Lecture Schedule and Syllabus, Fall 2004
MWF 10:50-11:50
OlinRice 250

Instructor: Professor Mary K. Montgomery
office x6425
lab x8174

Office hours : R 2:30-3:30 and by appointment

Required Texts: Benjamin Pierce, Genetics: A Conceptual Approach (WHFreeman&Co.)
Solutions and Problem-Solving MEGAMANUAL to accompany Genetics: A Conceptual Approach

Publisher’s Companion Website:

COURSE DESCRIPTION: An introduction to the principles of genetics, including topics from classical Mendelian concepts to the contemporary molecular biology of the gene. Three lecture hours and one three-hour laboratory per week. (4 credits)  Prerequisites: Chemistry 111, or concurrent enrollment in Chemistry 111 or 112.

COURSE OBJECTIVES: Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to demonstrate the following competencies:
(1) an understanding of the central theories and methodologies that define the field of genetics and its various subdisciplines (traditional, molecular, and population genetics) and the ability to use the vocabulary that embodies this knowledge;
(2) an understanding that science is a continual process of investigation and interpretation and that scientific knowledge progresses via the support and rejection of competing hypotheses, collective decisions that are based on empirical evidence and logical interpretation using inductive and deductive reasoning;
(3) the ability to develop a scientifically informed position on some of the bioethical and social issues related to the practice and application of genetics research;
(4) and demonstration of enhanced critical inquiry skills through writing. Specifically, students should view writing as a tool to explore and express ideas, develop the ability to synthesize and critically evaluate information from multiple sources and viewpoints, and apply such information to the construction of an argument. 





 Reading Assignment


 Sept 8

 Introduction to the course and the study of genetics

 Ch.  1: 1-14


 Sept 10

 Mitosis and Meiosis

 Ch. 2: 16-39


 Sept 13

 Mendelian Genetics: Monohybrid crosses

 Ch. 3: 45-59


 Sept 15

 Mendelian Genetics: Dihybrid and Trihybrid crosses

 Ch. 3: 60-69


 Sept 17

 Sex Determination and Sex Linkage

 Ch. 4: 76-95

 J. Beckwith, Chapter 8


 Sept 20

 Mendel Modified: Incomplete dominance, lethal alleles,  and multiple alleles

 Ch.  5: 101-108


 Sept 22

 Modified Ratios: Gene Interactions

 Ch.  5: 108-114


 Sept 24

 Sex, Genes, and the Environment


  Problem Set 1 Due

 Ch.  5: 115-124


 Sept 27

 Pedigrees and Probabilities

 Ch.  6: 132-140


 Sept 29

Catch Up & Review



 Oct 1

 Exam 1



Oct 4

  Quantitative Traits, Genetic Testing

 Ch.  6: 141-151


 Oct 6

 Quantitative Genetics

Ch. 22 (for background)

 M. Ridley, Genome, Chapter 5


 Oct 8

 Discussion of Eugenics                    
Short Essay 1 Due

J. Beckwith, Ch. 7; P. Kitcher article, NYTimes article, eugenicist article


 Oct 11

 Linkage and Genetic Maps

  Ch.  7: 159-174


 Oct 13

 Linkage and Genetic Maps

Ch.  7: 174-183


 Oct 15

 Physical Mapping                           
Problem Set 2 Due

 Ch.  7: 184 -188


 Oct 18

 Bacterial Genetics

 Ch.  8: 198-214


 Oct 20

 DNA Structure

 Ch. 10: 266-284

Watson & Crick, 1953


 Oct 22

 DNA Replication

 Ch.  12: 322-343


 Oct 25

 Exam 2



 Oct 27

 Gene Expression: Transcription

 Ch.  13: 353-372


 Oct 29




 Nov 1

 Gene Expression: RNA Processing

 Ch.  14: 378-399


 Nov 3

 Gene Expression: Translation

 Ch.  15: 404-428


 Nov 5

 Control of Gene Expression in Prokaryotes

 Ch.  16: 434-454


 Nov 8

 Control of Gene Expression in Eukaryotes

 Ch. 16: 455-464


 Nov 10

 Molecular Genetics: PCR and DNA cloning

 Ch. 18: 507-522, 528-529


  Nov 12

 Molecular Genetics: Blotting and Probing




  Nov 15

 Molecular Genetics: Applications of Recombinant DNA Technology (focus on DNA fingerprinting)

  Problem Set 3 Due

 Ch. 18: 534-542


  Nov 17

 Molecular Genetics: Applications of Recombinant DNA Technology (focus on Gene Therapy and GMO’s)

  Short Essay 2 Due



  Nov 19

 Exam 3



  Nov 22

 RNA Viruses and Transposable Elements

 Ch. 8: 223-226 ; Ch. 11: 309-315


  Nov 24

 Chromosomal Mutations: Changes in Structure

 Ch.  9: 234-247


  Nov 26




  Nov 29

 Chromosomal Mutations: Altered Chromosome Number

 Ch.  9: 248-260


 Dec 1

 DNA Mutations

Ch. 17: 472-483


 Dec 3


 Ch. 21: 621-630  


 Dec 6

 The Human Genome Project and Functional Genomics

 Ch. 19: 559-567, Mining Genomes


 Dec 8

 Discussion on Animal and Human Cloning and Human Embryonic Stem  Cell Research        Short Essay 3 Due

 Ch. 21: 603-604; Wilmut et al. Nature 385: 810-13; additional articles


 Dec 10

 Mitochondrial DNA

 (Ch. 20 for background)

 Chapter from B. Sykes, The Seven  Daughters of Eve;  Chapter from L. Margulis, Symbiotic Planet


 Dec 13

 Population and Evolutionary Genetics

 Ch.  23: 669-677


 Dec 15

 Population and Evolutionary Genetics

Problem Set 4 Due

 Ch. 23: 677-699






 Dec 16

 Final Exam  (10:30 – 12:30)
















 Short Essays (3)

 10/1, 11/12, 12/3


 Problem Sets

 9/19, 10/10, 11/10, 12/12


 Policy Report



 In class performance






Exam Format: Short answer problems, with some multiple choice, and matching.

Short Essays:  You will be asked to write three short essays (600-800 words each) addressing current bioethical issues emerging from genetics-related work.  You are to present an informed opinion in these essays, relating issues with which our society is currently struggling to knowledge gained from the classroom, your readings, and discussions. Additional information on how to begin researching and writing these thesis-governed papers, as well as specific criteria for grading will be detailed in a separate handout. Plagiarism will be handled according to the Macalester policy on academic integrity in the student handbook, with which you need to be familiar (

Problem Sets: Part of your final grade will be determined by solving sets of genetics problems outside the classroom.  Typically you will have several days to work on each problem set and you may work in groups, although each individual will have to hand in his/her own set of answers.

Policy Report: Working as a group, you will draft a policy report offering guidelines for regulation of a specific genetics-related technology (e.g. gene therapy, genetically modified crops, human embryonic stem cell research).  This report is expected to be a 12-15 page paper with 4 sections: a description of the technology, the history of its discovery and development, a discussion of societal and ethical concerns, and specific recommendations for regulating the technology.

In class performance: Your in class performance grade will be determined by your level of preparation for and participation in class discussions and activities, including (but not limited to) informal writing assignments and in-class problem-solving; these in-class assignments will not be graded, but you will lose credit if you do not complete them.  Furthermore, unexcused absences from class will negatively affect this aspect of your grade.

Lab Performance: The lab is scheduled separately from the lecture component of the course and is designed by a different instructor, Steve Sundby.  Steve has his own syllabus for the laboratory component, which will explain his criteria for evaluating your performance in the lab.  Your lab grade, which will be assigned by Steve and myself, will contribute 20% toward your final grade for the course.

Some Dry (but Important) Legalese:  The only acceptable excuses for missing an exam are severe personal illness, a death in the family, or other emergency 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.

Assignments handed in late will suffer a 20% penalty or “late fee” for each 24 –hour period turned in after the due date/time. 

Food for thought:

OK, now that we've got the dry basics out of the way, here's a more inspired viewpoint. This is a remarkable time for the study of genetics.  Advances in molecular biology and computer science have created a synergy that is allowing us to uncover information that most geneticists dared not even dream about a few decades ago. The genome sequencing projects are spewing out reams of data at a very rapid pace, revealing the complete genomic sequences of a wide variety of organisms ranging from bacteria to us.  What can all this information tell us about how organisms develop and function?  Is the Human Genome Project living up to its promise of helping us to identify those genes, that when defective, cause disease? Is comparative genomics revealing how life has evolved, and the genetic differences that separate one species from another?  Geneticists are making progress on all these fronts.  But, as with all technological advances, the practice of modern genetics raises several ethical concerns, such as how cloning and DNA recombinant technology are being applied in the practice of medicine and agriculture.  Furthermore, the current intense focus on finding a genetic explanation for everything is rooted in the centuries old concept of “biological determinism” which has lead to oversimplified models of how organisms develop and behave as well as provided the rationale underlying eugenics.  We will take time to explore these important controversial issues.  So now is an exciting time to become a geneticist-- even if only for one semester! But whether you are a budding geneticist, or just using this class as a means to a different end, here's some advice on how to get the most out of the course...

How to Succeed in this Course:

(1) Attend my lectures. ALL of them. I will be supplementing with information not in your textbook. Plus, we won't be covering everything in the text, and what I emphasize in the lectures is what will be emphasized on exams.

(2) Use the lecture outlines to organize your notes, but not as a substitute for taking your own notes.

(3) Read the assigned textbook pages and other assigned reading before coming to class.

(4) Do the practice problems at the end of each chapter, particularly those ones I recommend.

(5) Test your understanding of some of the material using online problem sets and tutorials, such as those found at The Biology Project:; Make flashcards for yourself to help with learning the enormous volume of new vocabulary.

(6) Turn in assignments on time. Similar to credit card company late fees, assignments turned in after the due date will be penalized 20% for each day late.

(7) Show up on time for exams to give yourself all the allotted time to work on the exam. Because many students have a class directly after this one, I will not be able to provide extra time to work on exams after the class period has ended. However, if you have a diagnosed learning disability or English is not your first language, please speak with me about making alternative arrangements for test-taking.*

(8) Process the information you are learning in as many different ways as possible: by reading, writing, listening, speaking. Typically you will hear or read a concept or idea first in a passive setting (reading, listening). You then need to actively engage the material by doing problem sets, or writing a short paper, or explaining the material to someone else (e.g., your classmates). Understanding what you've just read or heard is not the same as knowing something well enough to explain it to others or being able to solve problems on your own. Only when you can do the latter will you be ready for the exams-- and only then will you have really learned what this course has to offer.

(9) Spend on average 2-3 hours studying genetics outside class for each hour in class.  Manage your time well.  Set aside a block of time several times per week to do the readings and practice problems, and to go over your notes.  For each lecture you might consider writing a summary of what you’ve learned and what questions remain unclear.  Bring your questions to the next class meeting or email them to me or stop by my office during office hours.

(9) Form a study group.  Get together with 2 or 3 of your classmates and meet on a regular basis (e.g., 1-2 hours per week).  A useful way to run a study group session is for each member to have completed a problem set on his/her own and then get together with the group to go over the answers.  If members are coming up with different answers for the same problem, often much learning can take place by discussing the problem and each person’s approach to solving it.

(10) Come talk with me during my office hours.  I will do my best to identify problem areas during class time by getting feedback through one-minute papers.  But, “the squeaky wheel gets greased” and you will get the best help when you ask for it.  Don’t wait until you are feeling overwhelmed or do poorly on an exam—come talk to me the minute you are feeling confused or uncomfortable in class.  And come talk to me when things are going well!  I’d love to hear for example when you’ve made a connection between what you are learning in the classroom and life outside it, or when you find a particular topic intellectually engaging.  Those are the moments we professors live for.

*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.



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