Chinese look to Harry Potter to put magic in genetics

A Chinese university medical school is casting a Harry Potter spell over a genetics course in an attempt to entice students to study the discipline. The Sun Yat-sen University in the southern province of Guangdong has introduced the likes of evil Lord Voldemort, the Weasleys, Dobby, Aberforth Dumbledore and sneak thief Mundungus Fletcher to better illustrate the role genetics play in social behaviour.

"Genetics greatly influence how a mother reacts during her pregnancy and how she rears her children. In Harry Potter, we can find such cases in Harry and Voldemort, who are both suspected of having some of the same genes as Slytherin, and who live in a similar environment," said course lecturer Chen Suqin.

"Why is it Harry and Voldemort have totally opposite characters? Was it because Harry was surrounded by his mother's love when he was first born, while Voldemort's mother was full of hatred during her pregnancy?" she added.

A myriad of Potter plots will also be used to show how hereditary genetic-make up determines how people -- and fantasy creatures -- react in different situations. "Genetics is often viewed as very boring and a dry topic by students. But if they are Harry Potter fans, this course will help raise their curiosity and aid them remember what they have learnt," added Chen, a self-confessed avid Potter admirer.

Since waving the magical Potter wand over the once shunned elective course, which runs for 36 hours and offers two degree credits, students numbers are now heavily oversubscribed, Chen said. The university is not the first to introduce J K Rowlings' wizardry into its curriculum. Durham University's education department offers students a 30-credit Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion module.

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