In a biology or genetics course, students are tasked with learning quantitative ideas such as linkage, recombination, and genetic drift. Up until this point, biology can be heavier on facts and ideas than more numerical subjects such as chemistry and physics. Then, students have to start grappling with multiple sets of information: biology in the form of Mendel, chromosomes, mitosis, meiosis, Punnett squares, etc.; mathematics in the form of measurement, algebra, statistics (Chi-square), and probabilities. Geneticists, like many disciplines, also have their own language and favorite go-to examples. Problems involve wrinkly peas, dwarf plants, bearded dragons, calico cats, and people with hemophilia; test cross, back cross, parental, and filial.
Like most skills, mastering these complex, interdisciplinary ideas comes through practice, practice, and more practice. One of the limiting factors for students may be that their instructors only provide so many opportunities to calculate linkage, fitness, and changing allele frequencies.
To fill that need is the iOS app, Genetics and Evolution, developed by Russell Myers of NorthgateArinso Human Resources, and Brandon Millman and Mohamed Noor of Duke University. They developed an app for iDevices to provide a nearly infinite set of practice problems. They also published a freely available journal article describing the app: Myers RB, Millman B, Noor MAF. Genetics and Evolution: an iOS application to supplement introductory courses in transmission and evolutionary genetics. G3 2014; 4: 779-781.
The app contains sample problems and answers for these topics:
- Mendelian genetics – up to three genes available for Punnett squares in the Cross Simulator
- Gene/trait mapping – calculating linkage
- Heritability – using Breeder’s equation
- Population genetics
- Fitness – the Allele Freak feature simulates the possible fates of alleles based on evolutionary influences
Best of all, the app is free! This app is great for students to practice concepts learned in class. It can also be an easy way for instructors to generate homework and test questions with the press of a button. I highly recommend this as a great learning resource.