Biology Department

Professors: Robert S. Fritz (Chair), John H. Long, Jr., Mark A. Schlessmana, Kathleen M. Susmanab, Robert B. Suter (and Associate Dean of the Faculty); Associate Professors: Richard B. Hemmes, David K. Jemiolo, Nancy Pokrywka, A. Marshall Pregnall, Margaret L. Ronsheim (and Director of Environmental Studies), J. William Straus; Assistant Professors: Erica J. Crespib, Cynthia K. Damer, David Esteban; Visiting Assistant Professor: Jason Jones; Lecturer and Coordinator of Laboratory Instruction: Laura Arwood.

Requirements for Concentration: 13 or 14 units

Introductory-Level: Biology 106 and either Biology 105 or AP Biology with 4 or 5 AP test score.

Intermediate-Level: 4 units of graded work with at least one course from each subject area listed below, not including Biology 255

Advanced-Level: 3 units of graded work.

Chemistry: Either Chemistry 108 and 109 or Chemistry 125 at the introductory level, and Chemistry 244 at the intermediate level.

Additional courses: 2 units to be chosen from among Chemistry 245 or 255; Physics 113, 114; Mathematics 101, 102, 121, 122, 125, or 141; Geology 151 or 161; Psychology 200; Neuroscience and Behavior 201; Environmental Science 224; 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 or ungraded independent research, Biology 298 or 399.

Intermediate-Level Subject Areas and Courses:

Ecology, Evolution and Diversity

Biology 206 Environmental Biology

Biology 208 Plant Structure and Diversity

Biology 226 Animal Structure and Diversity

Biology 241 Ecology

Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology

Biology 205 Introduction to Microbiology

Biology 238 Principles of Genetics

Biology 272 Biochemistry

Biology 280 Cellular Structure and Function

Biology 282 Genomics

Developmental Biology and Physiology

Biology 202 Plant Physiology and Development

Biology 228 Animal Physiology

Biology 232 Developmental Biology

Biology 281 Comparative and Functional Vertebrate Anatomy

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 2008 Ms. Darner, Ms. Ronsheim, Ms. Susman; for the class of 2009 Mr. Fritz, Mr. Hemmes, Mr. Straus; for the class of 2010 Ms. Crespi, Ms. Pokrywka, and Mr. Pregnall.

Correlate Sequences in Biology:

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). All correlate sequences require Biology 105 or AP Biology with a score of 4 or 5 on the AP exam, Biology 106, and the requirements for each subject area listed below:

Cellular Biology/Molecular Biology (6 or 7 units): Chemistry 108/109 or Chemistry 125, any two of the following: Biology 202, 205, 228, 232, 238, 272, 280, 282; plus one of the following; Biology 316, 323, 324, 325,370, 384, 386.

Animal Physiology (6 units): Biology 228, plus three of the following , at least one at the 300-level: Biology 226, 232, 238, 281, 316, 370.

Ecology/Evolution (6 units): Biology 241, 350 and one of the following; Biology 202, 205, 238, plus one of the following; Biology 206, 208, 226, 352, 354, 356, 384.

Behavior/Neurobiology (6 units): Two of the following: Biology 226, 228, 241; one of the following: Biology 232, 238; and one of the following: Biology 316, 340.

I. Introductory

105a 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. The department.

106a 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 period and one four hour laboratory.

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.

[172a. Microbial Wars] (1)

(Same as Science, Society, and Technology 172) This course examines ways in which some microbes have beome a problem due to misuse by humans. The topics include resistance to antibiotics, emerging infections, and bioterrorism. Introductory material stresses the differences between microbes, including bacteria, protozoa, and viruses.

Not offered in 2007/08.

178a or b. 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.

202b. 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.

205b. 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. Mr. Esteban.

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

[206b. Environmental Biology] (1)

A biological exploration of the impacts of contemporary agricultural production, transportation, energy production, natural resource exploitation and climate change on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The course also examines habitat destruction and restoration, invasive species and emerging human and wildlife diseases. Field and laboratory data collection techniques are introduced, and then used to test hypotheses generated during lecture and discussion. Mr. Hemmes.

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

[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, Ms. Ronsheim, or Mr. Schlessman.

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

Not offered in 2007/08.

226a. 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. Jones.

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

228a. Animal Physiology (1)

A comparative examination of the mechanisms that animals use to move, respire, eat, reproduce, sense, and regulate their internal environments. The physiological principles governing these processes, and their ecological and evolutionary consequences, are developed in lecture and applied in the laboratory. Ms. Crespi, Mr. Long.

Required: Psychology 200 or Mathematics 141.

Recommended: Chemistry 108, 109, and Physics 113.

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

232a. 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. Mr. Straus.

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

238b. 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.

241a. 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.

255b. The Science of Forensics (1)

(Same as Chemistry 255)

272b. 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.

275b. Paleontology (1)

(Same as Geology 275)

280a. Cellular Structure and Function (1)

An introduction to cell biology, with a focus on subcellular organization in eukaryotes. The regulation and coordination of cellular events, and the specializations associated with a variety of cell types are considered. Topics include organelle function, the cytoskeleton, and mechanisms of cell division. Laboratory work centers on investigations of cell function with an emphasis on biological imaging. Ms. Pokrywka.

Two 75 minute periods, one 4 hour lab.

281b. Comparative and Functional Vertebrate Anatomy (1)

This course integrates the classic study of comparative anatomy with the rapidly advancing fields of phylogenetics, paleontology, biomechanics, and physiology. Weekly labs give students the opportunity to investigate the morphological and physiological adaptations associated with skeletal, muscular, respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive and nervous systems in each vertebrate class. This knowledge of animal form and function is applied to understanding the major evolutionary events within the vertebrate lineage: origin of bone, jaws and legs, transitions from water to land to air, and the adaptive radiations of dinosaurs, bony fishes, and mammals. Lectures focus on the ideas of adaptation and constraint, the design of simulations and experiments used to test macroevolutionary predictions, and the use of the comparative method to advance biomedical research initiatives. Mr. Long.

Two 3-hour labs

Recommended: Physics 113

282a. Genomics (1)

Evolution, structure, and function of prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes, from the perspective of whole-genome sequencing projects. Current applications of genomics for diagnosis and treatment of human disease, ecological and environmental issues, and evolutionary biology. Labs focus on conducting two functional genomics experiments using micro arrays, cDNA libraries, and bioinformatic analysis to profile genes involved in disease processes and responses to environmental stress. Ms. Schwarz.

Prerequisites: Biology 106

Three 50 minute classes, 4-hour laboratory

285a. Experimental Design and Biostatistics (1)

Using a hands-on approach in the laboratory, this course guides the student through all components of experimental design that are essential to scientists of any field. Students formulate the scientific question to be tested into null and alternate hypotheses, design the experiment, collect and organize data, analyze data through the application of statistical methods, interpret data, and summarize findings in a presentation. Students read several articles from the primary literature and discuss the statistical methods employed in each article. Not open to students who have completed Economics 209 or Psychology 200. Permission of the Instructor. Ms. Czesak.

290a or b. 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.

303a or b. 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. 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.

Not offered in 2007/08.

323a. Advanced Topics in 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 Instructor to be announced.

Prerequisite: Biology 272.

324a. 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.

340a and b. 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(b), Mr. Jones(a).

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.

350a. 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. Czesak.

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

352b. Conservation Biology (1)

(Same as Environmental Studies 352) 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 Biology 206, 208, 238, or 241; or permission of the instructor.

353b. Bioinformatics (1)

(Same as Computer Science 353) Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field of study that applies computational techniques to problems in biology. Biology and computer science majors learn to formulate novel questions in genomics, and conduct computational biology experiments of their own design. Topics include scientific modeling, experimental computer science, gene prediction and genome annotation, sequence alignment and phylogeny, and evolutionary and comparative genomics. Ms. Schwarz and Mr. Smith.

Prerequisites: Biology 238 or 282 or Biology/Chemistry 272 or 282, Computer Science 353, Computer Science 203 or permission of the instructor.

[354b. 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 2007/08.

[356a. 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 2007/08.

370a. 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. Mr. Esteban.

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

[382b. Aquatic Vertebrates] (1)

Vertebrates arose as fish and later, as tetrapods, have independently and repeatedly re-evolved aquatic lineages. This confluence of origin and convergence offers us a chance to tease apart evolutionary and physiological causes. To do so, we analyze the phylogeny and function of the first vertebrates, the first tetrapods, whales and dolphins, sea turtles, and seals and sea lions. Mr. Long.

Not offered in 2007/08.

[383. Topics in Vertebrate Paleontology] (1)

(Same as Earth Science 383)

Not offered in 2007/08.

384b. Ecology and Evolution of Sexual Reproduction (1)

Sex: “nothing in life is more important, more interesting—or troublesome.” This quote from Dr. Olivia Judson, (a.k.a. Dr. Tatiana) is just one recent example of the long-standing fascination that ecologists and evolutionary biologists have had with sexual reproduction. This course begins with the question: What is sex? We then examine the current status of completing hypotheses for the evolution of sex, and then turn our attention to the myriad ecological and evolutionary consequences of sexual reproduction. We consider such questions as: Why are there only two sexes? Why do males and females look and behave differently? When is it advantageous to produce more sons than daughters (or vice versa) ? To address these questions in a biologically rigorous way, we need to draw on a wide range of theoretical work and empirical evidence from cellular and molecular biology, genetics, developmental biology, ecology, and evolutionary biology. Mr. Schlessman.

Prerequisites: Biology 208,226,238, or 241, or permission of the instructor.

386b. Topics in Cell Biology: Nutrition, Signalling, and Disease (1)

This course examines mechanisms by which cells detect and respond to information, nutrients, and pathogens. Topics include receptors and signal transduction systems, environmental regulation of gene expression and cellular behavior, vesicular trafficking, and the mechanisms by which pathogens utilize and corrupt these systems to their own purposes. Laboratory work focuses on use of fluorescence microscopy to assess cellular activities. Mr. Straus.

Prerequisites: Biology 232, 238, 272 or 280

One 75-minute class and one 3-hour class/laboratory

399a or b. 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)

423a. Cell Biology (1)

424 Molecular Biology (1)

440 Animal Behavior (1)

450a. Evolutionary Biology (1)

[454. Plant-Animal Interactions] (1)

[456. Aquatic Ecology] (1)

470a. Immunology (1)