How to Build a Human

Brendan Kern, Biology, Johnson C. Smith University

Meets at Johnson C. Smith University

How does an embryo build itself from a single cell up to an infant? When does an embryo become a person? How should we regulate what can be done with embryonic tissue? How do we prevent environmental hazards that can damage fertility and embryonic health? Who gets to make these decisions? Should economic concerns enter into the discussion? This seminar will discuss these issues and more through the lens of human development. Developmental biology studies many aspects of the life cycle from fertilization through aging, looking at how cells communicate, grow, and change in order to form the myriad structures of the body. The content of the seminar will include not only the science of development, but also discussions of other issues in the field. The seminar will combine lecture with case studies, discussions, and some microscopy. It will blend content on how embryos develop and the ways in which this process can be disrupted with discussions on areas where this field intersects with issues such as ethics, evolution, ecology, and economics. We will also discuss the future of the field with special emphasis on practical and ethical issues surrounding genetic modification.

Additional resources:

Please visit to explore free videos that accompany the Developmental Biology textbook Brendan uses for his students at Johnson C. Smith University.