#
SCIENCE HONORS PROGRAM

COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

SPRING, 2015

**EXPERIMENTS IN GENETICS AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY:** By performing a
sequence of experiments, students will be introduced to some of the
fundamental principles and basic techniques of genetics and molecular
biology, with particular emphasis on molecular bacteriology. Experiments
will include: culturing bacteria, protein purification, DNA purification,
DNA amplification, construction of genomic libraries, bacterial
conjugation, and transposon mutagenesis. There will also be discussions of
recombinant DNA technology and mechanisms of bacterial
pathogenesis.

**DNA DYNAMICS:** This course focuses on several key fundamentals of
eukaryotic molecular genetics. Starting with DNA replication and repair we
will branch into other more specific fields, including gene targeting, cell
cycle checkpoint control, cancer, and aging. Students will be encouraged
to participate in class discussions and some hands-on demonstrations. At
the end of the course the students should have a broad knowledge of the
field of DNA replication, mutagenesis, and repair.

**GENETICS AND BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION:** This course combines
lectures, computer labs, and group activities to provide an introduction
to the cutting edge molecular techniques and genetic analyses that are
being used to address key problems in biodiversity conservation. After a
review of the basic principles of molecular genetics, evolutionary
biology, and population genetics, students will be introduced to the wide
range of methods used in conservation genetics including bioinformatics,
forensics, and genomics. Emphasis will be placed on the practical
application of genetic techniques to the development and support of
national and international biodiversity policies and strategies.

**HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY:** This course will provide an introduction to the
major systems of the human body, including the cardiovascular,
respiratory, digestive, endocrine, immune, reproductive, excretory,
skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems. Discussions will progress from
general system structure to function on a cellular level. An overview of
pathology and current research will also be presented.

**VIROLOGY:** This course will provide an understanding of how viruses
work, using both historical and current examples. Students will learn
about different types of viruses that infect animals, plants and bacteria,
causing diseases from cold sores to hemorrhagic fevers. The course will
also cover vaccines, host-pathogen interactions and gene therapy.

**NEUROSCIENCE - EXPLORING THE BRAIN:** This course will provide a
comprehensive overview of what we currently know about the brain and how
we study it. We will explore the organization, structure, and function of
this fascinating organ which enables us to sense, move, sleep, feel, and
think. Going from single molecules to cells, from cells to neural
circuits, and from networks to behavior; our journey will feature a
description of how we perceive, process, store, and retrieve information,
as well as how these processes are altered during disease states such as
Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, depression, addiction, schizophrenia, and
autism. Topics will include: anatomical and cellular organization of the
brain, electrical impulses and signaling in neurons, neurodevelopment,
sensory perception, movement, sleep, and higher cognitive functions such
as language, emotions, learning, and memory.

**BIOCHEMISTRY:** This course will provide a foundation for
understanding the chemical basis of biological processes. The course will
explore how molecules such as DNA, RNA, and proteins are made, and how
carbohydrates, lipids, and fatty acids are metabolized in the human body,
with a focus primarily on protein structure and function. Students will
learn how biochemists clone out a selected gene from the entire genome of
any organism, mass-produce protein from the gene, and purify it in order
to study its biochemical properties and determine its three-dimensional
structure. Students will also be exposed to cutting-edge technology such
as X-ray diffraction, cryo-electron microscopy, and nuclear magnetic
resonance to determine protein structures at atomic resolution. Some
crucial biological machines such as those that generate energy, metabolize
fatty acids, and make proteins will be examined. Finally, students will
learn how protein structures can be used to design modern drugs.

**ORGANIC CHEMISTRY:** This course combines lectures, laboratory
experiments, and demonstrations to provide an introduction to the
principles and exciting frontiers of organic chemistry. Students will be
introduced to the synthesis of organic compounds and the reaction
mechanisms. Lecture topics will include: chemical bonds, structural theory
and reactivity, design and synthesis of organic molecules, and
spectroscopic techniques (UV-Vis, IR, NMR) for structure determination.
Experiments will introduce common techniques employed in organic chemistry
and will include: extraction, recrystallization, thin layer and column
chromatography, reflux, and distillation.

**NANO - FROM SCIENCE TO TECHNOLOGY:** Scientific discovery of new
phenomena on the dimensional scale of nanometers is generating a
revolution in technological development called "Nanotechnology." The
course will present a basic description of these new scientific
discoveries and will then explore some of the many resulting technological
innovations. Topics to be covered will include: fundamental physics of
electron confinement on the nanoscale, graphene, carbon nanotubes,
nanoscale electronics, quantum dots, scanning probes, and self-assembly.
Examples will be given to illustrate the capabilities of nanotechnology to
transform our society.

**RELATIVITY AND QUANTUM MECHANICS:** This course will introduce
students to the two main theoretical pillars of modern physics: relativity
and quantum mechanics. The first part of the course will present
Einstein's Special and General Theories of Relativity: time dilation,
length contraction, the space-time continuum and its metric, Lorentz
transformations, 4-vectors, relativistic energy-momentum, gravity as
space-time curvature, black holes, and cosmology. The second part of the
course will present an overview of quantum mechanics: wave functions,
probability distributions, the Uncertainty Principle, quantization,
entanglement, and the sum over histories picture.

**EXPERIMENTS IN MODERN PHYSICS:** This course will have a combination
of laboratory and theoretical work on the properties of electrons and
photons, the interference and diffraction of waves, the structure and
dynamics of atoms, the radioactive decay of nuclei, the properties of
elementary particles, and the expansion of the universe. The laboratory
experiments will introduce students to key features of quantum mechanics,
relativity, and cosmology, and will include a visit to one or more
research laboratories on the Columbia campus.

**RADIATION - FRIEND AND FOE:** This course on radiological science
will introduce the fundamental physics of radiation absorption and
radiation biology, including radiation-induced DNA damage, radiation
carcinogenesis, etc. Students will learn about some of the clinical
applications of radiation, including radiotherapy of cancer, diagnostics
and imaging, and the impact of radiation for space exploration. There
will also be discussion of radiation accidents, and a detailed study of
solar radiation and energy, covering topics such as photovoltaics, off-grid
power systems, and solar cooking.

**MODERN COSMOLOGY:** Cosmology is the study of the universe on its
largest space-time scales and endeavors to understand the universe's
origin, evolution, and fate. Starting from fundamental physical
principles, this course will investigate the observations and theories
relevant to modern-day cosmology. Topics to be explored will include: the
special and general theories of relativity, the geometry and expansion of
the universe, the Big Bang, the early universe, the cosmic microwave
background, the large-scale structure of the cosmos, dark matter, dark
energy, and the ultimate fate of the universe.

**ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS:** This course will trace our knowledge of
the universe from astronomy's ancient roots in naked-eye observations of
the sky to the twenty-first century studies of extrasolar planetary
systems, black holes, and cosmology. Initial topics will include: Newton's
laws of motion and gravitation, orbits and space travel, and the
properties of planets' surfaces, interiors, and atmospheres. The course
will then combine atomic and nuclear physics with stellar and galactic
astronomy to describe stars, supernovae, black holes, the interstellar
medium, galaxies, dark matter and dark energy, the creation of the
elements, and the evolution of the universe.

**MATHEMATICAL CURIOSITIES:** This course takes a range of basic
mathematical proof methods - such as parity, invariants, the method of
painting, search for winning position, combinatorics - and brings them to
life in the form of small problems. Students will be engaged in solving
problems illustrating different ideas of abstract mathematics hidden in
situations close to everyday life.

**GRAPH THEORY BY EXAMPLE:** Graph theory is a new and exciting area of
discrete mathematics. For our purposes, a graph is just a number of points
together with lines or curves joining certain pairs of these points.
Though at first glance graphs may seem like simple objects to study, the
field of graph theory contains some of the deepest and most beautiful
mathematics of the last fifty years. Being an extremely visual field, many
problems in graph theory are easily stated, yet have complex solutions
with far-reaching implications and applications. Problem solving, class
discussions, and student examples will guide exploration not only of the
mathematics of graph theory, but also illustrate how graph theory arises
in fields such as computer science, linguistics, chemistry, game theory,
and many others.

**GROUP THEORY AND ITS APPLICATIONS:** Group theory is the foundation
of modern abstract algebra. But where does it come from? Is it simply an
arcane field of study, or machinery applicable to a wide range of
real-world problems? To answer the first question, we do not need to go too
far - we have worked with groups, in a sense, since the dawn of mathematics.
As for its usefulness, group theory covers a vast range of problems.
Questions about the constructability of regular polygons, or discovering
general prescriptions like the quadratic formula to find the roots of
polynomials, were answered using group theory. The course will explore
these topics in depth, and include detailed examples and problem
solving.

**COMPUTER PROGRAMMING IN JAVA:** Students will learn the basics of
programming using Java. Topics will include: variables, operators, loops,
conditionals, input/output, objects, classes, methods, basic graphics, and
fundamental principles of computer science. Approximately half of the
class time will be spent working on the computer to experiment with the
topics covered. Some previous programming experience will be helpful but
is not required.