Student Review: Introduction to Genomics

February 23, 2012

Author: Arthur M. Lesk

Edition: Second

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Pages: 424

Price: £34.99

ISBN: 9780199564354

Genomics is one of the fastest-changing areas of biology, filled with rapidly advancing techniques and applications. Introduction to Genomics attempts to tackle this moving target by furnishing a good overview of the field’s background, outlining a range of current genomic methods, and discussing a wide variety of applications and future prospects.

As an undergraduate, I found that many of the standard molecular biology course texts did not cover genomics in any great depth, and they tended to be light on detail in order to avoid dating too quickly. Introduction to Genomics fills in some of this detail and discusses at greater length the uses of this research. In order to increase its longevity, it tends to focus more on the context and applications of the field, rather than the specifics of methodology that are more subject to change. There is, however, a good chapter on the processes of genetic mapping, sequencing and genome annotation, which are areas that I find undergraduates often struggle with.

A real strength of the book lies in its handling of genomics computing. After introducing a concept, it does not shy away from showing how scientists work with genomic information, and the book is illustrated throughout with screen shots of bioinformatic analyses and genomic databases. As well as offering test problems and exercises, each chapter also includes a number of “weblems”, which prompt students to use the online bioinformatics tools used by real genomics researchers to answer simple, explanatory problems.

This second edition has been updated to include the important recent impacts of advances in high-throughput sequencing methods. Extensive space is given to the use of these methods to study anthropology, evolution and the possibilities of personalised medicine. The chapter on “Evolution and genomic change” makes this a resource that is valuable not only for students of genetics, but also for undergraduates studying systematics.

Although they are not strictly part of genomics, this textbook also introduces metabolomics, proteomics and even systems biology, which makes it a useful handbook for understanding the key concepts of some of biology’s newest and most complicated subjects.

Introduction to Genomics is clearly written and easy to navigate. Thanks to its wide scope, it not only serves as a useful introduction to the field but can also be used to understand how many other key biology topics have changed in recent years as a consequence of the genomics age.

Who is it for? Biology and biochemistry undergraduates, physics and statistics postgraduates dabbling in bioinformatics.

Presentation: Good illustrations, particularly of real sequence data.

Would you recommend it? Yes. It’s a very good resource for undergraduates looking to understand the current state of molecular biology.

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