Description of Course Goals and CurriculumThis course offers a survey of immunology, both on the micro (the molecular mechanisms) and macro (immunity and disease) levels. The course covers the basics of different immune cell lineages and how these cells and their functions intersect/interact, which are important for understanding how the immune system can be leverages in treating human disease. Professor Ploss really emphasizes how the role of each cell works into the grand scheme of immunity especially since each cell has multiple functions depending on the context. The first half of the semester (mostly before midterm exam) covers each immune cell class in the context of basics of immunity (innate vs. adaptive immunity); the second half covers details about the immune system as a whole (e.g. mucosal immunity, failures of the system, manipulation of the immune system) so that you can recognize how immunologists and physicians can use these principles to better understand the host’s response to disease. Be aware that there are a lot of details so each lecture is chock-full of information, so it can feel very overwhelming. I would recommend keeping in mind the broad goal of that cell type and how that fits into the context/scenario that is discussed in a later lecture; there is some memorization at the beginning but this helps the rest of the course be much more application-based. Note that you should have a pretty good understanding of the fundamentals of molecular biology (e.g. transcription and splicing, cellular components/functions) so that you can spend more time learning the actual material of the course than the biology mechanisms.
Learning From Classroom InstructionThe lectures meet three times which means that a lot of material is covered during each week. Note that Professor Ploss does post the lecture slides on Blackboard so if you miss a lecture, you will have the general information but not the details that he gives while talking with the slides. The purpose of the lecture is to learn the bulk of the material for the course, so this will be the most useful for preparing for the exam. The expectation is that you’ll be able to absorb the information that he gives and then apply it to the presentations that are done during precept (see below). Use the slides as a guide for taking your notes in class (so either print them out beforehand or write on the pdf on your laptop) this way you are less worried about writing everything and focused on adding in the additional information that Ploss provides when lecturing. The lectures are where Professor Ploss will emphasize the crucial themes or points that will be tested on during the exams, so pay attention! This is also a good time to jot down some “practice questions” for yourself based off of the things that he emphasizes/repeats which will be very useful to you when you’re studying for the exams. Many of the lectures come in two or three parts, so if that is the case for the week, it is helpful to review the previous lectures material before lecture to refresh your memory. Precepts for this course operate very differently than for other MOL courses; you will not be reviewing basically any of the material covered in lecture so their purpose is to apply the knowledge rather than review or present it again. The precepts are structured around student presentations: each student will get to pick 2-3 immune diseases that they will present on at some point in the semester. Then each precept 2-3 students will present a case study from Case Studies in Immunology: A Clinical Companion as an example for understanding immunity. The expectations for the presentations are to present the case and incorporate questions for your classmates to answer as you go along. Therefore when you’re preparing, you should come up with questions that link back to lecture or some other topic from MOL courses that is compelling. As a non-presenting student, make sure you keep track of the main point of each case study (i.e. which part of immunity/immunology does this case study cover, what is going wrong that leads to disease, etc.). Most of the presentations fall on weeks that the lectures cover the background information to understand the cases.
Learning For and From AssignmentsThe assessments for this course fall into two categories: quizzes/exams and precept presentations. The quizzes and exams are the same length and timing (50 minutes); therefore you will be tested four times to help incorporate the material throughout the semester. The midterm and final are cumulative so definitely review the information from the course previous to that point. While there are no practice questions, one useful strategy for studying is to breakdown the main themes of the content up to that point (e.g. Weeks 1 and 2 focused on cell types which then came into play in Week 3’s lectures on induced innate immunity). The first quiz is very representative of the kinds of questions that you will see in the subsequent assessments. While the precept presentations (i.e. case studies) will not be formally tested on the exams for the most part in the sense that you won’t have to give exact names of disease/conditions, they do help you understand scenarios where the immune system is not working properly which will be a topic on quizzes/exams. Thus you can use the case studies as examples to test your understanding of cell types and mechanisms. Remember that the final exam is short (50 minutes!) so focus on the themes rather than remembering every little detail covered throughout the course. The presentations require that you make a powerpoint to cover the background/context of each case from the book and then craft your own questions for the class. The goal is to spark discussion from your classmates and also connect it to the things we talked about in lecture. Don’t feel that you need to emphasize the exact measurement of the test done by physicians (e.g. 1000 dg/mL), rather frame it as relative amounts (e.g. high blood sugar for a five year old child). Make the presentations fun since it can be sort of dry - add photos, graphics and charts to keep the audience engaged!
External ResourcesTry looking through the internet for charts and diagrams that present the information in a different way; the diagrams from lectures come from the textbook so if you are not following the information in how it was presented by Professor Ploss/the book try finding a different visual representation. The preceptors are good resources to ask about the expectations for the precept presentations since there is not a formal rubric posted; this way you know exactly what you should include and how your presentation should flow to include the information they want in a way that would be interesting to your classmates!
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionThis class will give you a very comprehensive and broad understanding of the basics of immunology. The information can be very helpful if you are planning on doing medicine or immunology research moving forward; additionally, the skills and material you learn in the course can be helpful for preparing for the MCAT examination (although it will definitely not be tested as detailed as you learn in the course). This class will also give you the fundamentals that you will need to understand how certain laboratory techniques were developed by leveraging the molecular mechanisms that are covered in MOL214 and in the course lecture. It will take some time at the beginning of the semester to solidify your knowledge about cell types and functions but then you just start adding to this knowledge/seeing what happens when these cell types are in different contexts; so spend time at the beginning and then slowly form a study guide for yourself that will be helpful for every subsequent examination. Keep in mind that you will have quite a bit of information to keep track of so take this class strategically (i.e. try not to take this course while taking some of the “heavier” MOL departmentals like Genetics or Cell & Developmental Biology). For the presentations, you have the flexibility to choose which case studies you will present so make sure you schedule them at convenient times during the semester (relative to when assignments in your other courses are due) and about diseases/conditions that you might be interested in already.
Molecular and Cellular Immunology