Rainforest ecology flower Intradisciplinary Biology at Carleton

A portion of Carleton's HHMI grant is dedicated to supporting intradisciplinary projects within Biology. This need grows from the huge range of systems studied in Biology, from molecules to cells to organisms to ecosystems. The projects below work to make connections between various subdisciplines in Biology.

Projects listed below were last updated in August, 2006. More recent activities are detailed above.

Case Study on SNPs and Genome Privacy Issues for Introductory Biology

Debby Walser-Kuntz
Susan Singer
Sarah Deel

During the summer of 2005, Debby Walser-Kuntz and Susan Singer were funded by HHMI to develop and disseminate intradisciplinary curricular activities. Along with Biology colleague Sarah Deel, they completed a case study that had been tested with Introductory Biology students on SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) and genome privacy issues. The case study, titled "SNPs and snails and puppy dog tails, and that's what people are made of..", A Case Study on Genome Privacy, was peer-reviewed and published on the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science Case Collection website and is accompanied by an extensive set of teaching notes. The case study integrates molecular genetics, ethics, and policy. The case study was successfully implemented in two Introductory Biology courses at Carleton in the fall of 2005 and is now available for use by other institutions.

To create a more integrated instructional unit on SNPs, Susan, Debby, and Sarah also developed a laboratory component where students identify a SNP in an intron of their cdk3 gene by isolating DNA from their cheek cells, amplifying the gene with PCR, and identifying their SNP allele through RFLPs. These faculty devoted considerable time to optimizing the restriction digest and other protocols for the lab. The lab was successfully implemented in two Introductory Biology courses in fall 2005 and used the new Kodak imager purchased with HHMI funds.

The lab and the case study were integrated into the introductory curriculum to make explicit connections between molecular biology, population genetics, and ethics. The link between molecular biology and population genetics is a difficult intradisciplinary bridge for beginning college biology students. The integrated instructional unit provided a concrete way for students to make these connections. The unit was also used in an introductory course linked to a philosophy course. In that course, Karen Lebacqz, an ethicist from Yale, met with the students prior to the start of the Biology lab and case study. The lab and case study are now being written up for submission to the Journal of College Science Teaching.

Plant-Based Vaccine Case Study Linking Three Biology Courses

Debby Walser-Kuntz, Heather Rissler, and Susan Singer developed a linked case study on plant-based vaccines in 2004-05. Student teams designed business plans for either plant-based edible vaccines or more conventional vaccines for the prevention of malaria in two countries in Africa. The case was used in the winter term 2005 offerings of the Immunology (Bio 310/311), Bioinformatics, and Plant Biology (Bio 236) courses. Students in these courses worked together on the case study, which had a strong bioinformatics component. Students in the Immunology and Plant Biology courses learned about the bioinformatics necessary for vaccine design from the Bioinformatics students. Likewise, students from Immunology and Plant Biology provided relevant information for the case.

Development of Complex Problems for Introductory Biology

More on the role of problem-solving courses in broadening access to science

With summer 2005 HHMI funding, Susan Singer and Debby Walser-Kuntz worked on the development of additional complex problems for their Introduction to Biology course: Evolution, Genes, and Development with problem solving (Bio 125). This course is designed for students with less science experience in high school. The course meets five days a week with an emphasis on problem solving to help students immediately apply and transfer new concepts in Biology. New problems included a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library problem, a problem on the role of artificial selection for a point mutation in the evolution of the cauliflower and broccoli, and a problem dealing with pesticide resistance and natural selection in insects that required the students to integrate course information with data analysis.

Biology Textbooks with Carleton Authors

Susan Singer
Singer Biology textbook
Susan Singer is a co-author (with Peter H. Raven, George B. Johnson, and Jonathan Losos) on the 7th edition of the textbook Biology, published by McGraw Hill. The textbook uses evolution as a unifying theme.

Faculty in the Biology Department are also working on a new textbook. More coming soon on that!