Honors Theses

The Embark® Protocol: Dog Genomics in Genetics Laboratories

Alexandra Lyn Kissel


In a world of ever-advancing technology, it is imperative that young pre-health professionals are educated according to the most relevant research. One of the most fundamental, foundational concepts of health is genetics. This field is rapidly expanding, and quickly engraining itself into the realm of healthcare. Genetic testing and gene therapies, once subjects of science fiction, have become commonplace. It is more important than ever that health professionals have a concrete knowledge of genetics, and this begins with the proper education of pre-health students.

With this idea in mind, a laboratory protocol was designed for students of the Bisc 336 course at the University of Mississippi to enhance their knowledge of significant genetic concepts. The main focus is understanding genetic diversity and its significance to health. Other key concepts include the distinction between being a carrier and being at risk for a disease, incomplete compared to complete penetrance, and the inheritance of maternal and paternal haplotypes. This protocol was formulated as a worksheet and is structured around having students navigate the online Embark® platform, a collection of canine breed, trait and health information associated with direct-to-consumer DNA genotyping. A pilot study was conducted during the Fall 2019 semester in a Bisc 336 Honors Genetics class to test the efficacy of the worksheet and student question preferences. Assessment of the results was used to revise the worksheet in preparation for future implementation. Intake and exit surveys were designed to test students’ comprehension of the concepts taught and their personal opinions on the protocol.