GCP Home Page


"Genomics is the study of the total genetic complement of an organism. Of course, scientists have been studying individual genes for nearly a century. But it is only recently that the biological and computing tools needed to study whole genomes have become available. The advent of genomics and related sciences has created a plant genome revolution that is changing the field of plant biology."

So stated Dr. Mary Clutter on August 3, 1999, in her address to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science during a hearing on Plant Genome Science. The term genomics was coined in 1986 to help describe the fusion of new DNA technologies with the study of complete genomes (McKusick & Ruddle, 1987). However, this word has come to encompass a wide spectrum of concepts and research methods, including both new technologies and new perspectives. It is now not only hard to define but used in many different contexts.

Despite this ambiguity, in the brief period since its inception, genomics has quickly become a driving force in biological research worldwide. This can be seen not only in its pervasiveness in scientific literature and the creation of new research programs for it, but also in economic terms and the interface between scientific research and society. As the current paradigms of scientific research are the fuel of science education, genomics could also influence the education of our students and future citizens. Therefore this new field has had, and will continue to have, far-reaching effects, even for the non-scientist.

This learning module attempts to facilitate an increased understanding of the concepts and tools of genomics and comparative genomics. While it does not go into great technical detail about protocols, it does endeavor to equip a scientist or upper-level student with enough of the background concepts, current methods, applications and limitations of the tools of comparative genomics that s/he could make better informed decisions as to whether they fit into his/her current research, or simply help those who wish to stay abreast of current research and need some background to enable them to do so.

Theresa Fulton
Institute for Genomic Diversity
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14850