Pet project: Course explores the ins and outs of dog DNA testing
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 Ancestry.com use to look at human ancestry,” Sherman says. “So the course is covering a lot of the same methods, but in a fun way.”