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Written Assignment: Biology and Technology in the Real World
Addresses course outcomes 2 and 3:
? use knowledge of biological principles to ask relevant questions about the natural world
? make observations and discriminate between scientific and pseudoscientific explanations
1. Select one of the topics listed below.
2. Find at least two information sources related to the topic. You can find assistance with searching for articles at the
UMUC Library Subject Guides at http://libguides.umuc.edu/science.
3. Write a 750-1500 page paper, excluding references and title page. You must read the information sources that you
find and summarize the information in your own words, addressing each of the questions and expectations for your
chosen topic. Extensive quotes from the article are discouraged. Use APA style for citing references, see
http://www.umuc.edu/library/guides/apa.html.
4. Post your assignment to your Assignments folder by the due date listed in the course schedule.
Topics (select one)
a) Genetically modified organisms (GMOs). What is the purpose genetic engineering of crop plants and domestic
animals? Briefly explain how GMOs are created. What foods in your supermarket contain GMOs? Are foods that
contain GMOs safe for human consumption? What types of regulations exist for these foods? Clearly explain your
reasoning for each answer. The following website from FDA regarding GMO regulation may be helpful:
http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm352067.htm
b) Stem cells. Your friend had a spinal cord injury after a bad car accident. The medical team has decided that he is
a good candidate for a clinical trial using stem cell therapy. Your friend has not had a biology course since high
school, so you decide to write him a letter sharing your knowledge of stem cells. Include in your letter a description
of the biology of stem cells and how these cells are unique from other cells. Contrast the different types of stem
cells, including pros and cons of each. Explain how stems cells are can be used to treat diseases and injury, with
special focus on spinal cord injuries. Conclude with your own opinion. The following website from NIH regarding
stem cell research will be very helpful: http://stemcells.nih.gov/index.asp.
c) Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and tar sands (oil sands). With society's dependence on nonrenewable fossil
fuels, the oil & gas industry is turning to the use of hydraulic fracturing and tar (oil) sands to extract natural gas and
oil respectively. A friend asks you "What's all this controversy in the news about fracking and tar sands?" Briefly
explain to your friend how hydraulic fracturing and tar (oil) sands are used to obtain these fossil fuels. Then, in more
detail, describe the environmental problems that may result from these processes and why they are
controversial. Issues that may be addressed involves, but are not limited to, water, air and soil pollution, effects on
human health, effects on other species and natural ecosystems. Finally, give your opinions on possible solutions to
these environmental problems, with your reasoning backed by the references that you studied. The following
websites from EPA may be helpful: http://www2.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing