Science at the heart of medicine

8007 Pillars of Biology

COURSE DESCRIPTION: The aim of the course is to acquaint students with scientific literature and progress in selected focused areas of biological research. The class will focus on landmark papers in the following areas of interest: biochemistry, biophysics, cancer, cell biology, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, neuroscience, and systems biology. Discussions will be lead by students and senior student facilitators, with a primary focus on discussing milestone papers and their implications. Invited faculty will participate by providing their reflections and perspective on the history and scientific context of the papers presented. Through in-depth analysis of the literature on specific topics, the student is expected to gain a broadened knowledge, an increased appreciation of the process through which scientific understanding develops, and an improved ability to critically read and analyze the original literature.

COURSE STRUCTURE: Classes will consist of discussions on seminal papers and their broad implications in the life sciences. One of the aims of this course is to help foster an appreciation for the seminal discoveries of different fields. Potential papers for discussion will be provided by course leaders, covering various fields in biology. Final paper choices will be decided by a class vote.

Students are required to participate in all discussions and lead one discussion on an assigned date. During the first few minutes of the class a student will introduce a landmark paper, covering historical context and relevant background, and then the entire class will discuss paper content and conclusions. A senior student facilitator will be assigned to provide guidance and meaningful discussion for each paper, highlighting the impact of the selected paper on the specific field and exploring the notable advances since.

The student-friendly atmosphere of the course is designed to encourage and nurture broad curiosity in biological research, provide students with a unique perspective into the history and advancements made in biology, as well as develop presentation/teaching skills. Students will gain a strong foundation in the life sciences that will complement future coursework and laboratory studies.

REQUIRED MATERIALS: Presentation includes powerpoint. Sparing use of that medium is encouraged

PREREQUISITES: The course is for second year students and above. We encourage repeat students, returning in the role of facilitator of discussion. Unique to this course students get some experience teaching.

STUDENT PREPARATION: The fundamental courses are necessary, but we allow a wide range of subjects. Ideally the students will choose papers including biophysics, theoretical biology, molecular biology, neurobiology, immunology and biochemistry.


UNIQUE TRAINING OFFERED IN THIS COURSE: This is meant to be a journal club with a difference. The students get a taste of running the course. While we all agree that teaching is an important skill, there is practically no other opportunity to practice teaching in our graduate curriculum.

STUDENT ASSESSMENTS: The course is pass/fail, and attendance and participation are the only measured activities.