Bio 4 Course Description
Room: Remsen 216, 10A (Tue, Thu 10:00-11:50)
Biology 4 focuses on how our current understanding of genetic mechanisms at a molecular level has led to new biological insights and to the development of powerful technologies with far reaching implications for our society. It is the aim of this course to provide a solid understanding of the mechanisms of molecular genetics and to discuss implications of genetic engineering and related technologies to our every day lives. Although the course will focus on the science (it is a biology course), we will also consider the ethical, political, human, and economic impact of these technologies. Several guest lecturers will provide personal perspectives based on their experiences and introduce you to new questions. The ultimate goal of the course is to provide you with an understanding of the biology along with the technology so that you can make informed decisions on issues that continually and increasingly arise in our society.
The lectures will draw on material in the textbook, but will also contain material not included in the text -- notably the first few lectures. Conversely, the lectures will not cover everything in the textbook. Especially for the discussions involving implications of the technologies, exam material will be drawn mostly from the lectures. Attendance at lectures is therefore very important. The textbook serves as a reference to the lecture material.
During class, you are encouraged to ask questions. If something is not clear to you, it is likely not to be clear to someone else in the class. If something is said that triggers a question related to a different topic, please ask your question. I would rather spend class time discussing in more depth the topics that you find most interesting than cover additional topics. Class discussion is particularly important to topics such as ethical implications of technology.
Special Note: If you have any suggestions on how to improve the course in any way, please don't hesitate to stop in and share your ideas with me. There are always ways to improve any course and your input is valuable in pointing out how this may be accomplished. Also, if you find something that you like, please tell me about that as well. All the feedback you provide will contribute to improving the course during this term as well as in the future.
We will be using "Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications" by Ricki Lewis, eighth edition, McGraw-Hill, 2008. This book covers basic molecular genetics and genetic engineering. It is available at the Dartmouth Bookstore and through Wheelock Books. It does not cover all of the topics we will cover in class, but it is very good at what it DOES cover. Additional material will be provided in class for the material absent from the book.
A number of Cell and Molecular Biology textbooks are also on reserve in the Dana library. You can refer to these for more detailed information than what is being covered in class.
I am not setting up any formal office hours. Please feel free to drop in to ask questions at any time. My office is Remsen 210. If I am free when you stop in I will be glad to help you right then. On the other hand, if I am busy, please don't take it personally if I ask you to come back at another time -- it just means that I am busy. This "open door" policy will hopefully work best for all of us. If you prefer to set up an appointment, please call (x6-2059) or email me to see when I will be available.
Grading and Exams
Your grade will be determined from your performance on the exams and from class participation. Each of the exams will cover material from about one third of the course. There is a grading policy for this course. The take home final will draw from all aspects of the course, including the guest lectures. Class participation will help boost you up a grade if you are on a border between two grades. The breakdown is as follows:
The final exam will be a take-home, open book exam. If you do not do a term project, you must take the final exam. It is due on the last day of class. The questions will be posted on this web site by Monday, June 2 (now available). Hand the papers in directly to Prof. Gross during class. You should hand in the paper personally - do not send it with a friend or classmate. If I don't have it on time, I cannot give you credit for it - even if it is not your fault.
You have an option of either taking the final or handing in a term project. If you plan to do a term project, you need to get a topic approved by me before 5 PM on Monday, April 27. It is very important that we discuss your topic BEFORE you spend too much time on it. I'd like to make sure that you have chosen a topic that is not too broad or too narrow and make sure that it is an appropriate topic. If you do not have a topic approved by then, you will have to take the final exam. I will be firm in this deadline because I want to make sure you have enough time to actually do the project itself.
About the topic...
The topic should be one that involves biotechnology and its impact on society. The topics that were used on previous final exams (1997, 1998, 1999) and previous term projects (1997, 1998, 1999) are good examples. You might start by looking through the NY Times, Newseek, Scientific American, the "Web", or other sources of information for the last 6-12 months. This will provide you with the most recent information on the topic. You can also take a look at the OMIM database of genetic disorders.
Your write-up should include a careful and clear explanation of the technology being discussed and any moral and/or ethical consequences that might result from the implementation of such a technology. Approximately 20-40% of the paper should deal with the biotechnology/medical issue (this will vary significantly with the complexity of the technology you are discussing) the rest should discuss the ethical, social, or moral issues related to the particular technology.
If you do not find anything that strikes your fancy in the media, but have some ideas of your own, come in and talk to me about them and maybe we can come up with an appropriate topic together. Neither of the two questions on the final last year are real (yet) but nonetheless have interesting aspects to them. Areas that might be of interest include, but are not limited to: agriculture (including pest control), pharmaceuticals, gene therapy, insurance/medical needs, and forensics. I am sure that there are other areas that are ripe for this kind of discussion.
The term project must be handed in at the last class of the term. If you can hand it in earlier, that would be appreciated (grading all of them is a time consuming task!). The paper should be a maximum of 6 pages (double-spaced, 11 point Times, one inch margins). If you want to include figures, they should be numbered and placed after the main body of text at the end of the paper. The bibliography and the figures do not count towards your page limit. Please hand the papers in directly to me, Remsen 210. See paper format for more details on how to use references and figures.
If you would like to work with a partner on the term project that is OK, but please bear in mind that the project will receive a single grade. I have no way of knowing if the work was split 50-50 or 90-10 and can just assign a single grade to the report -- so having a partner is purely a matter of YOUR choice and is not in any way mandatory. If you work with a partner the page limit will be a maximum of 10 pages (double-spaced, 11 point Times, one inch margins). In general, no more than two people can work on the term project (larger groups are not permitted without explicit permission). Working with a partner has the added benefits of allowing you to tackle a more ambitious topic and to discuss ideas with each other. This should enhance what you get out of the project.
X-Hour Review Sessions
X-hour review sessions are also being held on the Wednesdays 3:00-4:05 of the exams. You should have had a chance to study the material by then and this is an opportunity for you to make sure you are clear on any remaining points that might be confusing to you.
Students with Disabilities
Any student with a documented disability needing academic adjustments or accommodations is requested to speak to me and give me a copy of your accommodations form by the end of the second week of the term. All discussions will remain confidential, although the Director of Student Disabilities may be consulted if questions arise.
Tutoring and Study Groups
Study groups and tutoring are available for this course. If you would like to have a tutor or to become part of a study group, please go to Collis 301 to fill out a form. For more information you can email the academic skills center.