Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.
Chair, 2013-14: Jean Porterfield, evolutionary genetics, molecular ecology
Faculty, 2013-14: Diane Angell, animal ecology, animal behavior, environmental health and conservation; Lisa Bowers, microbiology, molecular biology, synthetic biology, genetics; Eric Cole, developmental biology, cell biology and genetics, microscopy; Kevin Crisp, neurobiology, animal behavior, human biology; Jay Demas, developmental neurobiology, biophysics, neurophysiology; Steven Freedberg, bioinformatics, evolutionary ecology (on leave spring semester); John Giannini, plant physiology, membrane transport, deer migration, wildflowers; Ted Johnson, microbiology, aging, cancer and immunity; Kim Kandl, molecular biology and genetics, cytoskeleton function in yeast (on leave Interim and spring semester); Henry Kermott, zoology, animal behavior; Laura Listenberger, molecular cell biology, biochemistry, lipid storage in mammalian cells (on leave fall semester); John Schade, biology, environmental studies, biogeochemistry, ecology (on leave); Kathleen Shea, plant evolutionary ecology, restoration ecology, conservation; Mike Swift, aquatic ecology, physiological ecology, toxicology; Charles Umbanhowar Jr., botany/ecology, disturbance ecology of grasslands, paleoecology; David Van Wylen, cardiac physiology, neurobiology, program/space design in science buildings; Anne Walter, cell and animal physiology, membrane biophysics, neuroscience; Kyle Whittinghill, biogeochemistry, ecology
From the molecules that are the building blocks of life to the complex interactions between living organisms and their environments, biology continues to fascinate the human mind. The Biology Department offers a diverse array of courses and experiences that present fundamental biological principles and processes within the context of being informed, responsible, and compassionate citizens. It provides a broad range of learning opportunities through its course offerings, laboratories, independent study/research, internships and off-campus study programs at sites including South India, the desert southwest, Australia, Bahamas, Central and South America, and Northern Minnesota. Woven into all learning opportunities are hands-on experiences with modern equipment that stimulate critical and independent thinking.
For science majors, the Biology Department offers an exciting slate of challenging and rewarding courses. For the less science-oriented student, it seeks to stimulate natural curiosity about how our bodies work and how humans interact with their surroundings by providing several courses designed primarily for non-science majors. These courses, which satisfy the natural sciences (SED, IST) requirements of the general education curriculum, focus on current biological issues and general interest topics in biology.
OVERVIEW OF THE MAJOR
The ever-broadening nature of biology requires diversely-trained and inquisitive biologists. The biology major has the dual mission of introducing students to the information and technological tools of various disciplines of biology while instilling the confidence to critically assess a biological phenomenon and to design and carry out an appropriate research program. To that end, the biology major provides the necessary content and instrument training while students practice the art of scientific inquiry. Opportunities for interdisciplinary work abound. Biology majors are encouraged to participate in research with faculty, off-campus programs in biology, in departmental seminars and social activities.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MAJOR
All students majoring in biology complete eight biology courses and a year of chemistry (Chemistry 121, 123, 126; or Chemistry 125, 126; or Chemistry/Biology 125, 126). In April 2013, the Biology Department implemented curriculum revisions that changed the biology major requirements; the chemistry requirement remains the same. Students in the Class of 2017 will complete the new major, while students in the classes of 2014, 2015, and 2016 have the option of completing either major; requirements for both majors are provided below.
Major Requirements as of April 2013 (open to students in the classes of 2014, 2015, 2016; required for biology majors starting with the class of 2017)
The eight biology courses include a foundation course, at least one course from each of four core categories, and at least one level III biology course. Two additional courses are elective courses.
The biology major begins with Biology 150: Evolutionary Foundations of Biodiversity. This course establishes the evolutionary and genetic foundations of life's biodiversity, and establishes the laboratory and scientific communication skills upon which subsequent courses build. Students planning to major in biology should take this foundation course first; students who decide to switch to a biology major should take this foundation course at the time of their major decision.
Students must take one course from each of the four core categories. Please consult the course descriptions for which courses count towards each course category.
Ecology. Ecology is the study of the interactions between organisms and their environments. These interactions are studied at a variety of scales or levels of biological organization from individuals to populations, communities, ecosystems, landscapes, and the entire biosphere. Through ecology, students can better understand interconnections in the natural world, and become more aware of their role in sustaining the biodiversity and ecosystem services that benefit all life on earth.
Cell Biology. Cells are the basic units of life, and understanding the structure and function of cells, their organelles, and their processes is central to understanding modern biology. Through a course in this category, students will obtain a comprehensive overview of cellular structure and function, for example cellular compartments, macromolecular structures, and life processes such as energy and material flux, cell division, and control mechanisms.
Genetics. Genetics examines relationships between genotype and phenotype in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms from classical and molecular perspectives. Through a course in this category, students will explore gene structure, inheritance and expression. Through genetics, students discover the ways in which the field of genetics is interdisciplinary, research-based, and relevant to the world today.
- Comparative Organismal Biology. Courses in this category study life at the tissue, organ system, and individual levels of organization. Students will broaden their knowledge of a group of organisms (e.g., plants) or of a universal biological phenomenon (e.g., reproduction). Courses in this category approach the content through comparisons across multiple taxa.
Level III Biology Course
Every biology major takes at least one level III course in the department. Our level III course offerings vary greatly in topic and in type of student work, yet they all share aspects such that each student has an opportunity to experience sophisticated, independent, iterative work in biology. Students in a directed research course will practice sophistication in experimental design and practice, independence in their investigation, and iterative toubleshooting. Students in a non-laboratory investigative course will practice sophistication in evaluating the primary literature, as well as independence in assembling and synthesizing ideas from that literature. Not all level III biology courses meet this requirement. For example, Biology 394 (internships credit) does not count toward the biology major, and thus this requirement. Students should consult catalog descriptions for each level III course.
Students complete their biology major with two elective courses. Any Biology course can count as an elective with the following exceptions:
- Only one independent study (Biology 298) and one independent research (Biology 396 or Biology 398) can count toward the major.
- Internships (Biology 294 or 394) do not count toward the major. Biology 294 and 394 can only be taken P/N.
In addition to courses designated as biology, the following courses can count as biology electives:
- Chemistry 379: Biochemistry I
- Neuroscience 239: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Psychology 238: Biopsychology
- other courses as approved by petition (including a rationale that clearly explains proposed course's place in the student's biology major) to the department.
General Considerations for the Major
- No more than two level I biology courses, including Biology 150, and AP or IB credit may count toward the major.
- Of the six courses counting toward the major that must be graded C or above, at least four must be at level II or III.
- Students wishing to count for the major a course taken abroad or at another institution must consult with the chair for approval before taking the course.
- While programs leading to graduate work are planned on an individual basis, most programs require students to have completed two or more quantitative courses (mathematics, statistics, or computer science), two courses in physics, and at least four courses in chemistry. Students intending to enter graduate or professional school are encouraged to consult with the biology faculty to plan a course of study appropriate for the postgraduate program.
- Students pursuing a secondary school science education teaching license with a life science speciality should consider completing the biology major including Biology 123 or 243 as one of their electives. Additional courses are required as specified by the Education Department. Interested students should consult faculty in the Education Department.
- All of the level II and III courses in Biology have prerequisites. Please consult the course descriptions below for this information.
PREVIOUS Major Requirements (open to students in the classes of 2014, 2015, 2016)
For students in the class of 2016 or earlier electing to complete the previous major, the eight biology courses must include: four core courses that emphasize cell/molecular biology (Biology 125 or Chemistry/Biology 125-127), biodiversity and evolution (Biology 126), genetics (Biology 233), and ecology (Biology 261); one course that focuses on a group of multicellular organisms (Biology 242, 247, 248, 251, 252, 266, or 275); one level III Biology course; and two elective biology courses. The integrated chemistry-biology sequence (Chemistry/Biology 125, 126, 127) may be taken in lieu of Biology 125, and Chemistry 125 and 126. Only one independent study (Biology 298) or independent research (Biology 396 or Biology 398) can count toward the major; internships (Biology 294 or 394) do not count toward the major. Biology 294 and 394 can only be taken P/N. Of the six courses counting toward the major that must be graded C or above, at least four must be at level II or III.
In addition to courses designated as biology, the following courses can count as biology electives:
Chemistry 379: Biochemistry I
Exercise Science 375: Physiology of Exercise
Neuroscience 239: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience or Psychology 238: Biopsychology
or other courses as approved by petition to the department. For two non-biology courses to count, they must be from different departments or programs. No more than three level I biology courses, including Biology 125 and 126, and Chemistry/Biology 127, may count toward the major. Only Biology Department courses (including independent research) may count toward the level III requirement.
The Biology Department honors a limited number of graduating majors with distinction in biology. In early fall, eligible biology seniors may pre-apply for distinction. Evaluation of candidates occurs in the spring semester. More information is available on the Biology website at http://wp.stolaf.edu/biology/distinction/
Research opportunities are central to the teaching mission of the Biology Department. In addition to independent study, independent research, and project-based courses (Biology 298, 398, 396), each summer the Biology Department awards several paid research positions to students interested in working with faculty on current research projects. These ten-week positions offer excellent opportunities in both lab and field research. Biology 291: Topics - Research is a quarter-credit opportunity for a journal club or other exploratory course offered at student request and the professor's discretion. Biology 375: Advanced Supplemental Research is a 0.25 credit course option for students completing a research project or piloting a new project.
The Biology Department offers many opportunities for off-campus study. Two semester-long programs, Biology in South India (offered every fall semester) and Environmental Science in Australia (usually offered alternating spring semesters), are of particular interest to biology students. Other semester/summer programs are available through affiliated institutions or programs (e.g., ACM Oak Ridge Science Semester, ACM Tropical Field Research, Coe College Wilderness Field Station, Denmark’s International Studies Program). In addition, each Interim several off-campus biology courses are offered; see courses marked "off campus" or "abroad" in the course list below. Students interested in off-campus biology courses should consult biology faculty or the Office of International and Off-Campus Studies.
Several concentrations are offered that closely relate to the Biology Department: biomolecular science, environmental studies, neuroscience, and statistics. Students interested in these concentrations should consult the descriptions in this catalog or the program director.
This biology course emphasizes learning strategies and critical thinking skills as applied to the curriculum of Biology 150. Objectives of the course are met through additional readings, problem sets, brief written assignments, introduction of discipline-specific writing styles, projects (including individual and/or group oral presentation), and library research. Assignments include new content that complements introductory biology. Offered annually. Prerequisites: concurrent enrollment in Biology 150 and permission of instructor.
This course explores contemporary biological issues related to health and the environment, with the goal of fostering informed citizens prepared for current biological debates. Students learn the relevant biological principles in lecture and lab followed by appropriate lab or field research. Specific topics vary from year to year and may include emerging diseases, cardiovascular health, genetics, specific groups of organisms, behavior, and environmental dynamics. The course includes lectures plus one two-hour laboratory per week.
Contemporary issues in human biology direct the study of how our bodies work. This knowledge is relevant to the decisions required in daily living. Specific topics vary, but may include nutrition, cancer, immune responses, exercise, and reproduction. Learning in this course utilizes lecture, discussion, and laboratory formats. The course includes lectures plus one two-hour laboratory per week. Offered annually.
Issues of women's biology including views of the evolving female and biological determinism are examined. Core material covers anatomy, development, the biological basis of gender, reproduction, sexual response, the menstrual cycle and aging, and aspects of women's health such as eating disorders, cancers, and hormonal treatments. Students participate in significant amounts of group work and oral presentation. The course is open to both men and women. Offered during Interim. Counts toward women's and gender studies major and concentration.
Integrated Chem/Bio I 125 : Chemical Concepts with Biological Applications
This course introduces chemical concepts that are important for students pursuing a study of chemistry or biology. Topics include atomic structure, the periodic table, bonding interactions within and between particles, water and its solutions, biological membranes, chemical reaction types, chemical stoichiometry, equilibrium systems, acids and bases, introduction to protein structure. Examples are often pulled from the realm of biological molecules and processes. Students attend three classes and one three-hour laboratory each week. Prerequisites: high school biology, chemistry and physics. Placement via online placement exam is required. Concurrent registration in Mathematics 120 or 121 is recommended. Offered annually in the fall semester.
In this core course, students study the mechanisms of evolution, the evolutionary history of biological diversity, and the diversity of life. The structure and function of organisms are compared within an ecological/evolutionary context. Key adaptations to survival are examined among organisms from bacteria and protists to plants, fungi, and animals. Labs investigate population genetics, phylogeny, form, and behavior of selected organisms and provide experience in experimental design and scientific writing. Students attend lectures plus one 2.5-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite: Biology 125 or Chemistry/Biology 125-127. The last offering of this course is Fall 2013.
Integrated Chem/Bio II 126: Thermodynamics and Kinetics with Bio Relevance
This course introduces physical chemistry with an emphasis on thermodynamics and kinetics of biologically relevant systems. Topics include probability as the driving force for chemical reactions; the relationship between chemical bonding energetics, entropy, and equilibria; oxidation-reduction reactions and electrochemistry; and rates of reactions, including enzyme-catalyzed reactions. Laboratory experiments and activities illustrate lecture topics and introduce new concepts. Prerequisites: Chemistry/Biology 125 and Mathematics 120 or 121. Offered during Interim.
In this course, designed as an introduction to genetics and molecular biology for non-biology majors, students learn about molecular biology techniques and the use of molecular biology in medicine, forensics and agriculture. Students discuss topics such as human genetic diseases, mutations, DNA cloning, DNA fingerprinting, eugenics, gene therapy, stem cell research, and genetic privacy. Each issue is addressed on scientific and ethical levels. Offered during Interim.
Water is a beautifully simple molecule that is essential to survival (precious). Rivers have run dry, aquifers are overdrawn, and pollution is widespread (precarious). Much of the world lacks access to safe drinking water or water for basic sanitation, and water wars have been predicted (problematic). Students examine water from a scientific perspective - chemical, physiological, ecological - and delve into the political, economic, and societal implications of water. Offered occasionally during Interim.
What makes a human healthy? What makes an environment healthy? This course explores these questions in the Sonoran Desert and diverse nearby habitats. Students carry out labs and exercises on physiological challenges to and acclimation of the human body, and field research projects on ecology and adaptations of a plant or animal group of their choice. They synthesize these different activities through academic exploration of factors that influence and connect both human physiology and ecological adaption. Data for the field research projects is gathered while utilizing a wide variety of physical techniques, such as hiking, rock climbing, and caving. Offered occasionally during Interim. Not open to first-year students. Counts toward biology major.
Why do biologists do what they do? How is biology actually done? Students investigate the reasons biological science is done the way it is today. Students have the opportunity to design and perform their own experiments while learning the process of scientific investigation. Designed primarily for non-majors. Offered during Interim.
The study of the anatomy and physiology of the human body is founded on a thorough understanding of the structure and function of cells and tissues. Students attend lectures plus one 3-hour lab per week. Nursing and exercise science majors may pre-register for this course. This course may not be taken after completion of Biology 125, Chemistry/Biology 227, or Biology 227, all of which serve as a prerequisite for Biology 243: Human Anatomy and Physiology. Offered in the fall semester.
Bird watching is a passion for many. This course introduces students to avian biology, behavior, and appreciation through a combination of lectures, hands-on experiences, and field trips. Students learn about many native Minnesota birds and gain an appreciation for their place in nature. One hour lecture per week and two required field trips, times to be determined. Offered occasionally.
This course is the gateway for the biology major, guiding students as they develop the context, skills, and modern framework on which to continue their study of biology. Students explore the history, evolution, and diversity of life in the context of genetics and comparative genomics. The laboratory emphasizes question-asking, problem-solving, and exploring biodiversity, and students have multiple opportunities to practice and communicate their science. Students attend lectures plus one 3-hour laboratory/discussion per week. Offered each semester.
Students learn laboratory techniques common to genetics, microbiology and molecular biology. Topics include solution and media preparation, sterile technique, and safe handling of laboratory materials. Students learn to turn written instructions into materials needed for successful outcomes. Calculations, scaling and theory behind particular solution compositions and tools are covered as well as approaches needed to be effective teaching assistants. Prerequisite: Chemistry 125 or Chemistry/Biology 125, and required application to the instructor.
Biology/Environmental Studies 226: Conservation Biology
Conservation biology focuses on the study of biological diversity. Students examine why we should be concerned about the number and types of species on earth, what factors threaten the survival of species and how we can conserve them. Using principles of ecology and evolution, with input from other disciplines, students gain a better understanding of the impact of humans on biodiversity and the importance of responsible environmental decision-making. Offered annually.
This course provides a comprehensive overview of cellular structure and function including cellular compartments, macromolecular structures, and life processes such as energy and material flux, cell division, and control mechanisms. Students learn current and/or historical evidence and methodology (e.g., microscopy, isolation procedures, and probes). Laboratory experiences provide opportunities for qualitative and quantitative observations of cellular structure and function. Students place their work in the context of current research through examination of relevant literature and formal presentations. Prerequisites: Biology 150 and Chemistry 125 or Chemistry 121/123 or Chemistry/Biology 125. Offered each semester. Counts toward biomolecular science concentration (for students through class of 2016).
Integrated Chem/Bio III 227: Molecular and Cellular Biology
This course builds on the principles learned in Chemistry/Biology 125/126 and explores how chemistry informs major principles of cellular and molecular biology. Topics include cell structure, metabolism, movement, signaling, and division. The course emphasizes problem-solving, quantitative reasoning, the scientific method, and scientific writing through lectures, discussions, readings, writing assignments, and lab work. Students attend three classes and one three-hour laboratory each week. Prerequisite: Chemistry/Biology 126. Counts toward "Cell Biology" core category. Offered annually in the spring semester.
Biology/Environmental Studies 228: Environmental Health
Human health is affected by the biological environment, a teeming world of parasites and diseases, and the physical environment -- the water, air, and landscapes that we inhabit. Human interactions with the environment have changed rapidly, as human populations grow, travel increases, and ecosystems are altered. This course touches upon traditional environmental topics such as air and water quality, and integrates newer public health challenges such as emerging diseases and food-borne illnesses. Prerequisite: an introductory science course.
Microbiology examines the morphology, composition, metabolism, and genetics of microorganisms with emphasis on bacteria and viruses. Students examine the dynamic impact of microbes on humans, the immune response, and the role of microbes in the environment. Students attend lectures plus one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: Biology 143 and one Chemistry course, or Biology 227, or Biology 125 and Chemistry 121 or 125, or Chemistry/Biology 125-227. Offered annually.
Genetics examines relationships between genotype and phenotype in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms from classical and molecular perspectives. Lectures in this core course cover ideas and technologies contributing to understanding mechanisms of gene transmission and regulation. Laboratories utilize model organisms to investigate classical and molecular modes of inheritance. Students attend lectures plus one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: Biology 150, and Chemistry 125 or 121/123 or Chemistry/Biology 125; or Biology 125 and Chemistry 125 or 121/123 or Chemistry/Biology 125. Counts as "genetics" core category. Offered each semester. Counts toward neuroscience concentration.
Students focus on the natural history of Upper Midwest vertebrates and phylogenetic, morphological, and functional relationships of these animals. Laboratories include identification, and morphology. During field trips, students document bird migrations, amphibian chorusing, and other animal activities. Independent projects explore topics ranging from bluebird nesting behavior to thermal conductivity and insulation in animals. Students attend lectures plus one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: Biology 150, or Biology 125 and 126. Counts as "comparative organismal biology" core category.
Students journey toward greater understanding of the human body through an integrated study of the structure of the body (anatomy) and how organs such as the brain, heart, and kidney perform their remarkable functions (physiology). The course is designed primarily for students intending careers in the health sciences. Students attend lectures plus one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite: Biology 143, or Biology 150 and 227, or Biology 125, or Chemistry/Biology 125-227. Offered annually. Counts towards exercise science major and neuroscience concentration.
How do animals do what they need to do to survive in all sorts of environments? Why are others able to exist in only very particular conditions? These are the sorts of questions students explore as they navigate the basic systems that provide circulation, ventilation, movement, digestion, and waste removal. Students look at how these processes are coordinated by the nervous and endocrine systems and how they vary across the animal kingdom to help organisms survive in dry, hot deserts, in dark, deep oceans, and places in between. In the weekly three-hour lab, they conduct quantitative physiological measurements to assess functions such as temperature control, respiration rates, and salt and water balance. Prerequisites: Biology 150, or Biology 125 and 126, or Chemistry/Biology 125-227 and Biology 126. Counts as "comparative organismal biology" core category. Counts toward neuroscience concentration.
This course traces the path of invertebrate evolution from single-celled protozoans to the most primitive chordates. Emphasis is placed upon major breakthroughs in design that enable organisms to exploit new ecological habitats. Laboratories are designed to introduce students to the major invertebrate groups via observation of living animals and through dissection. Students attend lectures plus one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: Biology 150, or Biology 125 and 126, or Chemistry/Biology 125-227 and Biology 126. Offered alternate years. Counts as "comparative organismal biology" core category. Counts toward neuroscience concentration.
A range of microscopic techniques including brightfield, darkfield, interference, fluorescence, and advanced techniques including laser confocal microscopy are covered in this course. In parallel to microscope training sessions, students learn the latest computer techniques for video image grabbing and analysis. Teams design investigative projects that make use of appropriate mircoscope and computer technologies. Prerequisite: Biology 227, or Biology 125, or Chemistry/Biology 125-227. Offered during Interim.
This course begins with an in-depth look at a plant cell and its physiology, followed by a discussion of whole plant physiology as it relates to cellular functions. Students attend lectures plus one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: Biology 227, or Biology 125 and 126, and Chemistry 125 and 126, or Chemistry/Biology 125-227 and Biology 126. Counts as "comparative organismal biology" core category.
Plants are a diverse and important group of organisms. This course considers their evolution, emphasizing the morphology and anatomy of flowering plants. Students learn about basic techniques of data collection and analysis to investigate plant evolution: identifying plants, dissecting and staining plant structures, and using computer-based taxonomic statistics programs. Students attend lectures plus one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: Biology 150, or Biology 125 and 126, or Chemistry/Biology 125-227 and Biology 126. Counts as "comparative organismal biology" core category.
Ecology focuses on the study of the interrelationships that determine the distribution and abundance of organisms. This core course examines organism-environment interactions and the study of populations, communities and ecosystems. Consideration is given to use of ecological studies in ecosystem management. Students attend lectures plus one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: Biology 150, or Biology 125 and 126, or Chemistry/Biology 125-227 and Biology 126. Counts as "ecology" core category. Offered each semester. Counts toward environmental studies major (all tracks) and concentration.
What happened to the dinosaurs? Can some human congenital heart defects be explained by reference to cardiovascular systems of diving turtles? Examining the origin and evolution of vertebrates, comparing morphology across vertebrate taxa and examining selective factors leading to modern forms is of value to health science students, graduate studies in biology, and people who like dinosaurs. Students attend lectures plus one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: Biology 150, or Biology 125 and 126, or Chemistry/Biology 125-227 and Biology 126. Counts as "comparative organismal biology" core category.
The ability to reproduce is one of the key features of a living organism. Studying the biology of reproduction requires a synthesis of information and concepts from a wide range of fields within biology. This course addresses reproduction at the genetic, organismal, and population levels. Laboratory work adds a valuable investigative component to the course, and social/psychological issues are addresssed throughout. Prerequisites: Biology 150, or Biology 125 and 126, or Chemistry/Biology 125-227 and Biology 126, or permission of instructor. Counts as "comparative organismal biology" core category. Counts toward women's and gender studies major and concentration if approved by petition.
During this course offered at the University of Minnesota Biological Field Station at Itasca State Park, Minnesota, students learn through lectures, readings, laboratory work, and short field trips followed by extensive independent field research in a wide range of habitats. At least three weeks are spent at the field station and the remainder of the time on campus. Apply through the office of International and Off-Campus Studies. Prerequisite: Biology 150, or Biology 125 and 126, or Chemistry/Biology 125-227 and Biology 126. Offered during Interim in alternate years.
Following introductory lectures on campus, the class travels on extended field trips to desert locations in Arizona and adjacent states. Students examine interrelationships of desert plants and animals, their adaptations to the harsh desert environment, and the role of primitive and modern humans in this ecosystem. Prerequisite: three courses in biology or consent of instructor. Apply through the Office of International and Off-Campus Studies. Offered during Interim.
This course is a service/learning experience. Week one is spent on campus learning basic clinical techniques, examining emerging disease, and studying existing health care issues. Students spend three weeks in Cuzco, Peru, assessing patient needs in a public hospital, a homeless shelter, orphanages, and a small village. Week four involves discussion and writing reflective journals. Prerequisites: Biology 150 or 231, and Biology 291. Apply through the Office of International and Off-Campus Studies. Offered during Interim.
Biology/Environmental Studies 286: Tropical Ecology in Costa Rica (abroad)
This course offers students the opportunity to study first-hand the most diverse ecosystems on earth. This intensive field-oriented course explores lowland rain forest, montane forest, dry forest, and coastal and agricultural ecosystems through projects and field trips. Students read and discuss texts and primary literature specific to ecology, evolution, conservation, and agricultural practices of each area, and keep reflective journals. Prerequisite: one science course. Offered in alternate years during Interim.
Intensive study of the biology that created the Bahamas and that now constitutes the living structure of these islands. Staying at the Gerace Research Center provides access to a diversity of marine and terrestrial habitats including coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangrove forests, hypersaline ponds, limestone caverns, and the "blue-holes" that connect inland waterways to the sea. The Gerace Research Center is located on San Salvador Island. Counts toward major: Biology. Prerequisite: Biology 150, or Biology 125 and 126 or Chemistry/Biology 125-227 and Biology 126, or permission of instructor. Offered during Interim.
This course offers intensive field-biology experiences within three equatorial New World environments: the Amazon rainforest, the Andes cloud forests, and the Galapagos Islands. Students compare the rich biodiversity, the adaptations and natural history of species, and the influence of human impact on these areas. Preparation for class requires readings from texts and primary literature concerning ecological and environmental issues specific to each of these regions. Based in Quito, the three field expeditions alternate with home-based rest days allowing for reflective writing in journals, assimilation, and discussion. Prerequisite: Biology 150, or Biology 125 and 126, or Chemistry/Biology 125-227 and Biology 126, or permission of instructor. Offered during Interim.
For science majors, learning to read the primary literature and other professional sources is an important transition from classroom learning to post-graduate endeavors. Students read, present, and discuss scientific literature in a field selected by participating faculty. The goal is to garner sufficient expertise to allow critical analysis of the particular field. Requires permission of instructor. May be repeated if topics are different.
Internships are designed to provide career-testing opportunities. Students interested in an internship should consult with the Piper Center for Vocation and Career, enlist a faculty supervisor, and complete an internship application. Internships do not count toward the biology major requirements.
Independent study allows students to study in an area not covered in the regular biology course offerings. The student undertakes substantial independent study in a defined biological field, meets regularly with faculty supervisor, and prepares some form of presentation of the material learned. The student must obtain permission of supervisor and complete an independent study form available from the Office of the Registrar and Academic Advising or its Web site.
Zoological parks serve a critical role in the 21st century, preserving endangered species and educating the public. Are zoos our best bet for preserving rare species, or would our time and money be better spent preserving the habitats that species require? This course gives students a background in conservation biology and zoo biology, and first-hand experience conducting research in a zoo setting. Prerequisites: Environmental Studies 137 or Biology/Environmental Studies 226, and Biology 261. Offered occasionally during Interim.
Students apply computational techniques and tools to the analysis of biological data. From mining large genetic sequence databases to simulating population dynamics, computer programming is rapidly becoming essential to the study of a broad range of biological systems. This course introduces computer programming to biologists and allows for the creative application of this skill to an array of biological questions, with an emphasis on advanced genetics topics. Prerequisites: Biology 227 and 233, or Biology 126 and 233. Offered alternate years.
Biology/Environmental Studies 320: Arctic Ecosystems: An Analysis of Global Change
This course focuses on biological and physical features of arctic ecosystems, their responses to climate change, and consequences of climate change for ecological processes. The foundation of the course is the discussion of current literature on arctic ecosystems. The course briefly reviews causes of climate change in the Arctic and focuses on biogeochemical cycles, biological communities, and the unique characteristics of organisms, as well as the impacts of climate change on human societies. Students attend lecture plus one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: Biology 125 and 126 or Environmental Studies 137; and any level II biology or environmental studies natural science course. Offered annually.
The cell is the fundamental unit of life, capable of growth, motility, signal transduction, and functional specialization. Students study features common to cells: their macromolecular components, metabolism, membrane transport, motility, signal mechanisms, and intracellular trafficking, seeing how these are elaborated in cells with particular specializations. Research techniques suitable for cell biology are emphasized. Students attend lectures plus one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisites: Biology 227 and 233, or Biology 125 and 233, or permission of instructor. Counts toward neuroscience concentration.
This course introduces students to intensive research at St. Olaf and the Boulder Laboratory for 3-D Electron Microscopy of Cells at the University of Colorado. In Boulder, students prepare samples for electron microscopy and immuno-gold Electron Microscopy, capture EM-images, and generate 3-D Tomograms. At St. Olaf students generate 3-D computer models of their datasets. Prerequisite: three courses in biology or consent of instructor. Offered in alternate years during Interim.
Biology/Environmental Studies 350: Biogeochemistry: Theory and Application
The study of global change and human environmental impacts requires students to link concepts from biology, chemistry, and physics. Students investigate these links by exploring current theories in biogeochemistry, with an emphasis on understanding the feedback between physical and ecological processes and the coupling of multiple element cycles. Laboratory activities focus on a practical exploration of the methods biogeochemists use, including experience with a variety of instruments. Prerequisite: Any level II biology, chemistry, or physics course or permission of instructor.
Limnology is the study of inland waters and includes their physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. The course focuses on biotic processes and interactions set within the abiotic habitat of lakes and streams. Students examine current management problems facing freshwater environments by focusing on human-induced changes to aquatic habitats and their biotic consequences. Investigative laboratories introduce students to aquatic habitats and biological processes within them. Prerequisites: Biology 261, or permission of instructor.
Molecular biology techniques are bringing about a revolution in understanding living organisms. Students study the structure and function of macromolecules, methods currently used to clone and analyze genes, and new insights into basic biological processes which these methods provide. The course uses lecture and discussion topics with one project-oriented three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite: Biology 233.
This course focuses on learning modern field and laboratory methods to test ecological hypotheses. Students work on group and individual projects to collect and analyze data and give oral and written presentations on projects. Class periods focus on discussion of primary literature and project results. Class trips include visits to local natural areas. Students attend lecture/discussion plus one four-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite: Biology 261. Counts toward environmental studies major (natural science track).
The last decade has unveiled the mechanism by which a single cell gives rise to an embryo rich in pattern and cellular diversity. This course traces the use of surgical, genetic, and molecular techniques as they have uncovered the developmental blueprints encoding the universal body plan fundamental to all metazoan life. Students attend lectures plus one three-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite: Biology 233. Counts toward neuroscience concentration.
Students work on special projects during one afternoon of laboratory per week. Each student must have the sponsorship of a faculty member. This course does not count toward the biology major. P/N only. Offered each semester. May be repeated if topic is different.
Immunology focuses on the structure, development and function of the immune system. The course explores the molecular and cellular basis of the immune responses. The application of immunological principles to allergy, autoimmunity, AIDS, transplantation, and cancer are included. Students attend lectures plus a two-hour discussion per week. Prerequisite: Biology 227 and 233, or Biology 125 and 233.
The idea of evolution forms the foundation for all modern biological thought. This course examines the processes of evolution in detail (selection, genetic drift, mutation, migration) and studies the methods by which biologists reconstruct the history of life on the planet. Advanced topics are explored through reading and discussion of journal articles. The social and historical context of evolutionary theory is discussed. Prerequisites: Biology 150 and 233, or Biology 126 and 233.
From tiny ion channels to the basis for learning, neuroscience is a rapidly developing area. Using texts, reviews, and current literature, students examine in depth the fundamental unit of the nervous system, the neuron. The goals are to understand how neurons accomplish their unique functions: electrical signaling, synaptic transmission, and directed growth and remodeling. Prerequisites: Biology 125, or Biology 227 or Chemistry/Biology 125-227, and progress toward a major in any of the natural sciences.
This seminar course approaches the study of animal behavior from the blended viewpoints of evolutionary behavioral ecology and comparative psychology. Mechanisms of learning, cognition, and development, as well as aggression, territoriality, and mating are examined at the organismic and cellular level. A deeper understanding of the neural and environmental determinants of behavior in a wide variety of species helps students better understand themselves and their place in nature. Prerequisite: Biology 150 or Biology 126 or Psychology 125. Counts toward neuroscience concentration.
Specific topics announced prior to each term are based on student interests and available staff. Past offerings include cardiovascular physiology, evolution, stress biology, and animal behavior. Class work includes comprehensive review of literature on the specific topic. Class meetings present topics in discussion format. Prerequisites: Biology 125 and 126, or Chemistry/Biology 125-127 plus Biology 126, and junior or senior standing. May be repeated if topics are different. Counts toward environmental studies major (all tracks) and concentration when taught with environmental science focus and approved by chair.
Biology 394 is for students who have completed one internship (Biology 294) and wish to complete a second internship. Students interested in an internship should consult with the Piper Center for Vocation and Career, locate a faculty supervisor, and complete an internship form. Internships do not count toward the biology major requirements.
This course provides a comprehensive research opportunity, including an introduction to relevant background material, technical instruction, identification of a meaningful project, and data collection. The topic is determined by the faculty member in charge of the course and may relate to his/her research interests. Prerequisite: Determined by individual instructor. Offer based on department decision. May be offered as a 1.00 credit course or .50 credit course.
Independent research is offered for students dedicated to an in-depth research experience. In conjunction with a faculty supervisor, a student conceives and performs a research project leading to the writing of a major research paper and a poster presentation. Independent research requires permission of a supervisor, a secondary faculty reader of the paper, and completion of an independent research form available at the Office of the Registrar and Academic Advising or its Web site.