Forget about being able to choose the colour of your baby’s eyes or hair, we haven’t gotten that far yet, according to Claire Hasenkampf.

“If you’re looking for that sort of thing, rent a movie,” she says. But the professor of biological sciences at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus has regaled audiences on the latest research on the building blocks of life in her lecture Chromosomes Dividing: How It’s Done And Why It Matters, as part of TVO’s Ontario’s Best Lecturer series on its program Big Ideas yesterday.

“It’s very thrilling to be nominated,” she said. “I’ll be more thrilled if I win, but I won’t be disappointed if I don’t. It’s a pretty tough topic to explain.”

So, while chromosomes may not be considered as “sexy” a subject as others, it’s an important one to know. Hasenkampf details how during meiosis — a dividing process essential to sexual reproduction — chromosomes are allowed to pair up and participate in reciprocal genetic exchange.

Essentially, Hasenkampf explains how life is created on a microscopic level.

“It matters because the process encodes info about the organism, and most organisms that we can see use that process,” she said.

“Now much of what makes up a human can be attributed to environmental possibilities — nurture instead of nature. But meiosis can provide more information about birth defects and complex traits such as athleticism or intelligence, or even hereditary risks like heart disease or diabetes.”

But there’s so much more to know. Hasenkampf says that there’s no such thing as a study that hasn’t generated more questions along with findings, and like many other scientific discoveries, the answer may just come by accident.

“A big key is to not find the answer you think you’re looking for if it isn’t there,” she said. “Don’t let your ideas bias what you see.”