Our teaching emphasizes building students’ understanding of the interrelationships among science, technology, knowledge and society, with a focus not only on how science and technology are made by people through intricate social and cultural practices, but also on the ways that the science and technology we make in turn influences us.

We teach a variety of courses that introduce students to the social study of knowledge, science, and technology, as well as courses that delve deeply into particular thematic areas. All of our courses emphasize scholarship as an active undertaking, and include methodological instruction and research projects.

The current semester’s courses can be found below, and past semesters’ offerings can be found here.

Summer Semester 2021 Courses

Prof. Dr. Veronika Lipphardt: Genetic Studies of Vulnerable Populations

(Course Number 00LE62S-LAS-CO0044)

Among the approaches to study common diseases in clinical trials and phamaco-genomic research, genetic factors play a crucial role. But genetic rare diseases have also been a core interest of research in human medical genetics in the past three decades. The reasons for this interest are complex. As monogenic diseases are typically rare, there is less pressure to find therapeutical solutions than for common diseases. There are also only very few individuals to address as research subjects. However, on the other hand, the genetic factors of those rare genetic diseases and the related dysfunctional effects are oftentimes easier to understand than that of less genetically determined complex diseases.

Yet, to find out about the genetic factors contributing to common complex diseases, one needs either a high number of research subjects from general population willing to participate in a clinical study – or a population that is “genetically isolated“ and shows a high prevalence of the disease. The choice of “genetic isolates” for medical studies requires small sample sizes and hence reduced costs for genetic sequencing. This way the “rare” DNA become a source of “biovalue”, a “national resource” and an asset for sequencing consortia and biotechnological companies.

To approach such a „genetically isolated population“, however, means to interpret the historical and social situation of a group under a genetic paradigm and to frame the investigated unit in a problematic language (e.g. “endogamous group at high risk for genetic diseases”). Very often, populations that are considered “genetic isolates” are socially marginalized, have experienced discrimination and persecution in their history and face a number of challenges up until today. If diseases (rare or common) are more prevalent in those communities than elsewhere in society, they often also experience the negative side of health disparities and obstacles in accessing public health systems. In the course, we will address medical genetic studies focusing on one of those „genetically isolated populations” from a variety of perspectives, i.e. from the perspective of the life sciences and from the perspective of the social sciences and humanities. In formed by our interdisciplinary collaborations, throughout the course, we will reflect upon what it means to undertake an interdisciplinary research inquiry. Once registering for LAS students is completed, we will offer free places to students from other study programs.