Special Problems (BS4831) Syllabus
Special Problems in Biology
BS 4231

Course description:
Reports, readings, and discussions on materials relevant to the biological sciences.  This course emphasizes important current issues in science.  However, the primary purpose of this course is to develop each student’s ability to think scientifically and to clearly present those thoughts.  Students will be required to develop their own research project, present a proposal talk, execute the project, present the results in a talk, and write a research paper based on their findings.

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

McMillan, V. 2001. Writing Papers in the Biological Sciences. Third edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s Press

Regardless of their eventual specialization, a scientist must be able to think and evaluate material critically.  In addition, it is essential to learn to present ideas clearly and comfortably in an oral format.

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 52; Student Handbook, page 32, section VII).  Students requiring any clarification of these policies should consult their academic advisor or the Office of Academic Affairs.

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 preparation)
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.
Goals completedPoints
1100 (50%)
2120 (60%)
3140 (70%)
4160 (80%)
5180 (90%)
6200 (100%)

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