Education Resource: StarGenetics

Visit the StarGenetics website! Watch a StarGenetics Video Tutorial!

StarGenetics is a genetic cross simulator developed at MIT through a collaboration of Biology Department faculty, laboratory-trained scientists, and software technologists. This educational software is freely available via the internet and is compatible with Mac, PC, and Linux systems. StarGenetics is currently used in Biology courses at MIT, in educational outreach programs hosted on campus, in a number of Boston area high schools, and elsewhere.

The StarGenetics Fruit Fly Virtual Genetics Lab visualizer. Click to view larger image.

The StarGenetics Yeast Virtual Genetics Lab visualizer. Click to view larger image.

StarGenetics can provide a meaningful and affordable means of incorporating aspects of research processes and the joy of scientific discovery into Biology curriculum, especially when available resources are limited. Interactive inquiry-based curricular modules that utilize StarGenetics can enrich in-class educational experiences and take homework assignments to a new level.

For easy implementation into existing course curricula, sample StarGenetics exercises are available onlineā€¦ OR, by modifying a simple Excel workbook source file available on the StarGenetics website, instructors can translate their own favorite genetics problems into inquiry-based virtual experiments for their students! Custom source files enable instructors to specify genotype-phenotype relationships and the individual organisms that will be available for use in customized experiments that are appropriate for students at a given educational level and in an instructor’s particular course.

The StarGenetics software simulates interactive genetic experiments with model organisms, including fruit flies and yeast, appropriate for high school-level and university-level curricula. For advanced students, the tool also supports experiments involving DNA markers. Experiment simulations with fish and “smiley faces” can be used to introduce younger students to the study of genetic inheritance.

Example of DNA marker functionality with fruit flies. Click to enlarge image.

Example of DNA marker functionality with fruit flies. Click to view larger image.

Two additional StarGenetics visualizers that were designed with younger students in mind. Left: Fish. Right: Smiley Faces. Click to view larger image.

A broad range of genetic concepts are supported with StarGenetics simulations, from simple dominance relationships to sex-linked traits, gene linkage, pleiotropy, allele series, and complex gene interactions such as epistasis.

In fruit fly experiments, available variation in traits includes eye color, body color, wing length, wing vein, antennae length, sterility, and lethality.

Yeast genetics experiment simulations enable mating, tetrad analysis, and replica plating onto various media and lawns of cells. Available variation in yeast traits includes capability for growth on various media and in the presence of various antibiotics, capability to grow at various temperatures, colony color, and colony size.

Coming soon: StarGenetics with Mendel's peas!

Currently under development at MIT are additional versions of StarGenetics that will support experiments involving Mendel’s peas and bacterial genetics!

Do you have questions or comments about StarGenetics? Please send an e-mail message to:

star <at> mit <dot> edu

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