Course: MOL215
Instructor: Felton
F 2016

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

MOL 215 is an introductory course to cellular concepts in biology, covering topics such as intercellular communication, the genetic code (DNA/RNA), and technologies used to research these topics. The course is taught by three different professors, starting with basic topics such as proteins and DNA replication, and then moving on to more complex topics. The class differs from MOL 214 in that there is an emphasis on quantitative analysis. However, the math used in this course does not go beyond very basic calculus (e.g. derivatives). While the course does require some memorization, the tests rely more on conceptual understanding of the material.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

MOL 215 has lectures and labs, but no precepts. Because of this, it is best to ask questions during lectures. Lectures: All professors use PowerPoint slides, which tend to have a lot of complex biological systems on them. Printing out the slides and taking notes on these is recommended over manually taking notes in a notebook, as most of the systems take too much time to draw out. Going to lecture is highly recommended: professors will not upload notes on Blackboard. Most of the slides require some sort of context or explanation, and it will be difficult to understand many of the diagrams in the slides without going to lecture. Labs: Labs have two parts to them: during the first half, there is a brief explanation about the lab. The second half is the actual lab itself. The labs tend to take a long time (some labs may require you to stay more than three hours), but there tends to be a lot of waiting time; many students bring other work to do during this time. Lab work is with a partner, and lab reports are also done with this partner. Collaboration with your partner is recommended.

Learning For and From Assignments

MOL 215 has no problem sets. There are lab reports instead, as well as two midterms and a final exam.
  Lab Reports (due every week): Lab reports are generally not too time consuming. However, because of this it becomes easy to forget that the lab reports are a significant part of your grade. Going to lab TA office hours are recommended, as small details can often be significant.   Midterms and final: The midterms and final are based off of the lecture material. The textbook that is under the course reading can be helpful, but often does not cover the topics that the lecture covers. On the first midterm, the textbook might be more helpful, as there are basic concepts such as DNA replication. However, most other topics will not be found within this textbook: the best option to prepare for these becomes going to lecture and reviewing notes, as many of the topics are specific but scattered. The course does provide some past exams, but some of these cover different material and may not be very useful. The test itself is extremely long; the number one thing that students struggled with on the midterms was time, as they were rushing to complete the test in one hour. Grading takes a while, and because the answer key is usually answers that other students wrote, it can be difficult to see the reasoning behind your grading: talking to a professor before/after class may help. There is one review session before each exam, which mostly consists of the professor going over the main topic and students asking questions. However, there is a lot of material covered, and the review sessions will not go through all the material. Office hours are by appointment only; it may be worth scheduling one if these review sessions are not enough.

External Resources

External resources include Piazza and the textbook. While Piazza can be useful, note that professors are not as active on Piazza as the students are. The textbook was useful for certain topics, but didn’t contain a lot of what was presented in lecture.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

MOL 215 is considered an equivalent to MOL 214, and mainly differs in that there is a quantitative aspect and supposedly less memorization, which is why students usually choose to take this course. MOL, CBE and pre-meds fill most of the class. While AP biology is recommended, it is not required, and the math required for the course requires basic calculus. This course tends to cover many random and specific aspects of biology, but all the topics are taught in a similar PowerPoint format and should not be too hard to switch between topics. While the class does not have problem sets, the material is difficult; study groups, especially before the midterms and final, are highly recommended. The time commitment tends to be low during the semester, but this makes it difficult to recall everything when the actual exams approach. Overall, the course is recommended for students who want a more conceptual and mathematical approach to biology over memorization. It is also recommended for students who already have a basic foundation of biological knowledge, as the course tends to cover a variety of specific topics beyond what a student might learn in AP biology.
Quantitative Principles in Cell and Molecular Biology

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