1

I am learning this MIT course.

The professor said:

In past terms we compared a human genome to a rat genome, and discovered they were pretty similar.

What does "In past terms" mean?

I listened to this point many times, and this does not sound like "In past times".

2

In this context, term means:

[Merriam-Webster]
3 : division in a school year during which instruction is regularly given to students

So, to paraphrase the sentence:

In earlier classes we compared a human genome to a rat genome, and discovered they were pretty similar.

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