Grading and Course Policy

Learning Goals

This course is structured around the use of physical and mathematical concepts to explore and ask questions about a wide range of biological processes, at all levels of biological organization. Our learning goals focus on Core Concepts and Competencies that were identified by the National Science Foundation in their Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education report). We hope to help you undertand structure and function, transformations of energy, and systems biology. We are particularly interested in augmenting your skills in quantitative reasoning, developing models and simulations, and handling science that is inherently interdisciplinary. With team poster projects and presentations as well as weekly homeworks you will also build skills in building collaborations and communicating science. Communicating science to broad audiences is a crucial skill for all.


Over the course of the semester, you will participate in 7 lab exercises, which will each take approximately three hours to complete. During the lab section, you will complete a worksheet designed to guide your scientific inquiries. These worksheets will be handed in at the end of lab section, and will be graded. The worksheets will be worth 10 points each. While you will be working on these labs in pairs, we expect that the worksheets will be completed individually – direct copying of worksheets will not be permitted. Furthermore, as your lab partner will be relying on you during each lab section, it will not be possible under normal circumstances to switch the lab section to which you have been assigned during the quarter.

Problem Sets

Six problem sets will be assigned as homework in this course. These will be made available online on the Friday of the week in which they are assigned (see the course syllabus for a schedule) and due in class the following Friday. These problem sets will typically require a mixture of written answers, data interpretation, mathematical approaches, and critical reading of primary literature. You are encouraged to discuss your work with other students in the class and collaborate but, as with the lab worksheets, we expect that the homework you hand in is your own work. The problem sets will be graded, and each count for 10 points. Late assignments will not be accpeted (solutions to the homeworks are posted shortly after they are turned in).


Towards the end of the course, you and your lab partner will develop a focussed topic for a more extensive analysis, which you will present in the form of a poster. Work on posters will begin after all of the regular lab sections have been completed. You and your partner will present your poster together in your lab section. Further guidelines for poster preparation will be made available closer to the beginning of poster work. The poster will be worth 20 points towards your final grade.


There will be no final exam for this course. Your total grade will be composed of 60 points from homeworks, 70 points from labs, and 20 points from the poster, for a total of 150 points. As your labs and homeworks are graded, your awarded points will be posted to the course gradebook, which is hosted on Catalyst.