Biology 113: Issues in Modern Biology
Instructors: Jet Aiken ([email protected]), Michael Bertucci ([email protected]), Kari
Debbink ([email protected]), Melissa Ellermann ([email protected]), Kenton
Woodard ([email protected])
Tuesday/Thursday Course Time Location TBD
Course Objectives
At the conclusion of the course students will be able to:
● Identify arguments in the media and critically assess the validity of the conclusions
● Understand the science, politics, and ethics behind current issues in genetics and
● Use information found in the scientific literature to support or citrique positions made in
the media
● Effectively read, comprehend, and communicate on contemporary issues that relate to
genetics and medicine
None. We will be using newspaper and journal articles that will be distributed via Sakai, along
with assignments and homework.
Note: Late assignments will be penalized one letter grade for each day the assignment is late.
In-Class Participation: 25%
Homeworks: 25%
Unit Presentations (4 for the semester): 20% (5% each)
Quizzes: 15%
Cumulative Final exam: 15%
Participation and presentations are a large component of this course. This will be assessed by:
● Reading passages in class
● Active participation in class discussions
● Working within groups during in-class activities and presentations
● Formally presenting material and arguments to the class at the end of each unit.
Attendance will be taken, but being an active participant is what earns you full credit in this
Writing skills will also be developed and assessed in this course through homework assignments.
This will be assessed by:
● Original thoughts and logically laid arguments
● Correct grammar and spelling
● Organization: topic sentences, supporting details, well thought transitions, logical flow
A grading rubric for written assignments will be distributed to students when the assignment is
given. If you need help with writing, please visit the Writing Center.
Testing of content knowledge will be accomplished through short quizzes on assigned readings
and class material and through a cumulative final exam at the termination of the course.
Course Schedule and Topics
Note: For each assigned reading, you will have a “Guided Reading Assignment” with the same
title that you should do before class.
T 8/20: Introduction to The Process of Science and how to use search engines to collect scientific
Jet Aiken ([email protected]) & Kenton Woodard ([email protected])
Th 8/22: The Central Dogma
T 8/27: Beyond the Central Dogma
Th 8/29: Epigenetics Case Study
T 9/3: Epigenetics Case Study (cont.)
Th 9/5: Journal Article Presentations
T 9/10: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and basic virology
Th 9/12: Harnessing the power of viral vectors for gene therapy
T 9/17: Gene therapy clinical trials for a retinal degenerative disorder
Th 9/19: How are clinical trials established and regulated
T 9/24: Discussion of a case study to evaluate the media’s portrayal of science
Th 9/26: Student presentations on gene therapy approach to genetic disorders
Kari Debbink ([email protected])
T 10/1: Knowns and unknowns/ historical perspectives of vaccines and GMOs
Th 10/3: Vaccines and case study
T 10/8: GMOs and case study
Th 10/10: Groups debate vaccine safety and GMO safety
T 10/15: Deconstruct debate arguments
T 10/22: Position presentation on a recent news article
Melissa Ellermann ([email protected]) & Michael Bertucci ([email protected])
Th 10/24: The ecology of human microbial communities
T 10/29: Gut microbes in human health and disease
Th 10/31: Prebiotics and probiotics: science or hype?
T 11/5: Probiotics, the new anti-anxiety drug?
Th 11/7: The gut microbiota and personalized medicine
T 11/12: The chemistry of bacteria (revisit role in GI tract as a segway....)
Th 11/14: Treating bacterial infections: Saltwater and cranberry juice?
T 11/19: Treating bacterial infections II: Pharmaceuticals
Th 11/21: Bacterial resistance: How can we keep up?
T 11/26: Student presentations on The Human Microbiota
T 12/3: Final Exam Review Session
FINAL EXAM DAY: TBA (Dec. 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13)
Final exam
The final exam will be cumulative and consist of two parts. The first part will consist of 25
multiple choice or short answer questions that tests scientific concepts covered in the three units.
The second part will consist of a written section to assess the student’s ability to analyze and
evaluate media articles on scientific discoveries or data. Students will be given three articles that
represent each of the three units covered during the course and must choose one article to
analyze and critique. Students will be asked to: 1) identify the arguments, biases and conclusions
made by the author in the article; 2) explain whether or not the conclusions made in the article
are appropriate given the available data and arguments provided; and 3) if the chosen article
makes claims with unsupported data, the student must also address what evidence must be
presented in the article to substantiate the claim or claims.
Guidelines for Unit Presentations
To assess the students’ ability to analyze, evaluate, and communicate information in the media
and primary literature discussing contemporary issues in biology.
Students will work in small groups (3-4 per group) and find a recent news article or peerreviewed journal article (based on the instructor’s direction) related to the unit being discussed.
The group will read the article, determine the central scientific theme, and evaluate the validity
and impact of the author’s conclusions. The group will then present their analysis to the class in
7-8 minute oral presentation. The presentation should address the following questions:
1. What research or scientific idea is being discussed in the article and how does it relate to the
unit you just completed?
2. What are the arguments for and against the scientific idea being discussed?
3. Do you feel the conclusions made in the article are valid? If so, cite any relevant data or
citations in the article that support the conclusions. If not, what data would be necessary to
provide appropriate support?
4. What are the political, societal, and/or ethical implications of the information in the article?
Group members may use any style of presentation they choose (Powerpoint, chalk & talk,
handouts, etc.), but should cite specific tables, figures and statements that enabled them to
answer the above questions. One member of the group must upload the article to Sakai at least
24 hours prior to the presentation.
Presentation Breakdown:
Unit I: Epigenetics
Unit I: Gene Therapy
Unit II: Vaccines and GMOs
Unit III: The Human Microbiota
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Biology 113 Fall 2013 Syllabus