Originally Posted by pavlov
Thanks for the summary. So essentially the course has 6 labs, assignments and a take home exam correct? How was the work load in this course compared to your other biology courses in 2nd year? and the million dollar question...how attainable is a 12?
From what I remember:
Lab 1 - Ecology
The point of the lab is to assess the health of Cootes Paradise by examination of water pH and phosphate concentrations, as well as by measure of bioindicator species. Basically, you get to go down to Cootes as a class, and dig up some bugs in the wetlands to count them. Different species tolerate different levels of pollution and contaminants, and so by counting the different number of different species you can get a rough estimate of the local health of the ecosystem
Lab 2 - Microbiology & Quorum Sensing
Here you'll inoculate potato slices with two different types of bacteria, and try to isolate bacterial HSL (homoserine lactones) which act as chemical messengers for the bacteria that drive metabolism and behaviour depending on population density of the bacteria. Based on the results from the potato inoculation, you construct a hypothesis and a model experiment to test your hypothesis for week 2.
Lab 3- Animal Physiology
This one was a reaaaally cool lab. You put a frog under, and then dissect it to expose the heart while the frog is still alive. You hook up the heart to a small pin that's connected to a force trasnducer and computer, which measures the frog's heart contractions (essentially it creats an ECG on-screen). The point of the lab is to investigate different hormones and chemicals that effect the heart rate and stroke volume of the heart. Very mega super awesome cool.
Lab 4- Cell Biology
This one was a little tedious, but still pretty interesting. You use the model system of chromatophore dispersion on fish scales to characterize movement of chemicals within a cell. Essentially, different chemicals/messengers can effect the distribution and transport of materials in a cell along the cytoskeleton. Your job is to create a serial dilution and measure the effects of various chemicals on the dispersion of chromatophores. The tedious part is counting, and rating individually the chromatophores (~30 per scale, photographed every 30 seconds for 5 minutes, on about 5 or 6 different trials).
Lab 5- Plant-Pathogen Interactions
This was another really cool lab. The point of this lab was to inoculate several strais of the model organism Arabadopsis thaliana with 2 strains of bacteria, directly into the leaves. You then characterize the infection after certain time periods by photograph, and by serial dilution plating and colony counting by extracting bacteria from the plants after an the inoculation period.
Lab 6- Mutant Screening of C. elegans
This was a pretty simple lab. In week 1 you have two strains of worms, one that was randomly mutagenized chemically, and one strain with a specific mutation that makes it unable to perform proper chemotaxis. Basically, you form a pellet of worms, and put them on petri dishes that have dots of salt or water. Normal worms move to the salt, and worms with mutations in genes involving chemotaxis should move randomly. At the end of the lab you try to isolate 3 worms that you believe to be chemotaxis deficient, and allow them to grow and reproduce for a week. In week 2, you repeat the experiment with the progeny of your worms from week 1 to see if you were successful.
The assignments are very straight-forward. At the beginning they'll be about hypothesis formulation, or designing an experiment. Pretty simple stuff. Later on the assignments focus on publishing papers, or retracting papers, etc. They're not difficult.
Labs are every week, with all the labs having 2 weeks (ie 2 lab periods) slotted for them. For 2 of the labs, you will have to write a formal lab report. These are much more formal than in other biology classes - you have to format them EXACTLY as if they were published as a Letter to Nature. Same font, same font sizes, same style of writing & content, same everything, However, I found this to be a GOOD thing. They don't really have to be overly long, and having that level of detail makes it very easy to do well. There's no second-guessing how you're supposed to format or order the contents of your lab (my #1 pet peeve with practically all other bio labs). Generally if there's a formal lab due, you'll also have no lab for a week to give you time to write it.
For the non-formal labs, generally you will only have to hand in a diagram, or a small write-up that you finish at home. Not hard if you know your way around Excel. Your lab book is also graded at the end of the term, and you get an evuation (not worth marks) halfway through the term. I definitely suggest you be THOROUGH in your note-writing for your labs. Document every and all possible sources of error for your experiments (those minor details escape you when you're writing your labs!). Take lots of pictures and include them in your book as well, and make sure to label those pictures in your bool.
Luckily, the TA's for this class are the best I've ever had! Very friendly, and very helpful.
Class will cover the basic elements of experimental design as well as the process of publishing a paper. In the weeks of a new lab topic, there will almost always be a guest lecturer to introduce the theory behind the labs. These guest lecturers will also be present in your lab periods to help guide the labs.
Dr. Jacobs definitely tries to push you to think critically, and since it's a relatively small class he definitely tries to engage students. He often will give candy to people that participate in class :p To be honest, I slept through most of the classes, but in the end it's alright because you're never really tested on what's going in inside the classes at any detailed level; it's all being applied and used in the labs anyways.
So, I slept through most classes, and sadly I did most of my lab write-ups at 3am the day before they were do, but I still managed a 12. I strongly recommend you work on the labs a little bit here and there throughout the week as opposed to my approach - the lack of sleep and abuse of my schedule definitely cut into time for my other classes :p Overall though, a very reasonable and enjoyable course!