Get FOCUSed

Tuesday, March 12, 2019
By Alissa Kocer

The Duke FOCUS Program is an exciting opportunity for freshman students to get exposed to ideas from the vantage point of different disciplines across the humanities, sciences and social sciences. Susanne Haga, associate professor of medicine is one of the instructors for the fall 2019 FOCUS cluster, “Genetics and Genomics: Epigenetics, Environment and Ethics.”

While the title of this cluster has evolved over the years to reflect the suite of courses offered in a given year, it has been a mainstay in the FOCUS program for over ten years. Initially started by Hunt Willard, director of the former Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, Beth Sullivan, associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology, took over the reigns as director of the cluster in 2015. She and Haga have taught courses together in this cluster for the past four years.

Most of the students who sign up for this cluster are often pre-med and/or intend to major in life sciences or engineering, and several students go on to conduct independent research in genome sciences, public policy or related fields.

The goals of this FOCUS cluster are to explore genome sciences in various contexts as well as explore the biomedical, biological, historical, technical, and ethical implications of genomic advances and the questions that these advances pose for understanding the past and contemplating the future of biomedicine.

side by side of Beth Sullivan and Jennifer WernegreenIn fall 2019, this cluster will offer three courses, taught by Sullivan, Haga, and Jennifer Wernegreen, associate professor of environmental and evolutionary genomics.

In addition to courses, students also participate in a weekly discussion seminar in which all of the faculty and students from their particular cluster attend. Students in the FOCUS Program live in the same residence hall but also share it with other first-year students, enabling them to form a companionable academic and social community while encouraging friendships with all of their first-year classmates.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis now through May 25.