In the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, witches and wizards can do many types of magic. They can easily break the rules of physics by changing shape and size, creating energy and teleporting on a whim. One of the things they cannot do with magic, however, is create witches or wizards. The use of magic is an inherited genetic trait. Here I describe some aspects of the Wizarding gene, explain where muggle-borns and squibs come from and explain why you didn’t get an owl on your 11th birthday.
Dr. Eric Spana received his Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1989, and his PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1995. After a post-doc at Harvard Medical School, he spent three years at Syngenta Biotechnology before joining the Biology Department at Duke University. He uses Drosophila as a model system to identify genes and processes involved in making insect cuticle and has been teaching Cellular, Molecular and Developmental Biology courses in the Biology Department for over 15 years. When not in lab or class, he travels the United States giving talks on the Biology of Fantasy and Science Fiction TV, Movies and video games at ComicCon-style fan conventions. These talks span subjects from the Avengers to Star Wars to Mass Effect and, of course, Harry Potter.