Biol 470 - Information and Communication - Fall 2001
310 Higley Hall
102 Higley Hall
last update - 01/04/2002
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:
Leading class discussions: Each student will be responsible for leading seminar 2-3 times during the semester, as part of a small group (to be assigned randomly). The group will choose articles to be assigned as reading; these articles must be approved by the instructors 10 days prior to the seminar date. This reading assignment will be provided to the entire class one week prior to the seminar date. The group will meet with the instructors before the seminar, preferably on Thursday afternoon. The group should compose two discussion questions prior to this meeting, and these discussion questions will be distributed by e-mail on the Friday preceding seminar (see weekly response papers). The group should briefly present the articles (no more than 20 minutes total), and then facilitate class discussion. Class activities that help to demonstrate concepts and provoke discussion are encouraged.
response papers: Each week you will be
provided with TWO questions related to the assigned reading, to be distributed
by e-mail on Friday afternoon. Write no more than a ONE PAGE response to
ONE of these questions. Weekly response papers are due at the start of
seminar, and will be graded for effort and thoughtfulness. Weekly response
papers are not required of students who are leading discussion for the
week in question.
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 (see schedule). Students will give
a brief (no more than 10 minute) PowerPoint presentation on their papers
during the final week of the semester.
attendance and participation are a critical part of your responsibility
in this seminar course, and will be included in determining your grade
(see below). To participate intelligently in class, it is essential that
you read and thoughtfully consider the assigned material before each class.
We do not expect class participation to necessarily reflect "polished"
or fully formed arguments. You are encouraged to explore an idea, suggest
a possibility, or point out an area of confusion. You will not be graded
on how "correct" your class participation is, but rather on how engaged
you are with the material. Peer-review in the context of scheduled writing
workshops is an integral part of course participation.
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. It is your responsibility to understand and adhere to Kenyon's policies on academic honesty.
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 work:
Please contact the Office of Disability Services at 5145 to schedule an appointment. The Coordinator of Disability Services, Erin Salva (firstname.lastname@example.org), 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.
SRR = Songs, Roars, and Rituals: Communication in Birds, Mammals and Other Animals by Lesley J. Rogers and Gisela Kaplan
TL = The
Touchstone of Life: Molecular Information, Cell Communication, and the Foundations
of Life by Werner R. Loewenstein
|8/27||concepts of information and communication||CG & KH||SRR Ch. 1, TL Ch. 1||topic brainstorming|
|9/3||information flow||CG & KH||SRR Ch. 2-3, TL Ch. 5||topic brainstorming|
|9/10||paradigms of communication||CG & KH||SRR Ch. 4-5, TL Ch. 7-9||topic due,
|CG & KH||SRR Ch. 6-7, TL Ch. 2-4, 6||outline due|
|9/24||signal to noise||CG & KH||
|10/1||signal complexity||BL, MB, BR||
|10/15||host-vector and cross species comm.||AN,AR,LS||
||rough draft due|
|CG & KH||
|10/29||abiotic context (harsh environments)||CB, JS, DS||
||discussion leading workshop|
|11/5||mating and fitness
info flow and integration
|DS, JS, MB||
2000. Identification of sex, age and species-specific proteins on the surface of the harpacticoid copepod Tigriopus japonicus. Marine Biology (Berlin) 137: 31-37.
|11/12||modality||CG & KH||
info flow and integration
|BR, BL, LS||
|12/3||homeostasis||AR, CB, AN||
oral presentation workshop
|12/10||class presentations||all oral