Special Problems in Biology

BS 4831, Section A

Fall Semester 2008


Course description:

            Students create written and oral presentations, participate in discussions, perform experiments, and practice for entry into postgraduate work or study.  This course emphasizes the organization of the above activities towards the creation of an original independent research project.  Ideally each student will develop a research project, present a proposal talk, execute the project, present the results in a talk, and write up the results in the form of a scientific paper.  However, the specific nature of each student’s activities in this course will be determined by the student’s individual intellectual and career interests.


Prerequisites:  must be a biology major with at least 16 hours of course work in major area.



McMillan, V. 2006. Writing Papers in the Biological Sciences. Fourth edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.


Hacker, Diana. 2007. A Writer’s Reference. Sixth edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.



An important part of biological science is the ability to engage in and/or interpret original research.  This is an important part of many jobs in biology.  Additionally, experience with research is highly desirable for admission into postgraduate degree programs such as those at medical and graduate schools.  This course is also important in that it allows a student to explore his or her individual interests within the rather broad field that is biology.  This course also helps students become effective at critical thinking and communication skills that will be important in any area of specialization.


 Course objectives:

            1.  To learn to design a research project

            2.  To develop an increased knowledge of current biological issues

            3.  To develop the ability to research a topic thoroughly and efficiently

            4.  To develop a familiarity with the primary literature

            5.  To develop the ability to critically evaluate scientific literature and experiments

            6.  To develop the ability to clearly present information orally and to respond thoughtfully to spontaneous questions

            7.  To develop confidence in giving oral presentations and presenting personal ideas

            8.  To develop the ability to clearly present research results in a written format.

            9.  To reinforce basic scientific knowledge from all science classes

            10.  To gain experience working independently


Institutional Goals:  This course will address the six institutional goals (found on page 11-12 of the catalogue) as follows.

1. Institutional goal 1 (“To produce students who demonstrate an understanding of the Judeo-Christian heritage and Christian worldview”) will be addressed by: 1) objectives 2 and 9 (providing background); and 2) by 6, 7, and 8 (expressing their perspectives).

2.  Institutional goal 2 (“To produce students who demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively across the curriculum”) is will be addressed by written assignments, discussions, and by objectives 6, 7, and 8.

3.  Institutional goal 3 (“To produce students who demonstrate the ability to reflect critically upon the world, the environment, society, and self”) will be addressed within the context of discussions, through written assignments, and through student presentations (particularly by objectives 2, 5, and 6).

4.  Institutional goal 4 (“To produce students who demonstrate the ability to apply the principles of the scientific method to become more effective problem solvers”) will be addressed through discussions and problem solving (particularly through objectives 1 and 5).

5.  Institutional goal 5 (“To produce students who demonstrate an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle that will promote lifelong heath and fitness”) will be addressed through discussion of scientific research and ethical issues relating to disease (objectives 2, 3, 4, and 5).

6.  Institutional goal 6 (“To produce students who demonstrate a competence in at least one particular body of knowledge”) will be addressed through strengthening student knowledge of important general scientific concepts, through all aspects of the course.


Course Requirements:

            Attendance and completion of presentations is mandatory.  Depending on the number of credits selected, students are required to meet with the instructor for at least one hour per week.  This course requires substantial independent work and individual responsibility.  If you must miss a scheduled meeting, you must provide a substantial excuse and are responsible for rescheduling the meeting.

            Students are expected and required to uphold the highest standards of academic honesty in this and all courses.  Students should be familiar with the College's policies concerning academic integrity (Catalog, page 46; Student Handbook, page 24, section VII).  Students requiring any clarification of these policies should consult their academic advisor or the Office of Academic Affairs.

            Williams Baptist College is an independent, non-profit, church related institution which does not discriminate on the basis of disability in the provision of educational services. Although Williams does not provide separate programs for students with disabilities, accommodations for class presentation, evaluation, and access will be determined on a case-by-case basis once the student has disclosed a disability and appropriate documentation supporting the request for the accommodations has been provided to the College. For further information, contact Dr. Gary Gregory, Director of Counseling at 870-759-4178. All students, regardless of disability, must meet the same admission and graduation requirements.


            We will meet weekly and participate in discussions.  Grades will be assessed as summarized below (an example for a student taking 2 credits).


Weekly discussions (14)        140 points (based on attendance, participation, and


Oral presentation                    50 points (based on preparation, format, and style)

Written paper                         50 points (based on preparation, format, and style)

Research                                 200 points (based on the schedule below)

Total                                       440 points


            To obtain credit for your research work, you must select goals for the semester.  For example, some possible goals might be: 1) to gain a solid familiarity with the literature (as evidenced by discussions and your written work); 2) to form testable hypotheses based on the current literature; 3) to design an experiment that tests your specific hypotheses; 4) to modify the experiment until it works well; 5) to complete trials of an experiment; 6) to statistically analyze the results of the experiment; 7) to interpret the results of the experiment in relation to the current literature; and 8) to present the results of your research at a national meeting.  You must submit a list of goals for approval before starting work.


Goals completed                    Points

1                                              100 (50%)

2                                              120 (60%)

3                                              140 (70%)

4                                              160 (80%)

5                                              180 (90%)

6                                              200 (100%)


            Your list of goals must be submitted for approval by Jan. 18th.  As in other classes, 5% of the points will be subtracted from the possible total for each day that an assignment is late.


Instructor: Dr. Ann Paterson

E-mail: apaterson@wbcoll.edu

Phone: 759-4171

Office hours:  I will be in my office from: 9:00 – 11:00 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; from 2:00 – 2:30 pm on Mondays; from 2:00 – 2:30 pm on Tuesdays; from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm on Wednesdays; and from 1:00 – 3:00 pm on Thursdays.  Please stop by, call, or e-mail if you would like to schedule an appointment at a different time.  My class schedule is posted on my office door in case you would like to try to find me in a class or lab.  If you need to contact me, e-mail is generally the fastest method.