Why do you have brown eyes, while your brother’s are blue? Jeans, baby. Wait, we mean genes, which are all the little chemical components that make up you, from the color of your hair, to the shape of your nose, to whether your middle toe is longer than your big toe. Genetics is the science of heredity. In other words, it’s the study of which genes are responsible for which physical traits in humans and other organisms. Genetics is often broken down into more specialized areas of study. For example, Washington State University divides Genetics into transmission genetics, molecular genetics, and evolutionary genetics. As an undergraduate, you’ll most likely become well versed in all of three of these fields. As a Genetics major, you’re in a position to do a great deal of good, medically and scientifically. Many Geneticists eventually choose to focus on molecular genetics, which includes, among other things, cancer research. In this field, you would study how cell growth, reproduction, and mutation leads to cancer and how to stop (or reverse) the process. You might eventually concentrate on human gene therapy, in which you’d study the possible treatments and cures for currently incurable diseases like cystic fibrosis. You might also choose to become involved in genetic engineering, which uses the fundamentals of Genetics to alter and improve plants, animals, and other organisms. Most Genetics majors choose to continue their studies in graduate or medical school.
Since the field of Genetics involves a great deal of science, try to take courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and anything else involving research that your high school offers. Also important are math courses such as calculus, statistics, analytic geometry, and computer courses. And don’t forget English. As a scientist you’ll need good reading and writing skills.