Courses

Course details are listed below.  For more information about their availability during the academic year, please visit the course catalog.

100-level courses | 200-level courses | 300-level courses | Departmental Honors

BISC 103 Human Biology

The anatomy and physiology of human tissues, organs, and organ systems will be the focus of this course, intended for students seeking to fulfill natural/physical science requirements. The course will be structured around four week-long units. Each unit will consist of four lecture/discussions and one computer laboratory module (Weblab). Weblabs will consist of medical case studies focused on the lecture and discussion material for that week.
Prerequisite: None. Not open to students who have taken BISC 109.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 104 Science or Science Fiction?

This course will examine the scientific facts behind phenomena portrayed in a variety of Hollywood and foreign movies. We will cover topics ranging from the definition and recreation of life, genetics and behavior to evolution and environmental issues. The course will include weekly screenings of movies outside of class time as well as lectures, assigned readings and discussions. While obtaining an introduction to key concepts in biology, students will also explore misconceptions about science and scientists that are perpetuated by these movies.
Prerequisite: Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 105 Stem Cells: A New Frontier in Biomedicine

The exciting area of stem cell research has led to many recent discoveries. As researchers have learned more about the properties of these amazing cells, many potential biomedical applications have been envisioned. In this course, we will focus on understanding the unique biological properties of stem cells, and how these cells might lead to novel patient therapies. Questions to be addressed include: How were stem cells discovered? Where do stem cells come from, and what are stem cell lines? What are the similarities and differences between embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, and recently discovered "induced pluripotent stem cells"? We will also discuss the bioethical issues and scientific controversies associated with recent stem cell discoveries. Promising areas of current research will be described.
Prerequisite: Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 106 First-year Seminar: Environmental Biology with Laboratory

In this course we will take a "Google Earth" approach to understanding humanity's role on our blue-green planet. We will zoom in from the Earth's energy budget to the evolutionary effects of choices made by individual water striders on a New England stream and we will explore the theoretical and practical implications of our findings. Labs will be conducted primarily out-of-doors: in the snow, at the seashore, on rivers, in lakes, under the forest canopy and over mountaintop. Emphases will be on keen observation, creative thinking, synthesis and extrapolation of ideas, exploration and discoveries large and small, intellectual and physical.
Prerequisite: Open to first-year students only. Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 107 Biotechnology

This course focuses on applications of recently developed biological techniques, including recombinant DNA, antibody techniques and reproductive technology. We will discuss topics ranging from food science, to GMOs, genetic testing and designer babies. The social and ethical issues surrounding these techniques are also discussed. No prior knowledge of biology is expected, as all necessary background information will be discussed.
Prerequisite: Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 108 Environmental Horticulture with Laboratory

This course will examine how plants function, both as individual organisms and as critical members of ecological communities, with special emphasis on human uses of plants. Topics will include plant adaptations, reproduction, environmentally sound landscape practices, urban horticulture, and the use of medicinal plants. The laboratory involves extensive use of the greenhouses, experimental design, data collection and analysis, and field trips.
Prerequisite: Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 109 Human Biology with Laboratory

This course focuses on human anatomy, physiology, and evolution. Lecture topics will include: human origins and evolution; the structure and function of the major physiological systems; exercise physiology; and human genetics. Laboratories explore human physiology, focusing on the development and application of skills in experimental design, statistical analysis and scientific writing.
Prerequisite: Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Not open to students who have taken 103.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science. Fulfills the Quantitative Reasoning overlay course requirement.
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BISC 110 Introductory Cellular and Molecular Biology with Laboratory

A gateway course that focuses on the study of life at the cellular and molecular level, including eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell structure, function of biological macromolecules, cellular metabolism, molecular genetics, and mechanisms of growth and differentiation. This course will provide the fundamental tools for exploration of this field with the aim of enhancing conceptual understanding. Laboratories focus on experimental approaches to these topics and are shared with 112. Either 110/112 or 111/113 may be taken first.
Prerequisite: Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Not open to students who have taken 112.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science.
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BISC 111 Introductory Organismal Biology with Laboratory

A study of life, ranging from the physiology of organisms to the structure of ecosystems. The main themes of the course are: evolution and biodiversity, form and function in plants and animals, and ecological interactions among organisms. The course provides the fundamental tools for exploration of organismal biology with the aim of enhancing conceptual understanding. Laboratories focus on experimental approaches to these topics and are shared with 113. Either 110/112 or 111/113 may be taken first.
Prerequisite: Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Not open to students who have taken 113.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science. Fulfills the Quantitative Reasoning overlay course requirement
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BISC 111T Introductory Organismal Biology with Laboratory (Tropical Island)

Introduction to the central questions, concepts, and methods of experimental analysis in selected areas of organismal biology with a focus on tropical island biology. Topics include: evolution, ecology, and plant and animal structure and physiology. Lectures and discussions during the Spring semester will prepare students for the field laboratory taught at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute in Little Cayman. Laboratory work will be carried out primarily in the field and includes introductions to the flora and fauna of the island and the coral reefs, as well as group projects. The 10-day field portion of the class will take place in mid May.
Prerequisite: Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Not open to students who have taken 111/113.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science. Fulfills the Quantitative Reasoning overlay course requirement.
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BISC 112 Exploration of Cellular and Molecular Biology with Laboratory

Seminar-style introduction to life at the cellular and molecular level, designed as an alternative to 110 for students with strong high school preparation (such as AP, IB, or other). The course will include eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell structure, function of biological macromolecules, cellular metabolism, molecular genetics, and mechanisms of growth and differentiation, with an emphasis on experimental approaches to investigating these topics. This course will aim to develop students' skills in data analysis and scientific writing along with building foundational knowledge in the field. Lab sections are shared with 110. This course differs from 110 in its small class size and discussionbased format; it meets for one discussion and one lab session per week. Either 110/112 or 111/113 may be taken first.
Prerequisite: A score of 4 or 5 on the Biology AP exam or equivalent experience or permission of instructor. Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. One section in the fall will be open to first-year students only. Not open to students who have taken 110.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 113 Exploration of Organismal Biology with Laboratory

An exploration of the central questions, concepts, and methods of experimental analysis in selected areas of organismal biology, designed as an alternative to 111 for students with strong high school preparation (such as AP, IB, or other). Topics include: the evolution and diversification of life, the form and function of plants and animals, and ecological interactions among organisms, with an emphasis on laboratory methods, data analysis, and science writing. Lab sections are shared with 111. This course differs from 111 in its smaller class size, a seminar-style format, and a focus on discussion of landmark scientific studies that shape this field; it meets for one discussion and one lab session per week Either 110/112 or 111/113 may be taken first.
Prerequisite: A score of 4 or 5 on the Biology AP exam or equivalent experience or permission of instructor. Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. One section in the fall will be open to first-year students only. Not open to students who have taken 111.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science. Fulfills the Quantitative Reasoning overlay course requirement.
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BISC 175/ARTH 175 First-year Seminar: The Art and Science of Food in Italy, from the Renaissance to the Slow Food Movemen

This seminar explores food and agriculture in the art and life of Italy from the Renaissance to the present day. We will analyze methods of and attitudes towards growing, harvesting, and preparing food, as well as the representation of food in art and the material culture surrounding its production and consumption. We also will investigate the biology of relevant crops to understand the nutritional rewards and horticultural and environmental challenges of producing them. Using our Italian food garden, students will keep journals about specific crops and research, harvest, and prepare them using historical recipes. Each week will involve one discussion session based on multidisciplinary readings and one laboratory session that will include work in the Greenhouses, Special Collections, and trips to farms and museums. Students may register for either BISC 175 or ARTH 175 and credit will be granted accordingly. Mandatory credit/non-credit.
Prerequisite: None. Open to first-year students only.
Distribution: None.
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BISC 198 Statistics in the Biosciences

This course combines statistical theory and practical application, the latter using examples from ecology and experimental biology to illustrate some of the more common techniques of experimental design and data analysis. Students will learn how to plan an experiment and consider the observations, measurements, and potential statistical tests before data are collected and analyzed. Other topics include graphical representation of data, probability distributions and their applications, one- and two-way ANOVA and t-tests, regression and correlation, goodness-of-fit tests, and nonparametric alternatives. Students also learn to use statistical computer software.
Prerequisite: Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement and one course in biology, chemistry, or environmental science. Fulfills the Quantitative Reasoning overlay course requirement.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 201 Ecology with Laboratory

An introduction to the scientific study of interactions between organisms and their environments. Topics include evolutionary adaptation in dynamic environments, behavioral ecology and life-history strategies, population growth and regulation, species interactions (competition, parasitism, mutualism, predation) and their consequences, and the structure and function of biological communities and ecosystems. Emphasis is placed on experimental ecology and its uses in addressing environmental issues such as biological control of pests, conservation of endangered species and global climate change. Laboratories occur primarily in the field where students explore and study local habitats, including meadows, forests, alpine tundra, bogs, dunes, marshes, lakes, and streams
Prerequisite: 108 or 111/113 or ES 101 or by permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science. Fulfills the Quantitative Reasoning overlay course requirement.
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BISC 202 Evolution with Laboratory

Examination of evolution, the central paradigm of biology, at the level of populations, species, and lineages. Topics include the genetics of populations, the definition of species, the roles of natural selection and chance in evolution, the reconstruction of phylogeny using molecular and morphological evidence, and patterns in the origination, diversity, and extinction of species over time.
Prerequisites: 110/112 and 111/113
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 203 Comparative Physiology and Anatomy of Vertebrates with Laboratory

The physiology and functional anatomy of vertebrate animals, with an emphasis on comparisons among representative groups. The course covers topics in thermoregulatory, osmoregulatory, reproductive, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, neural and ecological physiology. The laboratories incorporate the study of preserved materials and physiological experiments.
Prerequisite: 109 or 111/113, or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 207 The Biology of Plants with Laboratory

An introduction to experimental plant biology. Topics will include growth and development, stress physiology, plant defense, applications of genetic engineering to the study and improvement of plants and the properties of medicinal plants. The project-oriented laboratory sessions will provide an introduction to some of the techniques currently employed in answering research questions ranging from the organismal to the cellular level.
Prerequisite: 110/112 or 111/113 and permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 209 Microbiology with Laboratory

Overview of the microbial world including a survey of the structure, function, and diversity of microorganisms. Introduction to the fundamental concepts of microbial evolution, genomics, metabolism, ecology, genetics, and pathogenesis. Students will gain experience in microbiological laboratory procedures including sterile technique, microscopy, enrichment, isolation, and methods of identification and preservation.
Prerequisite: 110/112 and one unit of college chemistry
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 210 Marine Biology with Laboratory
Fall Semester 2011
Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the earth's surface and are our planet's primary life support system. This course examines adaptations and interactions of plants, animals and their environments in marine habitats. Focal habitats include the photic zone of the open ocean, the deep-sea, subtidal and intertidal zones, estuaries, and coral reefs. Emphasis is placed on the dominant organisms, food webs, and experimental studies conducted within each habitat. Laboratories will emphasize primarily fieldwork outdoors in marine habitats where students will gather data for the testing of student-originated hypotheses.
Prerequisite: 111/113 or ES 101, or by permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 214 Animal Behavior with Laboratory

In meeting the challenges of survival and reproduction, animals have evolved behaviors that can be spectacular and sometimes unpleasant. With an eye to how behaviors ultimately shape an animal's fitness, we will explore the aspects of life that makes each animal's strategy unique, including communication, orientation, foraging, con?ict and aggression, mating, parental care, and social life. Laboratories will expose students to the challenges of collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and presenting data on animal behavior.
Prerequisite: 109 or 111/113, or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 216 Mechanisms of Animal Development with Laboratory

In this course, we will explore animal development beginning with the process of fertilization. We will consider how a single cell gives rise to the many specialized cell types of the adult and how the development of tissues is coordinated. The mechanisms that determine cell fate during embryonic development will be discussed. Topics will include: embryonic induction, pattern formation, organ development, regeneration, stem cells and aging. Laboratory sessions will focus on experimental approaches to development.
Prerequisite: 110/112 and 111/113, or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 217/ES 217 Field Botany with Laboratory

Field Botany is a combination of "What's that wildflower?" and "Why does it grow over there and not here?" The course merges aspects of plant systematics and identification (with an emphasis on learning the local flora and important plant families) and plant ecology (with an emphasis on ecological interactions and phenomena unique to plants). Laboratories will primarily be taught in the field and greenhouses and will include using dichotomous and web-based keys to identify plants, observational and experimental studies, and longterm study of forest patches on the Wellesley campus. Laboratories will also include experimental design and data analysis. The goal of Field Botany is not only to train students in botany and plant ecology, but to engage them in botany every time they step outside. Students may register for either BISC 217 or ES 217 and credit will be granted accordingly.
Prerequisite: 108 or 111/113 or ES 101 or permission of instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 219 Genetics with Laboratory

The goal of the course is to develop an understanding of the fundamental principles of geneticsat the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. The mechanisms that regulate the control of gene expression leading to alteration in phenotype during cellular differential will be studied. A link will be established between the generation of genetic variants through mutation and recombination, their patterns of inheritance, interactions between genes to produce complex phenotypes and the maintenance of such genetic variation in natural populations. Topics will include: organization of the eukaryotic genome, gene structure and function, multi-level gene control, genetics of pattern formation, inheritance of gene differences, gene and allele interactions and aspects of population and evolutionary genetics. Laboratory investigation will expose students to the fundamentals of genetics including classical and molecular techniques for genetic analysis.
Prerequisite: 110/112 and one unit of college chemistry. Not open to first-year students.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 220 Cellular Physiology with Laboratory

This course will focus on structure/function relationships in eukaryotic cells. Topics include: protein structure and introductory enzyme kinetics, membrane and membrane-bound organelle structure and function, cytoskeleton, transport mechanisms, cell communication, cell cycle, apoptosis, and cancer cell biology with an emphasis on experimental methods for investigating these topics. The laboratory consists of three projects: enzyme purification and characterization, investigation of cellular transport pathways in yeast, and a project involving mammalian cell culture and ?uorescence microscopy.
Prerequisite: 110/112 and two units of college chemistry. One semester of organic chemistry is recommended. Not open to first-year students.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 250 Research or Individual Study

BISC 250H Research or Individual Study

BISC 301 Seminar: Topics in Plant Biology

This seminar will examine the use of recombinant DNA technology to address some of the most pressing agricultural, environmental and healthrelated problems of our day. Topics will include the design and production of genetically modified plants for increased food productivity (especially on marginal lands and in the face of climate change), improved nutritional value, for production of drugs and vaccines and for use as biofuels and in bioremediation. Environmental, social and \ethical issues associated with these technologies will be discussed. Students will analyze, present and discuss original literature throughout the course.
Prerequisite: 219 or 207 or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 302 Human Physiology with Laboratory

This course takes an integrated approach to the study of organ system function in humans. We will examine control mechanisms that allow the body to maintain a constant balance in the face of environmental challenges, such as exercise, temperature change, and high altitude. Our particular focus will be recent findings in the areas of neural, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and muscle physiology. In the laboratory, students gain experience with the tools of modern physiological research at both the cellular and organismal levels.
Prerequisite: 111/113 or NEUR 100, and one of the following: 203, 206, NEUR 200.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 305 Seminar: Evolution

A brief history of life. Origin of life from nonlife, evolution of replicatory molecules, origin of eukaryotic cellular structure, diversification of organic domains, kingdoms and animal phyla, development of strategies for life in terrestrial environments, patterns of extinction. The course will emphasize student participation and make extensive use of the primary literature.
Prerequisite: Two units in Biological Sciences at the 200 level or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 306/NEUR 306 Principles of Neural Development with Laboratory

This course will discuss aspects of nervous system development and how they relate to the development of the organism as a whole. Topics such as neural induction, neurogenesis, programmed cell death, axon guidance, synaptogenesis and the development of behavior will be discussed, with an emphasis on the primary literature and critical reading skills. Laboratory sessions focus on a variety of methods used to define developing neural systems. Students may register for either BISC 306 or NEUR 306 and credit will be granted accordingly.
Prerequisite: 216 or NEUR 200, or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Epistemology and Cognition or Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 307/ES 307 Advanced Topics in Ecology with Laboratory

Prerequisite: Two units in Biological Sciences at the 200-level or above, or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 308 Tropical Ecology with Wintersession Laboratory

Tropical rain forests and coral reefs seem to invite superlatives. They are among the most fascinating, diverse, productive, but also most endangered ecosystems on earth. These topics are addressed during the fall lectures in preparation for the laboratory part of the course which takes place in Central America during wintersession. We first travel to a small island part of an atoll bordering the world's second longest barrier reef off the coast of Belize. In the second half of the field course we explore an intact lowland rain forest in Costa Rica. Laboratory work is carried out primarily outdoors and includes introductions to flora and fauna, and implementation of research projects designed during the fall. Normally offered in alternate years. Subject to Dean's Office approval.
Prerequisite: 201, 207, or 210, and permission of the instructor. Application required.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 310 Advanced Topics in Cellular Regulation with Laboratory

Eukaryotic cells possess a diverse array of molecular circuits that regulate their normal activities and respond to external signals. Common modes of regulation include modulation of protein expression or localization, covalent protein modifications, and protein-protein interactions. This course will examine how these diverse regulatory mechanisms come together to control the cell division cycle and how aberrant regulation maylead to diseases such as cancer. The course format will combine minimal lecturing by the instructor with student presentations and discussion of articles from the scientific literature. The laboratory component will involve a semester-long investigative laboratory project related to the instructor's research.
Prerequisite: 219 or 220 (both recommended).
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 311 Evolutionary Developmental Biology with Laboratory

The diversity of organismal forms has fascinated human beings for centuries. How did butterflies get eyespots? What is the evolutionary origin of bird feathers? How did snakes get to be so long? How did humans evolve? The field of evolutionary developmental biology or evo-devo integrates the long separate fields of evolutionary biology and developmental biology to answer these questions. In this course, we will explore topics such as the evolution of novelties, body plan evolution, developmental constraints, convergent evolution and the role of environmental changes in evolution. Through reading of original papers, we will examine recent advances made in evo-devo and critically analyze the role of evo-devo in biology and the implications beyond biology. Students will have the opportunity to design and conduct an independent research project using arthropods.
Prerequisite: 202, 216 or 219 or by permission of instructor. Not open to students who have taken [309].
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 314 Environmental Microbiology with Laboratory

A field-based exploration of the microbial world centered on distinct microbial habitats visited locally. Short lectures and readings from primary literature will be combined with trips to visit a diverse set of microbial environments where students will collect samples for microbial isolation as well as culture-independent community assessment. In the laboratory, students will learn how to identify and design media for selective isolation of microbes involved in processes such as: methanotrophy, sulfur oxidation, nitrogen fixation, syntrophism and symbiosis, fermentation of ethanol and aging of cheese. Student participation and discussion of original scientific literature will be emphasized
Prerequisite: CHEM 211 plus any of the following: 201, 202, 209, 210, 219 or 220 or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 315/NEUR 315 Neuroendocrinology with Laboratory

Hormones act throughout the body to coordinate basic biological functions such as development, differentiation and reproduction. This course will investigate how hormones act in the brain to regulate physiology and behavior. We will study how the major neuroendocrine axes regulate a variety of functions, including brain development, reproductive physiology and behavior, homeostasis and stress. The regulation of these functions by hormones will be investigated at the molecular, cellular and systems levels. Laboratory experiments will explore various approaches to neuroendocrine research, including the detection of hormone receptors in the brain and analysis of behavior. Students may register for either BISC 315 or NEUR 315 and credit will be granted accordingly.
Prerequisite: NEUR 200, or both BISC 110/112 and BISC 203, or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Epistemology and Cognition or Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 319 Population Genetics and Systematics: Evolution on Islands with Laboratory

In this course, we will focus on patterns of population differentiation and speciation in oceanic islands. Little is known about the ecological and historical forces responsible for speciation although these are key for the generation of biological diversity. By looking at relationships between organisms, populations and species, we can interpret how historical processes can leave evolutionary footprints on the geographic distribution of traits. After a series of introductory lectures, the course will involve student presentations and discussion of primary literature examining cases in archipelagos (Hawaii, Canaries and Galapagos). In the laboratory, we will explore computational biology tools for analysis of DNA sequences, and apply methods of phylogeny, phylogeography reconstruction and population demographics. We will also explore the growing field of molecular dating of evolutionary events.
Prerequisite: 201 or 202 or 210 or 219 or by permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 320 Proteomics with Laboratory

The sequencing of the genomes of many organisms has provided biologists with vast storehouses of information. However, it is important to remember that DNA sequences only provide a recipe for life. To a great extent the living condition arises from the complex interactions of thousands of cellular proteins. Research that focuses on the large-scale study of proteins is called proteomics. This course introduces students to the techniques utilized and the scientific questions being addressed in this newly emerging discipline. Student participation and the use of original literature will be emphasized. In the laboratory students will learn a variety of techniques utilized in the analysis of proteins. This will include column chromatography, two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, peptide mass fingerprinting using MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, and confocal microscopy
Prerequisite: 219, 220 and CHEM 211, or by permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 322 Designs for Life: The Biomechanics of Animals and Plants with Laboratory

This course will focus on how organisms cope with a complex physical world. Their sophisticated designs withstand large environmental forces, caused by gravity, wind, and water ?ow. Animals, as well as confronting the problems of not falling over or apart, must overcome additional challenges associated with locomotion. Biomaterials, including spider silk that is stronger than steel and springy tendons that power prodigious jumps, help make this possible. Topics for discussion will include how biomaterials give organisms structure and strength, how muscle acts as a biological motor during locomotion, how animals swim and ?y, and how they run, walk and jump effectively on land. Class discussion and student presentation of recent primary literature will be an integral part of the course. Labs will include the analysis of video images to calculate accelerations and power during movement, and the use of force plates to quantify contact forces during running and jumping.
Prerequisite: Two units in Biological Sciences at the 200 level or permission of the instructor. Not open to students who have taken 321.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 327/ES 327 Seminar: Topics in Biodiversity

We live on a new Earth, one in which natural ecosystems occur within and are strongly influenced by surrounding anthropogenic systems. Human activities: agriculture, deforestation, urbanization, pollution, climate change, transplantation of species, hunting and harvesting, now create the conditions in which all other organism live; yet, these new systems are poorly known. This course will examine the causes of ongoing environmental change, how complex biological systems are studied, and the observed and projected biological consequences of environmental change. To gain in-depth knowledge, small groups of students will complete a research project on a relevant topic that they choose. Students may register for either BISC 327 or ES 327 and credit will be granted accordingly.
Prerequisite: Two units in Biological Sciences at the 200-level or above, or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 331 Seminar: Cancer Genomics

Cancer can be attributed to disruption of gene structure and function. Functional genomics has contributed more to the understanding and treatment of cancer in the last five years than the previous half century of oncology research. This course will provide a comprehensive study of the biological basis of malignancy from pathophysiology to the genetics of the transformed phenotype with a view to use of genomics in diagnosis, prognosis and treatment directed at specific molecular targets. Topics to be discussed include pharmacogenomics, immunotherapy, tumor stem cells, RNAi, biomarkers, oncolytic viruses, nanotechnology, transcriptional profiling of both coding and non-coding RNAs, and reprogramming of epigenomic as well as epithelial-mesenchyme transition profiles. Class discussion and student presentation of recent original literature will be an integral part of the course.
Prerequisites: 219 or 220 or by permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 334 The Biology of Stem Cells

In this course, we will study stem cells in terms of molecular, cellular and developmental biology. We will focus on different types of stem cells, particularly embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, and induced pluripotent stem cells. More specifically, we will explore how stem cells develop, the criteria by which stem cells are currently defined, and stem cell characteristics under investigation. Current research in the area of disease and potential stem cell therapies will also be discussed. Bioethical issues related to stem cell biology will be described. Students will present and discuss original literature throughout the course.
Prerequisites: 216 or 219 or permission of instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 336 Seminar: Immunology

In this course, we will study the molecular, cellular and biochemical features of the immune system. We will also develop an appreciation for the interrelationship of immune components and their ability to function as an interactive system. Specific topics to be addressed include tissues, cells, lymphocyte activation, the Immune system, Innate Immunity, cellular and humoral immune responses, cytokines, lymphocyte activation, the major histocompatibility complex, antibody structure and genetics, autoimmunity and the Immune system and cancer. In this discussion- and presentationbased class, current research in immunology will be emphasized through the analysis of primary literature.
Prerequisite: 209 or 219 or 220 or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Sciences
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BISC 338 Seminar: The Biology of Social Insects

Warfare, communication, agriculture, and caring for family are phenomena that are typically attributed to human societies, but social insects do these same things. In this course, we will explore the weird and wonderful world of social insects to discover their diverse strategies for success. We will learn about how con?ict and selfishness have shaped the cooperative effort that characterizes these seemingly utopian communities. Topics will include the natural history of social insects, self organization in systems, models of division of labor, communication, and an examination of some of the biological oddities that have arisen as a result of kin selection. The format for the course will consist of demonstrations of basic principles, followed by discussion and presentation of classic literature and ground-breaking, current research.
Prerequisite: 201, 202, or 214 or by permission of instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Sciences
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BISC 339 Seminar: Biology of Parasites

Parasites hold a fascination for biologists. The lifestyles of these ubiquitous and sometimes dangerous organisms, perhaps seeming bizarre to us, have proven very successful evolutionary adaptations to life on or within their hosts. Parasites belong to many different protozoan groups and animal phyla, and many families of plants. We will explore this great diversity of parasite forms and specializations, including parasite biogeography, life histories and evolution, behavioral alteration of hosts, and host defenses. An important emphasis in our course will be the human health impacts of parasites, methods of parasite control, and prospects for treatment and prevention of parasitic diseases. Participants will present primary literature for discussion, augmented with introductory material for each major topic.
Prerequisite: Two units in Biological Sciences at the 200-level or permission of the instructor.
Distribution: Natural and Physical Science
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BISC 350 Research or Individual Study
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BISC 360 Senior Thesis Research
Departmental Honors | Honors and Theses | More Information

BISC 370 Senior Thesis
Departmental Honors | Honors and Theses | More Information

 

Contact Us

Contact Us

Department of Biological Sciences
Science Center
Wellesley College
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481

Gary C. Harris
Professor and Department Chair
gharris@wellesley.edu
Tel: 781.283.3168 (for appointments)

Mary Helen McCollister
Administrative Assistant and Grant Coordinator
mmccolli@wellesley.edu
Tel: 781.283.3154

Karin Thomason
Administrative Assistant and Grant Coordinator
kthomason@wellesley.edu
Tel: 781.283.3153