My teaching activities integrate my interest in the molecular events that take place inside cells with the resulting cellular activities that regulate the functions and the organization of individual cells, tissues, organs, and organisms.
- Molecules, Cells, and Genes (Biol 212) is required of all Biology, Environmental Biology, and Molecular Biology concentrators and provides an in-depth introduction to eukaryotic cell function at the biochemical, macromolecular, and cellular levels. In lecture and lab, students are introduced to and asked to explore such topics as bioenergetics, enzyme kinetics, genes and regulation of gene expression, the cell cycle and the cytoskeleton, intracellular signaling and transport, and organelle structure and function. This class requires students to integrate their understanding of these seemingly diverse topics in order to explore basic cell function and to understand how different cells carry out different activities.
- Molecular Biology (Biol 321) integrates lectures, problem-solving activities, and careful dissection of the primary literature exploring molecular biology with a “molecular biology methods” lab that integrates lectures on advanced molecular biology techniques with a semester-long lab project that use these techniques to ask an original research question. In lecture, students read and discuss primary journal articles that investigate questions ranging from how cells "know" to only duplicate their DNA once prior to each cell division, to how the expression of specific genes is regulated, to how the RNA portion of the ribosome can function as an enzyme. Biol 321 lab provides the opportunity to use the latest molecular techniques in a semester-long guided research project. Our most recent project used microarrays (DNA chips), quantitative PCR, and other methods to investigate changes in gene expression that occur during the development of an animal from a fertilized egg to a multicellular embryo.
- Developmental Biology (Biol 324) classes examine how changes in gene expression and cell-cell interactions influence both the function and the fate of cells in a developing embryo. The progression from single-celled zygote to multicellular organism containing millions of cells requires intricately coordinated molecular events. These events lead to the differentiation of specific cell types that are organized in a specified pattern and carry out specialized activities. Students in Developmental Biology examine such model developmental systems as sea urchins, fruit flies, amphibians, plants, and chicken embryos as they utilize a variety of molecular, microscopic, and microsurgical techniques to examine events occurring during early embryonic development.
- Advanced Cellular Biology (Biol 326) is an elective course that utilizes the primary literature and class discussions to investigate cell structure and function. All of the topics covered are areas of intense research in the field of Cell Biology, including mitochondria structure and ATP synthesis, cytoskeletal dynamics, intracellular transport of molecules, regulation of cell cycle progression, and programmed cell death. Students in Biol 326 write increasingly complex papers, climaxing with the synthesis of an in-depth “Current Opinion in Cell Biology” review article at the conclusion of the semester.
- Intracellular Transport (Biol 483) is a biology Research Tutorial course in which 6 – 8 undergraduate students undertake an independent research project investigating a novel question focused on understanding how cells move molecules to specific intracellular locations. Students in Biol 483 each have their own project and spend the semester moving rapidly toward being able to design, carry out, and interpret their own experiments utilizing cellular and molecular techniques to investigate cell function.
- Cells and Human Development (Core 124) is a Scientific Perspectives course taught as part of Colgate’s Core Curriculum. As a Scientific Perspectives Core course, Cells and Human Development uses the field of human fertilization and early development to explore how scientists investigate new questions, analyze qualitative and quantitative data, and communicate the results and significance of their investigations. In addition, discussions focusing on assisted reproduction (in vitro fertilization), somatic cell nuclear transfer (“cloning”), stem cell research, and gene therapy allow us to investigate the potential impact scientific findings and technological advances have on society.
All of these courses, from the first-year seminar to the research tutorial, emphasize student comprehension of the process by which scientific information is obtained. This means that we spend considerable time discussing not only what we understand about specific aspects of biology, but also how scientists investigate the functioning of molecules, cells, and organisms. All courses require reading of the primary scientific literature, design and/or execution of an original research experiment, and reporting on the results of the experiment in either the format of a primary journal article or as an oral report. It is my goal to have students leave these courses not just having learned some new ideas about a particular area of biology, but also having taken a significant step toward “thinking like a biologist” and asking new questions about the field they have just spent a semester examining.