Thursday, June 4, 2009

Interpreting Gene-Environment Interactions

Guest post from Jennifer Lansford, Associate Research Professor, Social Science Research Institute:

Sir Michael Rutter of King's College London provided a thought-provoking opening talk in the recent Center for Child and Family Policy conference “Gene-Environment Interactions in Developmental Psychopathology: So What?”

Professor Rutter, who has been described as the “father of child psychology,” focused on big-picture issues involved in the study of how genetic factors interact with environmental factors to shape developmental outcomes, especially mental disorders.
A gene-environment interaction occurs when a genetic risk factor leads to disorder only under certain environmental conditions or when adverse environmental conditions lead to disorder only for those individuals at genetic risk.

Professor Rutter’s talk was especially helpful in outlining the challenges involved in searching for and interpreting gene-environment interaction. One of the key challenges is that large samples that are conducive to searching for genetic effects are not well suited to in-depth study of environmental contexts, yet what is needed to understand gene-environment interactions is knowledge regarding how to discriminate both genetic and environmental risk.

See Rutter's talk in iTunes (31:55)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Education, Technology, and Apples, Oh My!

Guest post from NCCU summer intern David L. Fitts Jr.--

Social networking sites, online gaming, and instant messengers are cool but isn’t there something else missing from the online universe? Despite the power of YouTube and Facebook, entertainment seems to be the only thing to come from them.
A pair of Rutgers University professors are trying to use these new technologies to teach as well as entertain.
“How can you teach in an environment when you cannot get anybody’s attention? That’s the challenge,” said Richard E. Miller, chair of the department of English at Rutgers.
Miller and his colleague, Paul D. Hammond, spoke about their vision at Duke Thursday during the Apple-sponsored symposium AcademiX 2009.

The program was centered around how technology has changed the world, especially the world of education.
In their forum “The Center Cannot Hold: Living, Learning, and Leading in a Networked World,” Miller and Hammond talked about programs in which they are helping people learn to use technology for more than entertainment.
They teach classes in the Plangere Writing Center at Rutgers in which students receive hands-on experience with still and video cameras, going out into the community and the world to cover stories on global issues to share with the rest of the world. Their students learn how to develop and structure their videos, just as writers must develop and structure prose.
“How will you teach young people in a world that is in such sorry shape? That’s the challenge we face,” said Miller.
“We need to interrogate what we value in education,” said Hammond. It is important to know and understand what students need to learn and want to learn, he said.

(Captain Trendo videotaping, photo by Joe Mabel)