Typically, four different sections of Bio-150 are offered each semester.
Animal Locomotion (Professor Queathem)
As a way to explore how biologists ask questions and develop answers to them, this class will focus on the biological problems associated with animal locomotion. Students will begin learning how to use the scientific literature to study the physical, physiological, and biomechanical principles that underlie the ways animals move. Students might make videos of moving creatures, design paper airplanes, or shoot rubber bands to better understand locomotor mechanics. The emphasis of the course will be on asking questions, designing experiments to answer those questions, and communication results of the experiments in a variety of formats.
Biological Responses to Stress (Professor Gregg-Jolly)
In this course, we will investigate ways that biologists seek to understand how organisms can interact with their environment and change in response to varying environmental conditions. Since microbes are excellent model systems for biological inquiry, their response to stressful environments will be emphasized. Students will formulate hypotheses regarding stress responses, design and conduct experiments to test their hypotheses, and communicate the results of their experiments.
Cell Fate: Calvin or Hobbes? (Professor Praitis)
During the development of an embryo, how is the fate of a cell determined? How does a cell 'know' it is supposed to become a nerve cell? Or part of the gut? How does it know its location within the embryo? To address these questions, we will examine the fate of cells during embryonic development, focusing primarily on the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans. We will critically evaluate the primary literature, formulate hypotheses, carry out independent research projects using a variety of analytical tools, and report experimental results in scientific papers, posters, and oral presentations.
The Effects of Climate Change on Organisms (Professor Jacobson)
We will examine the effects of predicted changes in temperature, moisture and carbon dioxide levels on organismal and ecosystem function through experimental investigation. We will focus on the effects of such changes on the physiology and metabolic functioning of soil and aquatic organisms, as well as on biogeochemical processes of ecosystems, including respiration, decomposition and nutrient-cycling. Class time will be devoted primarily to discussions and lab work examining theoretical aspects of organismal and ecosystem functioning, design and implementation of lab-based experiments, and the interpretation of our results in the context of extensive ongoing climate change research.
Genes, Drugs & Toxins (Professor Kuzmanovic)
The ways in which an organism responds to different drugs or toxins can be heavily influenced by its genetics. In this course, we will conduct research exploring the interplay between genetics, drugs and toxins using the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker's yeast). We will investigate how well yeast is able to survive exposure to a variety of chemicals when it is carrying mutations in different genes. In the course of designing our experiments and analyzing our results, we will discuss the molecular biology behind the relationship between genes and drugs. We will also explore the implications of the interplay between genes, drugs and toxins and human biology, discussing themedical, social and ethical implications of research in this field.
The Language of Neurons (Professor Lindgren)
In this course students will actively learn how biologists study the nervous system. Specifically, students will work as neuroscientists for a semester and will attempt to learn something novel about how nerve cells communicate with one another at chemical synapses. Students will present their findings at the end of the semester via both oral and written presentations. Papers resulting from a substantial independent project will be published in the class journal, Pioneering Neuroscience: The Grinnell Journal of Neurophysiology. Students with a strong background in high school physics will benefit most from this section of Biological Inquiry.
Plant Genetics and the Environment (Professor DeRidder)
The physical and behavioral characteristics of living organisms are largely determined by their genetic makeup and their environment. This course is designed to allow us to ask questions about the relationship between genetics and the environment and to explore the mechanisms plants use to acclimate and adapt to changes in their environment. Using the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana, we will examine the influence of different environmental factors on the growth and development of 'wild-type' and mutant individuals Students will design and perform experiments to address questions about the effect of genetic mutation on plant responses to the environment. After careful analysis of experimental results, students will communicate their findings in various scientific forms.
Prairie Restoration (Professor Brown)
As a way to explore how biologists ask questions and develop answers to them, this class will focus on the biological problems involved in the restoration of tallgrass prairies. It will be taught in "workshop" format at Grinnell College's Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA), where we will use the college's prairie and savanna restorations as our laboratory. Students will be required to formulate research questions based on readings of the scientific literature, design experimental or observational studies to test these hypotheses, and communicate the results of these studies after the conventions of professional biologists. Papers resulting from a substantial independent project will be published in the class journal, Tillers.
Sexy Beast (Professor Brown)
Why do animals have sex? and in such incredible variety? This course will consider the ways biologists study the causes and consequences of sex in animals at all levels -- from the cellular process of meiosis, to the organismal concept of gender, to mating interactions between individuals and their evolutionary consequences. Students will learn to read and evaluate the primary literature, formulate hypotheses, and carry out independent research projects using a model organism, the bean beetle Callosobruchus maculatus. Students will communicate their results in scientific papers, posters, and oral presentations. Finally, as sexy beasts ourselves, we will consider how our human biases and social assumptions influence the questions asked and their accepted answers.
The Sex Life of Plants (Professor Eckhart)
This course will explore the evolution and ecology of reproduction in flowering plants to develop your understanding of how and why plants reproduce as they do. You'll experience biology as it is practiced, as you learn principles of adaptation, practice the scientific method, and communicate your research findings in the style of professional biologists. Activities will include reading and discussing classic and contemporary scientific literature, completing exercises on the structure and function of plant reproductive features, and conducting and reporting on research projects done in the lab, the greenhouse, and the field.
Survivor (Professor Hinsa-Leasure)
In this course we will investigate strategies organisms use for survival in different environments. We will focus on microorganisms and humans as model systems. Topics addressed will include the biology of bacteria, factors important for biofilm formation, how microorganisms become resistant to antibiotics, and how we protect ourselves from microorganisms. Students will isolate and characterize microorganisms attached to vegetables by using standard microbial and basic molecular biology techniques. Based on critical reading of the literature, students will design and carry out independent projects, analyze and report the results in scientific papers, posters and oral presentations.