BIOL 369 Developmental Biology

Lecture Schedule and Syllabus, Spring 2005

MWF 2:20-3:20
OlinRice 370

Laboratory Schedule and Syllabus, Spring 2003

Instructor: Professor Mary K. Montgomery

office x6425
lab x8174

Text: Scott Gilbert Developmental Biology 7th edition

Websites: Gilbert's website (
also Leon Browder's The Virtual Embryo

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course aims to integrate organismal, cellular, genetic and molecular approaches to the study of animal development. We will analyse a diversity of mechanisms, ranging from ones that set up pattern formation in the unfertilized egg to those governing morphogenesis of organ systems. Evolution of developmental mechanisms will also be discussed. The lab component will incorporate both descriptive and experimental embryological techniques. Three lecture hours and 3 1/2 hr lab per week. (5 credits)  Prerequisites: Cell Biology and Genetics.

Developmental Biology is an incredibly fascinating field of study that has undergone a major revolution in the last several years to become one of the hottest areas in biology. This has been due in part to rapid advances in cell and molecular genetic approaches, as well as in computer technologies and the various genome projects. Developmental biologists are still grappling with questions raised earlier this century by brilliant researchers with infinite patience, remarkable hands and keen powers of observation. Since then the field has been building on the knowledge gained by these early workers; we are now starting to understand the molecular basis underlying many of the developmental processes they described, and finding that these molecular interactions are often conserved among organisms as different as flies and humans. It really is a very exciting and challenging time for developmental biology and it is hard to imagine what could be more fascinating than contemplating, exploring, and learning about how something as complex as the human body could have developed from a single fertilized egg. It is my hope that you will become as enchanted by the study of this incredible phenomenon as I am.






Jan 24

 Overview of development

Ch. 1 (3-16); Ch. 2 (25-26)


Jan 26


Ch. 2 (34-35);   Ch. 19 (624-628)


Jan 28


Ch. 7 (183-197)






Jan 31


Ch. 7 (197-210)


Feb 2

 Sea urchin early development

Ch. 8 (221-233)


Feb 4

 Sea urchin later development

Ch. 8 (233-239)






Feb 7

 Evolution of developmental patterns

Ch. 2 (44-47)


Feb 9

 Experimental embryology

Ch. 3 (51-63)


Feb 11

 Experimental embryology

Ch. 3 (63-70)






Feb 14

 Genes and development

Ch. 4 (81-91)


Feb 16

 Genes and development

Ch. 4 (92-105)


Feb 18

 Exam 1







Feb 21

 Fish development

Ch. 11 (345-354)


Feb 23

Differential   gene expression: level of DNA

Ch. 5 (107-126) (background only) + TBA


Feb 25

Differential   gene expression: level of RNA

Ch. 5 (127-137) (background only) + TBA





Feb 28

 Avian development

Ch. 11 (354-362)


Mar 2

 Mammalian development

Ch. 11 (363-374)


Mar 4

 Discussion on human cloning & embryonic stem cells

Presedential Bioethics Commission Report






Mar 7

 Primary induction

Ch. 10 (305-315)


Mar 9

 Primary induction

Ch. 10 (317-327)


Mar 11

 Mesoderm: somites and muscle

Ch. 14 (465-474)






Mar 14




Mar 16




Mar 17








Mar 21

 Axis Specification in Drosophila

Ch. 9 (263-269)


Mar 23

 Axis Specification in Drosophila

Ch. 9 (270-278)


Mar 25

 Axis Specification in Drosophila

Ch. 9 (278-289)






Mar 28

 Exam 2


  = Mar 30

 Neurulation and ectoderm

Ch. 12 (391-402)


Apr 1

 Neurulation and ectoderm

Ch. 12 (403-412)






Apr 4

Comparative development of the vertebrate, cephalopod, and insect eye

Ch. 12 (413-16) + TBA


Apr 6

Neural crest

Ch. 13 (427-436) + Fraser et al. paper


Apr 8


Ch. 13 (442-452)






Apr 11

Axonal guidance

Ch. 13 (442-452)


Apr 13

Axonal guidance



Apr 15

Sex determination

Ch. 17 (547-553)






Apr 18

Sex determination

Ch. 17 (556-561)


Apr 20

Sex determination



Apr 22

Topic: student choice (from chapters 18-23)







Apr 25

Topic: student choice (from chapters 18-23)



Apr 27

Topic: student choice (from chapters 18-23)



Apr 29

 Exam 3







May 2

 Wrap Up and Review











 May 9

 Final Exam (Grant Proposal) DUE by 5pm













 FINAL (Grant Proposal)



 In class performance






A little less than 1/3 of your grade will be based on your performance on exams covering lecture material in the course. The exams will be short answer/essay format and designed to test your ability to synthesize information, critically analyze data, and design controlled experiments. In addition to readings from the textbook, we will read and discuss some papers from the primary literature. Your "in class performance " grade (5% of final grade) will be based on your preparedness for and participation in these discussions; in addition you may be asked to prepare a 5-10 minute short presentation on a relevant topic to the day's discussion. Your final exam, which will take the form of a written grant proposal, will account for 15% of your final grade. The other 50% will come from your efforts in the lab section of the course and the papers you write based on that work (see Lab syllabus). The 50/50 split reflects the fact that you will be spending at least as much time in the lab as you do in lecture, as well as my belief that one of the best ways to understand the material presented in lecture is to have hands-on experience with the organisms and techniques used by researchers who study developmental biology. Furthermore, I have designed the course so that the labs reinforce the concepts being covered in the lecture and vice versa. I feel that you will gain as much understanding about certain aspects of developmental biology from the labs and the writing of your papers as you will from studying the text and lecture material. Each is equally important and thus the grading reflects this balance.

The first three exams will be based on material covered in lecture. Scott Gilbert's Developmental Biology is an excellent textbook and I will expect you to keep up with the reading material that accompanies the lecture. Both my lectures and the textbook emphasize experimental evidence and you will get to know something about the researchers as well as their work and how each has contributed to the knowledge base of this fast-growing field. There is much more in Gilbert's textbook than we will be able to cover in class. In terms of exams, you will only be responsible for topics covered in class; however, I encourage you to read up on other topics presented in the book that we may not cover but that may be of interest to you. Furthermore, there are several websites that are relevant to developmental biology; I will be supplementing the lecture and text with at least two of these: "zygote " and " the virtual embryo". Again, there is a whole world of information available through these websites that you may want to further explore on your own.

Your final exam will take the form of a written grant proposal. Your job will be to design a series of experiments, including proper controls, that address a novel question in developmental biology. You will do the background research, generate the question, and design the experiments. You will have a lot of freedom in this endeavor, but the question(s) being pursued must be novel . You will receive much more detailed information about writing your grant proposal later in the semester. Just like at the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation, late proposals will not be accepted, but early submissions are encouraged!

The only acceptable excuses for missing an exam are severe personal illness, a family emergency, or other event of similar nature. You will need to show me some form of documentation should such a situation arise and you return to class to make up an exam. If you cannot take an exam on the assigned day because of participation in a sporting event or other official Macalester activity, you must notify me ahead of time (i.e., BEFORE the day of the exam) so that we can schedule an appropriate time for you to take the exam.

If you need special accommodation for note-taking or test-taking, e.g. due to ESL or a learning disability, please feel free to discuss your situation with me. I will do my best to accommodate your needs and help you achieve your full potential in my course.

courses icon Back to Course Pages