Course Descriptions - Department of Biology

The courses listed below are offered by the biology department and may be used to fulfill major requirments for departmental, interdisciplinary, and minor programs as well as the Westminster liberal arts curriculum. Supporting courses offered by other departments can be viewed using the sub-menu item listed to the left.  The entire undergraduate catalog can be accessed with the following link: download pdf

 

Course Offerings for Non-Majors


The following 100 level courses may be used to fulfill requirements for the Westminster liberal arts curriculum, but will not fulfill any major requirements for the biology, molecular biology, environmental science, or neuroscience programs.

BIO 101 Concepts of Biology (4 SH). A general survey course designed for education majors and students making a transition to the biology, molecular biology, or environmental science curriculum. (Students from other non-science majors seeking to fulfill their Scientific Discovery IP should consider other 100-level courses.)  Students explore ways of observing and thinking about fundamental biological processes common to many living organisms. The goal of this class is to help students become better citizens and teachers of science by increasing their ability to make informed decisions regarding current and future scientific discoveries. Emphasis is placed upon identifying and studying topics of a biological nature that are relevant to modern society. A laboratory is included, during which time students will apply the scientific method and develop critical thinking and inductive reasoning skills. Biology faculty.

BIO 102 Understanding Evolution (4 SH).  A course for the non-science major. Biological evolution is examined from a historical perspective, from inception to our current understanding of this unifying theory of biology. Natural selection and the modern genetic theory of evolution as continuing processes are emphasized, as are the ways that evolution as a theory is testable by the scientific method. A laboratory is included. If this course is offered as a cluster, students must also register for ENG 106. J. Robertson.

BIO 105 Pattern and Process in the Natural World (4 SH). This is a cluster course for the non-science major. Students will learn how scientific discoveries are made and they will use the scientific method to investigate biological systems. Ecological concepts will be used to illustrate biological patterns at the individual, population, and community level and to explain the importance of change in the natural world. A laboratory which emphasizes field work is included. A. Throckmorton.

BIO 106 Human Biology: Health, Homeostasis and the Environment (4 SH). An introductory course for non-science major designed to introduce the student to the workings of the human body. Emphasis will be placed on an understanding of how an homeostatic balance must be maintained for proper functioning of our various organ systems. A laboratory is included. This course is intended for non-science majors and is not open to biology, molecular biology, neuroscience, or environmental science majors. M. Furimsky.

BIO 108 Human Genome Project (4 SH). An introductory course for non-science majors. The primary objectives of this course are to provide college students with a fundamental understanding of scientific technologies and concepts underlying the Human Genome Project and genetic research, and to make students aware of the ethical, social, and legal implications of this monumental achievement. Students will also develop an appreciation for the types of questions that science can and cannot answer using the scientific approach. During laboratory sessions, students will study the inheritance patterns of humans and other organisms, extract DNA from their own cells, analyze their DNA using a variety of genetic techniques and participate in a mock trial. If this course is offered is a cluster, students must also register for ENG 137. J. Corrette-Bennett.

BIO 112 Pharmacology and Drug Discovery (4 SH). Clustered with EDU 201, Foundations of Special Education.  An introductory course for non-science majors that aims to give students a background in what drugs are, how drugs affect the body, and how a drug is discovered and approved for public use.  This course will cover basic concepts in human physiology, the cellular and molecular level aspects of drug function, and ethical considerations surrounding drug testing and drug use to treat childhood dysfunctions.  The laboratory section of this course will include hands-on demonstrations of the scientific method, detailed case studies, and exercises that promote scientific literacy and critical evaluation of marketing claims. If this course is taught as a cluster, students must also register for EDU 201, where different disabilities are discussed on a weekly basis that correspond with drugs and treatments discussed in BIO 112. Staff.

BIO 113 Global and American Epidemics. An introductory course for non-science majors, which explores the causes, pathology, epidemiology and treatment of infectious diseases, through examples of epidemics that have occurred throughout history in the United States and that are occurring currently around the globe. We will also take a look at emerging diseases such as hemorrhagic fevers and multi-drug resistant infections. BIO 113 is a service learning course. Students will be expected to participate in an ongoing, service learning project which includes the development of educational materials to enhance the education of school children in Africa. A laboratory component is included and BIO 113 fulfills the SD IP requirement for graduation. K. Robertson.

BIO 151 Biology of Sex (4 SH). A course for non-science majors, examining biological aspects of human sexuality. Content covered will include male and female reproductive anatomy and physiology, the biology of sexual responses, sexual dysfunctions, genetic basis of sex, sexual development, pregnancy and birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, and biological perspectives on gender identity. While the course focuses on a biological understanding of sex, information and perspectives from other disciplines will be liberally incorporated. Laboratories will both reinforce specific course content as well as provide opportunity for students to apply scientific methodology and hypothesis testing. Course subjects and materials are frank, explicit and graphic; suggested for students with serious interest and mature sensibilities. If this course is offered as a cluster, students must also register for ENG 106. J. Robertson.

 

Foundations Sequence for Biology and Molecular Biology Majors


The following four courses serve as the Foundations sequence for biology and molecular biology majors. The first three courses (BIO 201, 202, and 203) must be completed in sequence. BIO 206 requires sucessful completion of BIO 201 (C- or better). All four courses listed below must be successfully completed (C- or better) prior to Capstone (BIO 601).

BIO 201 Cell Biology and Genetics (4 SH). This course serves as an introduction for students who have chosen biology or molecular biology as a major or minor. A combination of lectures, laboratory exercises, and assignments will introduce students to ways of observing and thinking about fundamental concepts and processes in the following areas of biology—biochemistry, cell structure and function, metabolism, genetics, and biotechnology. Various resources will be utilized to reinforce biological concepts, learn new laboratory skills, and improve critical thinking skills. Offered Fall Semester. Biology faculty.

BIO 202 Evolution, Form and Function (4 SH). BIO 202 is the second in a series of three foundational courses in biology, designed to serve as an introduction for students who are taking a biology or molecular biology major or minor. Using explorative lectures coupled with investigative laboratories, BIO 202 will focus on evolution, the structure and physiology of plants and animals, and animal development. Concepts and practices of experimental design, data analysis, and interpretation of results will be reinforced and extended through integrated laboratory activities. Prerequisite: completion of BIO 201. Offered Spring Semester. Biology faculty.

BIO 203 Biodiversity and Ecology (4 SH). This course is the last in a series of three foundational courses in biology, and serves as an introduction for students who have chosen biology as a major or minor. A combination of lectures, laboratory exercises, and assignments will introduce you to the diversity or organisms and their ecological interactions. Various resources will be utilized to reinforce biological concepts, enhance the learning experience and use of practical skills, and to improve critical thinking skills (textbooks, scientific journals, laboratory experiments, writing assignments, etc.). Prerequisite: completion of BIO 202. Offered Fall Semester. Biology faculty.

BIO 206 Biostatistics and Experimental Design (4 SH). An introductory course in experimental design and data analysis designed to encourage an understanding and appreciation of the role of experimentation, hypothesis testing, and data analysis in biology. The course will emphasize principles of experimental design, methods of data collection, exploratory data analysis, and the use of graphical and statistical tools commonly used by biologists to analyze data. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 201. Biology faculty.

 

Course Offerings for Departmental and Interdisciplinary Majors


The following upper-level courses fulfill concentration requirements for biology and moleculary biology programs and may serve as electives within the biology, molecular biology, environmental science, and neuroscience programs. BIO 601 and 602 (Capstone) are required for all biology and molecular biology majors.

BIO 301 Microbiology (4 SH). A study of the diversity in viruses, bacteria, fungi, and algae with an emphasis on the role of evolution in generating the diversity found in microorganisms. Consideration will be given to various energy metabolisms, genetic strategies, molecular systematics, and microbial adaptations that allow such diversity. Also considered will be the importance of microorganisms in medical, industrial, and environmental settings. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 201. Offered Spring Semester. J. Balczon.

BIO 302 Cell and Molecular Biology (4 SH). A study of molecular structure and function in eukaryotic cells.  Topics include organic molecules that contribute to cells the function of cells, membrane transport and signal transduction, gene expression, intracellular transport, structure and motility, energy conversions, tissue composition and cell division. Laboratory exercises will reinforce many of concepts covered in lecture. Required for the molecular biology major. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 201. Offered Fall Semester. K. Resendes.

BIO 303 Molecular Genetics and Heredity (4 SH). This course serves as a broad introduction to the structure and function of nucleic acids, processes that regulate expression of genetic information, and processes that direct inheritance of genetic information. Prokaryotic and eukaryotic organism will serve as model systems for studying topics such as nucleic acid structure, function, replication, damage, repair, and control of gene expression. Additional topics include, but are not limited to, Mendelian genetics, epigenetics, population genetics, and the genetics of cancer. Weekly laboratory exercises are an essential component of this class and will be used to explore various molecular and biochemical techniques for isolating, replicating and analyzing nucleic acid sequence as well as studying modes of inheritance. Required for the molecular biology major. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 201. Offered every other Fall Semester. J. Corrette-Bennett.

BIO 304 Developmental Biology (4 SH). A study of the mechanisms of organism development from fertilization to birth. Both molecular and classical morphologic aspects of development are covered, with emphasis on the vertebrates. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 201 and sophmore status. K. Robertson.

BIO 334 Physiology (4 SH). An introduction to the physiology of cells and animals. Major emphasis is placed on the functional interrelationships that exist within cells and organisms. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 202. Offered Fall Semester. M. Furimsky.

BIO 335 Anatomy and Physiology I (4 SH). First of a two-course sequence studying the anatomical and physiological principles of the human body, including a survey of the major organ systems of the human body and their relationship to health and disease. Emphasis is placed on cells, tissues, and the musculo-skeletal, nervous, and endocrine systems. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 202. Offered Fall Semester, alternate years. J. Robertson.

BIO 336 Anatomy and Physiology II (4 SH). Second of the two-course sequence studying the anatomical and physiological principles of the human body. Emphasis is placed on the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, urinary, immune, and reproductive systems. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 335. Offered Spring Semester, alternate years. J. Robertson.

BIO 337 Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy (4 SH). A study of the phylogenetic history of the vertebrates through gross anatomy. Emphasis is placed on adaptive radiation of structures which are homologous through the classes of the vertebrate subphylum. The laboratory includes dissection of representative vertebrates. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 202. Offered Spring Semester, alternate years. J. Robertson.

BIO 338 Evolution (4 SH). A study of the population as the unit of evolution. Considered are the origins of life, gene pools and genetic equilibrium, adjustments and adaptations to the environment including natural selection, fluctuations in numbers, genetic drift, polymorphism, isolation, and the origin of races and species. A laboratory is included with some field work. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 202. Offered alternate years. J. Robertson.

BIO 360 Ecology (4 SH). A study of the structure of ecological populations, communities, and ecosystems, and the processes that affect them. Topics include population growth, regulation and dynamics, population interactions, food webs, species diversity, succession, biogeography, and energy flow and nutrient cycling. Laboratories stress experimental design and data analysis. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 203. J. Balczon. (Also listed as ES 360.)

BIO 361 Biological Diversity (4 SH). An in-depth, cross-sectional study of the diversity of eukaryotic organisms. Pertinent to this course is the evolutionary process which is centered on adaptation, diversity, natural selection and speciation. Topics include paleontology, life histories, survival strategies in feeding and reproduction, biogeography and patterns of extinction. The social, ethical and political consequences of human activities will also be addressed. This course assumes reasonable knowledge of all major taxa and schemes of taxonomy. The laboratory component will consist primarily of field work. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 203. Offered Fall Semester.

BIO 363 Animal Behavior (4 SH). An introduction to the fascinating fields of animal behavior and cognition. This course focuses on the relationships between animals and their environments through adaptation, communication and social organization. It also explores other exciting issues such as, what animal behavior can teach us about ourselves, how economic game theory has been used to explain evolution of behavior, and how our understanding of animal behavior is changing the way we treat them. The lab component consists mainly of field work and bench work in the form of animal observations and a possible field trip to a wild animal facility. Prerequisites: C- or better in BIO 202 or PSY 201; willingness to spend significant amounts of time watching animals. K. Robertson. (Also listed as PSY 315.)

BIO 401 Recombinant DNA and Biotechnology (4 SH). This course examines traditional and more recent advances in nucleic acid analysis and manipulation. Topics include genome analysis, subcloning, sequencing, gene expression, microarrays, RNAi, bioinformatics, vaccine development, pharmacogenomics, and gene therapy. Information literacy assignments reinforce topics covered in lecture and lab. Weekly laboratory exercises are an essential component of this class and will be used to reinforce and explore many of the concepts covered in lecture. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 302 or 303. Offered Spring Semester. J. Corrette-Bennett.

BIO 402 Biology of Infectious Disease (4 SH). This course investigates the causes, pathology, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, as well as the mammalian immune response to infection. The course is in a lecture/discussion format with focus on case studies and readings from primary literature, as well as the laboratory investigation of infective agents. Some field work, including a possible field trip to a water treatment plant, is an important feature of the class. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 301 or 302 or 303.

BIO 403 Biology of Cancer. This course provides students with a general introduction to the nature of cancer, a conceptual understanding of the molecular events underlying the development of human cancers, and an historical perspective on its underlying causes, including the role of tumor viruses, cellular oncogenes and tumor suppressors. The larger implications of these causes will be addressed by studying the mechanisms of tumorigenesis, metastasis, and angiogensis.  In addition, students will investigate the development and clinical use of therapies based on major discoveries in cancer research. This is a textbook-based course, but will involve substantial use of the related primary literature and will include a laboratory component exploring a range of techniques used in the study of cancer biology. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO302. Offered Spring Semester. K. Resendes.

BIO 433 Behavioral Neuroscience (4 SH). Analysis of how nervous systems activity underlies sensory, perceptual and higher cognitive activities including motivation, memory, language, thought and mental illness. A laboratory is included. D. Buffalari. (Also listed corss-listed as NS 341 and PSY 341.)

BIO 434 Neurobiology (4 SH). This course is an exploration of advanced topics in the field of neurobiology, with the focus being the nervous system as the central control and integrating system in animals. It reviews fundamental neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, as well as more specific topics such as sensory systems, neuroendocrinology and nervous system development and disease. Recent advances published in the field of neurobiology will also be discussed. The lab component will be complementary to material covered during lectures. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 334 or BIO 335. Offered Spring Semester in alternate years.  M. Furimsky.

BIO 461 Field Biology (4 SH). This course examines the local flora and fauna and is based upon field observation, natural history, and identification of local plants and animals. The lab component will involve extensive field work, including techniques for monitoring and assessment, and will be a major focus of this course. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 338, 360, or 361.

BIO 463 Marine Biology (4 SH). A detailed study of marine organisms and their interactions with physical, chemical, and biological factors in their environment.  Adaptations of the most important groups of marine organisms will be examined from evolutionary, ecological, and physiological points of view.  Major marine ecosystems will be described.  In addition, the course will examine how marine organisms and ecosystems are affected by human activities and how those activities affect the future of ocean resources on Earth.  Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 338, 360, or 361.Offered Spring Semester, alternate years. A. Throckmorton.

BIO 464 Freshwater Biology (4 SH). A study of inland water systems, including lakes, rivers, estuaries, and wetlands. The biological, physical, and chemical features of these systems are described, and the interaction between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems is discussed. A laboratory emphasizing field work is included. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 338, 360, or 361. A. Throckmorton.

BIO 465 Introduction to GIS (4 SH). This course is an introduction to the theory and use of Geographic Information Systems, including the fundamental concepts of GIS, capabilities of GIS, and applications for dealing with spatial data. Key issues for discussion will include data input, data models, database design and database queries, sources of information for spatial databases, spatial analysis, computational algorithms, and information presentation. Other issues such as the nature of geographic phenomena to be represented in a GIS, comparisons of different GIS representational schemes, and appropriate use of geographic information will also be covered. These topics will be discussed within an environmental context using ArcView, a PC-based GIS software package. A. Throckmorton. (Also listed as ES 465.)

BIO 520, 521 Biology Travel Course (4 SH). A combination of on-campus study, with off-campus study in a natural setting to gain firsthand knowledge of biological concepts and principles that are particularly well illustrated in the region being studied. Experiential, problem-based learning is emphasized. The specific region, topics, and focus are likely to change with each offering. Biology faculty.

BIO 560, 570, 580, 590 Field Experience/Internship (1-4 SH). An experience plannee cooperatively with a research center, laboratory, clinic, government agency, or similar institution. The course does not replace any of the three biology elective courses for a biology major. Prerequisite: department approval after submission of an internship application.

BIO 601 Biology Capstone (2 SH). The first semester of a two-course sequence emphasizing biological discovery and the synthesis of knowledge and skills from previous courses in the major. Focus of the capstone is on application of the scientific method through the design, execution, analysis, and presentation of an experimental study. In the spring of their junior year, students produce a formal proposal for research to be completed in the second half of the capstone, BIO 602.Required of all biology and molecular biology majors. Prerequisites: Junior standing and successful completion of BIO 201, 202, 203, and 206, and Junior or senior status. Offered Spring Semester. Biology faculty.

BIO 602 Biology Capstone (2 SH). The second semester of the capstone experience. Students in the class perform individual studies that were proposed in the prior semester, analyze their data, and present the results of their research in an appropriate forum. Required of all biology and molecular biology majors. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 601. Offered Fall Semester. Biology faculty.

BIO 620, 630, 640, 650 Independent Study (1-4 SH). Prerequisite: department approval after submission of a proposal.

BIO 660, 670, 680, 690 Honors Research (2-4 SH). Prerequisites: Successful completion of BIO 201, 202, 203, and 206 and a minimum GPA of 3.500 (total GPA, and GPA of courses in the major) are required to be considered for Honors Research. Honors Scholars are expected to attend and participate in BIO 601 while they write their Honors proposal. Honors status will be assessed and reviewed at various points during the Honors research project by an Honors Committee and select members of the biology department.