Biol149  Survival Biology for the New Millennium Fall 2003

Class times: 1-2 MWF Gilmer 130



Barry Condron

071 Gilmer Hall


Office hours: MW 2-3 W 12-1



Biol 149 has been designed for non-scientists. The emphasis will be on a small number of topics that have great impacts upon everyday life. The objective is that students will leave the course with enough knowledge that they can read and understand scientific accounts of new biomedical developments.


This will not be a 'light' class.  In general, students tell me that they found this class to be a lot of work, but worth every bit of it.  The material is compelling (eg anthrax biology) but nevertheless difficult.  The class is designed for those with little or no science background.   However, students, even Biology majors, who didn't do the reading or attend lectures, had a hard time in the past.



We will cover eight topics this year: the genome, stem cells, human cloning, human genetic modification, disorders of the mind, drug addiction, bioterrorism and biotechnology.  These topics will be covered in a somewhat reversed manner: we will start with one lecture devoting 5 minutes to each followed by one lecture to each.  The last part of the course will have 2-4 lectures per topic.  The idea here is to start with a general understanding of the topic and then enter each with increasing depth.  However, this approach of increasing the detail for each topic covered will be done in parallel for all subjects.  This will allow us to link these topics.  For instance, genomic research has taught us much about who we are as humans.  However, genomics is also very useful for tracking different strains of anthrax.  There is one very important disclaimer to make here:  at any point the materials being covered can change.  This is to make sure the class is current.  For instance, in 2001 I wanted to cover West Nile Virus as an emerging pathogen.  Through discussions with students, I found that HIV/AIDS was of more interest.  So I switched to that.  Then, in Oct. 2001, anthrax came along and that was what we ended up covering.  It will be essential throughout this course that students maintain dialog with me about what interests them most.  



There will be five multiple-choice exams held during class time.  Each will cover only those topics covered in the previous few lectures.  Because of the nature of the course, exams will tend to be comprehensive.  At the end of each lecture, a number of example questions will be given.  These will be discussed at some point during the lecture on the next day.  The exam questions are likely to be very similar to those examples given in lectures.  Each exam will have about 40 questions.  Expect 10 to be easy, 20 to be medium and 10 to be hard.  Each exam will be worth 25% of the final score and you may either drop one exam or choose the best 4 out of five.  Each student must also complete a creative short paper during the second third of the course (dates to be decided soon). This paper will be graded as honors, pass or fail. If you pass, then nothing happens to your final grade. If you fail, then your grade goes down one notch. You will have one chance to repair a failed paper before the final. If you get honors, your grade goes up a notch. This paper will also be critical for those borderline students especially D/C or B/A.  Grading after the final is by curving and matching to the University average. Every student will receive a rank in the class and assigned a grade accordingly.  Approximately 25% of students will get A's and 35% B's.  In general, I do not want students to ask for makeup exams.  Only under extreme circumstances will I allow this. Requests must be made in writing at least one week in advance. In addition, the questions will be different to what everyone else has seen and the potential exists that they will be more difficult.  There will also be less room for protest about questions in a makeup exam as we will not have class statistics to look at performance in each question.  There are too many students for me to regularly offer make up exams.  So unless there is an extreme emergency, do not ask me for a makeup exam.


Lecture notes

Lecture notes will be placed online 24 hours in advance.  They will be removed after two weeks or so.  All announcements about the course will be placed online as well as made in class.  Please watch the website.  If you have questions, it is best to come to see the TAs or myself.  If you have to email me, be sure to include Biol149 in the subject heading. 


Study plan:

Load lecture notes 24 hours in advance
Pre-read 30’
Attend lecture
Post read 30’
Supplementary material: 30’

Class attendance etc.

The easiest way to learn the material is to attend class. However, if you choose not to attend, do not ask me or the TA's for information relating to that lecture you missed. In addition, show some politeness to me and your fellow students. If you want to have a chat, please have it outside of class time. I will have a three step process in how I deal with bad behavior. Bad behavior includes causing disruptions during class or to me by frivilous requests or rude emails/phone calls. In the first step, I will caution you, assuming that you may not be aware of what you are doing. In the second step, I will issue you a last warning and in the third I will consider actions such as removing you from the class.