Pet project: Course explores the ins and outs of dog DNA testing

January 22, 2019
Rachel Sherman, and her dog, Misty, on the Wyman Quad.

Rachel Sherman, and her dog, Misty, on the Wyman Quad. (Image: Will Kirk / Homewood Photography)

You already know that your dog is a mix of mailman-alert hound, couch-potato terrier, dirty-sock retriever, and squeaky-toy destroyer. But if you want to get a little more scientific, there are tests for that, and now there’s an Intersession course at Johns Hopkins exploring the computer science that makes the tests tick.

The course, What’s in a Mutt: An Intro to Dog DNA Analysis, is taught by Rachel Sherman, a PhD student in the Whiting School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science. She designed the course as a way for her 15 students—even those with no formal coding experience—to learn the computational techniques used to determine a dog’s breed from its DNA sequence, then apply them to determine the genetic makeup of a mutt.

It turns out that mutts are a doggone good hook to get people thinking about genomics.

“A lot of the techniques that are used for dogs are not the kind of cutting-edge technologies we use for human genome research, but they’re the same technologies that 23andMe or use to look at human ancestry,” Sherman says. “So the course is covering a lot of the same methods, but in a fun way.”

Excerpted from The Hub >>

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