Courses

Students who are thinking of majoring in Biology are encouraged to take Biology 101 and 102 during their first year at Williams. This allows them to take BIOL 202, a prerequisite for many other BIOL courses, during fall of their sophomore year. Students who begin the major in their sophomore year and who spend part of junior year in a study away program will have less flexibility in course choices and may need to take two or more Biology courses during a few semesters.

Research Courses

Students can take research courses (BIOL297, 298, 493, or 494) for academic credit. Independent research is not required for completion of the major–however, students thinking of attending graduate school are strongly advised to pursue at least one semester of independent research. A research course can count as an elective. [Research courses do not satisfy the 300- or 400-level requirements for the major.] Only one semester of research can count toward the nine courses required to complete the major. In addition, students can enroll in a WSP course to do research on campus (BIOL 21) or carry out an off-campus research internship (BIOL 22 or a WSP99 project).

All Courses

Please note that courses in gray are not being offered this year.

BIOL 101 (F)The Cell

This course provides an introduction to cellular and molecular aspects of modern biology. It explains the development of cell structure and function as a consequence of evolutionary processes, and it stresses the dynamic properties of living systems. Topics considered include biological molecules and enzyme action, membrane structure and function, energy exchange and design of metabolic systems, expression of genetic information, cell signalling, cell trafficking, the cell cycle, and cancer. In addition to textbook and laboratory assignments, articles from the recent biological literature will be assigned and discussed. [ more ]

BIOL 102 (S)The Organism

This course focuses upon the developmental and evolutionary processes that have given rise to a wide diversity of multicellular organisms. We consider many levels of biological organization, from molecular and cellular to individuals and populations. Topics include meiosis and sexual reproduction, animal and plant development, evolutionary mechanisms, and speciation, with examples from the three main groups of multicellular organisms (animals, plants, and fungi). Readings are drawn from a variety of sources, including the recent biological literature. [ more ]

BIOL 132 The Human Genome

Not offered this year

An ambitious plan was launched in 1988 to determine the DNA sequence of the human genome. That project was "completed" in 2001--but that was really only the beginning. Sequencing of additional genomes goes on, but, more importantly, scientists and society are putting considerable effort into trying to understand what all those A's, G's, C's, and T's mean. Lectures will acquaint students with the fundamentals of human DNA research and its applications in the fields of medicine, human evolution, and biotechnology. The implications of this research for individuals and for society as a whole will be addressed in readings and discussions. [ more ]

BIOL 133 (S)Biology of Exercise and Nutrition

This class, intended for the non-scientist, focuses on the impact of exercise and nutrition on the human body. We will discuss topics such as how different types of training influence exercise performance; the changes that occur in the cardiovascular system during an exercise routine; the inherent limits of the body to perform aerobic and anaerobic tasks; and the long-term health consequences of a lifetime of activity of inactivity. We will also examine how nutrition and metabolism affect body composition. For example, we will rigorously and scientifically scrutinize the use of "fad" diets as a means to lose weight. [ more ]

BIOL 134 The Tropics: Biology and Social Issues

Not offered this year

Intended for the non-scientist, this course explores the biological dimensions of social issues in tropical societies, and focuses on specifically on the peoples and cultures of tropical regions in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceanea, and the Caribbean. Tropical issues have become prominent on a global scale, and many social issues in the tropics are inextricably bound to human ecology, evolution, and physiology. The course begins with a survey of the tropical environment of humans, including major climatic and habitat features. The next section focuses on human population biology, and emphasizes demography and the role of disease particularly malaria and AIDS. The final part of the course covers the place of human societies in local and global ecosystems including the challenges of tropical food production, the importance of organic diversity, and the interaction of humans with their supporting ecological environment. This course fulfills the EDI requirement. Through lectures, debates and readings, students confront social issues in the tropics from the perspective of biologist. This builds a framework for lifelong exploration of human diversity. [ more ]

BIOL 136 Studying Human Genetic Diversity: Individuals, Populations, and 'Races'--Dangerous Biology

Not offered this year

Scientists are rapidly acquiring DNA sequence information on thousands of individuals from a wide variety of human populations. This information can be used to illuminate human history and evolution. It can also be used in the field of medicine to develop new drugs and as a first step toward tailoring treatments to match individuals' genomes. This information can also create new ethical and social dilemmas. Do such studies support or refute the idea of a biological basis for 'race'? Can the data be used to justify societal inequities? Do the data have any use outside of scientific circles? Through reading scientific articles we'll explore genome sequencing data to determine the types of DNA differences that exist among humans. We'll examine the data in the light of human population history (migration, population bottlenecks, selection) to understand how these variations come about. Throughout we'll discuss the implications of these studies for individuals and for society. In particular we'll critique the use of such information in guiding policy and practice in areas such as genetic screening and eugenics, ancestry testing, 'race-based' medicine, forensics. As an EDI course, we'll examine issues of power and privilege in shaping practice and policy associated with these genetic initiatives, such as in deciding what populations to study, in administering informed consent, and in addressing health disparities. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

BIOL 202 (F)Genetics

Genetics, classically defined as the study of heredity, has evolved into a discipline whose limits are continually expanded by innovative molecular technologies. This course covers the experimental basis for our current understanding of the inheritance, structures, and functions of genes. It introduces approaches used by contemporary geneticists and molecular biologists to explore questions in areas of biology ranging from evolution to medicine. The laboratory part of the course provides an experimental introduction to modern genetic analysis. Laboratory experiments include linkage analysis, bacterial transformation with plasmids and DNA restriction mapping. [ more ]

BIOL 203 (F)Ecology

This course combines lectures with field and indoor laboratory exercises to explore factors that determine the distribution and abundance of plants and animals in natural systems. The course begins with an overall view of global patterns and then builds from the population to the ecosystem level. An emphasis is given to basic ecological principles and relates them to current environmental issues. Selected topics include population dynamics (competition, predation, mutualism); community interactions (succession, food chains and diversity) and ecosystem function (biogeochemical cycles, energy flow). [ more ]

BIOL 204 (S)Animal Behavior

Making sense of what we see while watching animals closely is both an enthralling pastime and a discipline that draws on many aspects of biology. Explanations can be found on many levels: evolutionary theory tells us why certain patterns have come to exist, molecular biology can help us understand how those patterns are implemented, neuroscience gives insights as to how the world appears to the behaving animal, endocrinology provides information on how suites of behaviors are regulated. The first part of the course focuses upon how descriptive studies provide the basis for formulating questions about behavior as well as the statistical methods used to evaluate the answers to these questions. We then consider the behavior of individuals, both as it is mediated by biological mechanisms and as it appears from an evolutionary perspective. The second half of the course is primarily concerned with the behaviors of groups of animals from a wide variety of vertebrate and invertebrate species, concentrating upon the stimuli, responses, and internal mechanisms that maintain social systems and on the selection pressures that drive animals toward a particular social system. [ more ]

BIOL 205 (S)Physiology

This lecture-based course examines principles, patterns, and mechanisms of biological function from the level of cells and tissues to the whole organism. The themes of the course include structure and function, mechanisms of regulation, control and integration, and adaptation to the environment. Examples of these themes are taken from a wide variety of organisms with a focus on vertebrates. Laboratories provide practical's experience in measurement and experimental elucidation of physiological phenomena and functional analysis of gross structure. [ more ]

BIOL 209 T Animal Communication

Not offered this year

Animal communication systems come in as many varieties as the species that use them. What they have in common are a sender that encodes information into a physical signal and a receiver that senses the signal, extracts the information, and adjusts its subsequent behavior accordingly. This tutorial will consider all aspects of communication, using different animal systems to explore different aspects of the biology of signaling. Topics will include the use of syntax to carry meaning in chickadee calls, the "piracy" of signaling system by fireflies, statements of identity and affiliation in the form of toothed whales' signature whistles, long-distance chemical attractants that allow male moths to find the object of their desire, and cultural evolution within learned signaling systems. [ more ]

BIOL 211 (S)Paleobiology

The fossil record is a direct window into the history of life on Earth and contains a wealth of information on evolution, biodiversity, and climate change. This course investigates the record of ancient life forms, from single-celled algae to snails to dinosaurs. In addition to the intellectual discovery of fossils as organic relics and the ways in which fossils have been used to support conflicting views on nature, geologic time, and evolution, we will cover a range of topics central to modern paleobiology. These include: how the fossil record informs our understanding of evolutionary processes including speciation; the causes and consequences of mass extinctions; how fossils help us tell time and reconstruct the Earth's climactic and tectonic history; statistical analysis of the fossil record to reconstruct biodiversity through time; analysis of fossil morphology to recreate the biomechanics of extinct organisms; and using fossil communities to reconstruct past ecosystems. Laboratory exercises will take advantage of Williams' superb fossil collections as well as published datasets to provide a broad understanding of fossils and the methods we use to study the history of life on Earth. We will also view a diversity of fossils in their geologic and paleo-environmental context on our field trip to Eastern New York. [ more ]

BIOL 212 (F)Neuroscience

A study of the relationship between brain, mind, and behavior. Topics include a survey of the structure and function of the nervous system, basic neurophysiology, development, learning and memory, sensory and motor systems, consciousness and clinical disorders such as schizophrenia, spinal cord inury, Parkinson's disease, and addiction. The laboratory focuses on current topics in neuroscience. [ more ]

Taught by: Heather Williams, Lauren Williamson

Catalog details

BIOL 214 Mathematical Modeling of Ecological Systems

Not offered this year

Mathematical models are extensively used to understand biological phenomena. In this course we will study how differential and difference equations can be used to model various ecological systems ranging from predator-prey interactions to infectious disease dynamics. We will explore how to formulate these models, and methods for analyzing these systems including local and global stability analysis will be introduced. [ more ]

BIOL 218 T DNA, Life, and Everything

Not offered this year

Since the molecular biology revolution of the 1960s, a view of biology has developed which regards living organisms as predictable products of their encoded DNA programs. A motto for this philosophy and scientific approach could be "To know my DNA is to know me." In this tutorial we'll examine the power and the limitations of DNA analysis and manipulation for understanding life. Students will read and discuss scientific articles that deal with creating artificial life (the field of synthetic biology), environmental DNA sampling (to deduce community structure; to discover new, uncultured species), human genome diversity surveys (to discover the basis for human phenotypic variation and human evolutionary history), comparative genomics to address evolutionary questions (ex., chimps and Neanderthals compared to humans), and resurrecting extinct organisms. [ more ]

BIOL 219 T (S)Dangerous Exposures: Environment, Immunity, and Infectious Disease

Global reports of emerging infectious diseases and old diseases with new pathogenic properties incite fears for personal safety as well as national security. The specter of a contagious pandemic has captured the public imagination through the mass news media, movies, and even popular on-line and board games. In this tutorial course, we will explore the ecology and evolution of several recently emergent diseases such as SARS, Ebola hemorrhagic fever, and AIDS. Topics to be considered include transmission dynamics, epidemiological modeling of vaccination strategies, and wildlife reservoirs that contribute to human virus exposure. We will examine progress in preventing the parasitic diseases malaria and sleeping sickness in Africa and why these diseases have proven so refractory. We will also discuss the science behind the recent development of the vaccine against the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer, and the intriguing and highly unusual transmissible cancers in dogs and Tasmanian devils. Finally, we will think about the contributions of inadequate diagnostic capacities world-wide and broader issues of resource shortages in driving the global emergence of drug resistance in tuberculosis and other diseases. One common theme in each of these case studies will be the interplay between the host immune response and the evolution of the pathogen. Although the primary focus of the course is on biology rather than policy, each week's readings will have implications for public health and/or conservation biology. [ more ]

BIOL 220 (F)Field Botany and Plant Natural History

This field-lecture course covers the evolutionary and ecological relationships among plant groups represented in our local and regional flora. Lectures focus on the evolution of the land plants, the most recent and revolutionary developments in plant systemics and phylogeny, and characteristics of plant families and cultural and economic uses of plants, native species. The labs cover field identification, natural history, and ecology of local species. [ more ]

BIOL 231 (F, S)Marine Ecology

Using the principles of evolutionary biology and experimental ecology, this course examines the processes that control the diversity, abundance and distribution of marine organisms. Major marine communities, including estuaries, the rocky shore, sandy beaches, salt marshes, coral reefs, and the deep sea are discussed in detail. [ more ]

BIOL 297 (F)Independent Study: Biology

Biology 200-level independent study. Each student carries out independent field or laboratory research under the supervision of a member of the department. [ more ]

BIOL 298 (S)Independent Study: Biology

Biology 200-level independent study. Each student carries out independent field or laboratory research under the supervision of a member of the department. [ more ]

BIOL 301 (F)Developmental Biology

Developmental biology has undergone rapid growth in recent years and is becoming a central organizing discipline that links cells and molecular biology, evolution, anatomy and medicine. We are now beginning to have a molecular understanding of fascinating questions such as how cells decide their fate, how patterns are created, how male and females are distinguished, and how organisms came to be different. We have also discovered how the misregulation of important development regulatory genes can lead to a variety of known cancers and degenerative diseases in humans. In this course we will examine these and related topics combining a rich classical literature with modern genetic and molecular analyses. [ more ]

BIOL 302 Communities and Ecosystems

Not offered this year

An advanced ecology course that examines how organisms interact with each other and with abiotic factors. This course emphasizes phenomena that emerge in complex ecological systems, building on the fundamental concepts of population biology, community ecology, and ecosystem science. Lectures and workshops explore how communities and ecosystems are defined, and how theoretical, comparative, and experimental approaches are used to elucidate their structure and function. Field laboratories emphasize hypothesis-oriented experiments, some of which will continue with laboratory analyses; field trips introduce the diversity of natural communities and ecosystems of the region. There will be one all-day field trip to Mt. Greylock State Reservation. Extensive use will be made of the 75-year database of the Hopkins Memorial Forest. Students will engage in self-designed term project. [ more ]

BIOL 304 Neurobiology

Not offered this year

This course is concerned with understanding the biology of the nervous system, focusing primarily on the cellular bases of neuronal function. Lectures will cover such topics as nerve resting and action potentials, ion channels, neurotransmitters and synapses, and the neural correlates of behavior in organisms with simple nervous systems. Reading original research papers and discussing them constitutes an important part of the course. Some of the topics that may be covered include: transmitter release mechanisms, ion permeation through channels, plasticity in the nervous system, and various clinical disorders. Laboratories are designed to introduce the students to modern techniques in neurobiology including extracellular and intracellular recording, histochemistry, and immunohistochemistry. [ more ]

BIOL 305 (S)Evolution

This course offers a critical analysis of contemporary concepts in biological evolution. We focus on the relation of evolutionary mechanisms (e.g., selection, drift, and migration) to long term evolutionary patterns (e.g., evolutionary innovations, origin of major groups, and the emergence of diversity). Topics include micro-evolutionary models, natural selection and adaptation, sexual selection, speciation, the inference of evolutionary history among others. [ more ]

BIOL 306 (S)Cellular Regulatory Mechanisms

This course explores the regulation of cellular function and gene expression from a perspective that integrates current paradigms in molecular genetics, intracellular trafficking, genomics, and synthetic biology. Topics include: the roles of protein modifications/interactions and lipids in signal transduction, transcriptional and post-transcriptional control, chromosome instability, cellular degradation pathways, epigenetic mechanisms including gene silencing, programmed cell death, and the appropriation of organelle transport pathways by HIV. A central feature of the course will be discussion of articles from the primary literature, with an emphasis on the molecular bases for a variety of human pathologies such as cancer and aging. The laboratory will consist of a semester-long project that incorporates recombinant DNA techniques, quantitative PCR analysis of transcriptional patterns, bioinformatics, and fluorescence-based approaches. [ more ]

Taught by: Dawn Carone

Catalog details

BIOL 308 (S)Integrative Plant Biology: Fundamentals and New Frontiers

Plants are one of the most successful groups of organisms on Earth and have a profound impact on all life. Successful use of plants in addressing global problems and understanding their role in natural ecosystems depends on fundamental knowledge of the molecular mechanisms by which they grow, develop, and respond to their environment. This course will examine the molecular physiology of plants using an integrative approach that considers plants as dynamic, functional units in their environment. Major emphasis will be on understanding fundamental plant processes, such as photosynthesis, growth and development, water transport, hormone physiology, and flowering, from the molecular to the organismal level. Environmental effects on these processes will be addressed in topics including photomorphogenesis, stress physiology, mineral nutrition, and plant-microbe interactions. Discussions of original research papers will examine the mechanisms plants use to perform these processes and explore advances in the genetic engineering of plants for agricultural, environmental, and medical purposes. Laboratory activities stress modern approaches and techniques used in investigating plant physiological processes. [ more ]

BIOL 310 Neural Development and Plasticity

Not offered this year

Development can be seen as a tradeoff between genetically-determined processes and environmental stimuli. The tension between these two inputs is particularly apparent in the developing nervous system, where many events must be predetermined, and where plasticity, or altered outcomes in response to environmental conditions, is also essential. Plasticity is reduced as development and differentiation proceed, and the potential for regeneration after injury or disease in adults is limited; however some exceptions to this rule exist, and recent data suggest that the nervous system is not hard-wired as previously thought. In this course we will discuss the mechanisms governing nervous system development, from relatively simple nervous systems such as that of the fruitfly, to the more complicated nervous systems of humans, examining the roles played by genetically specified programs and non-genetic influences. [ more ]

BIOL 311 (F)Neural Systems and Circuits

This course will examine the functional organization of the vertebrate brain, emphasizing both neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. How do specific populations of neurons and their connections analyze sensory information, form perceptions of the external and internal environment, make cognitive decisions, and execute movements? How does the brain produce feelings of reward/motivation and aversion/pain? How does the brain regulate homeostatic functions such as sleep, food intake, and thirst? We will explore these questions using a holistic, integrative approach, considering molecular/cellular mechanisms, physiological characterizations of neurons, and connectivity among brain systems. Laboratory sessions will provide experience in examining macroscopic and microscopic neural structures, as well as performing experiments to elucidate the structure and function of neural systems using classical and cutting-edge techniques. [ more ]

BIOL 313 Immunology

Not offered this year

The rapidly evolving field of immunology examines the complex network of interacting molecules and cells that function to recognize and respond to agents foreign to the individual. In this course, we will focus on the biochemical mechanisms that act to regulate the development and function of the immune system and how alterations in different system components can cause disease. Textbook readings will be supplemented with current literature. [ more ]

BIOL 315 (F)Microbiology: Diversity, Cellular Physiology, and Interactions

Bioterrorism and the alarming spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria are but two of the reasons for the resurgence of interest in the biology of microorganisms. This course will examine microbes from the perspectives of cell structure and function, genomics, and evolution. A central theme will be the adaptation of bacteria as they evolve to fill specific ecological niches, with an emphasis on microbe:host interactions that lead to pathogenesis. We will consider communication among bacteria as well as between bacteria and their environment. Topics include: microbial development, population dynamics, bioremediation, plant and animal defenses against infection, and bacterial strategies to subvert the immune system. In the lab, major projects will focus on horizontal gene transfer, metagenomics, and the isolation and characterization of bacteria from natural environments. Students will also use flow cytometry to investigate fundamental aspects of the mammalian immune system. The lab experience will culminate in multi-week independent investigations. Readings will be supplemented by articles from the primary literature. [ more ]

Taught by: Anne Farewell

Catalog details

BIOL 319 (F)Integrative Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Proteomics Lab

What can computational biology teach us about cancer? In this capstone experience for the Genomics, Proteomics, and Bioinformatics program, computational analysis and wet-lab investigations will inform each other, as students majoring in biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics/statistics, and physics contribute their own expertise to explore how ever-growing gene and protein data-sets can provide key insights into human disease. In this course, we will take advantage of one well-studied system, the highly conserved Ras-related family of proteins, which play a central role in numerous fundamental processes within the cell. The course will integrate bioinformatics and molecular biology, using database searching, alignments and pattern matching, phylogenetics, and recombinant DNA techniques to reconstruct the evolution of gene families by focusing on the gene duplication events and gene rearrangements that have occurred over the course of eukaryotic speciation. By utilizing high through-put approaches to investigate genes involved in the MAPK signal transduction pathway in human colon cancer cell lines, students will uncover regulatory mechanisms that are aberrantly altered by siRNA knockdown of putative regulatory components. This functional genomic strategy will be coupled with independent projects using phosphorylation-state specific antisera to test our hypotheses. Proteomic analysis will introduce the students to de novo structural prediction and threading algorithms, as well as data-mining approaches and Bayesian modeling of protein network dynamics in single cells. Flow cytometry and mass spectrometry will be used to study networks of interacting proteins in colon tumor cells. [ more ]

BIOL 321 (F)Biochemistry I: Structure and Function of Biological Molecules

This course introduces the basic concepts of biochemistry with an emphasis on the structure and function of biological macromolecules. Specifically, the structure of proteins and nucleic acids are examined in detail in order to determine how their chemical properties and their biological behavior result from those structures. Other topics covered include catalysis, enzyme kinetics, mechanism and regulation; the molecular organization of biomembranes; and the flow of information from nucleic acids to proteins. In addition, the principles and applications of the methods used to characterize macromolecules in solution and the interactions between macromolecules are discussed. The laboratory provides a hands-on opportunity to study macromolecules and to learn the fundamental experimental techniques of biochemistry including electrophoresis, chromatography, and principles of enzymatic assays. [ more ]

BIOL 322 (S)Biochemistry II: Metabolism

This lecture course provides an in-depth presentation of the complex metabolic reactions which are central to life. Emphasis is placed on the biological flow of energy including alternative modes of energy generation (aerobic, anaerobic, photosynthetic); the regulation and integration of the metabolic pathways including compartmentalization and the transport of metabolites; and biochemical reaction mechanisms including the structures and mechanisms of coenzymes. This comprehensive study also includes the biosynthesis and catabolism of small molecules (carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids, and nucleotides). Laboratory experiments introduce the principles and procedures used to study enzymatic reactions, bioenergetics, and metabolic pathways. [ more ]

BIOL 405 T (F)Sociobiology

Sociobiology, or the study of social behavior, has challenged the limits of evolutionary theory since Darwin described the non-reproducing castes among social insects (i.e., eusociality) as "one special difficulty." Inclusive fitness theory and Hamilton's rule--that an altruistic act can evolve where the benefit to related individuals exceeds the cost to the actor--potentially resolves Darwin's paradox. Nevertheless, explanations including delayed fitness benefits and ecological constraints have been suggested as alternatives to inclusive fitness theory. Moreover, the theoretical justification for inclusive fitness theory has recently been vigorously challenged. This course will use readings from the primary literature to examine the evidence for inclusive fitness as a potential explanation for topics including the evolution of helping behavior, eusociality and its relationship to extraordinary sex ratios, and spiteful behavior. Other topics that we will cover include the evolution of deceit and self deception. [ more ]

BIOL 406 (F)Dynamics of Internal Membrane Systems

Eukaryotic cells build and maintain a diverse set of internal membrane compartments that control the functionality of proteins at the cell surface and allow the cell to create immensely disparate internal chemical environnments. Despite a high rate of exchange between the constituents of this interconnected and dynamic membrane system, it has become apparent that compartmental identity (i.e. a unique set of protein constituents) can be established by regulated cargo selection and membrane fusion reactions. This course will utilize classic and current primary literature articles to examine mechanistic questions in the membrane trafficking field and the importance of specialized membrane compartments in homeostasis and immunity. [ more ]

BIOL 407 Neurobiology of Emotion

Not offered this year

Emotion is influenced and governed by a number of neural circuits and substrates, and emotional states can be influenced by experience, memory, cognition, and many external stimuli. We will read and discuss articles about mammalian neuroanatomy associated with emotion as defined by classic lesion studies, pharmacology, electrophysiology, fMRI imaging, knockout mouse studies, as well as new opti-genetic methods for investigating neural circuit function in order to gain an understanding of the central circuits and neurotransmitter systems that are implicated in emotional processing and mood disorders. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

BIOL 408 (F)RNA Worlds

Ribonucleic acids (RNAs) serve as genomes, catalysts, messengers, adaptors, regulators, structural components, and evolutionary substrates. Non-coding RNAs such as microRNAs, ribozymes, and small interfering RNAs control a diverse range of biological processes including plant and animal development, translation, epigenetic chromosome silencing, and cancer. This course explores recently discovered non-coding RNAs and considers evidence for their mechanisms of action. Through extensive reading of primary literature, we will analyze experimental investigations that reveal our current understanding of the functions and evolution of non-coding RNAs in all three domains of life. [ more ]

Taught by: Dawn Carone

Catalog details

BIOL 414 (F)Life at Extremes: Molecular Mechanisms

All organisms face variability in their environments, and the molecular and cellular responses to stresses induced by environmental change often illuminate otherwise hidden facets of normal physiology. Moreover, many organisms have evolved unique molecular mechanisms, such as novel cellular compounds or macromolecular structural modifications, which contribute to their ability to survive continuous exposure to extreme conditions, such as high temperatures or low pH. This course will examine how chaperonins, proteases, and heat- and cold-shock proteins are regulated in response to changes in the external environment. We will then consider how these and other molecular mechanisms function to stabilize DNA and proteins- and, ultimately, cells and organisms. Other extreme environments, such as hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, snow fields, hypersaline lakes, the intertidal zone, and acid springs provide further examples of cellular and molecular responses to extreme conditions. Biotechnological applications of these molecular mechanisms in areas such as protein engineering will also be considered. Class discussions will focus upon readings from the primary literature. [ more ]

BIOL 416 (S)Epigenetics

After decades of studies emphasizing the role of DNA in heredity, scientists are now turning their attention from genetics to a variety of heritable phenomena that fall under the heading of epigenetics, heritable changes that do not result from an alteration in DNA sequence. Research reveals that stable changes in cell function can result from, for example, stable changes in protein conformation, protein modification, DNA methylation, or the location of a molecule within the cell. Using readings from the primary literature, we will explore the epigenetic nature and molecular mechanisms underlying a diverse array of phenomena such as prion propagation, genetic imprinting, dosage compensation, transvection, centromere formation, vernalization, and programmed genome rearrangements. The significance of epigenetic processes for development, evolution, and human health will be discussed. [ more ]

Taught by: Benjamin Carone

Catalog details

BIOL 418 Signal Transduction to Cancer

Not offered this year

Division of normal cells is a highly regulated process based on input from both intrinsic and extrinsic signals. The cell's response to its environment affects all aspects of cell behavior: proliferation, death, differentiation and migration. The goal of the course is to understand the molecular mechanisms of signal transduction that guide normal cell behavior and how disruptions in this process can lead to cancer. We will focus on the Hedgehog-Gli signaling pathway that is activated in 30% of all known cancers. Genetic studies will serve as an introduction to the components of the pathway, followed by an examination of the molecular mechanisms of signal reception, transduction of intracellular information, scaffolding and transcriptional targets. The final section of the course will investigate how high throughput screens, medicinal chemistry studies and mouse models are used to identify small molecular inhibitors of pathway components. We will consider the effectiveness of these inhibitors in pharmacological studies, clinical trials and potential cancer treatments. [ more ]

BIOL 422 (S)Ecology of Sustainable Agriculture

A seminar / field course investigating patterns, processes, and concepts of stability in human-dominated, food production ecosystems. As a capstone course, the course will draw upon the experiences that students have had in biology and environmental studies courses. Topics will include: the relationships among diversity, ecosystem function, sustainability, resilience, and stability of food production and distribution systems, nutrient pools and processing in human?dominated ecosystems. Two extensive field trips will be taken to agricultural operations in the region. Each student will present a seminar on a topic requiring extensive reading of primary resources. Position paper assignments will be made at bi-weekly intervals and due prior to the seminar to which they relate, and periodic synthesis paper assignments will tie together various topic elements. [ more ]

BIOL 424 T Conservation Biology

Not offered this year

This tutorial examines the application of population genetics, population ecology, community ecology, and systematic to the conservation of biological diversity. While the focus of this tutorial is on biological rather than social, legal, or political issues underlying conservation decisions, the context is to develop science-based recommendations that can inform policy. Topics include extinction, the genetics of small populations, habitat fragmentation, the impact of invasive species, restoration ecology, design of reserves and conservation strategies. Format; tutorial/field trip, one to three hours per week. Requirements: evaluation will be based on 5 writing assignments, tutorial presentation, performance in the role of paper critic, and course participation. [ more ]

BIOL 426 T Frontiers in Muscle Physiology: Controversies

Not offered this year

While an active muscle produces force, contraction of muscle is far from the only function of this intriguing organ system. Muscle plays a major role in metabolic regulation of organisms, acts as a glucose storage facility, regulates blood pressure in mammals, and produces numerous hormones. The mechanism for contractile activity varies not only among different organisms, but also among different muscles within the same organism. Controversies, disagreements, and arguments pervade the muscle biology literature perhaps because of the integrative nature of the science. In this tutorial course, we will utilize molecular, physiological, comparative, and evolutionary aspects of muscle biology to address current controversies of this dynamic tissue. Some questions that will be addressed include: 1) Lactic acid generated by skeletal muscle is / is not involved with fatigue at high exercise intensity, 2) Satellite cells are / are not obligatory for skeletal muscle hypertrophy, 3) Do mammals possess the same "stretch activation" of skeletal muscle as seen in insect flight muscle?, 4) Are smooth and skeletal muscles from the same lineage of cells, or do they represent convergent evolution on the tissue level? After an initial group meeting, students meet weekly with a tutorial partner and the instructor for an hour each week. Every other week at this tutorial meeting, students present a written and oral critical analysis of the assigned research articles. Students not making a presentation question and critique the work of their colleague. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

BIOL 430 T Genome Sciences: At the Cutting Edge

Not offered this year

Research in genomics has integrated and revolutionized the field of biology, including areas of medicine, plant biology, microbiology, and evolutionary biology. Moreover, recent developments in "metagenomics" (genomic studies of entire communities of microorganisms in natural environments, such as the mammalian gut and the deep sea) and "metatranscriptomics" (studies of genome wide changes in expression and mRNA levels in natural communities of organisms) have generated unprecedented knowledge about the genomic potential of a community and the in situ biological activity of different ecological niches. In this course we will explore how research in these and related areas, including proteomics, have advanced our fundamental understanding of (1) organisms in the three domains of life, and their interactions and evolutionary relationships; (2) biological systems and environments, such as the human body, extreme environments, and the oceans; (3) strategies for solving global challenges in medicine, agriculture, energy resources, and environmental sciences. During the course, students will meet each week for one hour with a tutorial partner and the instructor. Every other week, students will present a written and oral critical analysis of the assigned research articles. On alternate weeks, students will question/critique the work of their colleague. [ more ]

BIOL 493 (F)Senior Thesis Research: Biology

Each student prepares a thesis under the supervision of a member of the department. Thesis work can begin either in the spring of the junior or the fall of the senior year, and includes the Winter Study period of the senior year. The number of Biology Department faculty available to mentor research students and the number of students each can accommodate in her/his lab vary from year to year. Although the department will make every effort to provide an opportunity for students to conduct Honors research, you should be aware that it may not be possible to assign all applicants to a laboratory. [ more ]

BIOL 494 (S)Senior Thesis Research: Biology

Each student prepares a thesis under the supervision of a member of the department. Thesis work can begin either in the spring of the junior or the fall of the senior year, and includes the Winter Study period of the senior year. The number of Biology Department faculty available to mentor research students and the number of students each can accommodate in her/his lab vary from year to year. Although the department will make every effort to provide an opportunity for students to conduct Honors research, you should be aware that it may not be possible to assign all applicants to a laboratory. [ more ]

BIOL 499 Biology Colloquium

Not offered this year

Scientists from around the country who are on the cutting edge of biological research come to talk about their work. Students of Biology at any level are welcome. [ more ]