I took an undergrad class in genetics. I felt it was not too intensive and I do not feel prepared for grad school (if I can manage to get in.)

Does anyone know of a preferably free resource for learning genetics?

I know the field is very large, but I would like to be competent in the field, considering I also want to learn more about genomics as well. And I figure one must first have a fundamental understanding of either computer science or biology to be successful in genomics, both of which I lack.

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    $\begingroup$ MIT Open CourseWare? $\endgroup$
    – mdperry
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ "Not expensive" I understand, "free" doesn't make much sense: you can afford to attend a grad school, but not to buy a book? Really? Maybe that's really the case, but the odds are quite low. $\endgroup$
    – o0'.
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Lohoris I said that I was thinking of grad school, if it was possible. Sometimes they give people "free rides" I heard if they are competent enough and desired enough. I doubt I fit into that category. $\endgroup$
    – Ro Siv
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't matter: even if you hadn't to pay for the school at all, you would still have other expenses just to live. And if you can cover those, then you most likely can afford to buy a non-expensive book too. $\endgroup$
    – o0'.
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Lohoris: Different countries, different "grad schools". Here I am, doing my PhD and being paid (not a huge amount, but well enough to survive for sure) for teaching and working on research projects. This is how it can work in Germany. There is also stipends and whatnot. $\endgroup$
    – skymningen
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 14:19

3 Answers 3


As you said, the question is pretty broad. Genetics is a big gigantic field and it is quite hard to know what you are exactly looking for. If you could refine into one of the subfields (molecular genetics, population genetics, phylogenetics, etc..) it would be much easier to give you better advice. As you talk about both biology and bioinformatics, it might be worth to specify whether you are looking for learning more in fundamental genetics or learning more in the methodologies to analyse genetic data.

Principles of Genetics

You may want in an introductory class in genetics. Here is a course on MIT Open CourseWare, but it may be too easy for you.


You may want to take a bioinformatics course. There are so many bioinformatics course online that there is a wikipedia page to list them (there).

Side skills


You may just want to learn to code in R, Python, Perl or Shell script (to cite few examples). You'll find tons of beginner tutorial online.


Or you might want to learn more about statistics. KhanAcademy has a very good (but very introductory) statistics class.

  • $\begingroup$ Great answer. Would add Perl in the side skills as it is massively used in genomics because very powerful for treating text-based data. Also understanding Linux and its command-line interface is a must-know. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 4:09
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    $\begingroup$ @cagliari2005 Thanks! I edited the answer. One might want to add C++ eventually. I would have not thought about Perl as I personally don't use it. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 4:41

I work at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, one of the world's largest genomics centres. We do maintain a website for the public wanting to learn about genomics, but it might be a bit basic for you: YourGenome.org

You can get into this field without going through grad school:

  • learn at least one programming language (Python is probably the key one today; perl was everything 10 years ago but not much new is starting in that language now)
  • try getting involved in open source bioinformatics projects, such as the Global Alliance
  • apply for a support role in a genomics centre, such as working as a programmer within a research group, or in their IT support groups. Genomics is a field you can learn on the job.
  • $\begingroup$ To give a background, I have also taken a intro level genomics course and enjoyed it. The coding was just a taste( "hello world" and the like) but my coding needs alot of more work. I was a comp sci major, but flunked out because my coding and understanding of proofs was not good enough. In the genomics course, I did a gene annotation project under the Genomics Education Partnership (gep.wustl.edu/curriculum/student_work) similar to the ones on that page. Is that relevant experience in genomics? $\endgroup$
    – Ro Siv
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 6:03

The Coursera Introduction to Genetics and Evolution is an excellent MOOC.

If I remember correctly it contains links chapters in the online version of Griffiths et al (i.e. deep links to this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21766/ )

There is also Introduction to Biology - The Secret of Life from EdX, it is not just genetics, it covers a lot of molecular biology and biochem too, but it is by far the best course of it's type I've ever taken, and I'd say you could jump in on the genetics and skip the biochem if that is your preference. The simulation "experiments" (e.g. breeding fruit flies) are superb.

If you want to get in to bioinformatics and you don't have strong programming skills then take a look at Algorithms, Biology, and Programming for Beginners. The same people also offer more advanced courses on Coursera too, if you have more programming experience. The course is language agnostic, but Python is really the main language in the field so I'd strongly suggest you do any dev work in that.


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