2020-2021 Course Descriptions
First Year Seminars & 100 level courses
BIOL_SCI - 101.06.01
First Year Seminar - Biology and Society
The word biology describes both the characteristics and processes of life and living organism, as well as the discipline that studies these. Like all the natural sciences, the study of biology is a data-driven endeavor, concerned with describing, predicting and understanding natural phenomena based on evidence from observation and experimentation. But like all human activities, it does not exist in objective isolation, but rather within a societal context. And biological phenomena, such as infection and disease, interact with non-biological elements of human society. This course aims to contextualize the study of biology towards a better understanding of how social and cultural histories and dynamics have had a profound effect on both biological research as well as biological phenomena, and how social, political and economic parameters influence the impact of scientific breakthroughs and the outcomes of biological events such as epidemics.
The topics we will cover, among others: the cultural, political and societal barriers to reaping the benefits of biological research; the damaging legacies of racism, sexism and colonialism on the biological research enterprise; the role of communications in the field of biology; and select biological topics in evolution, genetics and disease. Students will learn from press articles, academic literature and non-fiction books (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot; Pandemic, by Sonia Shah).
BIOL_SCI - 101.06.02
First Year Seminar - Pollination Ecology: From Conservation to Extinction
This course will focus on developing an understanding of the ecology of plants, pollinators, and their interactions. We will build on this ecological knowledge in order to think critically about the conservation challenges faced by plants and pollinators all across the globe today. Topics in this course will range from plant and pollinator life cycles, pollinator behavior, pollination ecology, pollination as an ecosystem services, and conservation. Emphasis in this course will be on the development of skills in critical reading, interpretation, discussion, and writing for the sciences.
BIOL_SCI - 101.06.03
First Year Seminar - Values of Biodiversity
One of the major challenges of our changing world is the loss of biological diversity. An overwhelming majority of people agree that we should work to save biodiversity, but their views are largely based on vague, positive feelings about nature rather than concrete justifications. This course investigates those concrete justifications. The first half of the course sketches out the argument for preserving biodiversity (i.e., "thinking globally"). The second half of the course focuses on the practice of ecological restoration in forest preserves a few miles from campus (i.e., "acting locally") not merely as a way to preserve biodiversity, but as a path to redefining a sustainable relationship between nature and culture. The readings for the course range from classics of environmental writing to recent research papers in the primary scientific literature. Biodiversity also needs to be experienced directly, so we will take a field trip to a local forest preserve where we will roll up our sleeves and help restore a native habitat and see how much biodiversity means to the people with whom we live and work.
BIOL_SCI - 115.06.01
First Year Seminar - Biological Thought & Action
Science is a process by which people make sense of the world. Scientists examine evidence from the past, work to understand the present, and make predictions about the future. Integral to this process are the methods they use to collect and analyze data, as well as the ways in which scientists work together as a community to interpret evidence and draw conclusions. In this class, we will take a multidisciplinary approach to examining biological thought and action and their social ramifications. We will seek to understand science as a social pursuit: the work of human beings with individual,disciplinary, and cultural differences, and requiring tremendous investments in training and equipment. Does it matter that participation in science is more accessible to some than to others? How do biases, assumptions, uncertainty, and error manifest in scientific work? What is the history of scientific values such as objectivity and reproducibility? The course will conclude by investigating current topics of public debate.
Biological sciences distribution courses
BIOL_SCI - 103
Diversity of Life
This course constitutes a comparative survey of organisms, emphasizing adaptation and phylogenetic relationships. The gradual evolution of lineages of living things is treated chronologically, and the mechanism of natural selection is elucidated. The evolution of Animals is covered in special depth.
The Nature of Plants
This course is meant to be a gateway into the fascinating world of plants. It is designed to give students an exciting and stimulating understanding of the biology and ecology of all plants, while at the same time not overwhelming students with levels of detail and specialized terminology that are not useful to non-majors. We will learn how plants make food, move around to new places, reproduce, deal with extreme weather, and defend themselves against natural enemies. We will investigate the partnerships plants form with other groups of organisms, such as those with animal pollinators, fungi, and animal body guards. We will consider how plant form and function relates to global biodiversity patterns and contributes to the healthy functioning of ecosystems everywhere. Finally, throughout all of these topics, we will consider how humans use plants as sources of food, fiber, shelter, medicines, drugs, and more.
BIOL_SCI - 150
This class will examine basic principles of human inheritance and the role of genetic variation in human biology. The course will progress from simple Mendelian genetics to the study of complex traits controlled by multiple genes. We will examine how genetic variation affects disease, learn how genes are mapped in humans, and discuss the implications of the human genome project and gene editing in medicine and society.
Biological sciences isp courses
Biochemistry for ISP 1
First of two courses that aim to provide a framework for understanding the chemistry, structure and function of life's smallest functional units known as cells. Starting from a basic description of inherent properties of biological macromolecules, the course will build a cell from the inside out by exploring questions related to information storage, replication and decoding of genetic information, regulation of gene expression, cytoskeleton and cytoskeletal dynamics, cell organelle structure and function, cell cycle, cell division, and basic principles of tissue design. Covering these topics, the course will emphasize how a limited set of governing principles shapes all of life's processes in similar ways, and how integration of different disciplines is key to understanding biology.
Biochemistry for ISP 2
This class seeks to provide an introductory understanding of select topics in biochemistry, including the structure and function of macromolecules, biological transport and signaling, chemical logic of metabolic reactions and select cellular pathways. The course strongly emphasizes conceptual understanding and aims to develop and integrated understanding that allows students to apply their knowledge to solve complex problems.
Biological sciences 200 core courses
Human physiology. Fundamental mechanisms underlying the function of the major organ systems in humans will be covered. Emphasis will be placed on molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying physiological processes, and on the integration among the major organs systems to achieve homeostatic and sensorimotor function. Topics will include neural, autonomic/somatic motor, cardiovascular, respiratory, and renal physiology.
This course is part of the four-course introductory biology sequence. The cell biology course covers mechanisms the cell uses to compartmentalize and transport proteins, to move, to regulate growth and death, and to communicate with their environments.
Genetics & Molecular Processes Laboratory
Genetic and Molecular Processes Laboratory. Students will design their own laboratory experiment using a defined model. Laboratory techniques and experiments in fundamental aspects of transmission genetics and molecular biology will be used. This course will accommodate both students who will be completely remote this quarter as well as students who want an in-person lab experience. All students should register for section 20 AND ALSO either an in-person lab (Sections 60-75), OR an on-line synchronous section (160-175).
Cellular Processes Laboratory
Cell Processes Laboratory. Students will design their own laboratory experiment using a defined model. Laboratory techniques and experiments in fundamental aspects of cell biology will be used.
This course is the culminating life-science lab experience in the sophomore-year series. Students design and generate reagents that can be used in larger experiments. The topic varies from year to year, but typically revolves around the sub-cloning of a specific gene fused to a reporter for detection.
This class is an introductory level biochemistry course. It covers basic topics such as macromolecular structure and function of biologically relevant macromolecules (proteins, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids), membrane structure, membrane transport, signal transduction, chemical logic in metabolic transformations, and carbohydrate metabolism. The course strongly emphasizes conceptual understanding, and offers extensive student-teacher interaction. Active participation in all course elements is encouraged and advantageous as students are expected to move past memorization of facts to a fully interconnected and integrated understanding that allows students to apply their knowledge to solve complex problems. This course will equip students preparing for the MCAT.
Biological sciences 300 level courses
Fundamentals of Neurobiology
Fundamentals of Neurobiology will explore the structure and function of the central nervous system, from the molecular to the systems/behavioral level. This course will provide an introduction to a number of concepts in cellular and systems neurology, with an emphasis on: ion channel structure and function; the structure and function of neurons and glia; the ionic basis of the membrane potential, graded potential and action potential; synaptic physiology, neuromodulation, neuronal networks; neural plasticity, including learning and memory.
This course will be part lecture course, part seminar, and will explore how the fields of neurobiology and molecular biology have converged to answer questions about the function of the central nervous system, in health and disease, and ethical considerations in the use of molecular biology techniques. Topics may include: Crispr - Cas9 system and gene editing; transgenic animals; molecular techniques employed to understand and treat neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia.
Brain Structure, Function, & Evolution
The Brain: Structure, Function and Evolution will provide an overview of the evolution of the nervous system and cognition, from the origin of neurons to the structure/function human brains.
Advanced Cell Biology
Current themes and experimental approaches in cell biology will be discussed through readings of text and original research articles.
Bioinformatics: Sequence & Structure Analysis
In this knowledge-based economy, critical thinking and coding skills are paramount for success. This course will prepare students to address informatics challenges in academia and industry. The course will explore through case studies and classroom discussions, the principles and practical applications of computational tools in contemporary molecular and structural biology research. Besides gaining an appreciation for the algorithmic aspects of these tools and their limitations, students will learn to code in Python, design and perform experiments 'in silico', and critically evaluate results.
Bio 325 is a lecture/group discussion course designed to explore advanced concepts regarding the physiology of the major organ systems, with an emphasis on comparisons between vertebrate groups, and between vertebrates and invertebrates.
Microbiology, the branch of biology that deals with microorganisms and their effects on other living organisms. An introduction to microbiology and the study of how microbes interact with their environment, including interactions with humans. By the end of the class, students will develop familiarity with the diversity of microbial structure, function, and interactions. Students will be comfortable finding and reading primary scientific literature on topics of their choosing and assembling this information into a cohesive review.
In this course we will learn how basic evolutionary and genetic principles guide policies about the conservation and management of wildlife, game, and plant populations. We will read and discuss current research in the primary literature including both molecular and quantitative genetic examples and compare them to institutional policies that deal with conservation genetics. We will examine case studies of current practices, including: managing genetics of native and ex situ and zoo populations, reintroducing and restoring plants and animals to the wild, selection in harvested populations, evaluating genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation, creating habitat corridors, measuring genetic diversity, and responses to climate change. To synthesize new concepts and theory we will engage in group problem-solving and computer simulation exercises.
Plant-animal interactions (BIO SCI 333/PBC 410). This course will explore the ecology of plant-animal interactions. Through the survey of the scientific literature, we will investigate the consequences of mutualistic interactions (pollination and seed dispersal) and antagonistic interactions (herbivory and parasitism) for individual organisms, population dynamics, ecological communities, and entire ecosystems. Finally, we will learn how these various interactions are responding to global change, including habitat destruction and climate change.
Spring Flora merges aspects of plant evolution and identification (with an emphasis on learning about the local flora) with plant ecology (with an emphasis on ecological interactions and adaptations). This course takes a field-based approach to learning the process of identifying major components of the local flora. Understanding vegetative and reproductive structures of plants, and use of this knowledge to identify plants with taxonomic keys will be emphasized. Ecological interactions, adaptations, and related conservation issues will also be discussed. The lecture portion of the course takes place on Monday on the Evanston campus, and the field lab component takes place on Wednesday on the grounds of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Transportation will be arranged if needed and the instructor will reach out to students about this before class starts. Be prepared to spend all of Wednesday class periods outside, rain or shine; warm or cold. Dress for the weather! For Wednesday class, please allow 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after the class times for transportation.
This is a statistics class geared toward students interested in biology, ecology, and environmental science, but others are welcome. The course is applied statistics with the goal of students being able to use the skills, experience, information, and software learned in class after class. We will use the software R for all quantitative methods practiced in class. R is a very flexible and powerful program that you can use for any statistical problem you encounter. The program is free, well-supported, well-documented, and is constantly getting better and more powerful.
Critical Topics in Ecology & Conservation
This course will provide students with the conceptual and theoretical framework within the field of plant ecology (especially plant biology) and conservation. This seminar-style class is based on reading and discussion of historical and contemporary primary literature. It will provide you with the opportunity to think critically and discuss your thoughts within a structured yet informal setting and will provide them with a basic background in reading and writing scientific papers. This course is designed to help you: 1. Read and discuss primary literature critically. 2. Learn important skills for writing scientific papers. 3. Become comfortable presenting and discussing papers with your peers. 4. Become more familiar with topics in Plant Science and Conservation. 5. Write a critical review of a manuscript written by a colleague. 6. Write a review paper on the topic of your choosing.
Change in the genetic composition of populations over time is the basis of evolution. The field of population genetics describes this genetic change, both as replacement of genes within populations, and as diversification among populations which can become species. This course reviews the dynamics of genetic variation in populations through evidence from natural history, experimentation, and theory. Topics include: natural selection, genetic drift, inbreeding, mutation, and geographic structure of populations, based on single-locus models, molecular sequences, and quantitative traits. More specialized topics such as sexual selection, kin and group selection, and the evolution of sexual reproduction and recombination will be included as time allows.
Change in the genetic composition of populations over time is the basis of evolution. Evolution occurs when mutation introduces new alleles that replace existing alleles in populations via one of two mechanisms. Replacement can occur by chance (genetic drift) or by encoding a superior phenotype (natural selection). Natural selection produces one of the major features of the living world, adaptation. We will model these processes for single-locus traits, DNA sequences, and phenotypic traits. When populations are separated from one another geographically, they inevitably take different evolutionary paths; it is in this manner that most species are formed. These latter processes-change within lineages and diversification among lineages-have been iterated over staggeringly long periods of time, producing another major feature of the living world, its breathtaking biodiversity. We will familiarize ourselves with the history and diversity of life on earth by examination of the fossil record, and by inferring relationships among species using phylogenetic methods.
Topic: Forerunners of Mammals
Long before the first dinosaurs, over 300 million years ago Archaeothyris inhabited swampy land in what is now Nova Scotia, Canada. Lizard-like in general body shape, the synapsid skull morphology nevertheless gives it away as a basal member of the group that gave rise to the mammals. In this class we will explore the ancient roots of Mammalia, with a particular focus on the dazzling diversity of Permian and Triassic synapsids that followed Archaeothyris.
Topic: Principles & Methods in Systems Biology
Increasingly, breakthroughs in the study of biology happen through the joint effort of experimentation and quantitative analysis of “big” data, that is, massive amounts of quantitative data. While specialization is still required to ensure expertise, exposure to both modalities of investigation is central to the study of living organisms. Systems biology treats organisms as systems, large networks of individual components that collectively imbue the entire system with novelty and complexity. The course is meant for undergraduates with an interest in learning how to analyze biological big data, as well as learning how to model organisms/cells as systems. It is designed so that BioSci majors with little or no computation experience and Math/Physics/Engineering majors with little biology experience can successfully complete this course.
Conservation biology is an integrated science based primarily on ecology, with important contributions from genetics, evolution, and biogeography, as well as nonbiological disciplines, including economics, politics and ethics. The first half of the course will: address the definitions, origins, and patterns of biological diversity; explore why the maintenance of biodiversity in natural (and unnatural) ecosystems is fundamentally important to the continued well-being of humans and other species; examine the context and causes of extinction. The second half of the course will deal with strategies and tactics for preventing or ameliorating the loss of biodiversity. Specific topics will include: the biology of small populations (including population viability analysis); the selection, design, and management of protected areas; ecological restoration; conservation design, legislation, and other higher-level strategies.
Plant Evolution & Diversity Lab
This course is an introduction to the diversity and evolutionary history of land plants for advanced undergraduates and graduate students. It will introduce principles of plant structure, classification, phylogeny, and paleontology in an evolutionary framework. Morphological, anatomical, molecular and fossil evidence for the evolutionary history and relationships of each group will be presented. Laboratories will focus on diversity and structural characteristics of each group and their fossils. Field trips will complement lecture and laboratory activities. In addition to lecture and lab, students will prepare an annotated bibliography on a topic of their choosing (subject to approval).
Quantitative Analysis of Biology
Bio 354 will be a course where we cover some the landmark results in quantitative biology. Every module (of which there are 5-6) will end with analysis of a data set acquired from the authors of studies and reanalysis and re-plotting of a central result from the paper. En route to that I will teach you the biology mathematics physics and statistics required to make the plots. The landmark papers will span from studies in gene regulation, developmental biology, sequencing etc. We will also have various crash courses in coding, image analysis, etc.Introduction to landmark insights into quantitative biology. Random genetic processes, gene expression, cell adaption, cell cycle,developmental morphogens, phylgenomics. For more information about this course please visit Dr. Mani's website: https://madhavmani.wixsite.com/qbiocourse Prerequisites: Instructor's Consent
Immunobiology is the study of the response of higher organisms to foreign substances and pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses. This course examines the cells and organs of the vertebrate immune system and how they function to protect us during an immune response against microbial infection. We will also examine disorders of the immune system, including immune deficiency, hypersensitivity, autoimmunity, and cancer.
Principles of Cell Signaling
The ability to sense external and internal signals and dynamically respond lies at the core of cellular homeostasis and is one of the most important properties of all forms of life. In this course, general molecular principles of signaling through which cells capture, process, store and send information are discussed. The emphasis of this course in on the design principles, components, and molecular mechanisms that are common to different signaling systems. Modern experimental techniques for studying cellular signaling as well as the implications of disruption of cell communication pathways in diseases will be described.
Protein Structure & Function
This course explores the relationship between the three-dimensional structure of proteins and their function. First, we cover the basic principles of protein architecture. Following an overview of methods for determining protein structures, we study specific classes of proteins, including antibodies, amyloids, DNA-binding proteins, enzymes, folding chaperones, membrane proteins, and nucleotide binding proteins. Along the way, students learn how to display, manipulate, and investigate three dimensional macromolecular structures on the computer. Finally, we apply the skills learned to primary literature case studies published in the last year.
The course is designed to be an introduction to biophysics and will provide both theoretical and practical perspectives for students that have concentration in biochemistry and biophysics. Students will gain an understating of common used techniques in biophysics.
Genomics is a relatively new, and rapidly advancing field of biology concerned with understanding the structure, function, content, and evolution of genomes. At its core, the goal of genomics is to generate a detailed map of an organism's genome that includes the location and identity of every gene. However, the field of genomics is becoming increasingly broad, often focusing on the questions and analyses that arise once a genome has been sequenced and described. The methods developed by the Human Genome Project, both from a sequencing and analysis perspective, significantly altered the landscape of human research, both from a biomedical and from an evolutionary standpoint. Building on these methods and on very recent advances in DNA sequencing technology, genomics is no longer limited to the study of humans; genome research can now being applied to any organism from jellyfish to polar bear, from mold to palm trees. In this class we will discuss how and why we sequence genomes, how we analyze their content (including a hands-on approach), and how the understanding of genomes from across the entire tree of life (i.e., comparative genomics) can illuminate fundamental questions in biology.
Biology of Cancer
This course is focused on the molecular/cellular mechanisms underlying cancer initiation and progression. Students are expected to have a thorough understanding of molecular and cell biology before taking this class. Various mechanisms controlling cell proliferation, signal transduction, DNA damage repair, cell fate decisions and cell-cell communications will be discussed. Topics will also include nature/hallmarks of cancer and current strategies for cancer treatment. The goal of this course is to have a rich intellectual exchange of ideas while taking an in depth look at the molecular causes of cancer.
Stem Cells & Regeneration
The use of stem cells for growth, repair, and maintenance of tissue is widespread throughout the animal kingdom. In addition, species vary in their natural abilities of repair tissue in adulthood, from wound healing and scar formation to complete cell/tissue/organ regeneration after damage. What are the molecular processes that imbue stem cells with their unique abilities, how are these controlled by the organism, and how can they be harnessed therapeutically? This course takes a comparative approach to explore this fascinating problem by critically examining classic and modern scientific literature about the developmental and molecular biology of regeneration and both embryonic and adult stem cells.
Advanced Molecular Biology
This is a course designed for upper level undergraduate students. Basic molecular genetic mechanisms in eukaryotic organisms are the emphasis of the course. Topics include basic concepts and techniques of molecular biology, organization of genetic information, flow of genetic information, regulation of the flow of genetic information and application of molecular biology in biomedical research.
Recent advances in genetics and molecular biology have revolutionized the fields of gene expression, cell regulation and functional genomics. These advances have fundamentally changed not only our basic understanding in these areas but how we make discoveries. We will explore this revolution directly through the primary research literature. The required reading material will be provided and will consist of now classic papers as well as recent papers from the most highly respected research journals. Representative topics will include how genes are manipulated, how gene expression is regulated in vivo, how molecular/genetic analysis of model organisms such as yeast is used to advance understanding in higher organisms, how human disease genes are discovered and a how every gene in an entire genome can be analyzed simultaneously. We will delve deeply into two of the hottest fields in molecular genetics today: epigenetics (chromatin modification and its consequences) and recently developed methods that allow rapid and simple engineering of the genome of almost any organism. Although lectures are provided, the class is small enough to allow students to take an active role through questions and discussion.
Evolution and Diversity: Mushroom Genetics & Genomics
The occurrence of natural genetic variation is the raw material with which evolution has sculped every organism that ever existed. Among these organisms are the fungi. In this laboratory-based course, students will be immersed into the world of a famous mushroom-forming fungus, Schizophyllum commune. In the wild, Schizophyllum helps to ensure that we are not up to our necks in dead plant material by breaking down the lignin and cellulose present in wood. In the lab, this organism has served as a model eukaryote to study basic principles genetics and development for over 80 years. Recent genomic studies have revealed that Schizophyllum harbors far more genetic variation than any other eukaryotic organism. In addition, because of the genetic variation at the two genetic loci that control mating, it is estimated that there are over 23,000 "sexes" in this fungus! In this course, students will learn key aspects of the biology of Schizophyllum (and several other fungi) and will carry out experiments to examine the extraordinary natural genetic variation that this organism has undergone. Every experiment will be designed to discover new knowledge. Each student will be provided with specimens from a nation-wide collection of wild S. commune specimens with which to carry out molecular, genetic, and genomic experiments and analyses. Each student will also analyze Schizophyllum specimens that she/he has found in the local environment. Working with Professor Gaber, students will generate new mutations, determine the molecular sequences of the genes that control mushroom mating, and perform molecular "barcoding" to establish phylogenetic relationships between members of the Schizophyllum population. They will also screen a nation-wide collection of Schizophyllum to investigate the genetic and phenotypic variation exhibited by this organism.Back to top