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Biology Track Core Course

Instructor: Harald Janovjak

Description

Guiding principles

1. Every big biological problem has a structural, mechanical, evolutionary, genetic and population side to it (these intrinsic aspects (not research fields) are called "angles" in this course).

2. A biological problem can only be understood by looking at it from several angles.

 

Teaching goal

The first goal of the biology track core course is to bridge different areas in biology and to understand how fundamental biological problems and phenomena can be approached from vastly different angles. The second goal is to develop critical thinking, presentation skills, grant writing experience and community building.

 

Format

Each 5-week module focuses on a specific problem or question. We first discuss the general problem along with an overview of the available angles (this is the introductory lecture and Harald's Thursday lectures). The remainder of the module is spent learning about the different angles using recent literature and specific questions (these are the student presentations on Tuesdays). Skills emphasized include critical reading of literature, formulating questions and hypotheses, presentation, and grant writing.

 

Topics for 2016/17

  • Module 1: Communication - How do cells and organisms sense the environment (light, temperature, force)?

  • Module 2: Adaptation - How do cells and organisms adapt to the environment?

     


Pre-requisites: A background in life sciences is desirable; students without a life-science background are encouraged to attend "An introduction to Molecular Biology", "Evolutionary Biology" or "Biology Refresher" in the fall semester, or to contact the course coordinator in due course.

Target audience: Students planning to affiliate in a biology research group are encouraged to choose this course as their track core course.

Assignments: See below.

Attendance is mandatory.

ECTS credits: 6

Start date: February 28, 2017

End date: June 22, 2017

 

Schedule

Date Time Topic Venue
Topic: COMMUNICATION      
Tuesday, February 28 8:45-10:00 Introductory Lecture Topic 1 Mondi 2
       
Thursday, March 2 8:45-10:00 The genetic angle Mondi 2
Thursday, March 2 11:45-12:30 Recitation Mondi 2
Tuesday, March 7 8:45-10:00 Student presentation Mondi 2
       
Thursday, March 9 8:45-10:00 The structural angle Mondi 2
Thursday, March 9 11:45-12:30 Recitation Mondi 2
Tuesday, March 14 8:45-10:00 Student presentation Mondi 2
       
Thursday, March 16 8:45-10:00 The synthetic angle Mondi 2
Thursday, March 16 11:45-12:30 Recitation Mondi 2
Tuesday, March 21 8:45-10:00 Student presentation Mondi 2
       
Thursday, March 23 8:45-10:00 The mechanical angle *Mondi 3*
Thursday, March 23 11:45-12:30 Recitation Mondi 2
Tuesday, March 28 8:45-10:00 Student presentation Mondi 2
       
Thursday, March 30 8:45-10:00 The population angle Mondi 2
Thursday, March 30 11:45-12:30 Recitation Mondi 2
Tuesday, April 4 8:45-10:00 Student presentation Mondi 2
       
April 3 17:00 Feedback session & brainstorming on Spring-2 (let's meet in the pub but we can then move to a Mondi if you wish to talk in private)  
       
Thursday, April 6 8:45-10:00 Exam (open book but not a group work): Exam sheet can be picked up at 8:45 from Alexandra Mally (bridge, 2nd floor) and shall be returned to her by 10:05!  
Thursday, April 9 midnight Deadline for handing in mini-grant proposals  
       
Tuesday, May 2 8:45-10:00 Discussion of Exam & Introduction Spring 2 Mondi 2
Thursday, May 4 8:45-10:00 Confirm teams & Team Evo&Eco gets to work (+ Harald) Mondi 2
       
Thursday, May 11 8:45-10:00 Team Evo&Eco reports (all students) Mondi 2
Thursday, May 11 11:45-12:30 Team Evo&Eco passes on to Team Structure (+ Harald) (teams and all interested) Mondi 2
       
Thursday, May 18 8:45-10:00 Team Structure reports (all students) Mondi 2
Thursday, May 18 11:45-12:30 Team Structure passes on to Team Genetics (+ Steffi) (teams and all interested) Mondi 2
       
Tuesday, May 30 8:45-10:00 Team Genetics reports (all students) Mondi 2
Tuesday, May 30 11:45-12:30 Team Genetics passes on to Team SynBio (+ Steffi) (teams and all interested) Mondi 2
       
Thursday, June 22 8:45-10:00 Team SynBio reports and scientific wrap-up (all students) Mondi 2
Thursday, June 22 11:45-12:30 Discussion mini-grant proposals & Feedback session (all students) Mondi 2

Assignments

More details on the assignments:
 
There are two written exams in this course. In addition, students are asked to present twice and write two mini-grant proposals (4-5 pages; see below) in the course.
 
To sign-up for presentations and proposals, please find the sign-up sheet here: intranet.ist.ac.at/istwiki/index.php/Janovjak_Group
 
*Please also read the "seminal" paper listed on the sign-up sheet before the first lecture.*
 
For your presentations and reading, please keep the following points in mind:
Extracting information: What is the background and main question?
Experimental design: What concepts and methods were used to address the questions?
Critical thinking: How do the results relate to the data and what makes this paper strong / not so strong?
Formulating questions/hypothesis: What would you do next?
 
For the peer review process, please keep the following points in mind:
Was the background and question presented clearly?
Were the data discussed in detail and, where necessary, critically?
Was the impact of the findings explained accurately?
 
For your mini-grant proposals, try to go beyond the question that your colleagues addressed in the presentation.
You are free about content as it is quality that matters.
 
For format, please follow this general outline (4-5 pages) and keep the deadline in mind (see the WIKI page):
1) Discuss the background in the field that led you to pick this question as the key one to address (less than one page).
2) Define the question and why it is important (at most two paragraphs).
3) Describe the set of experiments you would carry out over 3 years to address the question, including potential difficulties and alternate plans.
4) Describe the potential impact of the findings (one paragraph).
5) References (don't count towards 4 page total).

Course Materials

You can find the course materials on the IST Austria idrive:

I:\all\CoreCourseBiology2017