives them more material to forge their opinion about clones. Since nowadays, cloning research is becoming more important, it is mandatory that people give their opinion about the use of these new scientific techniques.’

‘As a business student, I soon realized throughout this interdisciplinary module that my opinion often diverged from others (…). Since I could not understand nor see concrete scientific results of the biological experiences, I forged my opinion on what I know about the consequences of these new technologies and its potential effects on our societies. Therefore, I chose to destine my collage to non-scientists who do not understand biology and its advancements, because they do not have access to scientific results. As art is free of interpretation, my design gives a mature audience all sides of the cloning history (…).’

‘The aim of this collage is to show different aspects of the cloning research, starting from its discovery and the multiple experiments undertaken to put in application all the cloning theory, but also its potential positive and negative implications, the possible reactions people may have towards its advancements and how it is nowadays perceived and represented in art. In order to decline the different ideas chronologically and emphasize on what may happen down the inevitable slippery slope, the piece is shaped in a reversed-funnel form.’

Lindo Nyathi | School of Life Sciences

Art Piece – Siblings Unite over Faulty DNA

Assessment pieces

SDA Explanation

‘Saviour siblings was one particular aspect of the module which was touched on but didn’t deepen the analysis. Out of interest, I decided to explore it further.’

‘I chose to present my work in the form of an art piece because I believe that in order to capture the public’s attention, visual display is powerful and allows the viewer to reach their own conclusions as they try to engage with the message being conveyed.’

‘Saviour siblings is apparently a topic that is not well spoken about. I have attempted to demystify the ethical concerns raised by investigating the matter using different platforms to reach a middle ground. In general, the arguments around saviour siblings are based in three issues: the notion of creating a saviour sibling, slippery slope argument which implies that saviour siblings will lead to the creation of ‘designer babies’ and lastly, child welfare.’

‘At the start of my research, I was leaning towards being against saviour siblings. However, when reflecting back to how I feel now, I am neutral. This is the very reason why I chose to tackle this issue by considering different opinions. I learned that with additional information I was able to consider the ‘for’ side and simultaneously develop empathy for both sides (for/against).’

Nima Roy | Politics & Economics

Infographic – Amplifying the Voice of ‘Lived Experience’

‘The purpose of my infographic is to argue that UK society is failing to engage with disabled people’s ‘lived experience’, and that this can and should change.’

‘Lived experience’ embodies the relationship between science and society, which is the essence of this course. My SDA was influenced by my interaction with two mothers of children with Down’s Syndrome in the Week Nine session, who shared their experiences of bringing up their children in a society which increasingly considers Down’s Syndrome an ‘undesirable and preventable condition’. (…) My SDA is an attempt to understand why personal experiences are being excluded and to amplify disabled people’s voices.’

‘Disablist attitudes are detrimental to bioethics; advancements in reprogenetic technologies mean it is increasingly possible to permanently eradicate genetic conditions, but our failure to include disabled people’s ‘lived experience’ in debates means that we are making assumptions about the quality and value of disabled people’s lives, which are over-simplistic and often wrong. This is contemporarily relevant, as screening tests have become part of routine antenatal care and the new screening test NIPT will make it easier to screen for conditions like Down’s Syndrome.’

Alexander Zhong | Department of Philosophy

Brochure for a fictional gene editing clinic – Doctor DNA Inc.

‘I find ethics and genetics interesting because it is one example of technology moving faster than regulation. [My brochure] is supposed to make the reader feel uncomfortable, through the casual disregard for saviour siblings, and the price tags that have taken over life.’

‘The prices that I have chosen are intentionally steep, this is to show how the capitalist mentality of our society will lead to an increasing social economic divide. Clearly only the rich will be able to afford these enhancements and this will only serve to create a caste system which prevents social mobility. (…) is the reduction of our genetics to commercial genetic engineering really what we want to see in the future? (…) In this case, is the future really advancing humanity as a whole? Or are we just taking technological steps forward and cultural steps backward?’

‘Picture this: in the future that this brochure is created for, the rich are able to engineer prodigies so easily that they have become commonplace. There are so many talented individuals that it has become even harder to succeed in any fields due to the intense competition, achievements are no longer great, they are normal. People blame genetics for failures as much as they appraise genetics for success instead of hard work. (…) I wanted to portray this to the reader by showing them just how easy it was to manufacture talent, to make them question their views on enhancement being good for our society, when in actual fact it dilutes our achievements.’

Natasha Young | Warwick Business School (with Economics)

Advertisement – Genetic Labs

‘The purpose of this digitally-drawn advertisement was to postulate a dystopian future in which genetic editing is not only accepted, but encouraged by mainstream media. It is intended to be an extrapolation of current practices of the commodification of the human body, with a view to highlighting the perceived necessity created by social engineering efforts in keeping up to date with the latest biotechnologies, for fear of being left behind.’

‘(…) a digitally-drawn billboard advertisement, was chosen as advertisements sell a promise of a false reality or utopia, their objective being purely economic gain. Advertisements also often use exaggerated technological jargon in order to confuse and entice; blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Given the familiarity of the medium, it is able to convey a sense of disquietude that is only slightly removed from current reality and thus it is able to provoke reflection on the pace of unquestioned and unregulated advancements in genetic technologies. This medium highlights the coercive methods of social engineering and the pervasive nature of pop culture in influencing and shaping public discourse and extending acceptable ethical boundaries.’

‘All of these issues bring to the fore a need for open and honest communication – between scientists and the public, the government, and regulatory bodies. In particular, more transparency is required in order to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the public. Interdisciplinarity is essential in order to prevent a monolithic group of stakeholders from dictating the course of humanity’s progression.’

Tiffanie Gould | Department of Psychology

Poem – The disease

Assessment pieces

‘My research question for this poem is, considering all I have learnt, how can I reflect on this regarding my mental illness and defective genes? This will include various elements, including contemplating the structure of DNA in its microscopic wonder, accepting the possibilities of choices in terms of future genetic engineering technologies, and coming to terms with rejecting the prospect that these are ‘faults’.’

‘Exploring my research question through this medium enabled me to grapple with emotional turmoil of shame regarding what may be my genetic makeup, but in a more practical sense of being able to reflect on the implications for my family and those who come ‘after’ me in future generations.’

‘Additionally, the imagery of the shoelaces are a commentary on the dilemma of taking responsibility for a creation, or taking credit, for what is not our own. I deliberated this in light of Sandel (2008)’s argument that if the genome were to be enhanced, our humanity would be undermined by succeeding by the efforts which are our own, as we may not be wholly responsible. This terrified me - an Orwellian nightmare at the prospect of no longer having responsibility, but additionally being stripped of this freedom.’

Caterina Begliardi Ghidini | School of Life Sciences

Art Piece – Does ignorance shelter us from morally-challenging situations?

‘Aiming to discuss when not knowing will protect us from ethically ambiguous situations, [this research questions] was also formulated to explore an area that is both morally challenging as well as controversial in the media and society. This represents an added pressure and actually enhances the protective value of this unknown.’

‘The piece I developed represents an adaptation of the Schrodinger’s cat paradox. (…) Inspired by this, the [art] piece is composed of a box, containing various embryos. These, until screened, can both be either healthy or not. The process of screening is equivalent to the opening of the box, so what was unknown becomes known. Its purpose is to question if opening the box and knowing the fate of the embryos is best, or whether it results in having to make more difficult decisions. It also aims investigates what makes someone want to take the responsibility of this action when it can be easier to stay ignorant. As such, it encloses theories of ethics, politics and social science through its design and the arguments it raises.’

‘(…) opening the box confronts parents with the ethical decision of aborting or not based on what is in the best interest of the child and how they provide for them. However, can keeping the box closed actually bring more responsibilities to face? (…) There is no definite answer to the research question “does ignorance shelter us from morally-challenging situations?”, however the consequences of choosing to screen or not to should always take into account what is in the best interest of the child.’

Chloe-Leigh Andrews | School of Life Sciences

Presentation – Genetics in the news: fake news and what you should believe

‘It is a presentation/talk aimed particularly at women who are looking to have children or start a family, are worried about either passing on a genetic condition that runs in their family or the possibility that they and their partner carry recessive diseases without knowing. It’s attempting to inform and educate about genetic testing in embryos, Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis/Screening, whilst disproving ‘false’ or exaggerated reported about these technologies in the news.’

‘When studying genetics, many people focus on tackling the ‘huge’ ‘scary’ ethical questions and either agreeing with or refuting the sci-fi dystopia/utopian theories. They commonly forget the emotional as well as physical effect it has on the women who bear the impact of these technologies. (…) ‘During this module, I have discovered that as a biomedical science student I take some things for granted, like my understanding of genetics.’

‘I utilised news statistics from my ‘Science communication’ module, (…) used information from Caroline Wright’s, David Kirby’s and Felicity Boardman’s lectures (…) engaged in a passionate conversation with two mothers who have children with Down’s syndrome and called for better explanation and support from the medical/scientific community. I [also] studied the HFEA website (human fertilisation and embryology authority) and NHS website extensively (…) looked for news articles (…) used scientific papers to understand PGD and PGS more as well as using the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Human Genome Research Institute to understand more about genetic testing.’

Christina Kampani | Department of Economics

Interactive Story – At the Baseline

‘The idea I wished to investigate in this project first came to my attention during the screening of Gattaca (…) like most works of fiction that deal with the concept of “Designer Babies”, [Gattaca] presents a highly dystopian world. (…) The entire worldview of the movie did not sit well with me. I thought to myself, “why is the concept of “Designer Babies” always synonymous with a dystopian world? What makes it so bad?”’

‘Seeing that my thought experiment kept leading me towards already existing issues in society, I decided to write an interactive story, so as to leave the question of whether we should design our children or not to the reader. (…) My view is that the world will not go crazy: diversity will still exist, disabled people will exist, problems will exist, opportunities will exist. A new tension would be the pressure to design one’s child, as illustrated in the beginning of the story. Still, not all parents would opt for the service, while pressure can go both ways, as shown in the beginning of the story. The key message I wished to convey is that we should focus on working on the issues we currently face (bullying, class divide, discrimination) (…). More importantly, to quote Terry, “perfect genes don't make perfect lives”.’

Joseph Hajiroussos | School of Life Sciences

Drawing – Gene Select

‘I did not want to express my personal opinion on ‘designer’ babies but rather produce a work that would get people to think about the subject and spark a conversation that maybe they would not have done before.’

‘In 2017, reproductive biologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov and his team managed to successfully correct a gene in human embryos that leads to a fatal heart condition, using CRISPR technology. This, of course, is an example of just how beneficial CRISPR and gene editing technology could be for medicine and healthcare in the future.’

‘But, of course, these sort of technologies could also be used for gene enhancement rather than gene therapy, as described in the ‘slippery slope’ hypothesis. There are a number of issues that could arise including ethical, legal, health and in society. (…) Other issues of course include the views of many religious groups, which are negative as gene editing is not natural and is like ‘playing God’. Also, when it comes to the scientific side of things, CRISPR technology is not perfect. There is a chance that during the gene editing process, an unwanted mutation could occur in the genome, leading to diseases in the embryo or failure to develop normally.’

‘By drawing this picture, I aimed to present the concept of ‘designer’ babies in a neutral way that would lead to a varied number of thoughts in the observers mind. I chose to use different themes in the drawing, such as the choice of words, colours, the blue-eyed baby and the DNA double helix, to inspire the viewer to come up with their own opinion, rather than me directly putting my opinion out there for people to read.’

Mazlum Dogan | School of Law

Art Piece – Prenatal Screening

‘This visual piece will enable me to present and evaluate the debate surrounding this topic, before arriving at my own personal recommendations and conclusions. Even though prenatal screening is widely used and will be for years to come, I will be assessing whether our attitudes should generally be geared towards accepting the merits and positive features of having a child no matter what. (…) The baby will ultimately have no say in regards to termination, and this piece will assess whether such a decision making process should be the norm.’

‘While our attitudes are somewhat fixated on carrying out screening because the resources are readily available, it is important to consider whether we should invest more in making the other option of raising a disabled child a much more easier process by taking the steps to implement the necessary resources and support networks as well as providing useful incentives for parents.’

‘Overall, I believe that while the ability to carry out prenatal screening is a very important resource which gives people a great deal of freedom, it should not be accepted as a standard feature of reproductive healthcare that has to be undertaken under all circumstances.’

‘While the nature of reproduction is shifting, it is highly important to gain insights from a variety of people and my drawing looks to highlight the importance of ensuring a balanced approach to avoid routinisation.’

Morountodun Sowemimo | School of Life Sciences

Video – Prenatal Screening: Is it beneficial to the parents or just to the healthcare System?

‘I was fascinated with the fact that genetic screening is something that is becoming more popular in the Western World even though it does have quite a few disadvantages to it such as abortions and emotional stress on the parents. Also, I wanted to delve deeper into whether the act of genetic screening was actually beneficial to the parents or if the only benefiting from this are the hospitals and the government due to the influx of money.’

‘Genetic testing has a range of benefits whether the results come out positive or negative for certain disorders. If results come out negative, it provides some relief to the parents and also helps in them saving money as a negative results removes the need for unnecessary check-ups and some screening tests. The benefits of having genetic testing include being aware of the illness and taking precautionary steps in order to ensure a safe delivery. It also gives treatment options and can help identify genetic disorders, therefore treatment can be started as early as possible.’

‘Although genetic testing helps to view the likelihood of attaining illnesses such as Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s Disease, Sickle cell anaemia and Cystic Fibrosis, a positive result for this disease can lead the parents down a slippery slope where they decide whether they want to keep the baby or not. Ethicists argue that this is a form of discrimination because it implies that individuals who already exist in society with these diseases are not “socially acceptable”.’

Sophie Wedekind | School of Life Sciences

Paintings – A personal touch

‘For me, this film [Gattaca] opened the question of how much our genetics determines our individual limits; putting a scientific fate within our biological make up. This area has gained a reputation of signifying everything we are and what we will be. However, the truth of this idea is much limited like it is conceptualised, in which our DNA code is not set in stone. Environmental factors heavily influence our gene expression and change the very nucleotide arrangement, which is also known as ‘mutations’. Even this piece of information has been extended within fiction to depict types of mutations that turn people into ‘monsters’ or ‘superheroes’.’

‘Upon thinking about mutations and identity, I was next lead to its relation to identity within disability and race.’

‘I wanted to show DNA depicted by different individuals to provide a compare and contrast view of the DNA double helix. The audience will see the difference in how the volunteers and I chose to portray DNA, from the changes in size and shape, demonstrating our individuality along with conveying similarities which depict our uniformity within the form and colour coordination.’

‘I felt that using finger-painting was also adding their own signature to the painting, not just by the style but by physically having a different tool to the other painters due to our different prints, also creating the effect of inputting the DNA on their painting.’

Stephanie Hayward | School of Life Sciences

Art Piece – Where do we draw the line?

‘CRISPR-cas9 are effectively molecular scissors which can be guided to a specific site within the genome, eg. a gene, to edit it out. (…) Public participation is needed before this technology could develop into clinical practice so that is why I have chosen to do an artistic piece with the aim of getting people to start thinking about this issue.’

‘In support of this technology is the idea that we have a moral obligation to continue research that could prevent the suffering of many people7. Utilitarianism and the medical model of beneficence broadly supports such genetic technologies as they provide offspring with the opportunity to enjoy the best life possible. However, defining the ‘best life’ is controversial.’

‘Arguments against this technology are largely voiced by the disabled community and those protecting their rights. The social model views that disability is largely due to the way in which society treats those affected. Therefore, it is societies opinions we should be changing, not people’s genes.’

‘If germline editing is ever given the go-ahead in the future, it would need to be regulated in terms of what diseases to treat. The line needs to be drawn upon something which enables us to compare the severity of different genetic diseases. This is complex however due to the heterogeneity of severity within a genetic disease, as well as issues with objectifying something as subjective as assessing quality of life.’

Safiya Sayed | Department of Economics

Video and Poem – When Death Came Knocking On My Door

‘The poem is narrated as the viewer watches the creation of an abstract art piece that links to the ideas and emotions presented. The black and white nature of the art symbolises the difficulties when analysing all the various viewpoints. Instead the viewer is forced to look at the problem from a narrow perspective. This is often evidenced in modern society, with the endless combinations including: science and ethics, or science and economics, politics and science and more. The individual watcher will have a unique take on the poem, depending on their own respective background and beliefs.’

‘Changing from black & white to colour indicates that there is a lot more left unsaid. The speed of the transition is rapid, to signify in the time it took for multiple perspectives to be analysed, a life has already been lost. (…)The poem does not directly state who to blame, but the intention is to leave the viewer questioning why this outcome as occurred and what steps should be taken to prevent it from occurring again.’

‘The video primal aim is to spark an emotive response, whether that be anger, sympathy, fear and more. Though individual beliefs about Death, fate, religion may differ, we are united in our emotions, both in similarities but perhaps more importantly, differences. Genetic screening, and the debate surrounding termination has been a polarising issue for decades, through completing this SDA it was clear that by having open conversation about different emotions that are a held, in a respectful and understanding manner, can effective change occur.’

Rhiannon Richards | Department of Psychology

Documentary – Ripped Genes, And How to Wear Them

‘Throughout this module, the many discussions and debates surrounding genetics have covered various issues, from ethical considerations of pre-natal testing, to the impact of genetic engineering on society. However, as someone from a psychological discipline, I felt that little reflection was given to the psychological impact of genetic testing on individuals and their unborn offspring. (…) From this query, my attention was brought to genetic counselling.’

‘(…) my student devised assessment aimed to address the current issues surrounding genetic counselling, as well as settling pending questions on what genetic counselling entails, and who receives it. I wanted to focus on a general public audience, as I believe they have a right to be better informed about the support available to them, as well as having an awareness of the difficulties they may face during genetic testing. I also aspired to highlight current or proposed solutions to problems surrounding the current counselling regime to emphasise the transition of genetic counselling towards the goal of a patient-oriented approach.’

‘ (…) I wanted to deliver three topics for the audience to consider: firstly, I hope that the public audience obtains a comprehensive awareness of the current and potential processes of genetic counselling, as well as the benefits and difficulties faced by all involved; secondly, I hope to encourage the general public to reflect upon the various opinions and debates surrounding genetic counselling, in the same way as I have learnt to reflect on interdisciplinary issues addressed in this module; finally, I wanted to highlight potential solutions towards implementing a universal, non-directive procedure of genetic counselling.’

Sameur Rahman | School of Life Sciences

Documentary – The Genetic Question

‘The crux of the video looks at what genetic screening and selection means for families and parents and explores differing ethical views about what is right and wrong. (…) The main question asked to the audience is, “what kind of world do we want to live in?”. Whether it is right for us to select who lives, or whether it is right for us to “intervene with what nature has taken care of for millennia”.’

‘Currently the NHS is undergoing changes, one of these changes is the way in which genetic screening is undertaken. Despite not currently being mandatory, the most common result from positive test results [for a genetic disorder] is termination. Many genetic disorders in the future will become rarer and some will cease to exist. The question of whether this is a good thing is subjective. (…) In the UK, there is a vastly under represented voice from those with disabilities in the decision-making process of healthcare (…).’

‘By reflecting on genetics through scientific and ethical lenses, and by using the accounts of those we talked to during the IATL course, I made a conclusion that science is largely ‘the language used to describe the world around us and that its applications are used to interact with that world’. Additionally, I concluded that pure science doesn’t answer ethical questions, but rather other disciplines fulfil this duty together.’

Katy Pallister | Department of Mathematics

Documentary – Screening for Down’s Syndrome

‘When I began the course Genetics: Science and Society, I didn’t believe that what I was going to learn about would affect me. I thought the almost futuristic technologies being used to manipulate our genes wouldn’t have an immediate impact on me, nor would it require me to engage in the many perceptions surrounding genetics any further than the course. But I was wrong, and genetic screening was one of the aspects that really got me thinking about the genetic decisions I would personally have to make in the future.’

‘By the end of the documentary, I wanted the audience watching to realise that the decision to screen was not an easy one, and that it could have massive implications to the population of people with Down’s syndrome.’

‘Producing this documentary has cemented for me the idea that genetics is a multi-disciplinary field, not contrived to just medical advances, and within these disciplines lies opposing arguments on the use of genetic technologies. Through exploring these differing views, I now feel I have the tools available to make a well-informed decision when the time comes on screening for Down’s syndrome, and I hope that is how this documentary could be utilised for others as well.’

The people Katy interviewed for her documentary did not want their contributions to be shared beyond the scope of the module assessment. Therefore, the video we are showing has been edited so as to exclude their interviews.

Adrian Waithe | Centre for Life-Long Learning

Reflective Writing Piece – How easy is it to introduce a young child to the topic of genetics?

‘The main inspiration for my SDA was found in a random father/son moment when we were discussing mutants from the fictional Marvel series ‘X-Men’. He [the student’s son] began enquiring into how the characters had obtained their powers, so I had to devise a way to introduce the subject of genetics to my 7-year-old son and break down this complex topic to him, in a way that he could easily comprehend. (…) I hope it can be used by other parents, and educators alike, as an idea to introduce children to the ever- evolving field of genetic science.’

‘As the boy is a budding science buff, fascinated with the Marvel universe and its plethora of super-beings I began to search for Marvel based information in the genetics field and came across some interesting blogs that discussed mutations. I felt that genetic modification was a good topic to discuss, as he can relate to it better because of the nature of the Marvel universe and most of the characters have in some way been genetically altered or were born with defective genes that have given them abilities.’

‘To conclude the introduction to the field of genetics I asked him to pick a Marvel film to watch. He, of course, picked Spiderman (2012) and seemed to enjoy this more as he could identify more of the technical aspects of the film, in which we discussed throughout. He pointed out that the spider that bit peter, its venom changed peters DNA. I nodded at him proudly and we continued watching.’

Jeffrey Ho Ho | School of Life Sciences

Video – Genome Editing

Assessment pieces

‘As a life science student in Warwick for the past few years, I have always been told to give a presentation on really specific scientific topics, for example like how does a particular enzyme work and all the deep science behind. In this SDA I have decided on challenging myself, whether than making a video that is really scientific based (which I am trained well for), I want to communicate myself to the public about what genome editing is.’

‘Although I have mentioned not to go really deep into the scientific theory, but I feel like one could not explore this topic without provide some basic knowledge of what a genome is. (…) In the second section of my video, I have talked about the potential application of genome editing such as in treating cystic fibrosis as well as some basis of how does this technology work. After that I have moved onto discussing the ethical part relating to this technology. The ethical issue arising from genome editing constitutes the major part of my video. I have raised hot debated issue on such as “human germline editing” will cause the modified gene passed to the next generation.’

‘I think this SDA has given me the opportunities to explore something that I have never tried before.’

Gregory Fung, School of Life Sciences

Painting and Recording – What would you do?

Assessment pieces

Art Piece

‘The aim of my drawing is to use art and symbolism to create a visually appealing piece of work that will make people more aware of the ethical arguments surrounding designer babies, and also to shed more light on some of the reasons why parents consider doing this to their child.’

‘[The parents of the child portrayed] have a choice to go left or right, the left side representing the potential benefits of designer babies and the right path being the potential negatives of not interfering with the process. I’ve deliberately drawn the paths on two separate pieces of paper to symbolise how the decision the parents make can cause a drastically different outcome for the life of their children (…). Both paths are very different in many ways but, fundamentally, they have the same structure. This symbolises that although genetically the child will be different, they will still go through the same set of challenges in their life, like going through school and looking for a job (…). Although both paths go through totally different journeys, they both end in the same destination (…) death.’

‘If both paths lead to the same place (…) would you rather your child go through a life of obstacles and difficulties, or would you rather your child have all the good traits and live the best possible life (…)? However, this is difficult because who is to say what is a perfect life? Just because you have all the good traits, does that automatically mean your life will be better? Probably not. This is the area that requires much more discussion and debate.’

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