Biology

Professors: Robert S. Fritz, E. Pinina Norrod, Mark A. Schlessman, Robert B. Suter;Associate Professors: Richard Hemmes, David Jemiolo, John Long, Leathem Mehaffey, Marshall Pregnall, William Straus, Kathleen M. Susman; Assistant Professors: Nancy J. Pokrywkaab, Margaret L. RonsheimabLecturer and Coordinator of Laboratory Instruction: Ann H. Mehaffey.

Absent on leave, first semester.ab Absent on leave for the year.Absent on leave, second semester.


Requirements for Concentration: 
14 units: at the 100-level, Biology 151 and 152; at the 200-level, 4 units of graded work, not including Biology 206; at the 300-level, 3 units of graded work; 5 units to be apportioned as follows:

a) 3 units in Chemistry: 108/109 or 110/111, and 244;

b) 2 units to be chosen from among Chemistry 245, 350, or 352, Physics 111,112, 113,114, or 205, Mathematics 115, 116, 140, 141, or 145, Geology 115 and either of Psychology 270 or Economics 209; one of the two units may also be an additional graded 200-level or 300-level Biology course (excluding 206) or ungraded independent research 298 or 399.

Senior Year Requirements: 2 units of 300-level work taken at Vassar College.

Independent Research: The biology department encourages students to engage in independent research with faculty mentors, and offers ungraded courses Biology 178, 298 and 399. The department also offers Biology 303, a graded research experience for senior majors. Students should consult the chair or individual faculty members for guidance in initiating independent research.

Field Work: The biology department offers field work in biology. Students should consult the field work office and a biology faculty adviser for details.

Teaching Certification: Students who wish to obtain secondary certification in biology should consult both the biology and education departments for appropriate course requirements.

Early Advising: Those students considering a concentration in biology, particularly those who have already identified an interest in a subdiscipline of biology, should consult a departmental adviser early in their freshman year to discuss appropriate course sequences. After declaration of the major, no NRO work is permissible in the major.

Postgraduate Work: Students considering graduate school or other professional schools should be aware that such schools usually require courses beyond the minimum biology major requirements. In general, students should have at least a full year of organic chemistry, a year of physics and a year of calculus. Students are urged to begin their chemistry and other correlated sciences coursework as soon as possible, since this will assist them in successful, completion of the biology major. Students should consult with the chair of biology or the pre-medical adviser at their earliest opportunity.

Further Information: For additional information on research opportunities honors requirements, etc., please see the biology department website at http://depts.vassar.edu/~biology/biology.html.

Advisers: For the Class of 2000, Mr. Suter, Mr. Long, Ms. Susman; for the Class of 2001, Ms. Ronsheim, Mr. Fritz, Ms. Norrod; for the Class of 2002, Ms. Pokrywka, Mr. Mehaffey, Mr. Schlessman.

Correlate Sequences in Biology:

The Department of Biology offers four correlate sequences, each with a different emphasis. The student interested in undertaking a correlate in biology should consult with the chair of the department who serves as the adviser for correlate sequences. The requirements for each are listed below:

Cellular Biology/Molecular Biology (7 units)

Biology 151 The Evolution of Biological Diversity (1)

Biology 152 The Cellular Basis of Life (1)

Chemistry 108/109 or Chemistry 110/111

Two of the following:

Biology 202 Plant Physiology and Development (1)

Biology 205 Introduction to Microbiology (1)

Biology 228 Animal Physiology (1)

Biology 232 Developmental Biology (1)

Biology 238 Genetics (1)

Biology 272 Cellular Biochemistry (1)

One of the following:

Biology 316 Neurobiology (1)

Biology 323 Cell Biology (1)

Biology 324 Molecular Biology (1)

Biology 370 Immunology (1)

Animal Physiology (6 units)

Biology 151 The Evolution of Biological Diversity (1)

Biology 152 The Cellular Basis of Life (1)

Biology 228 Animal Physiology (1)

Three of the following, at least one at the 300-level:

Biology 226 Animal Structure and Diversity (1)

Biology 232 Developmental Biology (1)

Biology 238 Genetics (1)

Biology 316 Neurobiology (1)

Biology 370 Immunology (1)

Ecology/Evolution (6 units)

Biology 151 The Evolution of Biological Diversity (1)

Biology 152 The Cellular Basis of Life (1)

Biology 241 Ecology (1)

Biology 350 Evolutionary Biology (1)

One of the following:

Biology 202 Plant Physiology and Development (1)

Biology 205 Introduction to Microbiology (1)

Biology 238 Genetics (1)

One of the following:

Biology 208 Plant Structure and Diversity (1)

Biology 226 Animal Structure and Diversity (1)

Biology 354 Plant-Animal Interactions (1)

Biology 356 Aquatic Ecology (1)

Behavior/Neurobiology (6 units)

Biology 151 The Evolution of Biological Diversity (1)

Biology 152 The Cellular Basis of Life (1)

Two of the following:

Biology 226 Animal Structure and Diversity (1)

Biology 228 Animal Physiology (1)

Biology 241 Ecology (1)

One of the following

Biology 232 Developmental Biology (1)

Biology 238 Genetics (1)

One of the following

Biology 316 Neurobiology (1)

Biology 340 Animal Behavior (1)


I. Introductory

151a. and b. The Evolution of Biological Diversity (1)

The diversity of life on this planet is the result of genetic, ecological, and evolutionary processes. The course examines these processes through detailed consideration of gene transmission and variation, the mechanisms and consequences of evolution, and ecological interactions. In the laboratory, exercises include studies in field ecology and experiments in genetics and evolution. Emphasis is on experimental design, data collection and analysis, and use of the scientific literature. The department.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

152a and b. The Cellular Basis of Life (1)

An examination of the cell as a fundamental unit of life, the functions of which permeate all levels of biological organization. Cell structure and function, energy transformations, and processing of genetic information are studied in detail and related to biological phenomena at many levels. Experimental design, data analysis using computers, and the use of modern laboratory techniques such as light and electron microscopy, spectrophotometry, and electrophoresis will be incorporated in a series of extended laboratory projects. Each project will investigate an important problem in cell biology. The department.

Prerequisite: Biology 151 or permission of instructor.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

153. Introductory Cell Biology Laboratory (1/2)

This course is identical to the laboratory portion of Biology 152. It is open only to students who have advanced standing in the college and an outstanding background in the theory of cell biology but inadequate training in laboratory techniques and analysis. The department.

Permission of department chair is required.

One 4-hour laboratory.

154. Evolution of Biological Diversity Laboratory (1/2)

This course is identical to the laboratory of Biology 151. The course is open only to students who have advanced standing in the college and an exceptional background in evolution, genetics, and systematics, but who have not had adequate laboratory experience. The department.

Permission of department chair is required.

One 4-hour laboratory.

178. Special Projects in Biology (1/2)

Execution and analysis of a laboratory or field study. Project to be arranged with individual instructor. The department.

Open to freshmen and sophomores only.


II. Intermediate

Biology 151 and 152 are prerequisites for entry into 200-level courses unless otherwise stated.

[202. Plant Physiology and Development] (1)

An examination of the cellular and physiological bases of plant maintenance, growth, development, and reproduction; with emphasis on the values of different plants as experimental systems. Mr. Pregnall.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

Not offered in 1999/00.

205. Introduction to Microbiology (1)

An introduction to the world of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The study of bacteria is stressed. Study of the morphology, physiology, and genetics of bacteria are followed by their consideration in ecology, industry, and medicine. Ms. Norrod.

Two 75-minute periods; two 2-hour laboratories.

[206. Environmental Biology] (1)

(Same as Science, Technology, and Society 206, Environmental Studies Development Project 206) A biological exploration of the impacts of contemporary agricultural production, transportation, waste disposal, and energy production, as well as human population growth, on the health of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The course will also treat biological conservation, recycling, renewable resource utilization, and energy efficiency, and their roles in the transition to a sustainable society. Mr. Hemmes.

Not offered in 1999/00.

[208. Plant Structure and Diversity] (1)

A study of the origins and diversification of plants. Problems to be analyzed may include mechanical support, internal transport, mechanical and biochemical defenses, life-histories, reproductive strategies, and modes of speciation. Laboratories will also include comparative study of the divisions of plants and identification of locally common species and families in the field. Mr. Schlessman.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

Not offered in 1999/00.

226. Animal Structure and Diversity (1)

The structures and functions of animals are compared, analyzed, and interpreted in a phylogenetic context. Emphasis is placed on the unique innovations and common solutions evolved by the different taxonomic groups to solve problems related to feeding, mobility, respiration, and reproduction. Laboratory work centers on the comparative study of the anatomy of species representative of the major animal phyla. The department.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

228. Animal Physiology (1)

A comparative examination of the diversity of approaches animals use to move, respire, eat, reproduce, sense, and regulate their internal environments. The physiological principles governing these processes will be developed in lecture and applied in the laboratory. The department.

Recommended: Physics 111. Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

232. Developmental Biology (1)

The study of embryonic development including gametogenesis, fertilization, growth, and differentiation. Molecular concepts of gene regulation and cell interactions are emphasized. The laboratory emphasizes classical embryology and modern experimental techniques.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

238. Principles of Genetics (1)

Principles of genetics and methods of genetic analysis at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. Emphasis is placed on classical genetic experiments, as well as modern investigative techniques such as recombinant DNA technology, gene therapy, genetic testing, and the use of transgenic plants and animals. Laboratory work includes experiments on prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Ms. Pokrywka.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

241. Ecology (1)

Population growth, species interaction, and community patterns and processes of species or groups of species are discussed. The course emphasizes these interactions within the framework of evolutionary theory. Local habitats and organisms are used as examples of how organisms are distributed in space, how populations grow, why species are adapted to their habitats, how species interact, and how communities change. Field laboratories at Vassar Farm and other localities will emphasize the formulation of answerable questions and methods to test hypotheses. Mr. Fritz or Ms. Ronsheim.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour field laboratory.

272. Biochemistry (1)

(Same as Chemistry 272) Basic course covering protein structure and synthesis, enzyme action, bio-energetic principles, electron transport and oxidative phosphorylation, selected metabolic pathways in procaryotic and eucaryotic cells. Mr. Jemiolo, Mr. Straus, or Mr. Eberhardt (Chemistry).

Prerequisite: Chemistry 244.

Two 75-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

286a. Plants in a Human Environment: The Paleoethnobotany of Eastern North America (1)

(Same as American Culture 286)

290. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

298. Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

Execution and analysis of a field, laboratory, or library study. The project, to be arranged with an individual instructor, is expected to have a substantial paper as its final product.

Permission of instructor is required.


III. Advanced

2 units of 200-level biology are prerequisites for entry into 300-level courses; see each course for specific courses required or exceptions.

303. Senior Research (1)

Critical analysis, usually through observation or experimentation, of a specific research problem in biology. A student electing this course must first gain, by submission of a written research proposal, the support of a member of the biology faculty with whom to work out details of a research protocol. The formal research proposal, a final paper, and presentation of results are required parts of the course. A second faculty member will participate both in the planning of the research and in final evaluation.

Permission of instructor is required.

316. Neurobiology (1)

An examination of nervous system function at the cellular level. The course emphasizes the physical and chemical foundations of intercellular communication, integration and processing of information, and principles of neural development. Laboratory includes demonstrations of biophysical methodology and experimental approaches to the study of nerve cells. Mr. Mehaffey or Ms. Susman.

Prerequisites: 2 units of 200-level biology or 1 unit of 200-level biology and Psychology 214, 278. Recommended: Biology 228, 272.

323. Cell Biology (1)

Investigations with a biochemical emphasis into the dynamics of the eucaryotic cell. Topics include the cell cycle, cellular architecture, organelle physiology, response to environmental stresses, senescence, and communication.

Prerequisite: Biology 272.

324. Molecular Biology (1)

(Same as Chemistry 324) An examination of the macromolecular processes underlying storage, transfer, and expression of genetic information. Topics include the structure, function, and synthesis of DNA; mutation and repair; the chemistry of RNA and protein synthesis; the regulation of gene expression; cancer and oncogenes; the molecular basis of cell differentiation; and genetic engineering. Mr. Jemiolo.

Prerequisites: one of the following: Biology 205, 238, or 272.

340. Animal Behavior (1)

Examination of the relationship between behavior and the individual animal's survival and reproductive success in its natural environment. Evolutionary, physiological, and developmental aspects of orientation, communication, habitat selection, foraging, reproductive tactics, and social behavior are considered. Methodology and experimental design will be considered in lectures, but will be given particular emphasis in the laboratory component of the course. Mr. Hemmes or Mr. Suter.

Prerequisites: 2 units of 200-level biology or 1 unit each of 200-level biology and psychology; recommended: Biology 226, 228, 238, or Psychology 270.

350. Evolutionary Biology (1)

Study of the history of evolutionary thought, mechanisms of evolutionary change, and controversies in the study of organic evolution. Topics include the origin and maintenance of genetic variability, natural selection, adaptation, origin of species, macroevolution, co-evolution, and human evolution. Mr. Fritz.

Prerequisites: any two of Biology 208, 226, or 241; or permission of the instructor.

[354. Plant-Animal Interactions] (1)

An explanation of the predominant interactions between plants and animals that influence their ecology and evolution. The course focuses on the kinds of interactions (herbivory, mutualism, pollination, seed dispersal, etc.), the costs and benefits of interactions, the ecological contexts that favor certain types of species interactions (environmental stability, competition, and predation intensity), and the evolution (natural selection models and co-evolution) of interactions. Primary literature and case histories are regularly discussed while the theory that explains the evolution and ecology of interactions is explored. The laboratory includes individual and group independent projects that permit observation and experimentation with plant-animal interactions. Mr. Fritz.

Prerequisite: Biology 241 or permission of instructor.

Not offered in 1999/00.

[356. Aquatic Ecology] (1)

A consideration of freshwater, estuarine, and marine habitats that examine material and energy fluxes through aquatic systems; physiological aspects of plant production; the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients; adaptations of organisms to physical and chemical aspects of the aquatic environment; and biological processes that structure selected communities. Mr. Pregnall.

Not offered in 1999/00.

[370. Immunology] (1)

An examination of the immune response at the cellular and molecular levels. Topics include the structure, function, and synthesis of antibodies; transplantation and tumor immunology; immune tolerance; allergic responses; and immune deficiency diseases. Mechanisms for recognition; communication; and cooperation between different classes of lymphocytes in producing these various responses are stressed, as are the genetic basis of immunity and the cellular definition of "self'' which makes each individual unique. Ms. Norrod.

Prerequisite: Chemistry 244 or permission of instructor; Biology 238, 272 recommended.

Two 75-minute lectures; four hours of laboratory.

Not offered in 1999/00.

381. Physiology and Microstructure of Tissue (1)

An examination of the structure and function of various vertebrate tissues at both light-and elector-microscopic levels. Emphasis on correlating structure with function. The laboratory involves light-microscopic examination of tissues discussed in lecture.

Prerequisite: Biology 152 and 228 or by permission of the instructor.

399. Senior Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

Execution and analysis of a field, laboratory, or library study. The project, to be arranged with an individual instructor, is expected to have a substantial paper as its final product.

Permission of instructor is required.

Departments and Programs of Instruction


IV. Graduate

400. Thesis (1)

416. Neurobiology (1)

423. Cell Biology (1)

424. Molecular Biology (1)

440. Animal Behavior (1)

450. Evolutionary Biology (1)

454. Plant-Animal Interactions (1)

456. Aquatic Ecology (1)

470. Immunology (1)