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NOVA scienceNOW: Profile: Pardis Sabeti

Program Overview

Dr. Pardis Sabeti is a professor of genetics and an infectious disease specialist at Harvard University. She developed an effective way to track the spread of genes in a population, providing insight into natural selection. Currently she studies how the malaria parasite develops drug resistance. She's also is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist in a rock band.

This NOVA scienceNOW segment:

  • reviews that DNA mutations occur at a high frequency in a population; mutations that help an individual survive in a specific environment are considered beneficial.

  • explains that beneficial mutations, such as those that enabled humans to digest milk, are passed down to offspring at a greater frequency than non-beneficial ones and "spread" quickly through a population.

  • reports that Dr. Sabeti developed an algorithm identifying genes that spread rapidly in a population. Scientists now scan the human genome using this algorithm and learn more about natural selection and evolution.

  • considers how Sabeti's family experiences affected her character and work: Her family fled Iran during the 1979 Revolution and lost all their possessions. Later, Sabeti's father nearly died in a car accident, and after apprenticing with her father's doctor, she decided to study medicine.

  • reports that Pardis's current research involves understanding how the parasite that causes malaria becomes resistant to the drugs commonly used to fight it.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
NOVA scienceNOW: Profile: Pardis Sabeti

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