NSF Sponsored Teaching Program: HC70A Overview


Teaching Program
Teaching Program
Class Overiew or Class Website
Class Overview or Class website


Video Projects

Long Distance Learning

Goldberg Lab

This course is the entry point for Bob Goldberg's Teaching Program and is incorporated into the General Education Curriculum of the UCLA College Honors Collegium. HC70A is designed to provide non-science majors and entering life science students with a foundation in molecular biology and genetics as it applies to genetic engineering, and addresses the social, legal, and ethical issues that arise from emerging new genetic technologies in medicine, agriculture, and law. A major goal of this class is to put genetic engineering into a scientific, historic, and social perspective so that students can make objective decisions about how this technology should be used in the future. HC70A is highly interactive, team-oriented, problem-based, and teaches students how to think critically about experimental science and the societal issues raised by advances in genetic engineering, genomics, and human reproduction. HC70A is organized into four parts: (1) an interactive, media-oriented lecture section that includes hands-on "experiments" and demonstrations (2) an undergraduate seminar that focuses on Scientific American articles and is taught by undergraduate teaching fellows, (3) an all-class film and guest-speaker section that brings real-life societal issues into the classroom, and (4) a weekly class dinner that allows students to interact in an informal setting with Bob Goldberg and discuss science, educational issues, what it is like to be a professor, and other topics that arise spontaneously around the dinner table.


The HC70A discussion section is taught as an undergraduate seminar, and focuses on Scientific American articles, plays, and debates that simulate "real-life" genetic engineering situations.  The articles expand on topics covered in lectures and teach students how to read and think about science.  These topics include: (1) the origins of genetic engineering, (2) how genetic engineering is used in agriculture, medicine, and the law, (3) gene therapy, (4) bioweapons, (5) use of genetic engineering to treat cancer, and (6) DNA testing, among others.  Students are asked to read the articles critically and focus on four general questions: (1) What is the question being addressed by the article?  (2) What are the technologies and approaches being discussed?  (3) What is the significance of the technology, and how does it apply to real-life situations?  (4) What ethical issues arise as a consequence of the new technology?  The plays and debates challenge students to apply the scientific knowledge they have learned in simulated "real-life" situations.  They include: (1) a court trial using DNA evidence, (2) a debate on using transgenic animals and plants in medicine & agriculture, and (3) potential environmental problems brought about by the use of genetic engineering.  A novel aspect of the discussion section is that it is taught by undergraduate teaching fellows who use the Socratic method to maximize interactions in the class.  Teaching fellows call on students by name and ask them to discuss and interpret the experimental results presented in the article(s) read each week.  The teaching fellows also moderate lively student discussions and debates on the impact of emerging new genetic technologies on society. 

Click on the HC70A class web site for a list of discussion topics, plays/debates, and Scientific American articles that are read by the students.

The lecture section is fast-paced, media oriented, highly interactive, and makes extensive use of group learning to teach students how to problem solve and think critically about how major scientific discoveries are made. A variety of unique methods and approaches are used to teach students how to think critically about the questions addressed in lecture.

Click here to browse the range of topics and questions addressed in lecture.

Click here to browse the unique methods and approaches used to teach the lecture section.

Click here to browse the Spring 2015 HC70A course syllabus

Making Science Come "Alive" In the Classroom

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a scientist is experiencing the excitement that comes from seeing something "new" for the first time. This is what is most often left out of the traditional classroom education. HC70A in-class demonstrations and hands-on "mini-experiments" are used in HC70A and allow students to take part in a real scientific process, bringing science and the excitement of discovery into the classroom.

Students Visit Crime Lab

Students visit crime lab at Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center. They were able to experience what happens in a forensics lab, analyzing evidence taken from a crime scene such as DNA sampling and narcotics analysis with findings used in a court of law.

HC70A Students interact with Harry Klann, LAPD Criminalist
(HC70A, Spring 2015)

Genotyping Students in the Class

A cheek swab is taken from each student during class and each student's DNA is isolated using a commercial DNA kit. PCR reactions are carried out using D1S80 alpha VNTR primers to describe the range of D1S80 allelic diversity in the HC70A class. Students analyze the gel patterns, describe the range of D1S80 alleles, and calculate their own allelic frequencies relative to the whole class. Click on the link to download the protocol and see sample all-class gel results.

Class DNA Fingerprinting Gel Results

Student preparing cheek swab for genotyping
(HC70A Spring 2015)

Searching For Bacteria With Specific Genotypes

Students carry out a simulated "cloning experiment" and select for bacteria with different antibiotic markers and genotypes. Students streak bacterial strains with different genotypes in class - no antibiotics, one antibiotic, or two antibiotics - and then take the plates home and observe the results. Students write up a "lab report" on their results, construct hypotheses to explain their results, and propose experiments to test their hypotheses. Click on the link to download the protocol for this experiment.

Cloning Experiment

Students Using Sterile Toothpick To Spread Bacteria Cells on a Media Plate
(HC70A, Spring, 2015)

Spooling DNA

Students precipitate and spool DNA out of solution in class. Students discuss what the DNA "looks like," what tissue the DNA came from and how it was extracted, and propose hypotheses to explain its viscosity and ability to wind around a rod.

Students getting DNA out from the Ethanol Solution
(HC70A, Spring 2015)


HC70A Winter 2012 Mock Trial 
Click on the picture to view clip
Docudrama Play "The Dominic Problem" 

Docudramas That Put Students in Situations That Deal With Science and Society

Plays written by Bob Goldberg and the undergraduate teaching fellows allow students to solve fictionalized "crimes" in order to develop a better understanding of how this technology is used in modern police work. The crimes are presented during discussion section, and include vital facts that help the students to determine the appropriate approach to solving the crime. Each play requires students to understand the scientific concepts covered by the "real-life" situation, read Scientific American articles that provide background material, and make charts, diagrams, and/or visuals to explain how they would go about solving the crime.


Click here to download "The Dominic Problem".

Click here to download "When Science Takes the Witness Stand" .

Students Write, Produce, & Film an All-Class Science Video Project on "Science and Society"

The science video project enables the students to take what they've learned throughout the course (genetic engineering, cloning, ethical and social issues, etc.) and present the material in a "fun" way. Furthermore, this project encourages student-student interactions and team work.

Click here to watch the HC70A winter 2006 class video project

Group Oral Exams

The group oral exams teaches students how to speak in public and think on their feet. Exam questions utilizes an integrative approach that emphasizes experiments, problem-solving, and connections between different subjects. The oral exam consists of groups answering questions as well as challenging other groups with questions. This format fosters student/student exchanges that challenges students to become "their own teachers".

Using Multimedia to Enhance Class Lectures

HC70A makes extensive use of state-of-the art audio-visual equipment and handouts and so that students can listen in class, interact, and participate in discussions, rather than keep their heads down and scribble notes non-stop. Each class begins with several minutes of rock-and-roll music chosen by a student or Bob Goldberg in order to get class energy levels up and have some fun. Major concepts, diagrams, and student pictures are projected using a digitized overhead camera, and handouts of all notes and figures are scanned, digitized into a PDF-formatted file, and uploaded on the class web site for student use. Click here to view and download class handouts of Spring 2015.

Lectures are digitally streamed on the class web site and can be accessed 24 hours a day. Lectures are recorded using a standard DV-capable camera with an audio line-in for direct audio feeds from a wireless hand-held microphone. Students also use microphones to ensure that class discussions are captured on video. Lectures recorded by the digital camera are simultaneously fed into an Apple Powerbook G4 laptop, and the video is encoded simultaneously into a QuickTime movie using QuickTime Broadcaster. The encoded video lectures are uploaded onto a QuickTime Streaming Server housed in the MCDB central computing office and posted on the class website. Lectures are viewable within an hour after the class has ended.
Click here download a precise protocol on how to simultaneously stream lectures and capture them in QuickTime.

Click here to view any HC70A lecture during the past 11 years.








Bob Goldberg takes groups of students to dinner each week throughout the quarter.  These dinners provide an opportunity for student-professor and student-student interactions in an informal setting.  Guest speakers are also included if one is scheduled for the week.  Class dinners allow students to discuss a range of issues: including their future goals, science and society, science politics, local and national politics, and what its like to be a professor, among others.

Dr. Goldberg took a group of HC70A students to dinner after lecture


Dr. Michele Evans Answering Student Questions About In-Vitro Fertilization and Genetic Testing (1:18 minutes)
Click on the picture to view clip

Guest speakers and films are used to highlight the impact of genetic engineering on society.  Films include documentaries produced by Nova, Nightline, and the Discovery Channel, as well as full-length feature films made in Hollywood.  Documentaries deal with issues as diverse as the discovery of DNA as the genetic material, how genetic engineering was invented, pre-implantation genetic testing, use of DNA to solve crimes, history of agriculture, the GMO controversy, and bioweapons, among others.  Feature films provide life-like enactments and fictionalized stories dealing with how society uses emerging new genetic technology. These include the discovery of the DNA helix, how families are affected by genetic diseases, the consequences of selecting for "perfect" humans, and the potential cultural clash between science and religion, among others.  Guest speakers bring their personal life experiences into the classroom and include the CEO of a biotech company, the head of the Los Angeles DNA testing lab, a reproductive endocrinologist who uses in vitro fertilization to "make babies," and a bioethicist who thinks about genetic engineering, cloning, and the future of humanity.


Guest Speakers

Tracking Human Ancestry
Dr. John Novembre, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA

Stem Cells: Ethical and Legal Issues
Dr. Russell Korobkin, J.D., Professor, School of Law, UCLA

Infertility and In Virto Fertilization
Dr. Susan Sarajari, M.D., Ph.D. Ob/Gyn and Reproductive Endocrinologist, Huntington Reproductive Center

Engineering Plants for Biofuels
Dr. Richard Hamilton, Ph.D. President and CEO, Ceres, Inc. Thousand Oaks, CA

GMOs: What's All the Fuss About?
Dr. Alan McHughen, D. Phil. Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Riverside

Using DNA to Catch Criminals
Officer Harry Klann, Criminologist, Los Angeles Police Department

In Vitro Fertilization and Genetic Testing
Dr. Michele Evans, M.D. Ob/Gyn, Reproductive Endocrinologist, Huntington Reproductive Center

Engineering Crops for the Developing World
Dr. Channapatna Prakash, Ph.D., Professor, Plant Molecular Genetics, Tuskegee University

Stem Cell Biology and Ethics
Dr. Pei Yun Lee, Ph.D., UCLA Dept. of Molecular, Cell, & Developmental Biology

Frankenstein's Cat - What The Future Holds for Engineering Life
Ms. Emily Anthes, Science Journalist and Author

Engineering of the Dog and Its Wild Relatives
Dr. Bob Wayne, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA

Film Discussions

History's Harvest: Where Food Comes From (ASPB Education Foundation) (2002)

In this film, Bob Goldberg explores the controversy of genetic engineering by putting the debate in an historical perspective. The film explores the scientific evidence behind the controversy over genetically modified (GM) food, presenting a sweeping view of 10,000 years of agricultural history. Click here to view clips from the film History's Harvest.

Inherit the Wind (1988)

Based on a real-life case in 1925, two great lawyers argue the case for and against a science teacher accused of the crime of teaching evolution.

The Race for the Double Helix (1987)

Watson and Crick race to find the structure of DNA before Linus Pauling, Maurice Wilkins, or Rosalind Franklin can find the key to unlocking the secret.

Lorenzo's Oil (1992)

A boy develops a disease so rare that nobody is working on a cure, so his father decides to learn all about it and tackle the problem himself.

Biowar (Nightline) (1999)

A special five-part ABC NEWS series about a terrorist biological attack.

Kerry Mullis & PCR (Nightline) (1994)

A documentary about the inventor of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

GATTACA (1997)

Futuristic story of a genetically imperfect man and his seemingly unobtainable goal to travel in space.

Perfect Baby (Nightline) 2002

A family tries to create a child through a cutting edge new medical technology that could determine with only a handful of cells whether an embryo would grow to be a baby free of a genetic disorder, and also a perfect match for a transplant.

Genetic Prophesy (NOVA)

This program shows the potential benefits and explores some of the social, economic, and ethical dilemmas stemming from the human genome project.

Murder, Rape, & DNA (NOVA) (1992)

This film describes and discusses the role of DNA fingerprinting in criminal and civil investigation by focusing principally on two major criminal cases: the kidnap and rape of a nine year old child in San Diego, California and a double rape/murder of two teenage girls in England.

Planted DNA Evidence (NOVA) (1997)

Forensic scientists performed DNA test on two seed pods and proved that they come from the same tree, thereby placing the murderer at the scene of the crime.

Bioterror (Nova) (2002)

Anthrax, Smallpox, Ebola, and more -- The frightening past and lethal future of biological warfare.

Genetically Correct: Ensuring Perfect Babies (Discovery Channel) (1997)

In this program, Dr. Mark Hughes discusses his pioneering IVF techniques that diagnose potential genetic diseases in embryos only days old.

Knowledge or Certainty (The Ascent of Man) (1973)

Moral dilemmas confront todays' scientists, from nuclear energy, to the development of weaponry, to human experiments. Jacob Bronowski offers his personal views.

DNA (Educational Broadcasting Corporation and Windfall Films with Funding From HHMI) (2003)

Narrated by Jeff Goldblum, this series looks back on the achievements that launched a new era in biology and human life itself. Along with an incredible array of renowned scientists, including five Nobel Laureates, these programs use beautifully realized animations and reconstructions of key experiments to reveal the molecular basis of life in a way never seen before.

The Lysenko Affair (Nova) (1975)

The Lysenko Affair was perhaps the most bizarre chapter in the history of modern science. For thirty years, until 1965, Soviet genetics was dominated by a fanatical agronomist who achieved dictatorial power over genetics and plant science as well as agronomy.


A Different Type of Education in the Classroom


One of the novel and fun aspects of HC70A is the breadth of undergraduate majors and levels represented by students in the class. For example, freshman debate seniors, entering life science students help non-science students, and classic majors exchange ideas with future biochemistry majors. A unique collective exists in which students representing the ideas, views, and backgrounds of a cross section of the UCLA campus come together to learn and discuss issues related to the impact of genetic engineering and genomics on society. During the past 11 years, 499 students took HC70A, representing 25 different majors. Approximately 50% of the students were non-science students, and 25% were life science students who had declared a major but were just beginning the core curriculum required of all life science students at UCLA. In addition, there was almost an even distribution between first, second, third, and fourth year students. The pie charts shown on this page summarize the HC70A student population over the past 11 years.