Small groups explore a topic in biology while learning to think like a scientist
Are you interested in catching the excitement of biology by talking with a faculty member and other inquisitive students? If you answered yes, then consider enrolling in a BIO 1250 Seminar that is facilitated by enthusiastic faculty members who love teaching. Topic based seminars target first-year students with AP credit or a strong interest in research. Seminar enrollment is limited to 20 students, is usually held for two hours over seven weeks, and is awarded 1-2 credits, with an S/U grade only. The seminar goals are outlined below:
- Increase the opportunity for students to have a meaningful interaction with a biologist
- Perpetuate excitement in studying biology
- Develop critical thinking skills by exploring topics in the biological sciences (review at least one scientific paper)
- Increase sense of community by expanding social and academic networks
- Learn the value of collaborative learning
- Discuss ethical issues in science
Student evaluations have been very positive: 92% responded that the seminar helped develop critical thinking skills and 99% reported being able to interact comfortably with the professor. Many faculty seminar leaders enjoyed the freedom to use a more inquiry based learning model while giving students the opportunity to choose papers to review and take leadership for helping lead discussions.
SEMINAR TOPICS Seminar topics are listed below.
Sex, Genes, and Evolution, BIOMG 1250; 1 cr., S/U
Dr. Tim Connallon, Dr. Richard Meisel
Tuesdays, 3:35PM-4:25PM, PLS 141, beginning 1/29/2013
Sex is ubiquitous amongst life on earth. It’s obvious that animals and plants have sex when they reproduce, but bacteria have their own version of sex when they swap DNA with each other. In between each of these extremes lies a continuum of “sexual strategies”. This naturally occurring variation raises a number of interesting questions: Why do organisms have such different sexual strategies? How are these sexual strategies encoded by the genome? How does the genome determine whether an organism develops into a male or female? How and why do the differences between males and females evolve? And what role do sex chromosomes play in all of this? In this course, we will discuss some possible answers to these questions. In doing so, students will be introduced to a wide range of topics related to the biology of sex by exploring the primary literature from a diverse array of fields, ranging from evolutionary theory to molecular genetics. Students will identify topics of interest to them and lead discussions on those topics.
What can genomes tell us about bacterial pathogens? BIOMI 1250; 1 cr., S/U
The bacterium Escherichia coli can either be a harmless commensal or a deadly pathogen. In this class we will explore the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary forces that bring about the remarkable strain diversity found in E. coli and related bacteria.
Innate immunity in Plants, Flies, and Humans, BIOG 1250; 1 cr., S/U
Dr. Gregory Martin
When humans are attacked by pathogens they can respond in two ways – with adaptive immunity (involving antibodies) and with innate immunity. The innate immune system is the first line of defense against infection and elements of it also occur in plants and insects. In this seminar course we will first focus on the plant immune system to learn about fundamental concepts and mechanisms that are involved in innate immunity. We will then extend our discussion to comparisons with the innate immune systems in insects and humans. Throughout the course the emphasis will be on how to develop and rigorously test hypotheses and how to critically read, analyze, and evaluate scientific articles.
BIOMG 1250: CSI: Ithaca – The Biology of DNA Forensics; 1 cr., S/U
Dr. Geoff Findlay
From the state forensics laboratory in Albany to sushi bars in Manhattan, the use of DNA profiling is rapidly expanding from the criminal justice system into everyday life. In this seminar, we will use a combination of lecture, discussion, activities, and readings from the primary literature to learn about the methods and applications of DNA forensics. First, we will briefly review the basic molecular biology of DNA structure and replication. Then, we will learn about modern laboratory techniques that are used to detect differences between two (or more) individuals’ DNA sequences. Determining the “uniqueness” of a DNA profile requires the use of population genetics and statistics, so we will be introduced to how these tools are applied to forensics. Finally, we will discuss ethical and legal debates in the field, including how, when and from whom the police may collect DNA, and the role of DNA testimony in the courtroom.
This course is open to anyone with an interest in the biology and/or law of DNA forensics. Familiarity with the basics of DNA and genetic inheritance, from high school or AP biology, is strongly suggested. Meets for the second half of fall semester.
Birds Can Tell Us Things and We Should Listen: An Introduction to Ornithology and Bird Study Techniques, BIOEE 1250; 1cr.,S/U
Ron Rohrbaugh Jr.
Unlike most mammals that rely on a keen sense of smell, birds, like humans, use sounds and vivid color vision to survive and communicate with each other. Did you know that the sound frequency range of bird song is nearly identical to the range of human hearing? Birds have a lot to tell us, if we know what questions to ask. By using the principles of scientific inquiry to observe and listen to birds, we learn not only about birds, but about ecology, animal behavior, evolution, physics, and potential environmental threats to our planet. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, including bioacoustics, capture and sampling methods, genetics, citizen science, and conservation biology; this course will teach the fundamentals of ornithology and field techniques for studying birds. The seven, two-hour sessions will combine hands-on field and lab exercises with group discussions about critical thinking and the importance of framing a working scientific question. Bring your boots and binoculars and prepare to have some birding fun!