Biology 307 - Junior Seminar - Fall 1999

Professor: Dr. Bob R. Pohlad, Garber 118

Phone: 365-4367; email: web:

Office hours: Mon: 9-11; Tues: 10-11 & 2-3:30; Wed: None; Thurs: 10-11 & 1:30-2; Fr: 9-11

Text: copied pages from: Barlow, C. (ed.), 1991. From Gaia to Selfish Genes.

Janovy, 1996. On Becoming a Biologist (available from BRP)

Attendance: College policy does not permit a student to be absent from more than 25% of class meetings (in this case three) and still receive credit for the course. Since a significant part of the grade for this class is based on participation in the discussions, any absences could affect a student's grade.

Grading: Class discussion and participation ... 40%

Weekly written assignments ...30%

Seminar paper ... 30%

Since students in this seminar are considering careers in Biology, the purpose of this seminar is to better understand how modern Science operates and read about how one scientist’s career developed. We will read about a number of contemporary scientists whose work is changing our understanding of the natural world. We will try to analyze their ideas by examining evidence supporting their hypotheses and reading critiques by their opponents. We will also consider the philosophical impact, which their work might have for society as a whole. Through this we should gain increased insight into the dynamic and exhilarating nature of modern science.

Class participation: All students are expected to actively participate in the weekly class discussions and to attend the divisional seminars scheduled as part of this course. The reading assignments must be read prior to the class. Participation grades will be based primarily on the quality of a student's comments and secondarily on the extent of the student's participation in the discussion. A tally of number of times each student participates will be kept for each class to determine this portion of the grade.

Weekly assignments: Generally each week the students will be asked to do a brief written exercise in preparation for the class discussion or in response to presentations. This might range from a few sentences on a 3x5 card to a discussion several paragraphs in length. These assignments may be used to assist in the class discussion, but will be turned in to the instructor at the end of the period.

Seminar paper: A longer seminar paper will be submitted on the last day of the seminar. This paper will address two topics:

(1.) A description of the student's understanding of the modern Scientific Enterprise; who does Science and why? How is Science done? How does it proceed and advance? What is scientific "truth"? What is Science's role in modern society?

(2.) Why am I (the student) interested in Science? Why have I chosen to be a Biology major? What do I hope for in a career in Science? What criteria do I employ in deciding whether I am making the "right" decision?

These papers need not be lengthy. Four to six pages may be sufficient, but no required length will be specified. The papers should reflect primarily the student's personal understanding and feelings regarding theses topics. The papers will be evaluated on the degree to which the student has thoughtfully analyzed the issues and the clarity with which the student's responses are presented.




Aug. 30 Seminar introduction; Discussion: What do you like about science? Why have you chosen biology major?

Sept. 6 Life Science seniors present internship experiences

Sept. 13 Janovy, On Becoming a Biologist (1st Half of Book)

Sept. 20 Janovy, On Becoming a Biologist (2nd Half of Book)

Sept. 27 Barlow, Section I: Mother Earth: Myth or Science? (pp. 3-23)

Oct. 4 ****Life Science Division Seminar (Off Campus speaker TBA)****

Oct. 11 Barlow, section II: Lynn Margulis: Vindicated Heretic (pp. 47-56)

Oct. 18 Barlow, section II: Microcosmos (pp. 57-66)

Oct. 25 Barlow, section II: Blurred Bounds of Individuality (pp. 67-84)

Nov. 1 Senior Seminar Presentations; attendance required (both Monday and Friday)

Nov. 8 ****Life Science Division Seminar (Dr. Carolyn Thomas and Dr. David Johnson,

                            "Water Quality Research at Ferrum College")****

Nov. 15 Senior Seminar Presentations; attendance required (both Monday and Friday)

Nov. 22 Senior Seminar Presentations; attendance required (both Monday and Friday)

Nov. 29 Senior Seminar Presentations; attendance required (both Monday and Friday)

Dec. 6 No Seminar (Make-up for Friday Seminars)