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Bi o 324: Mol ecul ar Bi ol ogy: Fal l 2012

Instructor: Joseph Osmundson


Office: OH 214
Email: joosmundson@vassar.edu
Office Hours: M 2p-3p; T 12:30-1:30 and by appointment
Telephone: x7419
Class: Room 203, M/W 9:00-10:10am
Text: (recommended) Watson, J. et al. 2005. Molecular Biology of the Cell, 5
th
ed.
Pearson, Benjamin Cummings.

This course will examine information flow within cells. The information stored in DNA sequence
must be faithfully copied with each cell division and used at the correct time and place. We will
examine how DNA is replicated and how gene expression is able to integrate complex signals to
respond to various stimuli. While the course will provide theoretical background in nucleic acid
chemistry and biochemistry, emphasis will placed be on in-depth examination of primary research
in molecular biology, including both important historic studies and current papers.

Learni ng Obj ect i ves:

Molecular Biology will introduce students to the critical reading of scientific research articles.
Students should gain the ability to read and analyze primary literature, with a special emphasis on
independently evaluating data. Students will increase their understanding for the scientific method,
how experiments are designed and carried out, and how one can design further experiments based
upon current research.

Students will gain familiarity with techniques currently used in molecular biology research labs and
the tools required to access the massive amount of sequence information available online. These
skills will give students the ability to analyze novel research findings and to design experiments
based on published work.

Students will be expected to participate in and eventually to lead classroom discussions, improving
their presentations skills and ability to teach fundamental principals to their peers. Therefore,
students are expected to go beyond simply understanding primary literature to being able to
comfortable discussing and presenting research articles in a variety of settings.

GRADING AND EXPECTATIONS:

This course is designed to be a seminar where students will often lead discussions. Therefore,
throughout the semester, student participation will be critical to the success of the course. The
majority of the assignments will be presentations and student led discussions. Students are
expected to come to class having read the assigned material. When assigned to present on a topic,
students should gain a mastery of that topic so that they can teach their peers and respond to
questions from other students and the professor.

At t endance and l at eness:
Because participation in class discussion will be central to our learning process, students are
expected to attend class regularly. Absences may justify grade reduction. For significant lateness, the
instructor may consider the tardiness as an absence for the day.


Cel l phones/ Comput ers:
Cell phones are to be turned OFF (not on silent) for the duration of the class.

Computers are not to be used in class (including for note taking) except when specifically permitted
by the instructor (for in-class exercises).

Text book readi ngs:
Textbook readings are designed to supplement the material in the lecture and journal articles. The
textbook reading is highly recommended as our class time will largely focus on primary literature.

GRADING

10% : Weekl y part i ci pat i on
The success of this class depends on active participation by all students. Students are expected to
attend class regularly, and each class will end with a short response paper. Additionally, students
will be expected to post a response on Moodle by MIDNIGHT the night before a class in which
a research article will be presented (as indicated on the schedule).

10% : Nucl ei c Aci d St ruct ure Qui z
Understanding the research that will be presented throughout the semester will require a basic
knowledge of the structure and function of nucleic acids on a chemical and biochemical level. This
brief quiz, based primarily on the lecture on Class 2 but also on the Cloning Module, will ensure
that students have the requisite background to understand subsequent assignments.

10% : Cl oni ng Proj ect
In this project, students will design a novel cloning strategy, including designing PCR primers and
restriction digests to ligate a gene into a cloning vector. This project will also give students the tool
necessary to navigate online sequence databases that contain huge repositories of publically
produced and publically available data.

30%: Cl ass present at i ons
Student participation in classroom discussions will be absolutely necessary for the functionality of
the course. Students will be expected to make presentations of the assigned journal articles five
times throughout the semester. Students will be expected to clearly understand the material they
are presenting and be able to answer questions from their peers and instructor about the reading.
Special emphasis will be given on the students understanding of the techniques and methods in
question.

Students will receive a grade each week they have an in-class presentation. Grades will be given the
weekend after the class to help prepare for the next weeks assignment. Grades will emphasize
improvement based on previous evaluations.

20% : Fi nal Present at i on
At the end of the semester, students will have the opportunity to choose and present an article.
Students will work in small groups to lead the discussion of a recent journal article focused on
molecular biology or using molecular techniques to answer an important biological question.
Students will be responsible for teaching the techniques to their peers and facilitating discussion.

20%: Fi nal Exam
Students will take a final exam focused on reading and discussing a primary research article.
Information to come.


Gradi ng Scal e
100%-92% A
91.9%-90% A-
89.9%-87% B+
86.9%-83% B
82.9%-80% B-
79.9%-77% C+
76.9%-73% C
72.9%-70% C-
69.9%-67% D+
66.9%-63% D
62.9%-60% D-
59.9%- F

St udent s wi t h Di sabi l i t i es:
Academic accommodations are available for students with disabilities who are registered with the
Office of Disability and Support Services. Please schedule an appointment with me early in the
semester to discuss any accommodations for this course which have been approved by the Director
of Disability and Support Services as indicated in your DSS accommodation letter.