These are my three courses, which differ greatly in terms of format, size, and goals: Topics in Neuroscience, Neurobiology, and Human Physiology.
1-Topics in Neuroscience (BIOL 365). Capped at 15.
Neuroscience seeks to understand the function of a most complex and fascinating system. This course offers a primary literature perspective of the function of the nervous system and the methods to study it. This means we will be reading, presenting, and discussing, some extraordinary neuroscience articles. How best to do that? We will follow an old but wise piece of advice from Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934): When reading an article in the field we wish to investigate we must focus, above all, on two things: the research methods the author has used, and the problems that remained unresolved.
This course is based on the primary literature, which is vastly different from a course that is based on a textbook. Although the course will begin with a review of some basic neuroscience concepts, we will rapidly move to the study, presentation, and discussion of research articles. A few of these articles are foundational, i.e., they marked key advances in neuroscience, whereas others represent the field’s cutting edge.
- To develop a deeper understanding of important concepts in neuroscience. Depth will take precedence over breadth.
- To develop a more in depth understanding of experimental design, including a sense for next steps to address the problems that remained unresolved.
- To increase your understanding of modern experimental and analysis methods.
- To improve your ability to communicate effectively through scientific presentations.
Class format and assignments (subject to change):
- This course will be largely based on student presentations and participation in class discussions.
- Two primary research papers will be assigned for each class. Each student should be intimately familiar with the content of these two primary papers. For some sessions, there may be a review article, or a news clip (such as Nature News & Views) that accompanies the class period. While the entirety of reviews won’t be covered in class, you ae encouraged are encouraged to discuss issues that arise in the reviews.
- At the end of each class (time allowing), we will have a brief discussion about the next topic, for which we may use material from the assigned review articles or from textbook passages.
- Presenting 2 research articles (no more than one per class session), 45 min each.
- Selecting and presenting a “short communication”, 15 min. Examples include, but are not limited to, Nature News & Views, methods video (e.g. www.jove.com), popular scientific press article, etc.
- Participating in class discussions
- Reading Dazzle ‘Em With Style (see assigned readings)
- Completing an evaluation form for every student presentation.
Textbook and Supplemental Readings: Textbook readings won’t be assigned for this class, but Neuroscience, Fifth Edition (2012) by Purves et al. is written at a solid, intermediate level, and it should serve as a useful reference. Another valuable resource is Principles of Neural Science, Fifth Edition (2013) by Kandel, Schwartz, and Jessell. This tome is the “Gold Standard” in Neuroscience, but some find it large, intimidating, and somewhat unapproachable for an undergraduate course. The University of Texas School of Medicine (Houston) maintains a free online textbook edited by John Byrne (http://neuroscience.uth.tmc.edu/). Finally, some reviews are included in the article folders. Reviews are generally more comprehensive than research articles.
As stated, a key goal of this class is to improve your ability to communicate effectively through scientific presentations. A helpful, and required, guide to meet this goal is Dazzle ‘Em With Style: The Art of Oral Scientific Presentation (http://www.amazon.com/Dazzle-Style-Second-Scientific-Presentation/dp/0123694523). Despite a somewhat cheesy title, it’s a trove of trustworthy advice.
Evaluation and criticism: All students are expected to participate in the course as neuroscience scholars. Students should come prepared to discuss and debate topics presented in class. Everyone should expect to be called upon to state their opinions frequently. Participation in discussions will be worth 20% of the final grade. Criteria for grading will include assessment of familiarity with the primary paper and a willingness to ask and answer questions.
After your first presentation, I will gather and review all the evaluation forms for your presentation. Based on my own evaluation of your presentation, and after critically considering the evaluations provided by your peers, I will provide you with a written evaluation. This evaluation will point to strengths and weaknesses, and will make concrete suggestions to improve your subsequent presentation. You are encouraged (but not required) to make an appointment during office hours to discuss your evaluation.
Attendance and Participation: Attendance is essential. Participation in class discussions (which naturally requires steady attendance) is the basis for your participation grade.
2-Neurobiology (BIOL386, 387). Capped at 20. In progress
3-Human Physiology (BIOL332, 333). Capped at 48
What other person, whether he be a theologian, a jurist, a doctor of medicine, a physicist, or whatever, knows more than you about life? For physiology is indeed an explanation of life. What other subject matter is more fascinating, more exciting, more beautiful than the subject of life? Arthur C. Guyton, M.D.
The Human Physiology course covers the mechanisms responsible for diverse functions of the body. The course also seeks to help you learn how to apply physiological concepts to questions and cases effectively. Course topics include cellular physiology, and the physiology of key systems (nervous, circulatory, endocrine, excretory, respiratory, digestive, etc.). The laboratory includes a variety of experiments focusing on the function of the human body.
Typical schedule. TAE= Team Application Exercise, RAT= Readiness Assessment Test.