If You Study Genomics, John Hawks Hates You

The title is, obviously, an overstatement, exaggeration, and blatant misrepresentation. But it gets your attention, don’t it? Anyway, Hawks has been questioning whether genomics is really any different from genetics. In this post, he says something that I’ve been thinking for a while:

“Actually, the thing that bothers me about genomics is not the renaming — I’m totally fine with coming up with clever new names, even if they carry little information content . . . What bothers me is that so many people are being trained in genomics without learning any genetics!”

I agree. Entirely. I know a lot of people studying genomics who never took a course in either classical genetics or molecular genetics. Some have taken one, but not the other. Furthermore, there are a lot of people studying evolutionary genomics who have never taken a course in population genetics. I know one faculty member who will no longer sit on someone’s graduate committee unless they take his population genetics course (unless he’s the outside faculty member). I’m running into more an more people who have come from a non-biology background and don’t even know the basic biology behind their system of interest. You’d think that if your background is in the computational sciences and you made the jump into the life-science, you would enjoy taking a more mathematically oriented course like popgen.


  1. #1 coturnix
    March 24, 2006

    Not to mention physiology so they can know something about the organism they study, or evolutionary biology as taught by someone in the organismal biology department, so they can grasp aspects of evolutionary theory that are not oversimplified by applicaiton of pop-gen math models. If they are not taking pop-gen and quant-gen – what do they know about biology at all?

  2. #2 RPM
    March 24, 2006

    If they are not taking pop-gen and quant-gen – what do they know about biology at all?

    That’s my point.

  3. #3 windy
    March 24, 2006

    I remember one seminar – a professor remarked rather sharply during his talk that he didn’t like the new buzzword “functional genomics” at all, because a lot of it was just old-fashioned physiology, but people didn’t bother studying the basics.

    OK, but the next person had prepared a talk using the words “functional genomics” about a hundred times, and the poor woman got really flustered trying unsuccessfully to ad lib and say something else instead…

  4. #4 coturnix
    March 24, 2006

    In my orals in 1999, one of the questions was “in the era of molecular biology, is physiology dead?”. I answered (over many pages) that molecular biologists and geneticists, quite unaware of the centuries of findings in physiology, will slowly, through genomics, functional genomics, proteomics, etc., reinvent physiology with a new name and claim they are very clever to have finally found the way to study the function at the level of the whole organism. That answer became a part of the IV part of my old, old four-part post: What Would Darin Do?