Biology 11

For many students, BIOL 11 will be the entrance course to the major. BIOL 11 may be counted toward the biology major if it is taken as the first biology major course.  BIOL 11 will not count towards the major if taken after completion of any Biology course numbered above 11.

Should I Take Biology 11?

To help students determine if they are sufficiently prepared to enter a foundation course directly, the Biology department has established an online self-assessment exam for students.  Students who have any concerns about their preparedness should take BIOL 11 before enrolling in a foundation course. 

BIOL 11.07 - 17F at 10A

Major Events in the History of Life and the Human Genome

Over the course of the last 4.5 billion years, life has faced a number of challenges, and in response has evolved a number of remarkable innovations.  These innovations are written in DNA, and thus molecular fossils for many of the major events in the history of life can be found within our very own genomes.  This course will survey the human nuclear and mitochondrial genomes, using a gene or region from a chromosome as a “ticket” to a particularly important event or process in the history of life including the origin of life itself (Chromosome 14), the advent of protein synthesis (Chromosome 22), the invention of DNA (Chromosome 8), the rise of atmospheric oxygen (mitochondrion), the origin of species (Chromosome 2), the origin of animals and the rise of macroecology (Chromosome 12), and the origin of humans and human language (Chromosome 7).  Peterson.

BIOL 11.03 - 18W at 10

Emerging Infectious Diseases: How Microbes Rule the World

Emerging infectious diseases, which have shaped the course of humanity and caused untold suffering and death, will continue to challenge society as long as humans and microbes co-­exist. This course will explore why infectious diseases emerge and re-­emerge. The viruses, bacteria and eukaryotes that cause these diseases continually evolve in response to their hosts. Dynamic interactions between rapidly evolving infectious agents and changes in the environment and in host behavior provide such agents with favorable new ecological niches. In addition, dramatic increases in the worldwide movement of people and goods drive the globalization of disease. Guerinot and McClung.

BIOL 11.08 - 18S at 10

Animal Minds

Darwin claimed that other species share the same “mental powers” as humans, only to different degrees. This course will examine the evidence for Darwin’s claim, focusing on the evolutionary, neural, and molecular basis of animal cognition. We will ask how and why organisms behave as they do, exploring the ways in which evolution has adapted organisms’ information gathering, perception, learning ability, memory, and decision making to both their physical and social world. Key examples will be drawn from navigation, tool-use, communication, and cultural imitation. An overarching emphasis will be placed on the active process of scientific discovery, especially how strong inference and multiple competing hypotheses enable scientists to make discoveries.  Jack and Laidre.


Syllabi for Recent Offerings

Biology 11 - The Science of Life Syllabi

  • Fall 2017:  Major Events in the History of Life and the Human Genome - Prof. Kevin Peterson
  • Winter 2017:  Emerging Infectious Diseases - Prof. Mary Lou Guerinot and Prof. Rob McClung
  • Spring 2017:  Animal Minds - Prof. Tom Jack and Prof. Mark Laidre