Course Descriptions

Core Curriculum – Genes

Fall (1st half)
2 credit hours
Molecular genetics of model organisms; DNA replication, repair, and recombination; transcription; RNA catalysis, processing and interference; translation; protein turnover; developmental biology; genomics.

Core Curriculum – Proteins

Fall (1st half)
2 credit hours
Energetic basis of protein structure; stability; ligand binding and regulation; enzyme mechanics and kinetics; methods of purification; analysis by spectroscopic methods.

Core Curriculum – Cells

Fall (2nd half)
2 credit hours
Cell structure; membrane biology; intracellular membrane and protein trafficking; energy conversion; signal transduction and second messengers; cytoskeleton; cell cycle; introductory material in microbiology, immunology, and neurobiology.

Cell Architecture and Dynamics

Fall (2nd half)
2 credit hours
This course examines cellular regulation with a focus largely on macromolecular events and themes centered on: cellular communication, homeostasis, response to stress and nuclear dynamics. Topics will often build on themes introduced in the Cell thread of the Core course, such as: receptor function, cell adhesion and migration, dynamics of the cellular cytoskeleton, intracellular transport, regulation of stress responses, autophagy, and usurpation of cellular function by foreign organisms.

Emphasis will be on regulation of these processes with a focus on basic properties, mechanisms, historical discoveries where relevant, and current models and controversies. Classes will be a mixture of general lectures and discussions of research articles from the literature and experimental approaches to posed problems. These will be enhanced with self-paced studies, readings, and practical problems.

Signal Transduction I

Spring (1st half)
1.5 credit hours
This course offers an in-depth study of the interactions of neurotransmitter and polypeptide hormones with receptors and their subsequent regulation of cellular events. Topics emphasize basic physicochemical concepts of ligand interactions with biological systems and mechanisms of common signaling pathways, including classical second messengers, G protein dependent mechanisms, and regulation via protein phosphorylation.

Quantitative approaches and current controversies are stressed where appropriate. Lectures are supported by discussion of classic and current research articles and presentations by students.

Signal Transduction II

Spring (2nd half)
1.5 credit hours
The second part of this series integrates previous themes into various endocrine pathways, examines regulation at the nuclear level, and broadens topics to such diverse topics as apoptosis, circadian rhythms, and signaling network analysis. Quantitative approaches and current controversies are stressed where appropriate. Lectures are supported by discussion of classic and current research articles. Each student is expected to submit an original research proposal, present and defend the proposal orally, and evaluate the proposals of other students.

Professionalism, Responsible Conduct of Research, and Ethics I

Fall full semester
1 credit hour
Topics covered through lectures and small group discussions: goals of education in RCR; professionalism; collaboration; teambuilding and professional behaviors; everyday practice of ethical science; mentorship; data management and reproducibility; animal research; genetics and human research.

Professionalism, Responsible Conduct of Research, and Ethics II

Spring full semester
1 credit hour
Topics covered through lectures and small group discussions: codes of ethics and misconduct; building inter-professional teams; conflict of interest; sexual boundaries and professional behavior; applications of genetic testing; technology transfer and intellectual property; plagiarism, authorship, and citation; peer review; image and data manipulation.

Electives

See degree plan for specific elective requirements, if any.

Advances in Stem Cell Biology

Spring (2nd half)
1.5 credit hours
This course provides students with current knowledge of embryonic and adult stem cells and how these pluripotent/multipotent populations can be used to treat congenital defects, diseases, or injury in humans. The first part of the course will survey current knowledge of embryonic and germline stem cells and the factors that regulate their growth and development into tissue specific stem cells. Subsequently, adult stem cells in the hematopoietic, nervous, cardiac, and other systems will be discussed to provide examples of the various types of tissue-specific adult stem cells.

Emerging "hot" topics such as cancer stem cells and inducible pluripotency is also an area of emphasis. Other major course objectives are to understand how advances in cellular and molecular biology can be applied to the use of stem cells in regenerative medicine, and to introduce students to the bioethical and legal issues related to stem cell research. The course includes discussions of the most pertinent recent literature and presentation of research from the Instructor's own laboratory.

Mechanisms of Drug Action

Spring full semester
3.0 credit hours
The course is organized around weekly one-hour lectures and two-hour discussions. The first part of the course examines the general principles of pharmacology. Topics include the entry, distribution, and elimination of drugs; the time course of the drug action; the molecular basis of pharmacological selectivity and efficacy; the adaptation, tolerance, and addiction to drugs; and pharmacogenetics. These sessions are followed by discussions of the molecular bases of antibiotic chemotherapy and autonomic pharmacology. The final weeks of the course explores a range of topics, using examples from contemporary literature.

Topics include peptides and proteins as drugs, rational drug design, the use of RNA and DNA as drugs, gene therapy, prodrugs, immunotoxins, anticancer chemotherapy, and strategies of selective drug delivery.

Molecular Basis of Metabolic Regulation

Spring (2nd half)
1.5 credit hours
The complexity of animals, their tissues and even individual cells requires multilevel systems for regulation of metabolism. In this course, important cellular functions, such as the transport of molecules into cells, the use of fuels for energy generation and energy storage, and integration of metabolic pathways, are discussed. Discussion includes new information about the impact of gene expression and isozyme diversity on the control of metabolic flux, hormonal control of metabolism and consideration of more acute control mechanisms operating at the level of allosteric and covalent modification of enzymes.

There is a strong emphasis on presentation of these concepts in the context of genetically programmed metabolic disorders, and the material covered in this course provides tools to explore the phenotypes of genetically modified animals and to discern the basis of human metabolic disease.

Optical Microscopy for Biomedical Research

Spring - variable
1.5 credit hours
This workshop is designed for graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members who wish to learn the basic principles of modern optical microscopy. Through lectures, demonstrations and discussions, it will cover how microscopes work, what are the limitations of optical microscopy, what is digital imaging and its limitations, how to obtain quantitative information from optical imaging, critical interpretation of digital images, how to prepare digital images for publication, and introducing cutting-edge technologies such as FRET and TIRF.

Quantitative Biology I

Spring (1st half)
1.5 credit hours
This course explores the quantitative understanding of biological regulatory networks by considering (1) their experimental analysis, (2) their depiction by creation of explicit physical models, (3) reduction of the physical models of mathematical models, and (4) the use of the mathematical models to provide mechanistic understanding and drive new and more effective experiments.

The course deals mostly with strategy of modeling process and analysis of simple reactions (first- and second-order chemical reactions, diffusion, equilibrium, and steady-state systems) and their combination into small signaling modules, with some underlying techniques for working with quantitative data. This course is a prerequisite for Quantitative Biology II.

Quantitative Biology II

Spring (2nd half)
1.5 credit hours
Quantitative Biology I is a prerequisite to this course. The course includes approaches to dealing with larger, complex and/or non-linear systems: building complex behaviors from simple components, appearance of non-linear systems and their analysis, some theoretical approaches to complex systems and to parameterizing large, complex and/or non-linear models. This section includes some teleological discussion of the biological (functional and evolutionary) utilities of complex or non-linear systems.