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BIO 03 W — Diet and Gene Expression: You Are What You Eat

Quarter: Summer
Course Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Duration: 5 weeks
Date(s): Jul 24—Aug 25
Drop Deadline: Aug 1
Unit: 1
Tuition: $335
Instructor(s): Lucia Aronica
Limit: 40
Status: Closed
Jul 24—Aug 25
5 weeks
Drop By
Aug 1
1 Unit
Lucia Aronica

We tend to think that good genes make us thin and healthy, whereas bad genes make us fat and sick. But what if we could turn our “good” genes on and our “bad” genes off, and improve our overall health, by making the right dietary and lifestyle choices? The science of epigenetics suggests we can do that.

In this course, we will explore the basic science of epigenetics, the study of how we can change the way genes express themselves without actually modifying the underlying DNA. With that basic foundation in place, students will then discover how exercise, sleep, and particularly food can influence the expression of genes—all of which can have a positive impact on our metabolism, longevity, and mental well-being, and diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Along the way, we will specifically explore how gene expression can be modified by certain nutrients (folate, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and cholesterol) and bioactive food components. We will have live question-and-answer sessions on this topic with two of the world’s leading scientists in this field, Professor Randy Jirtle and Professor Michael Skinner. Using the information covered in this course, along with data gleaned from personal DNA testing (e.g., 23andMe.com, Ancestry. com, and Genos), students will be able to design a personalized nutrition action plan and menus to positively impact their gene expression.


  • Course sizes are limited.
    You won't have 5,000 classmates. This course's enrollment is capped at 40 participants.

  • Frequent interaction with the instructor.
    You aren't expected to work through the material alone. Instructors will answer questions and interact with students on the discussion board and through weekly video meetings.

  • Study with a vibrant peer group.
    Stanford Continuing Studies courses attract thoughtful and engaged students who take courses for the love of learning. Students in each course will exchange ideas with one another through easy-to-use message boards as well as optional weekly real-time video conferences.

  • Direct feedback from the instructor.
    Instructors will review and offer feedback on assignment submissions. Students are not required to turn in assignments, but for those who do, their work is graded by the instructor.

  • Courses offer the flexibility to participate on your own schedule.
    Course work is completed on a weekly basis when you have the time. You can log in and participate in the class whenever it's convenient for you. If you can’t attend the weekly video meetings, the sessions are always recorded for you and your instructor is just an email away.

  • This course is offered through Stanford Continuing Studies.
    To learn more about the program, visit our About Us page. For more information on the online format, please visit the FAQ page.

Lucia Aronica, Postdoctoral Researcher in Epigenetics and Nutrition, Stanford School of Medicine

Lucia Aronica’s research investigates how diet affects gene activity through epigenetic modifications, the role of these modifications in weight loss, and how we can use them to design precision-medicine solutions. She has published research papers in Cell, Genes and Development and the EMBO Journal. Aronica received a PhD from the Universitat Wien.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) C. David Allis, Marie- Laure Caparros, Thomas Jenuwein, and Danny Reinberg., Epigenetics, 2nd edition (ISBN 978-1-936113-59-0)