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Courses

The following information is from the 2017-18 Vassar College Catalogue.

Biology: I. Introductory

105 Introduction to Biological Processes 1

Development of critical thought, communication skills, and understanding of central concepts in biology, through exploration of a timely topic. The content of each section varies.

Topic for 2017/18a: Biology in a Changing World. Our world is constantly changing; from the daily cycle of light and dark, to the changing seasons, to the shifts in plate tectonics, change is an ever-present condition on our planet. This change is reflected in the evolutionary history and response of organisms to these varying conditions.  More recently, organisms on this planet have been faced with some very abrupt and significant agents of change. Humans are one of the agents responsible for a plethora of these changes, including pollution, habitat loss, invasive species introductions and climate change. This course will focus on the basic principles of biology that allow us to understand how different species respond to change.  These principles include genetics, evolution and inheritance and the process of natural selection, physiology and energy dynamics. Lynn Christenson.

Topic for 2017/18a: Biology of the Human Microbiome. The human microbiome consists of the bacteria, eukaryotic cells and viruses that inhabit our bodies. These microbes outnumber our human cells by as much as ten to one and their genes may outnumber human genes by over a hundred to one. Once ignored, increasing evidence indicates that an appropriate balance of these microbes plays an essential role in human health. This course focuses on the interactions of the bacterial microbiome and their hosts as a framework for understanding basic biological principles. These include the biochemistry, structure, and function of cells, metabolism, genetic variation, evolution of the host-bacterial relationship, antibiotic resistance, and biodiversity, as well as the impact of diet and antibiotic use on the microbiome and consequences for health and disease. Elizabeth Collins.

Topic for 2017/18a: Singing Life of Birds. Many of us have awoken on a beautiful spring morning to the sound of birds singing. Indeed, bird song has enchanted and intrigued humans for millennia. To truly understand bird song we must understand both the hows (mechanisms and ontogeny) and the whys (function and phylogeny) of singing. We can also approach these questions from a dynamic (how did we get here: ontogeny and phylogeny) or static (what is the current state: mechanisms and function) view. For instance, we might wonder how the brains and muscles of birds work together to produce song or how singing behavior is affected by hormones (mechanisms). We might also wonder if bird song is innate or if baby birds have to learn how to sing (ontogeny). From an evolutionary perspective we might wonder why natural selection has favored singing (function) and how singing behavior is distributed among different bird species (phylogeny).  In our quest to understand bird song we'll cover topics in genetics, cell biology, physiology, neuroscience, animal behavior, ecology and evolution. Megan Gall.

Topic for 2017/18a: Wild Canids and Domestic Dogs. This course explores the evolutionary diversity of dogs, both wild and domestic. We discuss the evolution of dogs from wolves as well as the artificial selection used to develop different dog breeds. To fully understand these evolutionary changes we explore topics such as the bio-chemical pathways involved in aggression and the genetics of coat color. Specific dog breeds are used to examine topics such as the physiology of performance and the genetic basis of disease. We also examine the diversity of wild canids from a conservation perspective, examining how their ecology interfaces with current population and genetic constraints. Meg Ronsheim.

Topic for 2017/18b: Let's talk about sex. What does it mean to be "male" or "female"? What about transgendered or intersex? In this course we learn fundamental biological principles and processes by examining the evolution, cell biology, endocrinology, genetics, and physiology of mechanisms underlying sexual determination and differentiation. We also explore current topics in sex determination and differentiation across non-human vertebrates to examine differences in mechanisms underlying the development of sex. Kelli Duncan.

Topic for 2017/18b: Life in the Sea. From coral reefs to kelp forests, and from oceanic planktonic communities to deep sea hydrothermal vents, the ocean is teeming with life. In this course we learn fundamental biological principles and processes by examining the ecology, physiology, cell biology, genetics, and evolution of marine organisms. We also explore current topics in marine research, particularly the role and ecology of planktonic life in the ocean, and how it is affected by climate change and other human activities that impact the ocean environment. Jodi Schwarz.

Topic for 2017/18b: Singing Life of Birds. Many of us have awoken on a beautiful spring morning to the sound of birds singing. Indeed, bird song has enchanted and intrigued humans for millennia. To truly understand bird song we must understand both the hows (mechanisms and ontogeny) and the whys (function and phylogeny) of singing. We can also approach these questions from a dynamic (how did we get here: ontogeny and phylogeny) or static (what is the current state: mechanisms and function) view. For instance, we might wonder how the brains and muscles of birds work together to produce song or how singing behavior is affected by hormones (mechanisms). We might also wonder if bird song is innate or if baby birds have to learn how to sing (ontogeny). From an evolutionary perspective we might wonder why natural selection has favored singing (function) and how singing behavior is distributed among different bird species (phylogeny). In our quest to understand bird song we cover topics in genetics, cell biology, physiology, neuroscience, animal behavior, ecology and evolution. Megan Gall.

Three 50-minute periods.

106a and b. Introduction to Biological Investigation 1

Investigation of biological questions via extended laboratory or field projects. Emphasis is placed on observation skills, development and testing of hypotheses, experimental design, data collection, statistical analysis, and scientific writing and presentation. The department.

Prerequisite(s): for all students wishing to take BIOL 106 one of the following is required: BIOL 105, a 4 or 5 in AP Biology, or a 5, 6, or 7 in IB Biology (HL). Students with other advanced biology content or any other concerns should confer with the department chair regarding placement into 106.

One 75-minute period and one 4-hour laboratory.

141a and b. Introduction to Statistic Reasoning 1

(Same as MATH 141) The purpose of this course is to develop an appreciation and understanding of the exploration and interpretation of data. Topics include display and summary of data, introductory probability, fundamental issues of study design, and inferential methods including confidence interval estimation and hypothesis testing. Applications and examples are drawn from a wide variety of disciplines. When cross-listed with biology, examples will be drawn primarily from biology.

Prerequisite(s): three years of high school mathematics.

Not open to students with AP credit in statistics or students who have completed ECON 209 or PSYC 200.

172 Microbial Wars 1

(Same as STS 172) This course explores our relationship with microbes that cause disease. Topics including bioterrorism, vaccinology, smallpox eradication, influenza pandemics, antibiotic resistance, and emerging diseases are discussed to investigate how human populations are affected by disease, how and why we alter microorganisms intentionally or unintentionally, and how we study disease causing microbes of the past and present. The use of new technologies in microbiology that allow us to turn harmful pathogens into helpful medical or industrial tools are also discussed. David Esteban.

178a or b. Special Projects in Biology 0.5

Execution and analysis of a laboratory or field study. Project to be arranged with individual instructor. The department.

Open to freshmen and sophomores only.

Biology: II. Intermediate

202a. Plant Physiology and Development 1

An examination of the cellular and physiological bases of plant maintenance, growth, development, and reproduction; with emphasis on the values of different plants as experimental systems. To get a complete introduction to the biology of plants, you should also take BIOL 208. 

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

205a. Introduction to Microbiology 1

An introduction to the world of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The study of bacteria is stressed. Studies of the morphology, physiology, and genetics of bacteria are followed by their consideration in ecology, industry, and medicine. David Esteban.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Two 75-minute periods; two 2-hour laboratories.

208 Plant Diversity and Evolution 1

Plant structure and function is examined in a phylogenetic context. Emphasis is placed on adaptations to novel and changing environments as well as plant-animal and plant-fungal coevolution, including plant-pollinator and plant-herbivore interactions. Laboratories include comparative study of the divisions of plants and the identification of locally common plants and fungi in the field. Margaret Ronsheim.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106, or ENST 124, or permission of the instructor prior to registration.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

217 Human Physiology 1

What happens when you go on a ski trip and stay at high altitude? How do diuretics help with the regulation of blood pressure? How do we maintain our body temperature or respond to an infection? This course considers the fundamental principles of physiology using the human body as the model system. We examine genetic, cellular, organismal and evolutionary aspects of how our bodies operate to enable us to eat, sleep, move, breathe and reproduce. We consider how our mammalian bodies tackle the problems of terrestrial life. The laboratory includes independent, experimental investigations with an emphasis on experimental design, data collection and analysis. Kathleen Susman.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106 and either BIOL 105, AP Biology with a 4 or 5 AP score, or IB higher level 5, 6 or 7 test score, unless otherwise noted.

Two 75-minute periods and one 4-hour laboratory

218 Cellular Structure and Function 1

An introduction to cell biology, with a focus on subcellular organization in eukaryotes. The regulation and coordination of cellular events, and the specializations associated with a variety of cell types are considered. Topics include organelle function, the cytoskeleton, and mechanisms of cell division. Laboratory work centers on investigations of cell function with an emphasis on biological imaging. Nancy Pokrywka.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

226b. Animal Structure and Diversity 1

The members of the animal kingdom are compared and analyzed in a phylogenetic context. Emphasis is placed on the unique innovations and common solutions evolved by different taxonomic groups to solve problems related to feeding, mobility, respiration, and reproduction. Laboratory work centers on the comparative study of the anatomy of species representative of the major animal phyla. The department.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

228a. Animal Physiology 1

A comparative examination of the mechanisms that animals use to move, respire, eat, reproduce, sense, and regulate their internal environments. The physiological principles governing these processes, and their ecological and evolutionary consequences, are developed in lecture and applied in the laboratory. Kelli Duncan, Megan Gall, John Long

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

232a. Developmental Biology 1

The study of embryonic development including gametogenesis, fertilization, growth, and differentiation. Molecular concepts of gene regulation and cell interactions are emphasized. The laboratory emphasizes classical embryology and modern experimental techniques. Straus.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

238a. Molecular Genetics 1

Principles of genetics and methods of genetic analysis at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. Emphasis is placed on classical genetic experiments, as well as modern investigative techniques such as recombinant DNA technology, gene therapy, genetic testing, and the use of transgenic plants and animals. Jennifer Kennell, Nancy Jo Pokrywka.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

241a. Ecology 1

Population growth, species interaction, and community patterns and processes of species or groups of species are discussed. The course emphasizes these interactions within the framework of evolutionary theory. Local habitats and organisms are used as examples of how organisms are distributed in space, how populations grow, why species are adapted to their habitats, how species interact, and how communities change. Field laboratories at Vassar Farm and other localities emphasize the formulation of answerable questions and methods to test hypotheses. Carol Christenson, Megan Gall, Margaret Ronsheim.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour field laboratory.

244 Genetics and Genomics 1

From understanding the role of a single gene in a single organism to understanding how species evolve, the field of genomics provides a lens for studying biology at all scales. In this course we develop a foundational understanding of genetics concepts and processes, and then deploy this foundation to probe some of the hottest questions in genomics. How do genomes evolve? What makes us human? How can we combat emerging diseases? In the lab component, students learn molecular biology and bioinformatics techniques, design and engineer a synthetic bio-machine from standard genomic parts, and use genomic approaches to understand how organisms interact with the environment. Jodi Schwarz.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

248 Evolutionary Genetics 1

This course focuses on the genetic bases of evolutionary processes and the applications of genetics in evolutionary studies.  Topics include reviews of transmission (Mendelian) genetics, DNA replication, transcription, and translation; the origin of meiosis and sexual reproduction; the microevolutionary processes of mutation, selection, genetic drift, and gene flow; the genetics of speciation; the origins of new genes; gene regulation and macroevolution; epigenetics and evolution; evolutionary genomics; and applications of evolutionary genetics to pressing societal concerns such as antibiotic, herbicide, and pesticide resistance; conservation biology; GMOs; and climate change.  Laboratories include computer simulations and bench work utilizing a variety of currently employed genetic techniques.  This course is especially appropriate for Biology majors focusing on ecology and evolution, Environmental Studies majors doing biology concentrations, and Neuroscience majors focusing on behavioral ecology and evolution. It provides good background for these advanced Biology courses:  BIOL 352 - Conservation Biology; BIOL 353 - Bioinformatics; BIOL 355 - Ecology and Evolution of Sexual Reproduction; BIOL 383; and BIOL 387 - Symbiotic Interactions.  Margaret Ronsheim, Mark Schlessman.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106 or ENST 124, or permission of the instructor prior to registration.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

272b. Biochemistry 0 or 1

(Same as CHEM 272) Basic course covering protein structure and synthesis, enzyme action, bio-energetic principles, electron transport and oxidative phosphorylation, selected metabolic pathways in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.  Colin Aitken, Eric Eberhardt, Teresa Garrett, Krystle McLaughlin, Straus.

Prerequisite(s): CHEM 244 and BIOL 106.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

275 Paleontology and the Fossil Record 1

(Same as ESCI 275) Paleontology isn't just a "dead science"- by studying processes that have occurred in the past, we can deepen our understanding of the current biota inhabiting the Earth. Conversely, by studying the modern distribution of organisms and the environmental, taphonomic, and ecological processes that impact their distribution and preservation, we can enhance our understanding of the processes that have controlled the formation and distribution of fossils through time. In this course, we explore the methodology used to interpret the fossil record, including preservational biases and how we account for them when studying fossil taxa. We also explore large-scale ecological changes and evolutionary processes and discuss how they manifest across geologic time, and how these relate to Earth's changing fauna. We additionally learn about how paleontology has developed as a field in the context of different historical and social perspectives. Lab exercises focus on applying paleontological methods to a variety of different fossil and recent samples.

Two 75-minute periods and one 4-hour laboratory period.

276a. Plants and Plant Communities of the Hudson Valley 0.5

(Same as ENST 276) Plants are the most conspicuous components of terrestrial ecosystems. In this course, you learn how to observe and describe variation in plant form so you can recognize locally common plant species and determine their scientific names. You also learn to recognize the characteristic plant communities of the Hudson Valley. This course is structured around weekly field trips to local natural areas. Locations are chosen to illustrate the typical plant species and communities of the region, the ecosystem services provided by plants, environmental concerns, and conservation efforts. This course is appropriate for students interested in biology, environmental science, and environmental studies, and anyone wishing to learn more about our natural environment. Mark Schlessman.

Environmental Studies majors may take this course instead of ENST 291.

Not offered in 2017/18.

First 6-week course. Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

288 Epidemiology 1

This course focuses on the fundamental concepts and methods of epidemiology. Introduction to the principles of the quantitative approaches to clinical and public health problems are presented. Study design and validity of epidemiologic research, measures of frequency and association, and methods of data analysis are discussed and applied in the laboratory. Critical interpretation of epidemiologic evidence and literature are emphasized throughout the course. Leroy Cooper.

Prerequisite(s): BIOL 106 or permission of the instructor.

290a or b. Field Work 0.5 to 1

298a or b. Independent Work 0.5 to 1

Execution and analysis of a field, laboratory, or library study. The project, arranged with an individual instructor, is expected to have a substantial paper as its final product.

Prerequisite(s): permission of the instructor.

Biology: III. Advanced

303a or b. Senior Research 1

Critical analysis, usually through observation or experimentation, of a specific research problem in biology. A student electing this course must first gain, by submission of a written research proposal, the support of a member of the biology faculty with whom to work out details of a research protocol. The formal research proposal, a final paper, and presentation of results are required parts of the course. A second faculty member participates both in the planning of the research and in final evaluation.

Prerequisite(s): permission of the instructor.

316a. Seminar in Neurobiology 1

A multi-level examination of nervous systems, this course is an advanced and integrative evaluation of current topics in neurobiology. Topics vary but may include glia, evolution of nervous systems, neuroimmune interactions, mechanisms of neural communication and plasticity. Emphasis is placed on current thinking and research and course material is drawn from the recent neurobiological literature. Kathleen Susman. 

Prerequisite(s): two units of 200-level Biology or one unit of 200-level Biology and NEUR 201.

Two 75-minute periods

323 Seminar in Cell and Molecular Biology 1

An intensive study of selected topics at the cellular and subcellular level. Topics vary, but may include organelle structure and function, advanced genetics, and mechanisms of cellular organization. Emphasis is placed on current models, issues, and research areas, and course material is drawn largely from primary literature.

Topic for 2017/18a: Immunity. Multicellular organisms have evolved multiple systems for resisting viral, bacterial, and parasites. We examine evolution and basic mechanisms of innate and acquired immunity; how tumors, pathogens and parasites evade immune systems; microbiomes and autoimmunity; and potential use of biotechnologies such as CRISPR and gene drives to mitigate malaria and other diseases by engineering immunity across vector populations. Jennifer Kennell and William J. Straus.

 

Prerequisite(s): CHEM 244 and one unit of Genetics (BIOL 238, BIOL 244, or BIOL 248) and one of the following: BIOL 218, BIOL 232, BIOL 272CHEM 272, or CHEM 325.

Two 2-hour periods.

324a. Molecular Biology 1

(Same as CHEM 324) An examination of the macromolecular processes underlying storage, transfer, and expression of genetic information. Topics include the structure, function, and synthesis of DNA; mutation and repair; the chemistry of RNA and protein synthesis; the regulation of gene expression; cancer and oncogenes; the molecular basis of cell differentiation; and genetic engineering. Colin Aitken.

Prerequisite(s): one unit of any 200-level biology and one unit of biochemistry (BIOL 272/CHEM 272 or CHEM 325).

Two 75-minute periods.

340 Experimental Animal Behavior 1

Examination of the relationship between behavior and the individual animal's survival and reproductive success in its natural environment. Evolutionary, physiological, and developmental aspects of orientation, communication, foraging, reproductive tactics, and social behavior are considered. Methodology and experimental design are given particular emphasis. The department.

Prerequisite(s): one unit of any 200-level biology and one of the following: BIOL 226, BIOL 228, NEUR 201, PSYC 221, or PSYC 229. 

Two 2-hour periods.

352a. Conservation Biology 1

(Same as ENST 352) Conservation Biology uses a multidisciplinary approach to study how to best maintain the earth's biodiversity and functioning ecosystems. We examine human impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem function and discuss how to develop practical approaches for mitigating those impacts. We start the semester by assessing the current human footprint on global resources, asking questions about what we are trying to preserve, why we are trying to preserve it, and how we can accomplish our goals. We critically examine the assumptions made by conservation biologists throughout, using case studies from around the world to explore a range of perspectives. Discussion topics include conservation in an agricultural context, the efficacy of marine protected areas, the impact of climate change on individual species and preserve design, restoration ecology, the consequences of small population sizes, conservation genetics, the impacts of habitat fragmentation and invasive species, and urban ecology. Margaret Ronsheim.

Prerequisites: two units of 200-level biology or one unit of 200-level biology and one of the following: ESCI 221, ESCI 361, GEOG 224, GEOG 260, or GEOG 356.

Not offered in 2017/18.

353 Bioinformatics 1

(Same as CMPU 353) DNA is the blueprint of life. Although it's composed of only four nucleotide "letters" (A, C. T, G), the order and arrangement of these letters in a genome gives rise to the diversity of life on earth. Thousands of genomes have been partially sequenced, representing billions of nucleotides. How can we reach this vast expanse of sequence data to find patterns that provide answers to ecological, evolutionary, agricultural, and biomedical questions? Bioinformatics applies high-performance computing to discover patterns in large sequence datasets. In this class students from biology and computer science work together to formulate interesting biological questions and to design algorithms and computational experiments to answer them. Jodi Schwarz.

Prerequisite(s): For students registering under the BIOL prefix, ​​the prerequisites are o​ne unit of any 200-level biology and one unit of Genetics (BIOL 238, BIOL 244, or BIOL 248)​; BIOL students do not need to have any Computer Science background​. ​For students registering under the CMPU prefix, the prerequisite is CMPU 203 or permission of the instructor; CMPU students do not need to have any Biology background.

Two 2-hour periods.

355 Ecology and Evolution of Sexual Reproduction 1

Sex: "nothing in life is more important, more interesting - or troublesome." This quotation from Olivia Judson, Ph.D., (a.k.a. Dr. Tatiana) is just one recent example of the long-standing fascination that ecologists and evolutionary biologists have had with sexual reproduction. This course begins with the question: What is sex? We then examine the current status of competing hypotheses for the evolution of sex, and then turn our attention to the myriad ecological and evolutionary consequences of sexual reproduction. We consider such questions as: Why are there only two sexes? Why do males and females look and behave differently? When is it advantageous to produce more sons than daughters (or vice versa)? When is it advantageous to be a hermaphrodite or to change sex? To address such questions in a biologically rigorous way, we need to draw on a wide range of theoretical work and empirical evidence from cellular and molecular biology, genetics, developmental biology, ecology, and evolutionary biology. Mark Schlessman.

Prerequisite(s): one unit of any 200-level Biology and one of the following: BIOL 208, BIOL 226,  BIOL 241, or Genetics (BIOL 238, BIOL 244 or BIOL 248).

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 2-hour periods.

356a. Aquatic Ecology 1

A consideration of freshwater, estuarine, and marine habitats that examines material and energy fluxes through aquatic systems; physiological aspects of primary production; the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients; adaptations of organisms to physical and chemical aspects of aquatic environments; biological processes that structure selected communities; and the role of aquatic habitat in global change phenomena. 

Prerequisite(s): two units of any 200-level Biology.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

370 Immunology 1

An examination of the immune response at the cellular and molecular levels. Topics include innate and adaptive immunity, the role of the microbiome in immunity, and the structure, function, and synthesis of antibodies.  Mechanisms for recognition, communication, and cooperation between different classes of lymphocytes in producing immune responses are also stressed, as are the genetic basis of immunological diversity and the cellular definition of "self'' which makes each individual unique.  Immune tolerance, the immunological basis of transplantation, allergic responses, tumor immunology, and immune deficiency diseases are discussed.

Prerequisite(s): CHEM 244 and two units of 200-level Biology.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

375 Sensory Ecology 1

There are many behaviors that are critical to the survival and reproduction of animals including finding food, avoiding predators, attracting mates, and raising offspring. The ability to successfully engage in these behaviors is dependent on the ability of organisms to acquire and respond to information in their environment.  In this course we will discuss the concept of information, the types of information available in the environment, the diversity of sensory systems animals have evolved to exploit that information, and how sensory information and processing influence behavior. Sensory ecology is a highly interdisciplinary field and we make use of mathematical, physical, chemical and biological principals. The class is divided among traditional lectures, student led discussions of the primary literature, and hands-on experiences with sensory ecology data collection and analysis. Megan Gall.

 

Prerequisite(s): one unit of any 200-level Biology and one of the following:  BIOL 226, BIOL 228, BIOL 241, or NEUR 201.

Two 75-minute periods.

377 Advanced Research Methods 1

Design and conduct an original research project in a small collaborative group. Develop experience with experimental techniques in biology, develop a working knowledge of relevant research literature, practice scientific writing and participate in the peer review process. Research time: 6-10 hours a week.

Prerequisite(s): two units of 200-level Biology and permission of the instructor.  

Students enrolled in BIOL 377, Advanced Research Methods, may not also register for BIOL 303 to fulfill biology graduation requirements.

Not offered in 2017/18.

One 2-hour period.

378 Engaging Biologists and Their Research 1

A close examination of the active research programs of several biologists who will visit Vassar to present their research to the Biology Department. By reading and discussing the primary literature and interacting with biologists at different stages of their careers, students develop a deep understanding of several current areas of biological research, and gain a better understanding of the scientific process. Students write a substantial paper focusing on one or more of the research areas discussed in class. Jodi Schwarz.

 

Prerequisite(s): two units of any 200-level Biology.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Three 75-minute periods.

379 Today's News in Biology 1

This course explores trending topics in the media that are related to biology. We examine how the topic is portrayed by different media sources, research the scientific literature to develop an independent understanding of the topic, and discuss related social and ethical issues. Possible topics may include: emergence of antibiotic resistance; probiotics; overfishing; sports-related head injuries; genetic engineering; climate change; degradation of natural ecosystems; emerging infectious diseases; vaccines. Hughey.

Prerequisite(s): two units of any 200-level Biology.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 2-hour periods.

380 Biomechanics 1

How does it work? This simple question drives biomechanics. Analysis is made possible by understanding the physical and engineering principles that operate in different organisms in their different ecological circumstances. Solid mechanics helps us understand how a redwood supports its own weight or a human foot employs elastic recoil during running. Fluid mechanics helps us understand how a maple samara stays aloft in a breeze or a bat hovers as it collects nectar from a flower. To test mechanistic hypotheses, we build instruments and develop techniques to carefully measure motions and forces inside and outside of the behaving organism. The result is a mathematical, computational, and/or robotic model of the lifeform as a machine that can lead to a better understanding of the proximal causes of behavior and the ultimate drivers of evolution. We delve into theory, techniques, and models by reading, critiquing, and designing biomechanical experiments. John Long.

 

Prerequisite(s): two 200-level Biology courses. COGS 211 can count as one of the two required units.

Two 75-minute periods.

381b. Topics in Ecosystem Ecology - Ecosystem Structure and Function 1

(Same as ENST 381) Ecosystems are complex systems, where biotic and abiotic factors interact to create the world we see around us. Understanding the nature of ecosystems is fundamental to understanding how disturbance and change in a dynamic world will influence ecosystem stability. This is especially critical as we enter the Anthropocene; a time in our planets history where one species, modern humans, dominate. Major changes brought about by increased human activity include changing climate regimes, invasive species spread and biodiversity loss. This course explores how ecosystems, both aquatic and terrestrial, are assembled (structured) and how different ecosystems process energy and matter (function). We use our understanding of structure and function to explore how different ecosystems respond to changes in the environment (including climate change, invasive species introductions, loss of biodiversity and pollution). A class project will explore an ecosystem scale problem, and students will develop a plan for effectively communicating the scientific understanding of the problem to multiple stakeholders. Lynn  Christenson.

Prerequisite(s): one course in Ecology (e.g., BIOL 241 or BIOL 356 at Vassar, or a course taken elsewhere).

382 Animal Communication 1

All animals use communication to navigate interactions with other individuals. At its most basic animal communication is a feedback loop. Senders produce signals which travel through the environment and are picked up by a receiver. The reception of the signal changes the behavior of the receiver through either voluntary or involuntary neural and hormonal changes; this, in turn, changes the behavior of the sender. In this course we discuss (1) how animal signals are produced, transmitted, and received; (2) how information transfer has evolved and been optimized; (3) how animals use communication in mate attraction, social integration, and predator-prey interactions; and (4) the controversy surrounding the definition of communication. Animal communication is a highly interdisciplinary field and we explore the chemical and physical properties of signals, as well as the mathematical models, neural and hormonal control, and the ecological and evolutionary underpinnings of animal communication. This course also examines animal communication in the wild and thus some self-scheduled field work is required. Megan Gall.

Prerequisite(s): two 200-level courses, with at least one of the following: BIOL 226, BIOL 228, BIOL 241, or NEUR 201.

One 3-hour period plus one 75-minute period.

383a. Hormones and Behavior 1

This course is a comparative examination of hormones and behavior in animals. We take an evolutionary approach to this topic by emphasizing (1) the common selective pressures that act on all animals and the common hormonal and behavioral responses to these pressures, and (2) how extreme selective pressures drive the evolution of unique mechanisms in the field of behavioral endocrinology. Half lecture, half student led discussions from the primary literature. Kelli Duncan.

Prerequisite(s): two units of 200-level biology.

Two 75-minute periods.

386a. Stem Cell Biology 1

Stem cell biology lies at the intersection of developmental/cell biology and medicine. This fast-moving field brings together many aspects of basic and applied biology and medicine including development, regeneration/repair, and cancer. This course covers a broad range of topics relevant to stem cell biology. We also consider the potential consequences and limitations of stem cell therapy, particularly the connection between stem cells and cancer. The format gives students both a broad background and the opportunity to apply critical thinking skills to recent data in this field. Since this is an upper level course, it assumes a basic understanding of genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology, and so concepts drawing from these fields will not be covered in depth. This means that some students may find additional background reading necessary. Class material draws from primary literature and students participate in active discussion and presentations.  Nancy Pokrywka.

 

Prerequisite(s): two 200-level courses including one of the following: BIOL 218, 238, 244, 248, or 272, and at least one semester of organic chemistry.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

387a. Symbiotic Interactions 1

From the evolution of eukaryotic cells to the creation of entire ecosystems, endosymbiosis is a driving force in biology. This course provides an integrative perspective on host-symbiont interactions in diverse endosymbioses. We spend the first half of the semester examining the critical roles of symbiosis in ecology, evolution, and human systems. Then, we examine the underlying cellular and molecular processes that lead to an integrated host-symbiont partnership, for example mechanisms of host-symbiont recognition, regulation of nutrient exchange, and genomic interactions. Jodi Schwarz.

Prerequisite(s): two 200-level Biology courses, including one of the following: BIOL 205, BIOL 218, BIOL 238, BIOL 244, BIOL 248.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 2-hour periods.

388a. Virology 1

Viruses cause significant diseases in humans, such as AIDS, influenza, and ebola. On the edge between living and non-living things, viruses invade, take over and alter cells in order to reproduce and transmit. Virus structure, replication and pathogenesis, major viral diseases, the immune response to viruses, and vaccination are major topics of discussion. David Esteban.

Prerequisite(s): two units of 200-level biology, including one of BIOL 205, BIOL 218, BIOL 238, BIOL 244, BIOL 248, BIOL 272; or permission of the instructor.

Two 2-hour periods.

389 Cardiovascular Physiology and Epidemiology 1

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. This course examines the human cardiovascular system in both health and disease. In addition, this course enables students to understand major aspects of cardiovascular epidemiology (i.e., CVD distribution, risk factors, and natural history) and current strategies for CVD prevention. Leroy Cooper.

Two 75-minute periods.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work 0.5 to 1

Execution and analysis of a field, laboratory, or library study. The project, to be arranged with an individual instructor, is expected to have a substantial paper as its final product.

Prerequisite(s): permission of the instructor.