U of I's Coursera offering brings Carl Woese's pioneering work in genomics to the public

Siv Schwink
6/27/2014

The revolutionary work of the late University of Illinois microbiologist and biological physicist Carl Woese (July 15, 1928—December 30, 2012) shifted the foundations of genomic biology. His theory developed in the 1970s on the communal evolution of the genetic code forever changed our understanding of the earliest structure of life on Earth. And in 1977, Woese defined an entirely new kingdom of life, Archaea, through phylogenetic taxonomy of 16S ribosomal RNA, a technique he invented.

Woese’s work, despite being central to cutting-edge genome-enabled research across many fields, is not generally taught in classrooms or lecture halls. Now the NASA Astrobiology Institute for Universal Biology at the Institute for Genomic Biology on the University of Illinois campus, in partnership with Coursera, is offering a rare opportunity for anyone to explore and evaluate the entire history of life on Earth, based on Woese’s seminal research.

A massive open online course (MOOC) entitled Emergence of Life will run July 14 through September 7, 2014, and will be taught by Bruce Fouke, Illinois professor of biology, director of the Carver Biotech Center, and member of the Institute for Genomic Biology. It will feature previously unreleased interviews with Woese, as well as interviews with some of the most important figures in evolutionary biology today—Bruce Fouke, Swanlund Professor of Physics at Illinois Nigel Goldenfeld, University of Regensburg microbiologist and astrobiologist Karl Stetter, University of Colorado biochemist Norman Pace, and York University historian of biology Jan Sapp. It will also feature beautiful animated visualizations by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications’s eDream team.

To view the course trailer and to register for the course, please visit this link: http://go.illinois.edu/emergenceoflife.

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