Last updated: October 13, 2010 07:57 PM

BIOLOGY F2401 -- Fall 2009

SYLLABUS/COURSE DESCRIPTION -- Last updated: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 07:57 PM  

CONTEMPORARY BIOLOGY I:  Biochemistry & Genetics

Profs. Lawrence Chasin and Deborah Mowshowitz

  • Tues. and Thurs. 5:40 – 6:55 PM

  • 309 Havemeyer

  • The very same lectures are given Tues/Thurs at 10:35 A.M. in 417 IAB.

  • Biology F2401 is an introductory course for science majors and premedical students who have completed a year of college chemistry. (Why take chemistry first? See FAQ's for GS Students.) Students who have not had chemistry or who are not science majors or premeds should consult one of the instructors before registering. This course is the first half of a two semester sequence F2401-F2402. The entire sequence covers the fundamental principles of modern biology. F2401 covers biochemistry, genetics, and evolution; F2402 covers cell biology, developmental biology and physiology.

    Note: The lectures and exams in Biol. C2005 and F2401 are identical, but the recitation sections are different. The recitations in F2401 are geared toward more mature students with less traditional science backgrounds. Post-baccalaureate students and students in Continuing Education must enroll in F2401. F2401 students may only attend F2401 recitation sections and must take exams at the times listed on this schedule. However, F2401 students may attend the morning lectures of C2005, which are the same lectures as the evening, given by the same lecturer. Indeed, the morning lecture is sometimes better since the instructor is fresher.  The morning lectures are Tues & Thurs in 417 IAB at 10:35 AM. (For a longer discussion of the differences between C2005 & F2401 see FAQ's for GS Students.)

    Biology F2401 does not include a laboratory; an introductory laboratory is offered as a separate course. The lab course (Biol. W2501) is taught in both semesters and can be taken concurrently, at a later time, or not at all. W2501 is primarily intended for premedical students who are not biology majors. (To check the lab requirements for the biology major, or a related major, see the department undergraduate majors page.) Students in F2401 do NOT have to register for W2501. They may take a different lab course OR take W2501 at another time. 

    See the advice page for information on how to get the most out of this course. There is advice from both instructors and former students on how to succeed in Bio F2401/C2005.

    BASIC TEXTS for Fall 2009

    (First 2 should be available at the CU Bookstore. You need not necessarily buy texts 1 and 2; it depends on your background and your learning style. Alternative free online sources are available. Everything you need to know for exams will be covered in the lectures; you will not be held responsible for any material in these texts that is not covered in lecture (i.e., that is found solely in the texts). You absolutely must buy book #3.

    1. Becker, Kleinsmith, and Hardin, The World of the Cell, 7th ed., Benjamin Cummings, 2008. We will cover more than half of the book (see Reading List). This book is very strong on biochemistry but weak on genetics and has no evolution at all. The 6th edition is not as up to date, but will be okay if you want to save money, as it can be had at Amazon for as little as $15 as of 8/20/08. If you already have another recent cell biology book, you don't need to get Becker. There are several cell biology books available online as part of the PubMed bookshelf. However, topics online are apparently accessible only by searching, i.e., no browsing. Keep in mind that Becker will also be used similarly in the second semester of Intro Bio, Biol. C2006.

    2. Sadava, et al, Life: The Science of Biology, 9th edition, 2011. (The 8th Edition is Sadava, et al, 2008. In the older editions of this text, Purves is the first author). This book supplies the topics missing in Becker -- basic genetics and evolution for this term; physiology and development for next term. If you have any other recent comprehensive college biology text, such as Campbell or Gould & Keeton or the 6th or 7th edition of Purves, then you don't need to buy a new intro bio text -- any current college biology text will cover the same material. Just use the index to find the material.  And the 7th edition can be had online for just a few dollars. See Kimball's Biology Pages if you prefer to use an online basic bio text. Again, topics online are apparently accessible only by searching, i.e., no browsing. Savada will also be used in the second semester of Intro Bio, Biol. C2006.

    3. Mowshowitz, Problems in Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, 19th edition, revised (2010). The 19th edition (original or revised) and the 18th edition (original or revised) are very similar. This book, also known as "the problem book" contains study questions and problems from old exams; it also contains brief answers to the questions.  This book is available from the Village Copier on Broadway near 112th St. You do not need this book in advance. You are urged to get this book and start doing the problems regularly as soon as the first lecture has been delivered (but not before that).  Some of the older editions (15h, 16h, & 17h) will do in a pinch, but we do not recommend using them, because they have significant differences from the more recent editions. We strongly recommend using the 18th or 19th edition. If you have an older edition see the corrections page for an update.

    SUPPLEMENTARY TEXTS: The two textbooks cover most of the material in the lectures, but you may want to consult more advanced texts (print or online) occasionally for details on specific topics. Almost any standard biochemistry, cell biology or genetics text will do the job. Click here for a list of recommended texts and online resources. Most of the recommended texts are on reserve in the Engineering Library, and many of them are available online as part of the PubMed bookshelf (most relevant are  first authors: Berg, Cooper, Strachan, Griffiths, Alberts, Lodish). All the additional texts listed are good, but many former students have recommended especially Biochemistry by Stryer (or Berg et al. in later editions) and The Molecular Biology of the Cell by Alberts et al. For more problems, see A Problems Approach to Introductory Biology by Brian White and Michelle Mischke.

    HANDOUTS: There will be many handouts in this class to help you follow what is going on in lectures and to make note taking easier. Extra copies of the materials handed out in class will be available on the class website or in the cubby-hole boxes outside 744 Mudd.


    The questions in the problem book are intended to help you focus your studying on the important issues and to help you test your understanding. An additional page of questions ('recitation questions') will be posted on Courseworks each week. You can also consult last year’s exams, which are posted along with answers on the course Web site as the semester progresses. You are urged to discuss the questions with your fellow students. The problems will be discussed in recitation section along with any other questions you may have. The best way to prepare for the exams is to work on the problem sets before the problems are reviewed in recitation. You are not expected to know all the answers before recitation starts, but you are expected to have worked on the problems in the problem book and to have questions of your own.

    It is virtually impossible to overemphasize the importance of trying hard to solve the problems -- generations of students will swear that problem solving is the key to success in this course.  It is the way you actually learn the subject, as well as the best way to prepare for the exams. Do not plan to do all the problems the night before each exam - there are way too many! For more advice on how to do the problems, see the advice from students page. Finally, it is virtually impossible to overemphasize the importance of trying hard to solve the problems . . . 

    RECITATIONS Recitations will be offered at least 2 times per week. Tentative times are Tuesday at 7:00-8:30 and Tues + Thurs 12-1 (after the evening and morning lectures, respectively). The recitations will be conducted by graduate students or by teaching assistants who have taken this course before and know all the secrets of success. (Rooms and the names of teaching assistants will be announced soon when the course starts.) The questions from the problem book (& the recitation questions) will be discussed in recitation along with any other questions you may have. There are no quizzes in F2401 recitations. You are urged to attend either the evening or noon recitations (but not both).  Attendance at recitation is not required, but you are strongly encouraged to attend.  Recitations will begin the second week of class. Students registered for F2401 may NOT attend C2005 recitations.

    If you cannot make recitation, you should try to set up a study group to help you go over the problems. (This is a good idea even if you can come to recitation.)

    EXAMS & GRADES: There will be 3 exams given during the term and a 4th at the time of the final. The exam questions will be similar to the study questions in the problem book. All 4 exams will be cumulative but will stress material covered since the last exam. Each of the 4 will be graded on the basis of 100 points. To lessen the effect of doing poorly on one particular exam, your lowest exam grade of the first 3 will not be counted. The fourth exam will always be counted. For example, if you received grades of 60, 80, 70 and 40 for exams 1 to 4, respectively, your final grade would be 190/300 maximum calculated by dropping exam 1. This policy is designed to make sure you study for and take the fourth exam.  Pass/fail students must take the fourth exam to earn a pass. If you must miss a midterm exam for any reason, that is the one that will be dropped.  Students who wish to register for R credit must obtain permission from one of the instructors. Note: The last day to switch to Pass/Fail or W (in GS) comes before the third exam. This is the absolutely last day to request a UW grade from the instructors. See the lecture schedule for the exact date.

    CONTACTING THE INSTRUCTORS: Students are urged to contact the instructors by e-mail or in person (as opposed to phone or paper mail). Dr. Chasin's and Dr. Mowshowitz's regular office hours are listed below; please avail yourselves of these office hours if you have specific questions or want to hear others' specific questions. If problems arise at other times, please leave a message by e-mail, phone mail, or by leaving a message in the appropriate paper mailbox:

    Dr. Chasin: 854-4645. Office: 912 Fairchild. Paper mailbox (7th floor of Fairchild): #2433.
    E-mail: Office hours 1-2 Tues & Thurs in 912 Fairchild

    Dr. Mowshowitz: 854-4497. Office: 744E Mudd. Paper mailbox (7th floor of Fairchild): #2453.
    E-mail: Office hours 1-2 Tues; 4-5 Wed & 4-5 Thurs in 744D Mudd.

    Questions of an administrative nature (recitation scheduling, exam grade posting, exam room assignment, etc.) should be directed to the Intro Bio Administrator Jessie Kunkler ( )

    COURSE WEB SITE: Access to the course Web site is required. The address of the course web site (home page) is You can also reach the web site from the Columbia home page by going to "Academic Programs, Departments A-Z Listing, Biological Sciences." That will take you to the Biological Sciences home page; from there just follow your nose. The web site serves as a bulletin board for the course and it is essential that you visit it regularly (several times a week) for announcements, updates, and changes. The web page will contain updated schedules for exams, recitations & review sessions as well as the lectures. It will also include lecture notes, most of the handouts, grades, recitation assignments, exam keys, and exams from last year.

    WEB NOTES: The lecture notes will be posted the night before each lecture. If you want to read ahead, look at last year's web notes, which are very similar. The live lectures may omit or abbreviate some topics that are covered more fully in the online lecture notes. Material may be omitted from the live lecture for various reasons, such as to allow more time for reviewing difficult concepts, or to allow an expanded class discussion.  Students are responsible for all the material in the online web notes, whether it is covered in class or not. 

    WHAT TO READ: The readings listed on the schedule are intended as a guide and NOT as an assignment, so be selective. It usually pays to read one of the two basic texts (Becker or Savada) before you come to class so you will be familiar with the terminology and the basic ideas. It usually does not pay to spend a lot of time outlining the book because you need to concentrate on the material covered in class, not all the material in the book(s). Specific pages or sections are listed (intended to match the lectures) but you may find it more helpful to read whole chapters in order, especially if you have had no background in biology. In general, Becker is better for the biochemistry part of the course and Savada is better for the genetics and evolution. After the lecture, you should read whatever you feel is necessary to understand the lectures, to do the problems and to satisfy your curiosity.

    If you want to look up a specific topic in one of the supplementary texts, use the index in the book (or the search function on the web) - don't read whole chapters. Wholesale reading of the supplementary texts is NOT recommended (it takes too much time and the books are cluttered with details that are unnecessary for this course). Many of the supplementary texts cover the same topics, and any one of them will do. Read whichever one you have handy or like the best. Do not read them all.

    A fair number of experimental methods will be discussed in class. Both texts describe some of these, but not always in the sections assigned for that lecture. To find out where a particular method is described in the texts, consult the indexes or The Guide to Techniques inside the front cover of Becker. For more information, try searching the PubMed bookshelf