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  • Biology
    202-885-2176
    Fax: 202-885-2182
    biology@american.edu
    Hurst, Room 101

    Mable-Young, Wanda
    Senior Administrative Assistant

Mailing Address

See Office of the Registrar: Schedule of Classes for current class offerings, times, and additional information

Biology Class Descriptions

BIO-100: Great Experiments in Biology 5:1 (4)

The core of biology is the scientific experiment. This course, through lecture and laboratory, focuses on some classic experiments that introduce students to the modern study of biology and scientific method. Experiments include the molecular basis of mutation, separation of complex biologically important molecules, and the construction of demographic tables. Usually offered every term. Prerequisite: completion of the University Mathematics Requirement, or concurrent enrollment in MATH-170 or MATH-211 or STAT-202.



BIO-110:
General Biology I 5:1 (4)

An in-depth introduction and exploration of the study of life from atoms, molecules, and organelles to the cellular levels of organization. Emphasis on cell structure and function, energetics and metabolism, the gene, molecular genetics, and evolution. The laboratory component introduces the scientific method and experimentation through the study of microbes, plants and animals. Usually offered every term. Prerequisite: completion of the University Mathematics Requirement or concurrent enrollment in MATH-170 or MATH-211 or MATH-221. Note: this course is recommended for science majors, or pre-medical or honors students only.



BIO-110:
Seminar in Marine Biology: Marine Science (2)

Topics vary by section, may be repeated for credit with different topic. This course gives students an opportunity to learn about current topics in marine science, with particular emphasis on marine biology. Possible topics include diversity marine species and related conservation issues; water movement in the oceans; changes in seawater chemistry associated with climate change; investigation into the variability of marine primary productivity and sustainable extraction of marine resources. Presentation of course materials includes lectures, discussions, guest lecturers, films, student presentations, debates, etc. Usually offered every fall.


BIO-200: Structure and Function of the Human Body 5:2 (3)

The human organism as a paradigm for biological organization. The relationship between structure and function of organ systems. Disease processes in the context of normal physiology; social concerns from a biological perspective. Usually offered every term. Prerequisite for General Education credit: BIO-100 or BIO-110 or PSYC-115.


BIO-210:
General Biology II 5:2 (4)

An exploration of the origins of planet Earth and life. Emphasis on the organismal and higher levels of biological organization. The diversity of life through a survey of the three domains, various kingdoms and their phylogenetic relationships. The form and function of plants and animals. A consideration of the interrelationships between organisms and environment. The laboratory component explores the diversity of life at the organismal and higher levels of biological organization. Studies include form and function of plants and animals, and selected systems. Usually offered every term. Prerequisite for General Education credit: BIO-100 or BIO-110 or PSYC-115. Note: this course is recommended for science majors, or pre-medical or honors students only.



BIO-220:
The Case for Evolution 5:2 (3)

What is evolution, how and why does it occur, and what does it tell us about the world around us? This course reviews the process of evolution from the initial organic soup that existed some four billion years ago to the relatively recent emergence of humans. It investigates why species change over time, both in their individual characteristics and their relative abundance, and examines how cultural and technological advances are influencing the current and future biological evolution of humans. Usually offered every term. Prerequisite for General Education credit: BIO-100 or BIO-110 or PSYC-115.



BIO-240:
Oceanography 5:2 (3)

The study of the sea from a global perspective. Emphasis on chemical and physical oceanography as it affects life in the seas and the world economies. Includes origin of the oceans, basic navigation, marine geography, plate tectonics, heat budgets, climatology, meteorology, winds, currents, waves, tides, productivity, and fisheries. Usually offered every term. Prerequisite for General Education credit: BIO-100 or BIO-110 or CHEM-100 or CHEM-110 or PHYS-100 or PHYS-105 or PHYS-110 or PSYC-115.

 

BIO-241:Seminar in Marine Biology: Biological Oceanography (2)

Topics vary by section, may be repeated for credit with different topic. This course gives students an opportunity to further advance their knowledge about current topics in marine science, with particular emphasis on oceanography. Possible topics include physical oceanography as it relates to global climate change and solutions; biological oceanography as it relates to global climate change and solutions; oceans as a source of alternate energy, and sustainable marine resources and the future of marine conservation. Presentation of course materials includes lectures, discussions, guest lecturers, films, student presentations, debates, etc. Usually offered every spring. Prerequisite: BIO-240, should be taken concurrently.


BIO-300:
Cell Biology with Laboratory (4)

Integrated study of structure and function of eucaryotic cells, emphasizing their ultrastructure, biochemistry, and physiology. Lab consists of biological buffers, protein and DNA analysis, histology and enzyme kinetics. Usually offered every fall. Prerequisite: BIO-210 and CHEM-210.



BIO-323:
Introduction to Ecology (3)

Fundamental principles of ecology, with emphasis on the interaction of organisms and their environment at the level of individuals, populations, and communities, including energy flow through and nutrient cycling within ecosystems. Application of ecological principles to current environmental issues. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: BIO-210; calculus or statistics course is highly recommended.


BIO-324:Seminar in Marine Biology: Marine Ecology (2)

Topics vary by section, may be repeated for credit with different topic. This course gives students an opportunity to further advance their knowledge about current topics in marine science, with particular emphasis on marine ecology. Possible topics include plate tectonics; marine nutrient cycling and climate change; and fisheries, coral reefs, and planktonic communities. Presentation of course materials includes lectures, discussions, guest lecturers, films, student presentations, debates, etc. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: BIO-323, should be taken concurrently.


BIO-340:
Marine Biology (3)

Biology of marine organisms from a global perspective. Influence of geology, geography, currents, tides, waves, winds, salinity, and other parameters on the distribution of marine organisms. Plankton, nekton, infauna, epifauna, rocky shores, coral reefs, estuarines, beaches, and other environments. Marine ecology. Exercises using living and preserved marine invertebrates and fishes. Weekend field trips may be required. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: BIO-210, or BIO-240 and permission of the instructor.


BIO-342:
Marine Mammals (3)

An introduction to marine mammal ecology, social organization, behavior, acoustic communication, and conservation. The course focuses on marine mammals in U.S. waters, including bottlenose dolphin, right whale, gray whale, and West Indian manatee. Current periodical literature and text readings are the basis for discussions. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: BIO-100 or BIO-110 and BIO-210 or BIO-220.


BIO-345:Research Experience in Marine Biology (1-6)

May be repeated for credit. This course provides students with practical field experience in marine biology including research with faculty, internships, or field experience abroad. Usually offered every spring. Prerequisite: BIO-340.


BIO-356:
Genetics with Laboratory (5)

Basic genetic principles as revealed by classical and modern research methods. Patterns of gene transmission; gene structure, function, interactions, and mutation; chromosomal aberrations; nonchromosomal inheritance; biochemical genetics; and population genetics. Experiments illustrating basic genetic concepts, using materials from corn, drosophila, and humans. Usually offered every spring. Prerequisite: BIO-300 or permission of instructor.

 

BIO-364: Evolution (3)

This course covers the mechanisms of evolutionary change from genes to societies and how natural selection interacts with genetic and population processes such that organisms tend to become adapted to their environment and biological diversity increases. Through readings, discussions, and lectures, students explore the evidence for evolution, as well as current theories for the mechanisms that cause evolutionary change. Includes principles of inheritance, the origin of genetic variation, adaptation through natural selection, random processes in evolution, the origin of species, and the role of macroevolutionary processes in shaping current patterns of biodiversity. Prerequisite: BIO-110, BIO-210, and BIO-356.

 

BIO-372:Human Anatomy and Physiology I (4)

This course provides an overview of anatomy and physiology through an integrated study of the relationship between the structure and function of the human body. Focus is on the chemical foundations of life, the anatomy and physiology of the cell, and the integumentary, skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems. Clinical applications are presented, which have particular relevance to students preparing for the health care professions. Laboratories provide hands-on training and reinforce material covered in the lecture. Usually offered every fall. Prerequisite: BIO-110; BIO-210 is strongly recommended.

BIO-373:Human Anatomy and Physiology II (4)

A systematic approach to the study of the human body with an emphasis on the endocrine, lymphatic, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems. Laboratories provide hands-on training and reinforce material covered in the lecture. Usually offered every spring. Prerequisite: BIO-372.


BIO-390:
Independent Reading Course in Biology (1-6)

Prerequisite: permission of instructor and department chair.

 


BIO-404:
Biology of Plants with Laboratory (4)

An in-depth survey of plant structure and function, with emphasis on photosynthesis, development, physiology, and evolution. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: BIO-210 and CHEM-210.



BIO-410:
Invertebrate Zoology with Laboratory (4)

Structure, evolution, and physiology of invertebrate animals, including protozoans. Emphasis on helminths and other parasites, medically significant arthropods, and taxa of significance in aquatic biology. Laboratory emphasizes variety of taxa over types. Usually offered alternate falls. Prerequisite: BIO-210.



BIO-420:Applied Oceanography With Lab (4)

Principles of physical, chemical, and biological oceanography are covered in this course. In addition, readings and discussions are used to critically examine recent findings in this field. Includes the history of ocean sciences, earth structure, plate tectonics, atmospheric circulation and weather, waves and currents, nutrient cycling, marine biological processes, and the impact of human activity on marine processes. Usually offered alternate falls. Prerequisite: BIO-210 and BIO-240.

BIO-425:Applied Marine Ecology With Lab (4)

In-depth examination of both physical and biotic processes that affect marine communities. Includes nutrient cycling and primary productivity, the role of perturbations on marine diversity, and population iology and conservation. Laboratories consist of computer modeling exercises to gain mechanistic understanding of marine ecological processes. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: BIO-210 and BIO-240.


BIO-434:
Vertebrate Anatomy with Laboratory (4)

Examination of the function, development, and evolutionary history of anatomical structures within vertebrates. Lectures and laboratory work include systematic and comparative analysis of different vertebrate species. Laboratory illustrates anatomical features in lower and higher vertebrates. Usually offered alternate falls. Prerequisite: BIO-210 and BIO-300, or permission of instructor.



BIO-435:
Vertebrate Physiology with Laboratory (4)

Properties and physiology of vertebrate organ systems are explored. Laboratory illustrates selected physiological principles and encourages scientific inquiry. Usually offered alternate falls. Prerequisite: BIO-300 or permission of instructor.



BIO-440:
Microbiology with Laboratory (4)

Introductory survey of the protists (with emphasis on bacteria): their morphology, physiology, metabolism, growth, and destruction, and their role in human welfare as agents of disease and environmental change. Laboratory techniques of straining, cultivation, isolation, and identification of microbes, with emphasis on bacteria. Experiments on physiology, metabolism, and physical-chemical effects on growth and death of microbes. Usually offered every fall. Prerequisite: BIO-300 and CHEM-310.


BIO-441:Marine Population Genetics (3)

This course provides a detailed survey and analysis of the spatial distribution of genetic variation in marine populations. In addition to evolutionary processes such as neutral drift, gene flow, and natural selection, the influence of physical and chemical oceanographic processes specific to the marine environment are also considered. Current methods of detecting molecular genetic variation are emphasized, as well as the modern analytic techniques used to understand the nature of that variation. Usually offered alternate falls. Prerequisite: BIO-110 and BIO-210.

BIO-442:Behavioral Ecology (3)

Behavioral ecology examines the ecological and evolutionary basis of animal behavior and how particular behavior patterns contribute to an animal's chances of survival and its reproductive success. This course includes sexual selection and mating systems; sexual conflict, mate choice, and parental care; natural selection and genetics of behavior; evolutionary arms races, predators, and prey, and parasites and hosts; group conflict and cooperation; cooperative breeding; and experimental design and research questions in behavioral ecology. The course is structured to promote lively and productive discussion. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: BIO-210 and BIO-356.

BIO-444:Larval Ecology (3)

Examination of early developmental forms in a variety of marine species (vertebrates and nonvertebrates) and discussion of environmental and behavioral factors that influence growth and survival. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: BIO-110 and BIO-240.

BIO-445:Ichthyology With Laboratory (4)

An overview of the study of fishes, including anatomy, physiology, systematics, and behavior. The laboratory focuses on taxonomy and morphology of different species. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: BIO-240 and BIO-340.

BIO-450:Developmental Biology (3)

The descriptive morphology, physiology, biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology of the developmental processes in a variety of organisms. Meets with BIO-650. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: BIO-300 or permission of instructor and concurrent registration in BIO-450.

BIO-451:Developmental Biology Laboratory (1)

Training in embryo manipulation and study of prepared microscopic slides in order to illustrate developmental concepts. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: BIO-300 and concurrent registration in BIO-450.


BIO-490:
Independent Study Project in Biology (1-6)

Prerequisite: permission of instructor and department chair.



BIO-491:
Internship (1-4)

Prerequisite: permission of instructor and department chair.

 


BIO-497:
Senior Honors Thesis I (3)

Student designed original laboratory or field research project. Usually offered every term. Prerequisite: senior standing, permission of department and University Honors program.



BIO-498:
Senior Honors Thesis II (3)

Completion of student designed original laboratory or field research project. Results both written as scientific paper(s) and presented in departmental seminar. Usually offered every term. Prerequisite: BIO-497.



BIO-499:
Senior Seminar in Biology (3)

This seminar, required of all senior biology majors, challenges students to examine unifying principles of biology. Different subjects are presented in discussions, through faculty and guest speakers, readings, and individual student presentations. Usually offered every spring. Prerequisite: senior biology majors.



BIO-500:
Advanced General Microbiology (3)

Structure and functional anatomy of procaryotic cell walls and membranes; bacterial phototrophs, autotrophs, heterotrophs, their main pathways of degradative and synthetic metabolism; mechanisms of procaryotic genetic exchange; and regulation of gene expression. Prerequisite: BIO-440.



BIO-501:
Mechanisms of Pathogenesis (3)

Infectious diseases of humans with emphasis on bacterial pathogens and the biology of the causative agents. Host-pathogens and the biology of causative agents. Host-parasite relationships, pathogenesis, immunology, and epidemiology are studied. Usually offered alternate falls (odd years). Prerequisite: BIO-440 or graduate standing.



BIO-505:
Introduction to Neurobiology (3)

A general introduction to basic neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, with discussions of current issues in neuroscience. Intended for advanced undergraduates in biology or psychology pursuing a natural-science curriculum, and for graduate students in biology and psychology. Usually offered alternate springs (even years). Prerequisite: BIO-300 or graduate standing or permission of instructor.



BIO-520:
Topics in Marine Zoology with Laboratory (3)

Topics vary by section, may be repeated for credit with different topic. An advanced marine zoology course dealing with ecology, evolution, systematics, morphology, and physiology of major taxonomic groups of marine organisms in particular ecosystems. Examples include fishes and fisheries science, marine birds, crustaceans, planktons, coral reefs, and marine mammals. Lectures are augmented by interactive laboratories, field observations, and research projects. Usually offered every spring. Prerequisite: BIO-340 or equivalent.



BIO-541:
Cellular Immunology (3)

Current concepts of the immune response at the cellular level. Structure and function of the T-lymphocyte, B-lymphocyte, macrophages, and ancillary cells. Theories of antibody diversity and the cellular basis of immunoglobulin formation. Cellular aspects of immunologic tolerance, hypersensitivity, surveillance, and clinical immunology. Review of the current literature. Usually offered alternate falls (odd years). Prerequisite: BIO-300 or graduate standing.



BIO-550:
Developmental Biology (3)

The descriptive morphology, physiology, biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology of the developmental processes in a variety of organisms. Usually offered alternate falls (even years). Prerequisite: BIO-300, undergraduates must take BIO-551 concurrently.



BIO-551:
Developmental Biology Laboratory (1)

Training in embryo manipulation and study of prepared microscopic slides in order to illustrate developmental concepts. Usually offered alternate falls (even years). Prerequisite: BIO-300 and concurrent registration in BIO-550.



BIO-561:
Biogeography (3)

This course emphasizes four persistent themes in biogeography: classifying geographic regions based on their biota; reconstructing the history of biota; explaining the differences in numbers as well as types of species among geographic areas; and explaining geographic variation in the characteristics of individuals and populations of closely-related species. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: BIO-110 and BIO-210.



BIO-562:
Field Methods (3)

Biological, chemical, and physical analysis of freshwater and terrestrial habitats. Students participate in weekend field trips to conduct group projects and learn skills for geographic survey, chemical and physical examinations of habitat quality, field sampling techniques of flora and fauna, taxonomic identification, statistical and data analysis, and presentation of results. Usually offered alternate falls. Prerequisite: BIO-423 and MATH-221 or STAT-202, or graduate standing in biology or environmental science, or permission of instructor.



BIO-566:
Evolutionary Mechanisms (3)

The genetic composition of populations and the theory and principles of natural selection. Species formation and differentiation in Darwinian and neo-Darwinian theory. Evolution above the species level and current evolutionary concepts (such as sociobiology and catastrophe theory) are also considered. Usually offered alternate falls (odd years). Prerequisite: BIO-356.



BIO-567:
Evolutionary Ecology (3)

The ecology of organisms is made clear in the context of evolution and the study of evolution is greatly enriched by an understanding of the ecological circumstances in which evolution occurs. This course focuses on the interface between the two and the mathematical models involved. Prerequisite: BIO-423 and MATH-221.



BIO-583:
Molecular Biology (3)

An in-depth study of gene structure and expression. Concepts are described and illustrated further with examples and discussion of classic and current papers from the scientific literature. Includes DNA, RNA and protein synthesis, regulation of gene expression in procaryotes and eucaryotes, nucleic acid structure, RNA processing, DNA binding proteins and transcription factors, oncogenes, transformation, mutations, DNA repair and recombination. Usually offered every spring. Prerequisite: BIO-356, CHEM-560 is recommended.



BIO-590:
Independent Reading Course in Biology (1-6)

Prerequisite: permission of instructor and department chair.

 

BIO-650:Developmental Biology (3)

The descriptive morphology, physiology, biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology of the developmental processes in a variety of organisms. Meets with BIO-450. Usually offered alternate springs.


BIO-677:
Topics in Developmental Biology (1-4)

Topics vary by section, may be repeated for credit with different topic. Current research topics such as nuclear-cytoplasmic interactions, cell surface in development, developmental aspects of carcinogenesis, and gene expression in development. Usually offered every spring. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.



BIO-679:
Topics in Evolutionary Biology (1-4)

Topics vary by section, may be repeated for credit with different topic. Current research topics such as molecular evolution, biochemical approaches to evolution, mathematical modeling of evolutionary processes, and the interaction of genetics, developmental biology, ecology, and evolutionary biology. Usually offered every spring. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.



BIO-690:
Independent Study Project in Biology (1-6)

Prerequisite: permission of instructor and department chair.



BIO-691:
Internship (1-6)

Prerequisite: permission of instructor and department chair.

 


BIO-697:
Research Methodology in Biology (3)

Basic scientific research skills necessary for experimental design, data analysis, literature critiques, and disseminating results. Includes techniques for literature research, scientific writing including thesis proposal preparation, the use of statistical packages, and the preparation of an oral presentation for a thesis defense, seminar, or professional meeting. Usually offered every fall. Prerequisite: graduate standing in biology.



BIO-790:
Biology Literature Research (1-6)

Students conduct a literature search on some aspect of the biological sciences under the direction of their guidance committee, culminating in the submission of a review paper. Usually offered every term. Prerequisite: M.A. candidate in biology.

 

BIO-797: Master's Thesis Research (1-6)

Prerequisite: M.S. candidate in biology.

 
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Undergraduate Internships

Recent opportunities for Bio-491: Internship have included the following:

  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  • Smithsonian National Zoo
  • National Cancer Institute
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Sibley Memorial Hospital
  • Georgetown University Hospital
  • Friendship Hospital for Animals
  • Local private medical practices