Biology Department

Professors: Robert S. Fritz, E. Pinina Norrodb, Mark A. Schlessman (Chair), Robert B. Suter; Associate Professors: Richard B. Hemmes, David K. Jemiolo b, John H. Long, Jr. b, Leathem Mehaffey, III, Nancy Pokrywkab, A. Marshall Pregnalla, Margaret L. Ronsheima, J. William Straus, Kathleen M. Susman a; Assistant Professor: Cynthia K. Damer; Visiting Assistant Professor: Tiffany Doan; Lecturer and Coordinator of Laboratory Instruction: Ann H. Mehaffey.

Requirements for Concentration: 14 units: at the 100-level, Biology 151 and 152 or Biology 105 and Biology 106; 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; Physics, 113, 114; Mathematics 101, 102, 121, 122, or 125; Geology 151, 152; Psychology 200; Biopsychology 201; Environmental Science 280; and other intermediate or advanced science courses subject to departmental approval. One of the two units may also be an additional graded 200-level or 300-level Biology course (excluding 206) or ungraded independent research Biology 298 or 399.

Senior Year Requirements: 2 units of graded 300-level biology 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 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 school teaching 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.

Advisers: For the Class of 2004, Ms. Damer, Mr. Hemmes, Mr. Long; for the Class of 2005, Mr. Fritz, Ms. Norrod, Ms. Ronsheim, Ms. Susman; for the class of 2006, Mr. Jemiolo, Ms. Pokrywka, Mr. Suter.

Correlate Sequences in Biology:

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)
* or two other courses approved by the department chair
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)

The Department of Biology offers four correlate sequences, each with a different emphasis. Students interested in undertaking a correlate in biology should consult with one of the biology advisers assigned to each class (see above). The requirements for each are listed below:


I. Introductory

 
105 a and b. Introduction to Biological Processes
(1)
Development of critical thought, communication skills, and understanding of central concepts in biology, through exploration of a timely topic. The content of each section varies; see the Freshman Handbook for descriptions. The department.
 
106 a and b. Introduction to Biological Investigation
(1)
Investigation of biological questions via extended laboratory or field projects. Emphasis is placed on observation skills, development and testing of hypotheses, experimental design, data collection, statistical analysis, and scientific writing and presentation. The department.
       One 75 minute and one four hour period.
       Biology 105 and 106 may be taken in any order. Students who have not taken any introductory biology should start with Biology 105 or Biology 106. Students who have already taken Biology 151 or Biology 152 should complete the other, and should not take Biology 105 or 106.
 
151a. 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. Ms. Doan.
       Open only to students who have completed Biology 152
       Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.
 
152a. 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 laboratory techniques such as light microscopy, spectrophotometry, and electrophoresis will be incorporated in a series of extended laboratory projects. Each project will investigate an important problem in cell biology. Ms. Norrod.
       Open only to students who have completed Biology 151.
       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 who have not had adequate 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

Two units of 100-level biology taken at Vassar College 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.
 
205. Introduction to Microbiology
(1)
An introduction to the world of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The study of bacteria is stressed. Studies 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) 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 also examines biological conservation, genetically modified organisms, renewable resource utilization, and energy efficiency, and their roles in the transition to a sustainable society. Mr. Hemmes.
       Prerequisite: Biology 151 or permission of instructor.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
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 include comparative study of the divisions of plants and identification of locally common species and families in the field. Mr. Pregnall or Mr. Schlessman.
       Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.
 
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 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. Mr. Long or Mr. Mehaffey.
       Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.
 
228. Animal Physiology
(1)
A comparative examination of the approaches animals use to move, respire, eat, reproduce, sense, and regulate their internal environments. The physiological principles governing these processes are developed in lecture and applied in the laboratory. Mr. Long or Mr. Mehaffey.
       Recommended: Chemistry 108, 109, and Physics 113.
       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. Ms. Pokrywka.
       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. Damer or 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 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.
 
254. Field Ecology and Geology of Bahamas
(1)
 
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 prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Mr. Jemiolo, Mr. Straus, or Mr. Eberhardt (Chemistry).
       Prerequisite: Chemistry 244.
       Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.
 
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, arranged with an individual instructor, is expected to have a substantial paper as its final product.
       Permission of instructor is required.
 

III. Advanced

Two (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 participates 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 either Psychology 241 or Biopsychology 201. Recommended: Biology 228, 272.
 
323. Cell Biology
(1)
Investigations with a biochemical emphasis into the dynamics of the eukaryotic cell. Topics include the cell cycle, membrane trafficking, cytoskeleton, and cell signaling. Ms. Damer or Ms. Pokrywka.
       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 is considered in lectures, but is 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 200.
 
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. Ms. Doan.
       Prerequisites: any two of Biology 208, 226, or 241; or permission of the instructor.
 
[354. Plant-Animal Interactions]
(1)
An examination 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 and theories that explain the evolution and ecology of interactions are 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 2003/04.
 
[356. Aquatic Ecology]
(1)
A consideration of freshwater, estuarine, and marine habitats that examines material and energy fluxes through aquatic systems; physiological aspects of primary production; the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients; adaptations of organisms to physical and chemical aspects of aquatic environments; biological processes that structure selected communities; and the role of aquatic habitat in global change phenomena. Mr. Pregnall.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
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.
 
380. Size and Scaling in Biology
(1)
Scaling is about the consequences of size. Both whales and bacteria swim through water, for example, but their sizes are so disparate that they encounter fundamentally different problems in propulsion. Similarly, large and small mammals must contend with entirely different thermal demands, and flies can walk on ceilings while humans cannot. This course involves an exploration of the rules that govern changes in size, rules that constrain organisms of a particular design to a limited range of sizes or to a limited set of size-dependent capabilities. Because many of the rules are, ultimately, rooted in physical laws, students may find some background in physics to be useful. Mr. Suter.
 
382. Conservation Biology
(1)
(Same as Environmental Studies 382) Conservation Biology is a new science that has developed in response to the biological diversity crisis. The goals of conservation biology are to understand human impacts on biodiversity and to develop practical approaches for mitigating them. This course is designed to provide an up-to-date synthesis of the multiple disciplines of conservation biology, with particular emphasis on applied ecology and evolutionary biology. Topics may include kinds of biological diversity, genetics of small populations, population viability analysis, systematics and endangered species, pests and invasions, habitat fragmentation, reserve design, management plans for ecosystems and species, and restoration ecology. Ms. Ronsheim.
       Prerequisites: 2 units of 200-level Biology, preferably from 206, 208, 238, or 241; or 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.

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)