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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."

Spring 2021


BIOG 1250: Politics of Sex & Scientific Research

  • 1 cr., S/U, February 8, 2021 - March 26, 2021, Tuesday 2:40 pm - 4:35 pm
  • Faculty:  Caitlin Miller (chm79@cornell.edu)

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

  • 1 cr., S/U, February 8, 2021 - March 26, 2021, Friday 2:40 pm - 4:35 pm
  • Faculty:  Rachael Fieweger (raf277@cornell.edu)

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:  The Gut Microbiome and Beyond

  • 1 cr., S/U, March 29, 2021 - May 25, 2021, Monday 2:45 pm - 4:00 pm
  • Faculty:  Jingjing Fu (jf674@cornell.edu)

Have you ever heard of the term ‘the intestinal flora’? Do you know the scientific meaning underlying different prebiotic/probiotic market products? This 7-week seminar will cover intestine/gut microbiota topics that has been extensively studies, including physiological responses of microbiota in different environment, metabolic interactions between microbes and other organisms, and certain health concerns. Basic techniques to address microbial research will also be addressed. Reading assignments will be made from review articles or primary research articles relevant to the topics. There will be several class discussions that will help conceptual understanding, professional writing, and critical thinking. Throughout this course, students will gain basic knowledge about and beyond gut microbiome topics.

BIOG 1250: Defending Against Pathogens: Our Molecular Arsenal

  • 1 cr., S/U, March 29, 2021 - May 25, 2021,  TBD
  • Faculty: Rachael Fieweger (raf277@cornell.edu)

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

  • 1 cr., S/U, March 29, 2021 - May 25, 2021,  Tuesdays  2:40-4:35
  • Faculty: Elizabeth Rhoades (err23@cornell.edu)

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.