Back to top

BIOG 1250: Biology Seminar

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 BIOG 1250 Seminar that is facilitated by enthusiastic faculty members who love teaching. Topic based seminars target first-year students and enrollment is limited to 20 students. The courses are usually held for two hours over seven weeks, and is awarded 1 credit 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 facilitate discussions.

Student Feedback

Random responses from students who were asked if they would recommend the seminar to other students:

  • "I definitely would. It piqued my interest in marine life. The lecturer was instrumental in doing that."
  • "Yes, it’s a great foundation-builder in biological research skills!"
  • "Yes. This course helped me feel less intimidated by scientific papers, introduced me to a variety of topics, and helped me understand the general format of scientific papers required by different journals."
  • "Yes I would recommend the course, it was very informative and would especially benefit anyone with an interest in botany or pharmaceuticals."
  • "I would definitely recommend this course to others. Not only did it help me understand some medical issues seniors have to face, it also helped me understand the economics of the US healthcare system. This class also exposed me to concepts I have never touched upon and it was interesting."
  • "It was good to study a variety of topics chosen by students who had an interest in them. An awesome idea for a course – combining both discussion of papers and practical laboratory skills."
  • "Yes, but only to those people who are serious about majoring in science and who want to improve their communication skills (i.e., as they present)."
  • "Yes. It’s a great experience in a wide range of areas/skills. I definitely would, it is a great way to learn a bit about microbiology. I really was not thinking about taking microbio but I think I will now."

Fall 2021


BIOG 1250: Foundations in biology research design

  • 1 cr., S/U,  Aug 26 - Oct 19, 2021, Thursday 2:45 pm - 4:15 pm
  • Faculty:  Orchi Anannya (oa223@cornell.edu)

Ever wonder about the origin of life, how you store and recall memory, how you can create drugs to combat even the resistant bacterial or viral pathogens or how you can find the cure for cancer? In search for answers scientists hypothesize and test experiments, not much different to when you are trying to find the best conditions for your garden to grow or when you are experimenting with reagents to get to the perfect culinary recipe. Join us in this class to take a closer look into the scientific process of guiding the scientific question into your hypothesis, designing your experiment and apply your findings to current research in the field. This class will explore these topics and by the end of the class students will be able to design their own individualized research project in biology

BIOG 1250: Molecular machines of our cells

  • 1 cr., S/U,  Oct 20 - Dec 18, 2021, Thursday 2:45 pm - 4:15 pm
  • Faculty:  Orchi Anannya (oa223@cornell.edu)

The molecular machines of our cells comprise the enzymes, receptor molecules and ion channels which use chemical energy to generate motion. These tiny machines silently work away to keep you breathing, your blood circulating and cells dividing to help you grow. These are essential for your survival yet you do not need conscious efforts to keep them going when you are awake or when you are asleep. In this course we will learn how do these molecular machines keep going and what happens if they pause. Finally we will look into pharmacological strategies that can target these molecular machines to make sure you keep going even when you are asleep.

BIOG 1250: Common Core Processes in Human Diseases

  • 1 cr., S/U,  Oct 20 - Dec 18, 2021, Tuesday 2:45 pm - 4:15 pm (time is subject to change)
  • Faculty: Hojoong Kwak (hk572@cornell.edu)

There are tens of thousands of different diseases in humans. How they arise for the most part is unknown; for the ones we know, many of them surprisingly converge into a number of common core processes. These include how genes are not expressed into normal protein products, how the cells decide to become sick through modulating its signaling molecules, how the tissues and organs miscommunicate with each other through receptors and ligands that get turned on and off irrelevantly, how body parts wear down and attract undesirable cells and pathogens, and so on. In this course, we will go over the key concepts to provide a common core understanding of these processes that are more relevant to human diseases, and exercise how we can investigate a real case from ground zero.

BIOG 1250: Synthetic embryology & Human development

  • 1 cr., S/U,  Oct 20 - Dec 18, 2021, Tuesday 2:45 pm - 4:15 pm (time is subject to change)
  • Faculty: Tatiane Kanno (tyk4@cornell.edu)

In this class we will explore how we can use synthetic embryology to study the early steps of human embryonic development. Embryonic development starts after an egg is fertilized forming a single-celled zygote that gives rise to a multi-cellular and complex organism. The early stages of embryogenesis are crucial for successful pregnancy and the health of the baby. Disruption in this process can lead to birth defects and can often cause infertility. Therefore, understanding early human development can help advancing reproductive and regenerative medicine. Despite its scientific and clinical relevance, this process is still poorly understood due to a lack of access to human embryos and ethical restrictions. Join us to take a closer look into the stem cell-based synthetic model systems used to study the mechanisms governing early human embryological development.

BIOG 1250: All about RNA

  • 1 cr., S/U,  Oct 20 - Dec 18, 2021, Thursday 9:05 pm - 11:00 pm (time is subject to change)
  • Faculty: Kelly Murray (klm353@cornell.edu)

RNA is one of the most important biological molecules in nature- every living cell on Earth relies on RNA for making proteins, regulating cell processes, performing enzymatic reactions, and more. In this seminar, students will have the opportunity to learn all about RNA: its many biological functions, its structure, the ways in which it is modified and why, and how it functions in mRNA vaccines.  Students will get an overview of laboratory methods and model organisms used in RNA research and will have the opportunity to discuss primary literature on the topic.

Examples of Previous BIOG 1250's


BIOG 1250: Politics of Sex & Scientific Research

What is sex? How has sex been studied historically? How have political and societal structures shaped the way sex is studied, addressed, and interpreted in scientific research? In this course we will examine and discuss the implicit and explicit biases present in the study of sex across the fields of evolutionary, behavioral ecology, neuroscience, and medical research. We will explore historical and cutting edge research in these fields using a case-study approach. The book "Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong-and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story” will be a central text for the course paired with primary literature for each topic and case-study.

BIOG 1250: The Age of Contagion: The Rise and Fall of Viruses

For millennia, viral pathogens have been infiltrating the human population causing widespread disease and from their history we can better understand the outbreaks that currently burden mankind. This course takes a case-study approach to introduce students to the world of infectious disease by investigating outbreaks that have occurred throughout the globe during the 20th and 21st centuries. During this course, students will explore basic microbiology principles from the unique perspective of global health and epidemiology. Key topics cover the emergence, pathogenesis, control, and socioeconomic effects of viral pandemics, including Ebola, HIV, influenza, and SARS-CoV-2.

BIOG 1250: Defending Against Pathogens: Our Molecular Arsenal

Even though as humans we have our own inherent defense against pathogenic microbes, our immune system, against some pathogens this defense is not enough. To protect against the pathogens that plague us, humans have developed a molecular arsenal, mainly vaccines and antimicrobial agents, in order to aid our immune system and successfully defend against harmful microbes. This course takes students through the history of vaccines and antimicrobial agents that have been developed for some of the toughest pathogens, such as smallpox, tuberculosis, influenza, and SARS-CoV-2. Through this course students will explore the process it takes to develop these tools, the biology behind them, and the implications they have for public health.

BIOG 1250: Keep Calm & Be Science Literate in the Pandemic

Unsubstantiated claims about COVID-19 and vaccines circulate as rapidly as the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and they can be just as serious. How can you distinguish pseudoscience from real science? How can you make well-informed decisions about your health if you don’t know immunology?  The answer is that you become science literate … capable of asking questions, finding scientifically reputable sources, determining answers, and engaging in productive social conversations based on your informed views.  This course will teach students how to evaluate scientific claims and make science-informed views. It will provide a foundation of basic understanding of the immunology of vaccines and the COVID-19 pandemic.  Students will apply science literacy skills by exploring a sociocultural issue of the pandemic, such as vaccine hesitancy, and communicating their informed views.

BIOG 1250: Pathogens of Mice & Men: Animal Models in Medicine

From the current COVID-19 pandemic to Romaine lettuce recalls, pathogens make the news when there are outbreaks, but researchers are always studying these disease-causing microorganisms and rely upon a variety of cell-based and animal models to do so. In this course, students will explore the basics of bacterial pathogenesis, the models that scientists use to learn about pathogens, and the benefits, limitations, and ethics associated with these models. As students explore these topics week by week, they will also learn to read and understand primary literature as we work through relevant sections of a representative primary research article in class. By the end of the course, students will be equipped to present a primary research article of their choice, addressing the topics covered in the course.