GENERAL BIOLOGY I, Autumn 2003 Janet Stein Carter, Asst. Prof. of Biology
course #34BIOL104-001, TH 11:00 - 12:15 Office: room EDU-215-Q; phone 732-5313
Office Hours MW 12:00-1:30, TH 12:30-1:30, or by appt. (some Thurs meetings start at 12:45)
(If I’m not in my office, then check the Lab area) e-mail:

Course Description:

3 undergraduate credits. This non-science majors’ course explores biological processes, concepts, and theories, utilizing examples from everyday life. The historical basis for our knowledge, use of the scientific method, biological terms and their derivation, ethical and/or social responsibility issues, and communicating in ways appropriate to the biological sciences are related to topics under discussion. Topics include the biochemicals, cells, and life processes in living organisms as well as DNA, mitosis, and meiosis.

Aims of the 104-105-106 Sequence:

General Biology 104 is the first quarter in a three-quarter sequence of classes. At the completion of this sequence of courses, you should have demonstrated the knowledge and skills that are associated with a biologically literate citizen. You should understand and appreciate the relationship between biological knowledge and your ability to survive in the modern world, to raise healthy children, to contribute to societal/governmental decisions now and in the future, and to experience greater enjoyment from leisure time activities.

Course Objectives for General Biology 104:

This course will explore biological processes, concepts, and theories, utilizing examples from everyday life. The objectives will be:

  1. To learn about the biochemicals, cells, and life processes in the variety of living organism in the world around us;
  2. To explore and further your understanding of these processes in everyday life and the historical context in which these concepts and theories were developed;
  3. As these processes are studied, to learn to think critically about them — to be able to use the scientific method to analyze a problem, formulate a hypothesis, and develop a means of finding a solution;
  4. To explore and discuss the ethical and/or social responsibility issues related to topics under consideration; and
  5. To communicate in ways appropriate to the biological sciences about the processes and concepts studied.

Methods of Reaching These Objectives:

  1. Participation in discussion and class problem-solving will be an important component of this course. You will prepare for class by reading and thinking about the scheduled topics prior to class time. When you arrive for class, you should have a basic understanding of the topics to be discussed and have formulated any questions that might have arisen as you read about these topics. This will enable you to participate in a meaningful way in discussing the scheduled topic for that day.
  2. Working in a small group, you will utilize the scientific method to formulate a hypothesis concerning some aspect of biology and a means of testing this hypothesis. This experiment must be clearly thought out, grammatically correct, written utilizing a word processor, and turned in on the specified date. (Spring Quarter students may be assigned the construction of an EcoPoster in place of this paper.)
  3. Several times during the quarter, you will be asked to summarize an article in the popular press in the form of a newsnote and turn this in to be duplicated/posted for class discussion.
  4. You will be expected to accurately define key terms, translate pertinent wordstems, reproduce explanatory diagrams, and explain important concepts in your own words. Test structure will require written essays and short answers. Wordstems provide a fundamental tool to understanding language, thus etymology of major terms will be derived and tested.
  5. You should be able to logically predict the meaning of any new words encountered that contain known wordstems.
  6. You should develop a sense of the influence of historical context and discoveries on the evolution of our modern understanding of biology.
  7. You should gain a basic knowledge and understanding of chemical structures and processes important to biology and demonstrate an understanding of the importance of these in everyday life, including being able to predict how a chemical might be expected to react based on its structure.
  8. You should gain a basic knowledge and understanding of cell structure, function, and replication and the implications of these for your own body.
  9. You should be able to defend your viewpoints on ethical issues such as when life begins/ends, genetic engineering, etc. based on biological data. Periodic five-minute free-writes may be assigned.


Grades will be determined based on the total points from your three test scores (100 pt. each), newsnotes (5 pt. each), electronic newsnote comments (3 or 5 pt. each — max. of 50 pt., see separate page), group paper (or Spring Quarter EcoPoster) (50 pt.), and final exam (200 pt.) plus any points from free-writes and/or other smaller assignments. Ten percent per class period will be deducted for any work, INCLUDING TESTS, which is turned in late, and no late newsnotes will be accepted for a grade. A histogram (curve) of total scores will be constructed and analyzed using statistical methods. In general, the class mean will serve as the dividing line between “B” and “C” scores, and only those students whose scores are above the mean plus one standard deviation unit, thereby demonstrating superior mastery of the material covered, will receive an “A”. An “F” will be given when an individual repeatedly scores at the bottom of the class and shows blatant disregard for good study habits and class attendance. Any student who stops attending class and does not go through the official withdrawal process will be given the grade of “UW” — unofficial withdrawal — the equivalent of an “F”. Grades will be awarded based on a straight A-B-C-D-F grading scale.

I realize that there are some medical conditions which, legitimately, can preclude a student from having an equal chance to learn in this course. A very obvious example would be a student who had trouble hearing me speak, thus was at a great disadvantage because (s)he would miss what I was saying in lecture. However, other, more subtle, conditions such as ADD and dyslexia can also adversely affect an equally-intelligent student’s opportunity to obtain information and/or communicate to me that (s)he has learned the needed material. It is not “unfair” to anyone to make arrangements to compensate for such medical conditions, but rather, this can help insure that such people have an equal chance at doing well in this course. Obviously, however, such students would still have to demonstrate that, given reasonable accommodations, they are capable of mastering the required material. Thus, students who need some type of accommodations in order to “level the playing field” and put them on a par with the rest of the class should speak with me now, not after grades have suffered.

Required Text:

Campbell, Neil A., Jane B. Reece, Martha R. Taylor. 2003. Biology: Concepts and Connections, 4th Ed.   Benjamin/Cummings Publ. Co., Inc. Menlo Park, CA.

Optional Resources:

Assigned Readings:

Textbook reading assignments should be done prior to the class time for which they are listed. The course Web pages which I have prepared should also be of use to you as you prepare for each class. Past students have indicated that reading and interacting with the Web pages before a topic was discussed in class enabled them to be better prepared for class, while reading and interacting with the Web pages after class was a good review and helped them to fill in holes in their own notes and further clarify confusing issues. These Web pages are freely accessible from anywhere in the world. Students are, therefore, strongly encouraged to make use of the course Web pages in addition to the textbook. Note that these Web pages were designed to be interactive and include a number of “games,” pronunciations, and other interactive features to help you to better understand and learn the various topics. Thus, you are encouraged to spend time exploring the Web pages, and not merely print them for future reference. Extra readings (“literature research”) on your own is encouraged. If you find a good reference on a topic to be covered, please share it with the rest of the class.


There will be three (3) tests worth 100 points each. These will include short-answer questions, several short essay-type questions such as definitions or diagrams, and meanings of Latin and Greek words used in forming biological terminology. The final exam will be 200 points and will be comprehensive with emphasis on the material covered after the third test. (Note: A number of students have found it useful to make “flash cards” from which to study word stems and definitions.)

Students who miss a test should make arrangements with the instructor to make it up BEFORE the next class period. Requests to make up tests after the tests have been returned and discussed will be denied unless a student has a valid excuse (such as a doctor’s note). Optionally, a more difficult make-up test may be written (but graded on the same curve as everyone else). Only one test may be made up late, and then only with a valid excuse. If more than one test is missed, subsequent tests will receive a “zero.” This means that if you skip one test because you “don’t feel like it,” then miss a second test due to illness, you have used up your one chance and will receive a “zero” on the second test. It has been my experience that students who don’t take a test on time because they think they need more time to study end up doing no better (if not worse) when they do finally take the test. There will be a 10% per class period penalty for a late test.


Although test and newsnote due dates will be as listed unless an announcement is made to the contrary, the actual lecture topics covered may take slightly more or less time than listed, and thus may vary slightly from the schedule. Pages marked “MM” are in the Merck Manual. Pick the schedule that matches the frequency and time of your class section.

Some important, related links:

Copyright © 1996 by J. Stein Carter. All rights reserved.
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