Kenyon College
Biol 470 - Information and Communication - Fall 2001

Chris Gillen
310 Higley Hall
Karen Hicks
102 Higley Hall

last update - 3/16/01

Overview:  One of the defining characteristics of life is the capacity for receiving, storing, processing, and sharing information. This is true of the entire range of biological entities, from  macromolecules through organisms to populations. For example, the acetylcholine receptor receives information by binding acetylcholine, stores this information by altering its molecular shape, processes this infomation, and shares this information through interaction with other macromolecules. This process leads to a cellular response, the generation of an action potential. At the other end of the spectrum, an individual bird within a feeding flock receives visual information regarding the presence of a predator, stores and processes this information in its brain, and then communicates this information via an auditory signal to other members of the flock. This process results in a behavioral response, the nearly simultaneous escape flight of birds within the flock. Our aim will be to explore the fundamental principles of information and communication, integrating ideas from the entire range of biological systems. We will consider a broad range of organisms, including prokaryotes, fungi, plants, and animals.

This senior-level seminar class will rely heavily on the primary literature.  Students will orally present and critique relevant papers.   A synthetic paper (12-15 pages) will be the major course assignment.  Some class time will be devoted to "workshop" sessions where students will provide peer review on each otherís work.

Topics: Students will contribute to the selection of topics to be addressed in this course. Some general areas to be considered include

Text and reading: In addition to primary literature, we will use two texts for this class:

Paper: One 12-15 page paper will be assigned, with several drafts due throughout the semester. In addition, some class time will be devoted to "workshop" sessions where students will provide peer review on each otherís work.

Grading: You are entitled to know how you are doing at any point in the class. Please see us if you are concerned about where you currently stand in this class.

Leading class discussions = 20%
Weekly response papers = 20%
Participation = 25%
Paper = 30%
Oral presentation of paper = 5%

Academic honesty: This class will follow the official Kenyon College position on academic honesty.

Need help?: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. If you have a disability and therefore may have need for some type of accommodation(s) in order to participate fully in this class, please feel free to discuss your concerns in private with me and also self identify yourself to Erin Salva, Coordinator of Disability Services at PBX 5453 or via e-mail at SALVAE.

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