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Biol 113 - From Cell to Organism - Fall 2001
Instructor: Chris Gillen
310 Higley Hall , PBX 5399, e-mail:

Textbook:Purves, Orians and Heller (2001) Life: The Science of Biology, 6th ed. Sinauer/Freeman. (This text is also used in BIOL 112 and BIOL 114.)  Required reading is indicated below. Please read the assigned material before attending class.  Additional and supplementary reading will be available on course reserve.

About the Course:This course covers the study of life from the biochemical to the physiological levels. Much of the focus will be on cellular processes that are vital to life. The course is designed to introduce the students to the process of scientific thinking as well as to the principles of biochemistry, cell biology, and physiology. We will discuss current research methods and approaches to unanswered questions.  This is one of the courses in Biology at the foundation level, the others are BIOL109, 110, 112 and 114. There are NO prerequisites, and enrollment is open to both majors and non-majors. BIOL 113 provides a background for more advanced courses in cellular and organismal biology. 

Students who are comfortable with their high-school biology and chemistry will find this course an appropriate challenge as a first course in biology. Those who are less comfortable may find BIOL 112 more amenable as a first course in biology.

How to do well in this class: 

Responsibilities of each student

  • Stay in contact with the instructor. If you have a question, problem, or are concerned with how you are doing in this course, contact me by e-mail, phone, during office hours or in class. If at any time, you feel that you do not have the proper background to understand the material that is being presented, please let me know. 
  • Attend class. My exams are based on the material we cover in lecture. Lectures will cover some material not contained in the readings. See the attendance policy below.
  • Learn the vocabulary. You can not understand complex biological concepts if you are not familiar with the words that are being used. Definitions can be found in the glossary of your textbook and the online dictionaries linked to the online syllabus.
  • Read the textbook assignments before coming to class. 
  • Review textbook assignments and your notes after each class to consolidate material. 
Other opportunities for help
  • Attend weekly review sessionsweekly review session will be held. I will respond to student questions during these sessions. Questions can be very specific (i.e. what is cytochrome C?) or very general (i.e. will you please go over the Krebs cycle again?). 
  • Connect with your peers in the class by attending the student study sessions or informally meeting with your peers. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7-9 PM, Room 205 in Higley Hall (the seminar room) is reserved for Biol 113 students to use for group study sessions. This is an opportunity to work through your understanding of the material with the other students in the course. Students at all levels benefit from these sessions. If you understand the material, you will gain a deeper understanding of the material by discussing it with your peers. If you are unclear about something, your peers may be able to explain it in a different way than it was presented in the lecture. 
  • The textbook website has an outstanding resources. The section on improving study skills ( Click on "Student Survival Skills: How to be a Better Biology Student") may be particularly useful. Tutorials and self-quizzes are also available to help you review the material.
  • Contact the instructor. In addition to the formal opportunities for help listed above, there are many other mechanisms for accessing help in this course. Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
How to contact the instructor: Office hours and e-mail are the best ways to make contact with me.
  • E-mail. I check my e-mail routinely during the normal working day, and can respond to many questions very quickly. E-mail is also a good first contact to make; we can arrange an in-person meeting if necessary. Please note that I generally will not check my e-mail in the evening, please do not expect rapid responses to e-mails sent in the evening.
  • Office hours. My office hours will be posted on the door to my office (Higley 310) and on my web homepage, and they will be announced in class. Please know that you need not have a very specific question or problem in order to come to office hours. Sometimes the most important visits are ones where we discuss general strategies for doing well in the course.
Class attendance and participation: Attendance is expected, and will be recorded. Excessive unexcused absences will not be allowed. Excused absences will be granted for students on the excused absence list, with sicknesses that can be verified through the health center, and for varsity athletics. Other reasonable excuses will be considered, so long as they are provided before class. Attendance and class participation will count toward the final grade. The college provides that an excess of 3 unexcused absences can result in lowered grade. Grades will be reduced by a third of a letter grade for each set of 3 unexcused absences.

Please note that assignments missed due to an excused absence must be made up. It is the responsibility of the student to make arrangements to do so with the instructor. When a quiz or exam conflicts with an excusable event (i.e. varsity athletic game), the student must contact the instructor one week before quiz or exam is scheduled to arrange for an alternate time. Ordinarily, this will be before the rest of the class takes the quiz or exam. 

Exams and quizzes:  There will be 4 one-hour exams, each covering the material in that section of the course, including what is covered in the lecture just prior to the exam. Exam dates may be moved forward or back. Timing of exams and quizzes will only be changed with at least one week notice and only after consultation with the class. The fourth exam is held during the scheduled final exam period, the other exams are held during the normal class period.. All 4 exams will count equally in computing the final grade.  There will also be four 10 minute quizzes; some may be take-home assignments.

Academic honesty:This class will follow the official Kenyon College position on academic honesty. Read pages 27-30 in the 2001-2002 course of study. Unless specifically stated, work in this class is expected to be your own. If you work with others on an assignment where it is allowed, you must acknowledge the collaboration at the end of the assignment.

Grading:Over many years, the range of average grades on exams in this course is between 55 and 75%, and the average grade in the course is B-. A "curve" is needed to translate the raw exam grades into appropriate letter grades. The curve in this course will work in the following way. I will set a grade range for the curve before the exam is administered based on the average exam grades from prior years. Thus, you will not be competing among yourselves, but rather against a fixed curve. If everyone performs very well, then many high grades will be assigned. This policy is intended to encourage cooperation among students in the course, rather than competition. I reserve the right to alter the curve in a way that benefits the entire class, but I will not alter the curve to lower grades.

  • 75% - 4 one hour exams.
  • 15% - 4 10-minute quizzes. Some quizzes may be take-home.
  • 10% - class attendance and participation
Students with special needs: If you have specific physical, psychological or learning disabilities that require an accommodation to allow you to carry out assigned course
  • Please let me know early in the semester (within the first week) so that your learning needs may be appropriately met .
  • Please contact the Office of Disability Services at 5145 to schedule an appointment. The Coordinator of Disability Services, Erin Salva (, will review your concerns and determine, with you, what accommodations are appropriate. All information and documentation of disability is confidential. No accommodations of any kind will be given in this course without notification from the Coordinator of Disability Services. 
Schedule and reading: The schedule given below is tentative and may change depending on the needs of the class as we progress through the semester. Please check this website regularly to view the updated schedule, I will also send the class an e-mail if major changes are made to the schedule. Timing of exams and quizzes will only be changed with at least one week notice and only after consultation with the class. 

Reading assignments are given for each lecture. Read the assigned material before class to become familiar with terms and concepts. Then, review the textbook to consolidate your understanding after class. When a chapter only is indicated as reading material, the entire chapter is assigned. When page numbers follow a chapter, only the specific pages listed are assigned. When "overview" is indicated, you should look over the chapter to become familiar with it, but specific pages will also be assigned later.

Date Topic Reading Assignments
-- Introduction to the course Study skill tutorial:
Click on "Student Survival Skills: How to be a Better Biology Student"
8/27 Course overview Chapter 1. Chapter 4 (overview). This syllabus. --
8/29 Diversity of cell structure and function, intro to macromolecules Chapter 2 (overview). Chapter 3 (overview). Chapter 12, 218-223. -- 
-- The origin of cellular life --  -- 
8/31 Which came first Protein, DNA, or RNA? Chapter 25. -- 
9/3 The prokaryotic cell. Chapter 4, Chapter 26 p. 459-464. -- 
9/5 The eukaryotic cell. Chapter 4. Chapter 5 (overview). -- 
9/7 Cell structure continued. Chapter 4. Chapter 5 (overview). Quiz 1
-- Communication --  -- 
9/10 Prions and viruses Chapter 13, 239-245. Chapter 18, 332-335. -- 
9/12 Cell signaling - overview. 
Protein structure - chemical bonds
Chapter 15 (279-282). Chapter 2, 16-28. Chapter 3, 34-42. -- 
Protein structure - amino acids. 
Chapter 2, 16-33. Chapter 3, 34-42. -- 
Membrane structure - lipids.
Biological membranes
Chapter 2, 24-25. Chapter 3, 49-53. 
Chapter 5, 79-85 and 90-94. 
Protein processing and localization, the endomembrane network
Chapter 4, 64-67. -- 
9/21 Exam 1 -- --
9/24 Hormones, examples from plants and animals Chapter 37, Chapter 41. -- 
9/26 Action potentials - overview - the neuron Chapter 44, 773- 785 -- 
Membrane permeability - transport proteins
Chapter 5, 85-91. -- 
The synapse
Chapter 44, 785-793. -- 
Structure and shape of neurons, the cytoskeleton
Chapter 4, 72-78. Chapter 44, 773- 785 -- 
-- Energy transfer -- --
10/5 Overview Chapter 6  Quiz 2
10/8 October break -- --
10/10 Energetics Chapter 6  -- 
10/12 Enzymes Chapter 6  -- 
10/15 Cell Respiration - Overview and Carbohydrates Chapter 3, 43-46 -- 
10/17 Exam 2 -- --
Chapter 7  -- 
TCA cycle
Chapter 7  --
Oxidative phosphorylation
Chapter 7  -- 
10/26 Photosynthesis - Overview  Chapter 8  Quiz 3
Chapter 8  --
Light Reactions
Chapter 8  -- 
Dark reactions  Structure of plant cells - C3 and C4 plants.
Chapter 8  -- 
11/5  Summary of metabolism, energy balance. Chapter 8 Energy balance figure  Leptin paper (optional reading) -- 
11/7  Exam 3 -- -- 
11/9 Plant nutrition Chapter 36 --
-- Transport -- --
11/12 Plant vascular structure Chapter 34 and 35 -- 
11/14 Mechanisms of transport in plants Chapter 34 and 35 --
11/16  Plant responses to environmental challenges Chapter 39  -- 
11/19 Thanksgiving break -- --
11/26  Animal Respiration Chapter 48 Plant salt tolerance (optional reading)
Arabidopsis Na/H exchanger  (optional reading)
11/28  Animal Circulation Chapter 49  -- 
11/30 Kidney and fluid balance Chapter 51  Quiz 4 
-- Movement -- -- 
12/3 Sensory systems Chapter 45 --
12/5 Integration - the brain Chapter 46  -- 
12/7 Muscle Chapter 47  -- 
12/9  make-up / special topic --  -- 
12/15 Final exam - 1:30 PM --  -- 


Cells alive

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