Richard A. Fluck, E. Paul and Francis H. Reiff Professor of Biology, Department of Biology, Franklin & Marshall College
Biology 102 is a first-year seminar at Franklin & Marshall College that uses the current world-wide tuberculosis epidemic, which the World Health Organization declared to be a global health emergency in 1993, to connect topics in molecular biology and biochemistry to key issues in public health policy. The basic science covered in the course includes the molecular biology and biochemistry of the tubercle bacillus, using DNA fingerprinting and molecular epidemiology to identify potential drug targets, the identification of suitable antigens for a vaccine, and the function of the immune system. The public health questions explored include the evolution of drug resistance, the synergy between tuberculosis and HIV, and contemporary disease control and prevention strategies.
A multidisciplinary approach is essential to understanding the problem of Tuberculosis. While there is an emphasis on the biomedical tools we have for preventing, diagnosing, and treating TB, these are studied in the context of the public health infrastructure that uses these tools. This requires that the course examine TB control and prevention from the perspective of anthropology, history, business, economics, ethics, law, and public policy.
The course is a discussion-based and writing-intensive seminar, organized around assigned readings, guest lectures, and semester-long group projects in which 3-4 students research topics related to real problems in TB control in prevention. Thus, students know that they are not only learning about a real problem, but that their findings could be used to do something about the problem. An example would be implementing a plan for TB education at local farm-worker camps. Undergraduate Preceptors, who assist students with writing and help lead class discussions, have been invaluable assets to the course, bringing their own specialized knowledge and skills to the process.