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BIOS 597 – Topics in Biological Sciences:  Developmental Aspects of the Chemical Senses



Dr. Christine A. Byrd

3161 Wood Hall


Office Hours:  MW     9:30-11:00 or by appointment



Journal articles will be assigned as supplemental readings.



This new course will explore key topics in developmental neurobiology, using examples from the olfactory and gustatory systems.  The focus will be on the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the formation of the peripheral organs and brain structures involved in these senses, although we will be integrating a variety of biological concepts in our discussions. 

The chemical senses (taste and smell) are the two most plastic sensory systems.  The receptor cells for these senses are continually turning over, in response to damage as well as normal wear and tear.  Thus, these systems are ideal for examining the molecular and cellular basis for neuronal cell birth, differentiation, maintenance, and death.

Course expectations include learning the lecture material, reading all assignments from the primary literature, participating in discussions, and presenting a lecture on an assigned topic.  The discussion of each topic will begin with a lecture by the instructor covering an overview of the subject.  The next class period will consist of student presentations on the topic, using examples from the current primary literature.



1/3                   Introduction to course

1/8                   General Introduction to the Nervous System - neurons/neuroanatomy

1/10                General Introduction to Developmental Biology

1/15                No Class

1/17                Model systems and Techniques

1/22                Intro to Olfaction

1/24                More on Olfaction

1/29                Intro to Gustation

1/31                Exam #1

2/5                   Neural Induction-genes and tissues involved

2/7                   Neural Induction (student presentations)

2/12                Cell Differentiation - nature vs. nurture

2/14                Cell Differentiation (student presentations)

2/19                Axonal Pathfinding - growth cones and guidance cues

2/21                Exam #2

2/26                Semester Break

2/28                Semester Break

3/5                   Axonal Pathfinding (student presentations)

3/7                   Afferent–Target Interactions – my work

3/12                Afferent–Target Interactions – role of activity

3/14                Afferent-Target Interactions –trophic factors

3/19                Afferent–Target Interactions (student presentations)

3/21                Exam #3

3/26                Role of Glia – cell migration and boundaries

3/28                Role of Glia (student presentations)

4/2                   Cell Death

4/4                   Cell Death (student presentations)

4/9                   Metamorphosis (student presentations)

4/11                Regeneration

4/18                Final Exam 12:30-2:30



Your grade for this course will be based on exams and presentations.  There will be 4 exams, each worth 100 points.  Exam format will consist of multiple choice, short answer, fill-in-the-blank, and essay questions.  Exams will cover all material presented in class as well as any assigned readings.


You will each give one 45-minute presentation on a particular topic.  Topics for presentations will be assigned the first day of class.  You will need to meet with me before preparing your presentation, so that I can give you suggestions on articles you should include.  For your presentation to the class, you may use overheads or PowerPoint presentations (both will be graded equally).  After your presentation, you will hand in to me a written summary of your topic including at least 5 references from the literature, a general overview of each paper referenced (including the hypothesis, methods used, results, and conclusions), and a general take-home message.  Presentations are worth 100 points and will be graded on the following criteria: 


Gave background (context) information (10 points)

Covered the topic in sufficient detail (10 points)

Presented in clear, logical order (10 points)

Used appropriate visual aids such as figures and diagrams (10 points)

Presented material coherently (10 points)

Gave good summary of topic including directions for future work in the area (10 points)

Ability to answer questions (10 points)

Literature search (10 points)

Written summary of your topic (20 points)


Grading Scale:  There are 500 possible points for the course.


EXAM #1                               100 points

EXAM #2                               100 points

EXAM #3                               100 points

FINAL EXAM                         100 points

PRESENTATION                  100 points


92-100%                    A                     460-500

89-91.9%                   BA                   445-459.9

81-88.9%                   B                     405-444.9

78-80.9%                   CB                  390-404.9

70-77.9%                   C                     350-389.9

67-69.9%                   DC                  335-349.9

59-66.9%                   D                     295-334.9

< 58.9%                      E                     <294.9