Biology Courses

Note that this page has two tabs on it. Clicking on the left-hand tab will yield links to web sites for current-semester biology courses. Clicking on the right-hand tab will yield descriptions of all Biology courses.

You can filter the list of course descriptions below to show different subsets of Biology courses. By default (with all of the drop-down boxes set to "Any"), you will see all courses. Choosing other options in the drop-downs limits the list of courses. For example, if you choose "Evolution and Biodiversity" in the Core Area box, and "Yes" in the Lab box, you will see descriptions of all courses in the Evolution and Biodiversity category that meet the lab requirement.

Introduction to biological principles underlying current social problems. Designed to provide non-biology majors with the basic scientific knowledge that an informed citizen requires to develop thoughtful positions on sometimes controversial questions related to topics including medical ethics, environmental degradation, agriculture, biotechnology, conservation, and evolution. Not for Biology major credit. Gen Ed: BS.

Physiology of the major systems of the human body in health and disease. Intricacy of the human body; good health practices. Collateral issues include birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, nutrition, and health risks associated with drugs and smoking. For nonscience majors; not for Biology major credit. Gen Ed: BS.

This course explores the evolution, extinction, and conservation of biodiversity on earth. We will survey the diversity of both ecosystems and organisms found throughout the globe. The generation of biodiversity will be explained by both ecological and genetic approaches to evolution. The loss of biodiversity due to historic extinctions and current human activity will be examined. We will use examples from all over the world, but will focus on many examples from New England and Massachusetts. One section will survey the history of wildlife in Massachusetts since European colonization. Not for Biology major credit. Gen Ed: BS.

This is a course for non-biology majors with two components, lecture and discussion section. We will explore biological principles at all levels of organization, from molecules, cells and organs to individuals, populations and the biosphere. Have you ever wondered…how basilisk lizards can literally run on water? …why we don’t yet have a vaccine against the HIV/AIDS virus? …why there is no rainforest in New England? …how bacteria help the Gulf ecosystem recover after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? We will explore these and other questions to better understand how the living world works. Assessment includes evening exams, quizzes and written assignments. Gen Ed: BS.

First semester of a full year course for science majors. Introduction to biochemical basis of living systems, cell and molecular biology, mitosis and meiosis, principles of genetics, developmental biology. Includes lecture and discussion sections.. Gen Ed: BS.

Please click through to view descriptions of different instructors' versions of Biology 152

This course is a 2 credit laboratory experience that allows students to apply the biological concepts covered in Biology 151 and 152 Introductory Biology in laboratory and field settings. Students will develop and practice scientific research skills while exploring the areas of genetics, cell and molecular biology, evolution, and ecology. To enroll, students must be co-enrolled in Biology 152 (Introductory Biology II) or have completed the 2 semester Introductory Biology Sequence (Biology 151 and 152).

An introduction to the workings of the cell, focusing on themes of cellular structure, dynamics and energetics. This course is intended for students interested in a broad interdisciplinary approach to the biological sciences: frequent connections to chemistry, physics and mathematics will be made as the cell, its inner workings and malfunctions, are explored. In the laboratory, students will work in teams to conduct multi-week inquiry-based experiments in a laboratory 'core facility' to complement and expand on the lectures. This first semester course is prerequisite for the second semester in a full year introductory course sequence for life science majors. Gen Ed: BS.

A lecture series introducing the natural history, reproductive biology, functional morphology, and evolution of the major groups of marine vertebrates. Species native to the North Atlantic and Caribbean will be emphasized, including selected sharks, teleosts, turtles, birds and mammals. Grading will be based on two multiple choice exams. A note set must be purchased (at cost), but no other text is required. Prerequisites: Grades of C or better in Biology 151, 152 & 153.

We will investigate the process of biological evolution and the evolutionary history of life on Earth. Topics to be covered include natural selection, speciation (the formation of new species), and other causes of evolutionary change; the methods that evolutionary biologists use to investigate evolutionary processes and history; and an overview of life's history, focusing on major evolutionary innovations and transitions. Prerequisites: Grades of C or better in Biology 151, 152 & 153.

Introduction to genetics including Mendelian and molecular developmental. Examples from a wide variety of organisms. Satisfies major requirements in Biology.

The basic objective of this laboratory is to introduce the methods and pleasures of genetic investigations, using a variety of organisms. It also reinforces Introductory Genetics (Biology 283). Topics include: Mendelian genetics, gene maps, variation in both DNA and in proteins, mutation induction and selection and DNA polymerase chain reaction. Prerequisite: BIOL 283 (may be concurrent).

Course designed for sophomore-level majors in life sciences. Building upon concepts introduced in BIOL 100/101, consideration is given to structure and function at the cellular, subcellular, and molecular levels. The course is equally divided between aspects of molecular and cellular biology. Prerequisites: a grade of C or better in Biology 151, 152 & 153 and in Chemistry 111 & 112.

A course in general ecology designed for undergraduate majors in biology. The course will cover the following topics: how the world works, its structure, history, and evolution; the Earth in space and extra-terrestrial influences; the energy budget and atmospheric circulation (weather); ecosystems and the flow of energy; biomes of the Earth; biogeochemical cycling; adaptations of plants and animals to their environments; population dynamics; interactions between organisms including the concepts of symbiosis and succession; human technology and ecological problems; and ideas for developing new relationships between human technology and ecological problems; and ideas for developing new relationships between humans and the natural systems we need for future survival. Prerequisite: Grades of C or better in Biology 151, 152 & 153.

Lectures cover the physiology of humans and other vertebrates on a system by system basis (e.g. circulatory system, respiratory system, digestive system, etc.). Emphasis is placed on understanding fundamental physiological concepts such as diffusion, membrane potentials, biomechanics and biocontrol. Problem sets and exams give students practice working with physiological concepts. This course concentrates primarily on human physiology, but examples from other vertebrate animals are used to illustrate some physiological phenomena. Prerequisites: Grades of C or better in Biology 151, 152, & 153.

Satisfies Junior Year Writing requirement for Biology majors. Students write and revise short papers on subjects likely to be encountered by biologists. Prerequisites: 3 biological science courses, for declared Biology majors only. Read more for Learning Goals and Instructor Narratives describing the focus of different sections.

In this class we will discuss concepts and applications of modern DNA technology including an introduction to the basic concepts pertaining to the emerging field of genomics. We will begin by describing key molecular methods (cloning, sequencing, blotting, PCR) and how they are used in gene analysis. We will then move on to consider how entire genomes are analyzed, and will familiarize ourselves with some of the basic bioinformatics' tools that are commonly used by working biologists. Finally we will consider the methods used to manipulate genomes as a means to determining gene function. This course is intended for sophomores and juniors, and should serve as a bridge between 200-level courses and more advanced, specialty courses (e.g., 500-level courses). Prerequisite: Biology 285 or Biochem 285.

We have two goals in this course. The first, and most important, is to introduce undergraduate Biology students to some of the many fascinating aspects of Plant Biology, especially as these differ from animal biology. For instance, did you know that plants are moving (on a large scale) all the time? It’s the truth, but in a very different time scale than we animals use. How do plants do that without the benefit of muscles and skeleton? Have you ever thought about how, in the absence of a pumping heart, plants’ circulatory systems work? After all, the water at the top of a tree got there from roots in the ground, but no pump was involved. Plants don’t have an immune system, and yet, they ‘stand and fight’—literally rooted to the spot—taking on all types of pathogens, as well insects and other predators. What strategies do plants use to overcome these attacks? Have you ever wondered about how biotechnology is used in agriculture? We have all heard news stories about GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). What are these and what makes them useful or dangerous? These are the types of topics we will be covering in this course. The second goal for this course is to provide a convenient way for UMass Biology majors to accomplish their plant biology course requirement. The course is open to any student who has successfully (with a C or better) completed the Introductory Biology series Biol 151, 152 & 153.

Cellular and Molecular Biology Lab is a hands-on project-based course where students explore aspects of cell biology, particularly how proteins within cells are targeted to their correct intracellular location. The class will focus on targeting proteins to intracellular organelles. To approach this cell biological question, students will be using a host of current tools in the life sciences including, bioinformatics, DNA cloning, cell transformation, and microscopy. This course is meant to provide a laboratory perspective to many of the concepts taught in Biology 285. It is NOT necessary to have taken Biology 285, but students must at least be enrolled in Biology 285 concurrently with this course.

This fundamental ecology course emphasizes the quantitative skills needed to understand and conduct field research. The lectures introduce major ecological concepts, local vegetation types, and methods and techniques of gathering and analysing data. In laboratories, students collect original data at sites in the Connecticut Valley and write an original scientific paper. Prerequisite: an introductory biology course or consent of instructor.

Learn to identify the common vascular plants and plant families of southern New England and learn about the ecology and natural history of the local flora. The class involves using keys to help identify living and dried material during the lab/lectures and field trips. A digital collection of photographs of 20-25 species of plants is required. Prerequisite: Introductory Biology or consent of instructor.

Vertebrate collections are indispensable to the teaching of all whole organism biology courses. They are the repositories of Study of DNA, study skins, hides, preserved specimens, and comparative osteological material. Collections contain regional and global reference collections, provide secure storage for specimens of regional and historic importance, support a library of DNA samples and the specimens from which they were collected and also serve as the repository for type specimens. Maintenance of biological collections not only requires space and money but also require a highly dedicated and trained staff in order to be useful. Without constant maintenance even the smallest collections will deteriorate to the point of uselessness. Today many collections are being orphaned and/or discarded by colleges and universities. Qualified preparators, collections managers and curators are few and far between. During the course of this semester we will learn how to legally obtain, prepare, catalogue, and store new specimens and maintain an historic collection of vertebrate specimens. There will be one weekly lecture and at least 3 additional hours of lab per week. Lectures meet for 2.5 hrs. (6:00 ¬ 8:30 PM).

This course will cover the cell biological aspects of several plant cellular processes, including cytokinesis, cell expansion, tip growth, cell-to-cell communication, and intracellular protein sorting. An emphasis will be made on experimental approaches used to understand these processes at the molecular level. A discussion of model organisms and cell types will be included. Formats will include lectures, discussions, and in-class student presentations. Prerequisite: A grade of B- or better in BIOL 283 or 285.

In this interdisciplinary course, we will explore the topic of imaging biological material, beginning with optics and basic microscopy. Students will perform hands-on exercises in the use of the light microscope, digital cameras, and image processing and quantification. Common pitfalls in imaging biological samples will be covered. Students will perform experiments to test and quantify various aspects of cell migration, cell cycle regulation, mitosis and endocytosis. Using the methods learned in the first portion of the class, students will design and complete a hypothesis-based experiment of their own design and present their findings. Bioimaging is a laboratory-based course. Enrollment is limited and requires permission of the instructor.

The goal of this laboratory course is to explore how researchers address modern biological questions through the use of model organisms. The course will be taught by a team of faculty whose own research employs these model systems to answer a diverse range of biological problems, including molecular evolution, plant development, yeast genetics, embryonic development and population genetics. Students will be introduced to several different model organisms that may include representative bacterial, plant, fungal, invertebrate, and vertebrate species. Lab exercises will employ sophisticated, state-of-the-art molecular methods and will tackle a variety of current biological questions.

Prerequisites: BIOLOGY 285 or BIOCHEM 285 or BIOLOGY 283, all with a grade of 'B' or better.

This course focuses on the ecology, physiology, taxonomy, and behavior of organisms that inhabit the New World tropics. The centerpiece of the course is a nine-day field trip to Belize. The trip takes place over spring break and includes intensive exploration of marine and coastal habitats. Pre-requisite: At least one year of college biology courses, on-line application, and permission of instructor.

Introduction to experimental methods in ecology with an emphasis on rigorous experimental design, hypothesis testing, methods of data collection, and introductory data analysis. Laboratory will involve field trips, greenhouse experiments, and computer time.

Structure and function of components of the plant cell, including the wall, membranes, vacuoles, the cytoskeleton and various organelles. Aspects of development at the molecular, tissue and whole plant level. Current theories pertaining to how plants react to hormones, light and daylength. Responses to stresses such as drought, temperature and touch, and the nature of plant defenses against predation and disease. Prerequisite: Biology 151, 152 & 153.

This course focuses on the processes affecting the distribution of genetic variation in populations of organisms, through space and time. The processes studied are the ones that operate during evolutionary change. Topics covered will include the Hardy-Weinberg principle, gene flow, genetic drift, recombination and linkage disequilibrium, natural selection, the effect of mating systems on diversity, and the neutral theory of evolution. Examples illustrating key concepts will be drawn from various kingdoms of life. The course will consist of lectures and occasional in class discussion. Prerequisites: Biology 280 or 283, plus Math 127 or 128 or Statistics 111 or 240 or ResEcon 211 or 212.

Detailed approach to the structure and evolutionary relationships of vertebrates. Lecture: evolutionary and functional significance of structures in different groups. Lab: evolutionary trends and specializations, experience in dissection. 2 hour exams, final; 2 lab exams. Prerequisite: Grades of C or better in Biology 151, 152 & 153.

In this course we explore the cellular structure and function of human tissues and organ systems. The laboratory component offers a unique opportunity for you to develop and refine your skills in microscopy and visual identification of cells, tissues, and organs as well as tissue sectioning, staining, immunohistochemistry, and imaging. This includes a semester-long group project where you will prepare samples, section, stain, and analyze an organ of your choice and explore how the histology of this organ is altered by disease. This course provides a strong background for those interested in pursing a career in health sciences or graduate school in cell biology, morphology, or physiology.

An advanced course for students who have already taken an introductory course in evolution and who are willing to make an active contribution to classroom discourse. We will discuss both evolutionary mechanisms and evolutionary history. Potential topics include evolutionary genetics, the role of chance in evolution, speciation and species concepts, the origin of life, the tempo of evolution, extinction, the evolution of behavior, evolutionary history of selected groups, research methods in evolution. Prerequisite: Biology 280 or equivalent course.

An advanced course focused on the evolution of macromolecules and the reconstruction of evolutionary history of genes, proteins and organisms. Potential topics include databases and sequence matching, molecular phylogenetics, gene duplication and divergence, genome evolution, and horizontal gene transfer. The course will consist of lectures, computer demonstrations and class discussions. Text: Molecular Evolution, W.-H. Li, 1997 and readings from primary literature. 2 hour-exams and 1 term paper. Prerequisite: Biology 280 or equivalent course.

The course provides an overview of the systematics, anatomy, and evolution of all the major, living lineages of amphibians and reptiles, with an emphasis on the herpetofauna of Eastern North America and New England. The laboratory is organized around three approaches: anatomical studies; studies of live organisms; and studies of regional and global amphibian and reptile diversity. If weather permits, there will be one field trip near the end of the semester. Some dissection is required. Prerequisite: Biology 521 or permission of the instructor.

This is an introductory course designed to familiarize students with the diversity of fishes. We will provide an overview of the biology, evolution and ecology of fishes. A phylogenetic approach will be used to look at major primitive to advanced fish groups. No prior coursework is required to take this course, but students are expected to have a general biology background and be enthusiastic in learning about this diverse group of organisms. The textbook to be used is “The Diversity of Fishes” by Helfman, Collete and Facey 2004. Only selected portions of the text will be required during the course. The lab is designed to supplement the lecture course with hands-on dissection, anatomy of preserved specimens and dry skeletons and identification of major lineages. 1 essay exam, final, 2 lecture quizzes, 2 lab practicals.

Lecture: origin of birds, speciation, diversity, flight, territoriality, migration, navigation, communication, conservation. Lab: bird identification, anatomy, field studies. Text and field guide required. Lab practicals, 2 lecture exams plus final. Prerequisite: upper level biology course or consent of instructor.

Lectures and readings on comparative biology, phylogenetic relationships and evolution of mammalian groups. Lab involves a detailed introduction to the New England mammals and study of selected representatives of most mammalian orders, emphasizing systematics, function and morphology. 2 hour exams, 2 lab exams, and final. Prerequisite: any life science course beyond the introductory level.

Animals have evolved a remarkable diversity of behavioral patterns, used in a wide range of ecological and social contexts. Our first goal in this course will be to examine the mechanisms responsible for the expression of behavior: for example, how do birds locate prey; how do crayfish avoid becoming prey; and how to crickets and birds develop species-specific communication signals? To help answer these questions we will make use of neurobiological, hormonal, genetic, and developmental perspectives. Our next goal in the course will be to examine the evolutionary bases of behavior, asking for example why animals move, forage, hide, communicate, and socialize as they do. To address these questions we make use of optimality theory and other behavioral ecological perspectives. Other topics in the course will include sexual selection, human behavior, and the role of behavior in establishing biodiversity. Prerequisite: introductory biology or psychology course; or consent of instructor and at least sophomore level standing.

Discussion of cell structure and function; emphasis will be placed on the properties of individual molecules that contribute to cell function. Topics will include the mechanism and regulation of cell division; interactions of cells with each other and with the extracellular environment; cell motility; and the organization of membrane systems. Techniques used to study cells will also be discussed. Format will include both lectures and class presentations; quizzes, mid-term exams and written assignments will be included. Prerequisite: Biology 285.

Physiological principles governing the function of major organ systems (nervous, circulatory, respiratory, endocrine) and their interactions in vertebrates emphasizing mammals especially humans. Lab exercises designed to illustrate physiological principles using modern approaches. Prerequisite: Biology 285 or equivalent and at least one semester of Organic Chemistry.

Lectures cover the physiology of vertebrates and invertebrates on a system by system basis (e.g. circulatory system, digestive system, etc.). Comparisons between animals within each system and adaptations to "extreme" environments are emphasized. Weekly problem sets provide practice in physiological reasoning for each system covered. Animal design projects involve modeling the physiological systems of an extinct animal. Prerequisite: a grade of C or better in Biology 151, 152 & 153.

The role of hormones in growth, metabolism and reproduction, molecular mechanisms of hormone action, and feedback control of hormone secretion. 2 hour-exams, final, and 1 class presentation. Prerequisite: Biology 288 or consent of instructor.

The mechanisms which generate endogenous daily, tidal, and annual oscillations in organisms will be considered at the level of physiology, genetics, and molecular and cell biology. The synchronization of these rhythms by the physical environment and the use of the clock for photoperiodism, reproductive cycles and migratory orientation will be studied. Readings from original scientific literature will be assigned. For junior and senior life science majors and graduate students. Prerequisite: BIOL 285 or equivalent.

Biology of nerve cells and cellular interactions in nervous systems. Lectures integrate structural, functional, developmental, and molecular approaches. Topics include neuronal anatomy and physiology, membrane potentials, synapses, development of neuronal connections, visual system, control of movement, and neural plasticity. Text and reserve readings, 2 hour-exams, final, short critique paper. Prerequisite: Biology 285 or 523; or both Psychology 330 and Biology 151.

Analysis of organismal development, with special attention to cell-cell interactions, cells fate determination, gene regulation, signal transduction, pattern formation and terminal differentiation. The emphasis will be on molecular approaches to these problems. Prerequisites: Biology 285 or equivalent recommended.

This course covers current techniques in genetics and genomics and the social, ethical and legal issues surrounding genetic technology. Topics will include, but are not limited to DNA sequencing technology, genome structure and evolution, genetics of disease, personal genomics, and the human microbiome. Practical skills for analyzing genomic data are taught through a weekly computational genomics session. Prerequisite: Biology 283 with grade of C or higher.

This course will provide an on-site introduction to the world's epicenter for aquatic and terrestrial diversity, the Amazon Basin. We will examine the Amazon's fauna, flora and ecosystems and we will have a chance to interact with people in small villages. Via riverboat, we'll travel to Careiro Island on the Amazon river, and to Novo Airao in the Negro River. Most of the time will be sent canoeing on floodplains and forests, the best way to experience the diversity of animals and plants. Students will complete self-designed research projects comparing the biodiversity of different habitats of the black and white water river systems.

This course will explore animal communication from several biological perspectives. We will explore how animals use different modalities of communication (sound, smell, electricity, etc.) and how these modes of sending and receiving information are limited by environmental constraints and their functions. We will look at the physiological and anatomical aspects of signal production and perception. The class will discuss the different types of messages encoded in signals and how they evolved. We will explore the evolution of sexually selected forms of communication (antlers, bird song, etc.) and the theories that attempt to explain their function and evolution. The lectures/discussions will draw on examples from a diverse selection of animals (insects, fish, birds, and mammals). Students will also work on projects where they will learn how to analyze and interpret different forms of vocal and visual communication.

How do complex morphologies develop from a single-cell embryo? What makes the human hand different from the horse's hoof, the bat's wing, or the flipper of a whale? These and related questions will be addressed as we explore the genetic and developmental basis of evolutionary change.

This course deals with evolutionary processes on a molecular and genetic level and provides training in analytical methods related to detecting genetic variation, phylogenetics, recombination, horizontal gene transfer, comparative genomics, and the analysis of microbiomes. The course contains three intellectual parts: genetic variation (mutation process, evolutionary rates, the molecular clock, and selection and neutral evolution at the molecular level), genome evolution (genome size, the evolution of chromosomes, the evolution of introns, gene/genome duplication, genome reduction, transposons, retroelements, gene conversion, and horizontal gene transfer) and evolution of genetic systems (the evolution of sex and sexual reproduction, recombination rates, sex ratios, genomic conflict, viral RNA genomes and bacterial transduction, transformation and conjugation). This course will also include discussion of the social, ethical and legal issues surrounding genetic technology and evolutionary biology.

This course is taught by a team of faculty. We will examine several aspects of cell biology using a combination of lectures and discussions of experimental data from primary literature, covering topics in cellular signaling during development, cellular events during cell cycle progression, and cytoskeleton dynamics during mitosis.
Class attendance and in-class participation are mandatory. During the majority of scheduled classes you will be required to critically examine, analyze, judge, evaluate, and criticize the methods and logics of the assigned articles. You are expected to have fully read the assigned article prior to coming to class. Our goals are to learn (1) how to formulate logical hypotheses, (2) how to design experiments, and (3) how to critically evaluate experimental results. These will hopefully better prepare you to understand what actually constitutes a research article.
Your learning will culminate in the writing of a full NIH-style grant proposal on a topic related to class. Your proposals will be critiqued by your fellow classmates and vice versa. Your grade will be based on class participation, class assignments, and two written grant proposals (‘Method Proposal” and “Grant Proposal”).