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Dr. Diekman teaches an elective course each Spring through the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) entitled “Genetic Engineering”. It has been listed through the special topics number (BME 490 for undergrads / 890 for graduate students) but is expected to get a permanent number soon. This course targets upper level undergraduate (typically seniors) and graduate students. Non-BME students are welcome as long as there is room. Please email the instructor for the most recent syllabus or to get permission to enroll as a non-BME student: 


The course has three equal components that are reflected in both the class time and grading.

Overview lectures: Each topic will begin with one or two overview lectures to expose students to the general concepts necessary for comprehension. The exams (mid-term and final) will test this material.

Journal article discussion: Primary research articles (5-7 throughout the semester) will be used to explore applications of the lecture topics. Reading comprehension assignments will be due the day before class discussion and are intended to guide you through the paper. Class time will be focused on group discussion of the papers and participation is expected.

Projects: Students will select a topic of interest for in-depth study as discussed below.

Paper presentations (undergraduates): Students will select a primary research article that applies one of the genetic engineering techniques discussed during class. A list of potential papers will be provided but students can also select their own with guidance/approval from the instructor. Written summaries will be turned in and students will also give an oral presentation to explain the key concepts.

Project presentations (graduate students): Students will write the “specific aims” and “research strategy” sections of an NIH F31 application. Topics can be selected with guidance from the instructor, but genetic engineering techniques should be a central component of the proposal. The proposal can be based on your graduate research topic if you would like. An oral presentation of the proposal will be given to the class before the final written project is due to allow for feedback and improvements.


  • DNA sequencing
  • DNA repair and early genome editing technologies
  • CRISPR basics
  • Advances in using CRISPR
  • Cellular reprogramming: induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)
  • Directed differentiation and disease modeling with iPSCs
  • Gene and cell therapy
  • Synthetic biology / gene circuits
  • Ethics of Genetic Engineering
  • Genetically-engineered animal models:
  • Chimeric antigen receptor T cells “CAR-T”