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BISC 102: Inquiry Into Life
Web Fall 2020
This is a survey course intended for non-biology majors and will cover a wide variety
of topics that emphasize how the human body functions. The course will have an
introduction to the process of science, genetics and inheritance in addition to an
overview of the body systems. The class applies to the science requirement of the
core curriculum at The University of Mississippi. The associated laboratory is BISC
103 and cannot be taken online.
Goals of the Course
The student will be presented information that will allow him/her to comprehend and
make informed decisions about their basic health and issues that may become
apparent over time. The information will also allow a student to evaluate and
discuss topics associated with health and nutrition and to understand the scientific
processes that are the foundation of scientific and medical advances.
In this course, you will learn about the science of life with an emphasis on the
human body. After a semester of lecture and out-of-class work, each student
should be able to:
1. explain how science proceeds and how scientific knowledge accumulates
and leads to scientific theories.
2. demonstrate an understanding of processes that cells share, including
energy production, reproduction, and communication.
3. convey an understanding of how the functioning of cells, organs, and
tissues can influence the functioning and health of the human body;
4. explain how information flows from DNA to proteins and how humans have
manipulated that process to better our health.
5. predict the inheritance of traits from one generation to the next a
BISC 322 | General Ecology with Dr. Peter Zee
Dr. Peter Zee, an evolutionary ecologist with a PhD from Indiana University. His research interests are in the evolution of species interactions in ecological communities.
Ecology is a diverse field of study in biology, ranging from mathematical models to surveys in the field. Through a combination of lectures, computer labs, and field labs around the Oxford area, students learn how interactions between organisms and their environments result in the patterns of biodiversity around us. The course also focuses on helping students learn to interpret graphical information and data, skills that are useful across a wide array of careers. Applications of ecological thinking to human health, agricultural systems, and management of natural resources. Through the activities in this course, students will come away with an enriched view of the environment around them.
The goal of this course is to enhance students’ existing curiosity about and understanding of the biological world. Students learn to understand and appreciate:
- the scope of the field of ecology;
- the relationships of organisms with each other and their environments;
- how ecologists pursue ecological questions; and
- reading and interpreting graphical information and data.
“Dr. Zee is cash money. He’s the best professor ever.”
“Dr. Zee has made this semester super easy and interesting. The thing I liked the most was on the first day of class, he made sure to show his students how Ecology was applicable from being an ecologist to how it’s used in the medical field. It helped me stay focused in the class and enjoy the material more.”
“I really enjoyed this class. It was all very interesting, and you begin to see the world around you a little differently. I think even if you aren’t the biggest fan of Ecology, you will find this course interesting.”
Bisc 578 | Cell Imaging with Dr. Joshua Bloomekatz
The field of biology has recently undergone a revolution and explosion in imaging capabilities. We can now see cellular and microscopic events at unprecedented temporal and spatial scales. These advancements have affected a wide-array of biological disciplines, reflecting the broad scope of the Department of Biology at UM.
Dr. Joshua Bloomekatz, who earned his Ph.D. in Genetics at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in NYC, introduces students in the Cell Imaging course to the conceptual and practical aspects of the wide variety of modern light microscopes — from stereoscopes to super-resolution imaging techniques.
In particular we focus on the theoretical and practical aspects of confocal microscopy, the workhorse of modern cell biology laboratories. This focus includes training on the department’s advanced confocal microscope, a Lecia TCS SP8 X, with a white light laser. Students actively engage in all aspect of this course, which includes an imaging research project of the students’ own design involving the confocal microscope. Students also learn important skills related to experimental design as well as image processing and analysis. The important technical and conceptual skills taught in this class will help students succeed in biomedical and health science careers.
“I got time on confocal. Great microscope demos. Dr. Bloomekatz was fair and wanted students to succeed, but made you work for it in a positive way. ‘individual project’ component of course was nice; some real, hands on science.”
“Overall, this was a very informative and interesting class. Having not known much about the field of microscopy in general, I learned quite a bit about the different areas of microscopy and how to use the confocal microscope. This is a great skill to obtain.”
BISC 327 | Intro to Neuroscience with Dr. Lainy Day
Dr. Lainy Day received her PhD from the University of Texas in Austin and completed postdoctoral research at the University of California Santa Barbara; James Cook University in Townsville, QLD, Australia; and the University of California Los Angeles. Her areas of research include behavioral neuroscience, neuroplasticity, evolution of cognition and motor-learning.
This course is an introduction to how nerve cells work singly and in concert to guide the behavior of animals. We will take a comparative approach to understand how brains have evolved to allow animals to perceive stimuli, adopt particular mating strategies, learn and guide behavior, and communicate. We will also talk about variation in individual animals abilities to cope with a range of environmental and social stimuli by means of learning and epigenetics.
- By the end of the semester, students will
- develop a basic understanding of how nerve cells work, how brains are divided into functional units, and how evolution and development shape the nervous system;
- learn that the nervous system filters external stimuli, processes information, and guides behavioral output; and
- relate the text to current discoveries, politics, and the natural world.
“It is a great class. Fascinating topic, lots of information, awesome professor who wants you to succeed.”
“This class is amazing and so interesting. Day is a really good instructor and wants to see her students succeed. This is a great biology elective to take! 10/10”
“Dr. Day is very knowledgeable about neuroscience and is very approachable when it comes to you needing help outside of class. By far the BEST biology professor thus far….ever”
BISC 579 | Ecology & Evolution of Infectious Disease with Dr. Susan Balenger
Dr. Susan Balenger received her Ph.D. at Auburn University and was a postdoctoral researcher in the Division of Genetics and Physiology at the University of Turku in Finland, and at the University of Minnesota. Her research addresses why and how environmental stressors and phenotypic plasticity influence sexual signal evolution and population divergence. In the Balenger lab research activities utilize genetics and genomics approaches, laboratory experimental manipulations, and field observations of natural populations.
In recent years there has been an unprecedented rise in the global incidence and severity of infectious diseases in human, animal, and plant populations across nearly all of the world’s terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems. At the same time, the ways in which we approach the prevention and management of diseases have changed little in the past 50-100 years. It is becoming increasingly clear that the intensification of diseases around the world is, in part, due to human activities, which have brought about habitat transformation, biological invasions, environmental contamination, climate change, and ensuing losses of biodiversity. Although disease outbreaks have historically been studied in relative isolation, the ecological complexities of disease development and spread have been clearly illustrated by such famous examples as the plague, smallpox, and flu epidemics, the Irish potato blight, and more recently, the swine flu epidemic, amphibian chytridiomycosis, white nose disease of bats, Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease, bee colony collapse disease, various forest declines, SARS, Lyme disease, West Nile virus and Zika virus.
In this course students examine and discuss current concepts and trends in infectious disease biology, assessing our basic understanding of human and wildlife diseases and their impacts on one another. On a most basic level, this is a class based around problem solving and critical thinking. We will focus on problems related to the ecological and evolutionary processes that drive the transmission of pathogens between hosts; the impact of disease on host populations; and what causes the emergence of an infectious disease. The course content includes a theoretical framework and extensive discussion of wildlife and human diseases.
- The student learning objectives include
- an appreciation for the complexity of disease, including the number of disciplines that are involved in a thorough understanding of any given disease (e.g., ecology, evolution, epidemiology, clinical medicine, economics, politics, agriculture, wildlife management, public health, etc);
- the ability to integrate ecological and evolutionary concepts and theory in ways that inform disease models/predictions/control;
- basic knowledge of parasite diversity and host defensive repertoires;
- ability to skillfully read and synthesize primary literature; and
- ability to effectively convey the natural history and current literature pertaining to an infectious disease in an oral presentation.
“Dr. Balenger is one of the best professors at this university. She’s funny and really cares about her students and wants them to learn. You can go to her office at any time to talk about class or other struggles you’re having. The class was very interesting and I feel like I still learned a lot because it was discussion based. All in all…an amazing class and would take again.”
“I had a great experience with this class. I feel like I learned more here than in many classrooms; particularly, I learned how to better express my thoughts in an intellectual discussion with my peers. I really enjoyed the opportunity to read scientific journals as the text for this class. If you like discussing science, this is the class for you!”
BISC 334 | Ornithology with Dr. Jason Hoeksema
Dr. Jason Hoeksema, an ecology expert with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, teaches Ornithology. The course introduces students to all aspects of the biology of birds — development, anatomy, physiology, behavior, ecology, evolution, systematics, field identification, and conservation — through a combination of lectures, laboratory exercises, and field trips. Field trips teach students to recognize how particular bird species depend on unique habitats, and students learn to identify dozens of bird species by sight and sound.
Ornithology helps to prepare students for almost any career in biology, as it brings together concepts from across the broad field of biology, allowing students to synthesize fundamental biological principles through the example of birds. Preparation for graduate and professional school programs is supported by lectures grounded in recent scientific literature and by laboratory activities that teach fundamental skills such as specimen dissection. Overall, students’ lives are enriched by learning to recognize the value and complexity of birds all around us.
- By the end of the semester, students should be able to
- understand the structure and function of the major organ systems of birds, including skin/feathers, muscles & bones, digestive system, circulatory system, and reproductive system;
- recognize and interpret important behaviors of birds such as song, territoriality, nesting, foraging, and migration;
- understand the ecological factors influencing the abundance and distribution of bird species;
- know the key characteristics and evolutionary relationships of bird lineages; and
- identify bird species occurring in a diversity of habitats in Mississippi, by sight and sound.
“Amazing course. It was so incredibly different than any other class I’ve taken at Ole Miss. Dr. H is incredible too; I’ve never had a teacher that knew so much about the subject, actually cared about the subject, listened to the students, and cared for the students; he’s pretty funny too.”
“He makes bird watching fun and worthwhile. He teaches in a very fun way and uses many tools and other resources to get across the point or concept he is trying to make. He created an engaging learning experience, and he was very helpful and understanding.”
BISC 306 | Virology with Dr. Wayne Gray
Virology is taught by Dr. Wayne Gray, who spent 27 years at the University of Arkansas Medical School teaching medical and graduate students and conducting research in medical virology. His research interests are in medical microbiology, virology, and vaccines.
Virology introduces students to the basic principles of viruses and virus diseases in human, animals, and plants. Students learn the structure of viruses and the molecular mechanisms by which they replicate in cells. In addition, they learn the pathogenesis and clinical symptoms of viral diseases, how these diseases are treated with antiviral agents, and how they are prevented with vaccines. The course provides a strong infectious disease background for students interested in human health care and veterinary medicine.
- After completing this course, students will be able to
- describe virus structure;
- list the steps of virus replication;
- explain viral pathogenesis and disease symptoms;
- identify methods of diagnosis and treatment of viral diseases; and
- describe prevention and control of viral diseases including vaccines.
“This class is great! Material is pretty cool and relevant, and the tests are fair and relatively easy if you study. TAKE THIS CLASS. Dr. Gray is a very passionate teacher. I learned so much!”
“Dr. Gray is one of the greatest professors that I have had since I have been in college. I recommend you to take his courses if you are interested in going into any healthcare field. It is a very interesting subject matter and he really takes the time you understand the viruses and the diseases they cause making it very applicable to pre-med majors.”
BISC 310 | Human Anatomy with Dr. Carol Britson
Dr. Carol Britson, a University of Mississippi PLATO Excellence in Teaching Award recipient, offers Human Anatomy for biology and pre-health professions students. This course is more advanced than the Anatomy & Physiology sequence taught for sophomores primarily going into nursing. Laboratory resources in this course provide students with an unparalleled entry into exploration of the structure of the human organism as well as the building blocks for success in professional programs such as medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, physician assistant, etc.
In the laboratory, students engage in active examination, dissection, and study of “Gloria,” our synthetic cadaver that provides the feel and flexibility of living tissue. Students carry this new knowledge through to examination of our plastinated cadaver prosections and sections (thin 2D slices). Students connect the anatomy of the synthetic cadaver and plastinated specimens to modern technology in the use of 3D visualization software. Students manipulate CT and MRI data from multiple individuals and perspectives to problem solve in the anatomy lab by connecting two dimensions to three, nonliving to the living, and education to professional goals.
- The objectives of this course are to demonstrate an understanding of:
- the principles of anatomical design and 3-dimensional associations between structures;
- the relationship of evolutionary history to adult structure-function relationships;
- the effect of embryological development on adult human anatomy; and
- the integration of anatomical design across levels of biological organization.
“This has been one of my favorite biology classes that I have taken here at Ole Miss! It is one of the first that I feel will be extremely helpful to me for med school. Do not get me wrong– it is a hard class and needs to be taken in a semester where you could focus on the course!”
“You truly learn anatomy and how to not just memorize material, but to actually learn it. Dr. Britson is very passionate about this subject and teaches with enthusiasm. She is a great teacher that is very passionate about the course and is willing to help with organization strategies that are necessary to be successful in this class.”
Biology Graduate Student Research Spotlight: Griffin Williams
Meet Griffin Williams, a doctoral student working towards developing solutions for the lack of tree regeneration and invasive species in Southeastern forests. His field site is the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs.
I’m originally from the Gulf Coast and grew up playing in and around old-growth trees and the wetlands of the Mobile Bay. The coast has boomed in population and development and, as a result, the natural beauty of the coast and the native ecosystems are being destroyed by human degradation, negligence, and/or pollution. I love wetlands and the coast as a whole, but I felt more of a calling to the woods and trees in terms of conservation. I started to learn about forest restoration in college and the process of transitioning southern forests or woodlands to their historic state before the Indian Removal Act and intense agriculture of the 1800’s. Forests in the Southeast have changed dramatically since European arrival and barely resemble their previous state in many areas. Despite the century-long changes, restoration treatments have increased native plant diversity and been successful in transitioning the forests back to their historic states. An unintended consequence of these restoration treatments is an increase in invasive plant species. These invasive plants can stall the restoration process and prevent native diversity from flourishing. Ultimately, I am studying the mechanisms by which these invasive plants become so competitive to native plants and the underlying mechanisms that may prevent successful restoration.
I, like most other biology graduate students, chose a professor and a project rather than a school or program when applying to graduate schools. I looked for scientists actively doing restoration work in the Southeast with a focus on hardwood species and understory plant diversity. In my undergrad career, my research was on hardwood tree reproduction and understory vegetation in Memphis, Tennessee. I wanted to expand on the hypotheses I encountered in that research and work towards developing a solution to the issues of the lack of tree regeneration and invasive species in Southeastern forests. Dr. Brewer just so happened to fit perfectly for those goals and the University of Mississippi is in a great location to where I wouldn’t have to travel far to be at my field sites. Talking with other professors after I arrived helped me develop my ideas further and incorporated areas I didn’t consider on my own. Overall, everything seemed to fall into place perfectly.
I initially came into graduate school thinking I would go into academia and become a professor, but I am considering going into governmental research or a conservation organization instead. I still enjoy teaching, but I’ve seen the benefits that come from the other side of the research coin too. I may be able to focus more on exploring and solving the questions and problems I have with restoration and invasive species in a research focused job. However, I may have more freedom in a traditional academic career and be able to teach undergrads while including them in my research on a wider variety of topics.
Research interests are greatly varied in the Department of Biology. Considering a variety of factors including the distance to a field site or availability of lab machinery, the University of Mississippi offered the best graduate school situation and breadth of studies relating to my research goals.