Cluster 9: The Building Blocks of Life: Molecules and Cells in Biology

Prerequisites: None

Preference: familiarity with Biology and Chemistry recommended

Cell and Developmental Biology

Instructor: Zhu Wang, PhD (MCD Biology)

This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of cell and developmental biology.  Topics discussed will include structure, organization, and function of eukaryotic cells. Students will also learn about biological membranes, organelles, protein and vesicular trafficking, cellular interactions, the cytoskeleton, and signal transduction. Topics covering animal development, pattern formation, and genetics will also be discussed.  Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) will be used as a model organism to study Mendelian genetics, non-Mendelian genetics, and used as a tool to screen for genetic regions possibly important in Alzheimer’s disease research.

Molecular Biology

Instructor: Jimmy Shanks, PhD (MCD Biology)

This course will introduce students to multiple molecular biology fundamentals including molecular cloning, bacterial genetic transformation, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), restriction endonucleases, and recombinant expression of a fluorescent protein and its purification using affinity chromatography.  Antibiotic resistance is currently a major topic of concern and the frequencies of resistance will be investigated using the antibiotic Rifampicin and a laboratory strain of E. coli. One of the possible solutions to antibiotic resistance is the bacteriophage, a virus that naturally infects bacteria.  Students will isolate bacteriophage from organic material and attempt to classify its ability to infect bacteria and its morphological characteristics.  Molecular structure of macromolecules including proteins and ribonucleic acids will be discussed and possible field trips may include a visit to the SLAC National Accelerator Lab at Stanford University, many discoveries including how DNA is translated into protein were discovered here.

Transferable Skills: Tools for Success

It may or may not surprise you that being a university researcher requires a whole host of skills outside of the specific scientific knowledge required of your chosen discipline or specialty. It requires communication skills such as the ability to present your work in writing and orally. It requires competencies in the realm of information technology including the ability to find and judge (the validity of) information and use a variety of hardware and software tools (e.g. spreadsheets, databases, statistics software, other data manipulation tools). It requires all of those skills to effectively conduct research such as data collection, analysis and interpretation, critical thinking and problem solving as well as the ability to conduct laboratory and/or field work. And, of course, a baseline competency in English, science, mathematics and computers is critical. 

The governing mission of the UCSC COSMOS Transferable Skills course is to promote students’ future academic (and professional) success through the exploration and development of transferable skills: i.e. those competencies that students develop while in school which facilitate academic achievement, the eventual transition into the work- force and which are applicable in many other life situations.