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Supercomputing Challenge

Nature Versus Nurture

Team: 37


Area of Science: Genetics / Sociology


Problem: How does culture affect genetics and how do genetics affect our culture? We adapt habits and fads from those around us and from the information we receive constantly through media and communication. We also learn violence and bias from the same sources. Will this affect our genetic and cultural makeup in the future? Will our genetics change from our knowledge of our environment and culture? Our inquiry is delving into the hows and whys of existing genetic and environmental phenomena in various species. These could provide insight to the areas we've chosen to look at.

Plan: We will model a handful of specific traits that are contributed to by both genetics and habitat, such as facial features, taste in humor, etc. Using a non-zero sum game matrix, we will map the relationships between these intermediary traits as well as their genetic and memetic counterparts. For example, how would a mostly or fully environmental trait such as bias affect another intermediary trait such as communication and what other traits are affected by communication? We will also look at the spread of disease, particularly at spread and immunity through specific groups and at genetic mutations. Using an adapted SIR format, we'll look at similarities between infectious diseases and fads.

Progress: Our work to date has been very successful in making progress on our model. We have begun to fill out our matrix with gathered research and data, sorting and using it as we go. The Monte Del Sol students have made good progress in learning Starlogo and using it to make sense of statistical data, which was unknown to them before. We have a few individually working pieces of a model, and well-developed ideas for putting them together.

Expectations: We expect to end with a working model that shows which traits affect or are affected by others, and how they might change future genetic sequences/traits. After we do this, we will attempt to map out the effects that environment has on genetics and how genetics affects environment using the model. We also expect to come away an enriched understanding of cultural and genetic evolution. Expected outputted data is still too foggy to make an assumption.


  • Ridley, Matt (2003). Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human. Harper Collins.
  • Smith, John M. (1982). Evolution and the Theory of Games. Cambridge University Press.
  • Leroi, Armand M. (2004). Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body. HarperCollins.
  • Hoagland, M., & Dodson, B. (1998). The Way Life Works: The Science Lover's Illustrated Guide to How Life Grows, Develops, Reproduces, and Gets Along. Three Rivers Press.
  • Unites States Census Bureau - (2005 Census)
  • Blachford, S. (Ed.). (2005). Gale Encyclopedia of Genetic Disorders (2nd ed., Vol. 1-2). Thomson Gale.

Schools: Monte Del Sol and Homeschool
Sponsors: Irene Lee and Nancy Marquis
Mentors: Janette and Will Fischer

  • Dakota Lopez (MDS)
  • Kayla McMurtry (MDS)
  • Hannah Haynes (MDS)
  • Laura Breen (MDS)
  • Talaya White (Home)

Team Members:

  Talaya White
  Laura Breen
  Dakota Lopez
  Kayla McMurtry

Sponsoring Teacher: NA

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