Courses

  • Complete list of Required Courses

    BIOL 101(F)The Cell

    This course investigates cell structure and function as a consequence of evolutionary processes, and it stresses the dynamic properties of living systems. Topics include an introduction to biological molecules and enzyme action, membrane structure and function, energy exchange and design of metabolic systems, expression of genetic information, cell signaling, cell trafficking, the cell cycle, and cancer. Student-designed laboratory experiments and discussions based on primary biology literature will highlight how biological knowledge is created and understood. [ 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 in our examination of evolutionary concepts. Topics include meiosis and sexual reproduction, developmental and evolutionary mechanisms, and speciation with representative examples from a diversity of plants and animals. Readings are drawn from a variety of sources, including the recent primary literature. [ more ]

    CHEM 151(F)Introductory Chemistry

    This course provides an introduction to chemistry for those students with little or no high school chemistry. Students will be introduced to concepts fundamental to studying matter at the molecular level. Principal topics include introductions to the nature of atoms and molecules, stoichiometry, solubility rules and equilibria, gas laws, chemical equilibrium, acid-base reactions, periodic relationships, chemical bonding, molecular structure, intermolecular forces, oxidation-reduction reactions, and related applications. Laboratory work comprises a system of qualitative analysis and quantitative techniques. The course provides preparation for further study of organic chemistry, biochemistry, physical and inorganic chemistry and is intended for students who are anticipating professional study in chemistry, in related sciences, or in one of the health professions, as well as for those students who are interested in exploring the fundamental ideas of chemistry as part of their general education. [ more ]

    CHEM 153(F)Concepts of Chemistry

    This course broadens and deepens the foundation in chemistry of students who have had typically one year of chemistry at the high school level. Most students begin study of chemistry at Williams with this course. Familiarity with stoichiometry, basic concepts of equilibria, and the model of an atom is expected. Principal topics for this course include kinetic theory of gases, modern atomic theory, molecular structure and bonding, states of matter, chemical equilibrium (acid-base and solubility), and an introduction to atomic and molecular spectroscopies. Laboratory work includes synthesis, qualitative and quantitative chemical analysis, and molecular modeling. The course is of interest to students who anticipate professional study in chemistry, related sciences, or one of the health professions, as well as to those who want to explore the fundamental ideas of chemistry as part of their general education. [ more ]

    CHEM 155(F)Principles of Modern Chemistry

    This course is designed for students with strong preparation in secondary school chemistry, including a laboratory experience, such as provided by an Advanced Placement chemistry course (or equivalent) with a corresponding score of 5 of the AP Chemistry Exam (or a 7 on the IB Exam, or equivalent). Topics include chemical thermodynamics, kinetics, structure and bonding, coordination chemistry, electrochemistry and spectroscopy and their application to fields such as materials science, industrial, environmental, biological, and medicinal chemistry. Laboratory work includes synthesis, characterization, and reactivity of coordination complexes, electrochemical analysis, materials chemistry, qualitative analysis, and molecular modeling. This course is of interest for students who are anticipating professional study in chemistry, related sciences, or one of the health professions, as well as for students who want to explore the fundamental ideas of chemistry as part of their general education. [ more ]

    Taught by: Anthony Carrasquillo

    Catalog details

    CHEM 156(S)Organic Chemistry: Introductory Level

    This course provides the necessary background in organic chemistry for students who are planning advanced study or a career in chemistry, the biological sciences, or the health professions. It initiates the systematic study of the common classes of organic compounds with emphasis on theories of structure and reactivity. The fundamentals of molecular modeling as applied to organic molecules are presented. Specific topics include basic organic structure and bonding, isomerism, stereochemistry, molecular energetics, the theory and interpretation of infrared and nuclear magnetic spectroscopy, substitution and elimination reactions, and the addition reactions of alkenes and alkynes. The coordinated laboratory work includes purification and separation techniques, structure-reactivity studies, organic synthesis, IR and NMR spectroscopy, and the identification of unknown compounds. [ more ]

    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 ]

    CHEM 251(F)Organic Chemistry: Intermediate Level

    This course is a continuation of Chemistry 156 and it concludes the systematic study of the common classes of organic compounds with emphasis on theories of structure and reactivity. Specific topics include radical chemistry, an introduction to mass spectrometry and ultraviolet spectroscopy, the theory and chemical reactivity of conjugated and aromatic systems, the concepts of kinetic and thermodynamic control, an extensive treatment of the chemistry of the carbonyl group, alcohols, ethers, polyfunctional compounds, the concept of selectivity, the fundamentals of organic synthesis, an introduction to carbohydrates, carboxylic acids and derivatives, acyl substitution reactions, amines, and an introduction to amino acids, peptides, and proteins. The coordinated laboratory work includes application of the techniques learned in the introductory level laboratory, along with new functional group analyses, to the separation and identification of several unknown samples. Skills in analyzing NMR, IR, and MS data are practiced and further refined. [ more ]

    CHEM 256(S)Advanced Chemical Concepts

    This course treats an array of topics in modern chemistry, emphasizing broad concepts that connect and weave through the various subdisciplines of the field--biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry. It provides necessary background in chemical science for students who are planning advanced study or a career in chemistry, biological science, geoscience, environmental science, or a health profession. Topics include coordination complexes, thermodynamics, electrochemistry, kinetics, and nuclear chemistry. Laboratory work includes experiments involving synthesis, characterization, and reactivity studies of coordination and organic complexes, spectroscopic analyses, thermodynamics, electrochemistry, kinetics, and nuclear chemistry. [ more ]

    BIMO 321 / BIOL 321 / CHEM 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 ]

    Taught by: Katie Hart

    Catalog details

    BIMO 322 / BIOL 322 / CHEM 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 ]

    BIMO 401(S)Topics in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

    This seminar course involves critical reading, analysis, and discussion of papers from the current biochemistry and molecular biology literature. Specific topics vary from year to year but are chosen to illustrate the importance of a wide range of both biological and chemical approaches to addressing important questions in the biochemical and molecular biological fields. To facilitate discussion, students will prepare written critiques analyzing the data and conclusions of the chosen literature. [ more ]

  • Complete list of Elective Courses

    BIOL 301Developmental Biology

    Not offered this year

    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 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 306Cellular Regulatory Mechanisms

    Not offered this year

    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. Selected topics include: the contribution of nuclear organization to genome regulation, mechanisms to maintain genomic integrity, transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation, nuclear export, cell cycle and cell signaling. 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 fluorescence-based approaches, quantitative PCR analysis of transcriptional patterns, bioinformatics, and protein analysis. [ more ]

    BIOL 308Integrative Plant Biology: Fundamentals and New Frontiers

    Not offered this year

    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 / NSCI 310Neural 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 313(S)Immunology

    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, metagenomics, 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. The lab experience will culminate in multi-week independent investigations. Readings will be supplemented by articles from the primary literature. [ more ]

    BIOL 319 / CHEM 319 / CSCI 319 / MATH 319 / PHYS 319Integrative Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Proteomics Lab

    Not offered this year

    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 ]

    CHEM 324(S)Enzyme Kinetics and Reaction Mechanisms

    Enzymes are complex biological molecules capable of catalyzing chemical reactions with very high efficiency, stereo-selectivity and specificity. The study of enzymatically-catalyzed reactions gives insight into the study of organic reaction mechanisms in general, and into the topic of catalysis especially. This course explores the methods and frameworks for determining enzymatic reaction mechanisms. These methods are based on a firm foundation of organic reaction mechanisms and chemical kinetics. We will investigate the major types of biochemical reactions, focusing on their catalytic mechanisms and how those mechanisms can be elucidated. We will lay the foundation for this mechanistic consideration with discussion of transition state theory, structure-reactivity relationships, steady state and pre-steady kinetics, use of isotopes, genetic modification, and other tools for probing enzymatic reactions. We will also examine the catalytic roles of a variety of vitamins and cofactors. [ more ]

    BIOL 326(F)Cellular Assembly and Movement

    This course will focus on how multi-protein complexes are assembled to control key cellular processes in eukaryotic systems: 1) protein sorting and trafficking, 2) establishment and maintenance of cell architecture, and 3) mitosis, cell migration and tissue morphogenesis that require coordination of the membrane transport and cytoskeleton. The course will highlight involvement of these processes in pathological conditions. Laboratories will use mammalian tissue culture as a model system to study cellular functions. Important techniques in cell biology will be introduced in the first half of the semester; in the second half of the term, students will conduct a multi-week independent project. Textbook readings will be supplemented with primary literature. [ more ]

    CHEM 326(F)Chemical Biology: Discoveries at the Interface

    Complex biological behavior is driven by the chemistry of biological molecules including secondary messengers, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. Chemists and biologists have recognized that manipulating the chemistry of these systems affords a powerful method to regulate and study cellular activity. The burgeoning field of chemical biology encompasses these efforts. This course introduces the tools of chemical biology, focusing on how small chemical molecules directed at biological systems facilitate answering important questions in biology. Building upon this foundation of chemical and biological techniques, this course will study current applications of these techniques through case studies of recent discoveries. Example topics that may be covered include bioconjugation, chemical genetics, extending the genetic code, activity-based probes and fragment-based drug discovery. [ more ]

    CHEM 338Bioinorganic Chemistry: Metals in Living Systems

    Not offered this year

    Bioinorganic chemistry is an interdisciplinary field that examines the role of metals in living systems. Metals are key components of a wide range of processes, including oxygen transport and activation, catalytic reactions such as photosynthesis and nitrogen-fixation, and electron-transfer processes. Metals perform regulatory roles and stabilize the structures of proteins. In medical applications, the metals are central to many diagnostic and therapeutic tools. To understand the role metals in these biological processes, we will cover principles of coordination chemistry: topics such as structure and bonding, spectroscopic methods, electrochemistry, kinetics and reaction mechanisms. Building on this fundamental understanding of the nature of metals, students explore topics of current interest in the field. [ more ]

    CHEM 341 / ENVI 341(S)Toxicology and Cancer

    What is a poison and what makes it poisonous? Paracelcus commented in 1537: "What is not a poison? All things are poisons (and nothing is without poison). The dose alone keeps a thing from being a poison." Is the picture really this bleak; is modern technology-based society truly swimming in a sea of toxic materials? How are the nature and severity of toxicity established, measured and expressed? Do all toxic materials exert their effect in the same manner, or can materials be poisonous in a variety of different ways? Are the safety levels set by regulatory agencies low enough for a range of common toxic materials, such as mercury, lead, and certain pesticides? How are poisons metabolized and how do they lead to the development of cancer? What is cancer and what does it take to cause it? What biochemical defense mechanisms exist to counteract the effects of poisons?
    This course attempts to answer these questions by surveying the fundamentals of modern chemical toxicology and the induction and progression of cancer. Topics will range from description and quantitation of the toxic response, including risk assessment, to the basic mechanisms underlying toxicity, mutagenesis, carcinogenesis, and DNA repair.
    [ more ]

    CHEM 342(S)Synthetic Organic Chemistry

    The origins of organic chemistry are to be found in the chemistry of living things and the emphasis of this course is on the chemistry of naturally-occurring compounds. This course presents the logic and practice of chemical total synthesis while stressing the structures, properties and preparations of terpenes, polyketides and alkaloids. Modern synthetic reactions are surveyed with an emphasis on the stereochemical and mechanistic themes that underlie them. To meet the requirements for the semester's final project, each student chooses an article from the recent synthetic literature and then analyzes the logic and strategy involved in the published work in a final paper. A summary of this paper is also presented to the class in a short seminar. Laboratory sessions introduce students to techniques for synthesis and purification of natural products and their synthetic precursors. [ more ]

    CHEM 343Medicinal Chemistry

    Not offered this year

    This course explores the design, development, and function of pharmaceuticals. Fundamental concepts of organic chemistry are extended to the study of pharmacodynamics--the interactions between drugs and their targets that elicit a biological effect--and pharmacokinetics-the study of how the body absorbs, distributes, metabolizes, and eliminates drugs. The path of drug development is traced from discovery of an initial lead, through optimization of structure, to patenting and production. Mechanisms by which drugs target cell membranes, nucleic acids, and proteins are discussed. Drug interactions with enzyme and receptor targets are studied extensively. Specific drug classes selected for detailed analysis may include opiate analgesics, aspirin and other NSAIDs, antibacterial agents, cholinergic & adrenergic agents, CNS agents, as well as antiviral, antiulcer, and anticholesterol drugs. [ more ]

    CHEM 344 T(S)Physical Organic Chemistry

    This course extends the background derived from previous chemistry courses to the understanding of organic reaction mechanisms. Correlations between structure and reactivity are examined in terms of kinetic and thermodynamic parameters including: solvent effects, isotope effects, stereochemical specificity, linear free energy relationships, acid/base theory, delocalized bonding, and aromaticity. For the first 7 weeks, the class meets once a week for an introductory lecture. A second tutorial meeting between the instructor and 2 other students occurs early the following week, for example during the laboratory time period. During this time, students work through and present solutions to an assigned problem set. For the remaining 5 weeks, students execute a self-designed set of laboratory experiments that revolve around physical organic methods. Students present and critique results each week (in the hour time slot). The experiments culminate in a final paper. [ more ]

    CHEM 348(F)Polymer Chemistry

    From synthetic to natural macromolecules, we encounter polymers everywhere and everyday. This course explores the multitude of synthetic techniques available and discusses how structure defines function. Topics include condensation and chain (anionic, cationic, radical) polymerizations, dendrimers, controlling molecular weight, ring opening, and biopolymer syntheses. Fundamentals of composition and physical properties of polymers, and methods of characterization are also covered. [ more ]

    CHEM 364 / ENVI 364(S)Instrumental Methods of Analysis

    This course provides the student an understanding of the applicability of current laboratory instrumentation both to the elucidation of fundamental chemical phenomena and to the measurement of certain atomic and molecular parameters. Student will gain knowledge and understanding of the theory and practical use of a variety of instrumental techniques; including, but not limited to, chromatography, mass spectrometry, thermal methods, electroanalytical techniques, atomic and molecular absorption and emission spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, and optical and electron microscopies, with examples drawn from the current literature. Analytical chemical and instrumental techniques will be developed in the lecture and extensively applied within the laboratory. These skills are useful in a wide variety of scientific areas. Through exploration of primary literature and review articles we will discuss recent developments in instrumental methods and advances in the approaches used to address modern analytical questions. [ more ]

    CHEM 366(S)Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

    The thermodynamic laws provide us with our most powerful and general scientific principles for predicting the direction of spontaneous change in physical, chemical, and biological systems. This course develops the concepts of energy, entropy, free energy, temperature, heat, work, and chemical potential within the framework of classical and statistical thermodynamics. The principles developed are applied to a variety of problems: chemical reactions, phase changes, energy technology, industrial processes, and environmental science. Laboratory experiments provide quantitative and practical demonstrations of the theory of real and ideal systems studied in class. [ more ]

    Taught by: Stephen Cramer

    Catalog details

    CHEM 367(S)Biophysical Chemistry

    This course is designed to provide a working knowledge of basic physical chemistry to students primarily interested in the biochemical, biological, or medical professions. Topics of physical chemistry are presented from the viewpoint of their application to biochemical problems. Three major areas of biophysical chemistry are discussed: 1) the conformation of biological macromolecules and the forces that stabilize them; 2) techniques for the study of biological structure and function including spectroscopic, hydrodynamic, electrophoretic, and chromatographic; 3) the behavior of biological macromolecules including ligand interaction and conformational transitions. [ more ]

    Taught by: Katie Hart

    Catalog details

    BIOL 406Dynamics of Internal Membrane Systems

    Not offered this year

    Eukaryotic cells build and maintain a diverse set of internal membrane compartments, such as the endoplasmic reticulum, the Golgi compartment, and lysosomes, which exist as parts of an interconnected and dynamic membrane system. Each of these membrane compartments has unique functions despite a high rate of exchange between the different organelles. This course will mechanistically examine how the identity of organelles is achieved via highly regulated membrane trafficking events and investigate the importance of membrane trafficking in specialized biological processes including neurotransmission, glucose homeostasis, and immune cell killing. We will read classic and current primary literature articles and discuss the essential techniques, experimental design, and models of cell biology. [ more ]

    BIOL 407 / NSCI 347Neurobiology 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 ]

    BIOL 408RNA Worlds

    Not offered this year

    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 ]

    BIOL 410Nanomachines in Living Systems

    Not offered this year

    Through reading and discussing the primary literature, this course will explore how nanometer-sized biological molecules like proteins perform functions that require integration of information and transmission of force at much larger scales, microns and above. These nanoscale proteins will be considered as nanomachines that can transform a chemical energy into a mechanical one. We will focus on the cytoskeleton, which gives cells their shape, organizes the internal parts of cells and provides mechanical support for essential cellular processes like cell division and movement. An emphasis will be placed on how the biochemical properties of actin, actin-binding proteins and motors are used to generate mechanical force necessary for the respective biological function. Topics will include some controversial and emerging hypotheses in the field: sliding versus depolymerizing hypotheses for constriction of the contractile ring in cytokinesis, roles of cytoskeleton in pathogen entry and propagation, organelle dynamics, polarity establishment in cell migration, immunological synapse and neuronal function. [ more ]

    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 416Epigenetics

    Not offered this year

    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 ]

    BIOL 418Signal 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 426 TFrontiers 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 TGenome 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 ]

Students can check with the program chair to see if other courses not listed here might count as electives.