Science Education

Jargon: Polymorphism (a common variation in the DNA sequence)

Polymorphism: a common and localized variation in the DNA code. For example, if the sequence inside a gene typically reads “…GATTACA…” but many individuals are shown to have “…GATCACA”, the “C” that is normally a “T” is a polymorphism. Polymorphisms occur frequently in the human genome: some are neutral in their effect, some are beneficial, … Continue reading

Science Education

Jargon: Hominids (Great Apes, including us)

Hominids: members of the phylogenetic family Hominidae, which includes chimpanzees, orang-utans, bonobos, gorillas, and humans (as well as extinct related forms). What do hominids have in common? Relatively large bodies, long arms and, importantly, no tail. Hominids can also use their hands to gather food and sometimes to use tools. The prefix “homo-” can mean … Continue reading

Science Education

Jargon: Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (a type of anticancer drug)

Tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI): a drug which blocks the action of a type of protein called a “tyrosine kinase”, which can otherwise be stuck in the “on” position in certain types of cancers. An overactive tyrosine kinase can lead to uncontrolled cell growth (i.e. cancer); a TKI can be used to reduce this undesired activity. … Continue reading

Science Education

Jargon: Theory (A scientific explanation which best explains the facts)

Theory: 1) a hunch (“I have a theory as to why there’s so much corruption in politics….”); 2) a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not “guesses” but reliable accounts of the real … Continue reading

Science Education

Jargon: Gene (A stretch of DNA that can be transcribed into a functional RNA molecule)

Gene: a stretch of DNA that can be transcribed into a functional RNA molecule. This RNA molecule is frequently, though not always, translated into a protein. Genes are always referred to as “functional units of inheritance”, which is not a fantastically intuitive concept. This one was given to us by a German who used the … Continue reading