Genetics, Development and Cell Biology

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The Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology (GDCB) is dedicated to biological discovery and excellence in undergraduate and graduate education. The research and teaching mission of the department is to achieve a greater understanding of fundamental principles of life by focusing on basic cellular and subcellular processes, including genome dynamics, cell structure and function, cellular response to environmental and developmental signals, and molecular mechanisms of development. Recognizing that student education is of paramount importance, GDCB strives for excellence in teaching and research. GDCB plays a leading role in undergraduate and graduate training through a variety of activities, including traditional courses, undergraduate internships in research laboratories, and advanced graduate seminar and literature-based courses. Innovative approaches to learning are emphasized throughout the curriculum.

Undergraduate Study

The Department of GDCB offers undergraduate majors in conjunction with other departments. Students interested in the areas of genetics, development and cell biology should major in biology, genetics or bioinformatics and computational biology (BCBio). The biology major is administered and offered jointly by the GDCB and Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology (EEOB) departments. The GDCB faculty, together with those in EEOB and the Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology (BBMB), administer and offer the genetics major. Each of these majors is available through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences or through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. BCBio is administered by GDCB and the Departments of Computer Science and Mathematics, and it is available through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The biology major and the genetics major prepare students for a wide range of careers in biological sciences. Training in biology or genetics may lead to employment in teaching, research, or any of a variety of health-related professions. Some of these careers include biotechnology, human and veterinary medicine, agricultural sciences and life science education. BCBio majors are prepared for careers at the interfaces of biological, informational and computational sciences in the above fields. These majors are also excellent preparation for graduate study in bioinformatics, molecular genetics, cell and developmental biology, neuroscience and related fields. Faculty members in GDCB contribute to the undergraduate courses listed below. The full descriptions of these courses can be found in the biology, genetics and BCBio sections of the catalog.

BIOL 101Introductory Biology3
BIOL 110Introduction to Biology1
BIOL 111Opportunities in Biology0.5
BIOL 155Human Biology3
BIOL 211Principles of Biology I3
BIOL 211LPrinciples of Biology Laboratory I1
BIOL 212Principles of Biology II3
BIOL 212LPrinciples of Biology Laboratory II1
BIOL 255Fundamentals of Human Anatomy3
BIOL 255LFundamentals of Human Anatomy Laboratory1
BIOL 256Fundamentals of Human Physiology3
BIOL 256LFundamentals of Human Physiology Laboratory1
BIOL 313Principles of Genetics3
BIOL 313LGenetics Laboratory1
BIOL 314Principles of Molecular Cell Biology3
BIOL 328Molecular and Cellular Biology of Human Diseases3
BIOL 344Human Reproduction3
BIOL 350Comprehensive Human Anatomy3
BIOL 352Vertebrate Histology4
BIOL 394International Field Trips in Biology1-4
BIOL 423Developmental Biology3
BIOL 423LDevelopmental Biology Laboratory1
BIOL 428Topics in Cell Biology3
BIOL 436Neurobiology3
BIOL 444Bioinformatic Analysis4
BIOL 490Independent Study1
BIOL 494Biology Internship1-3
BIOL 495Undergraduate Seminar1-3
BIOL 499Undergraduate Research Experience1-3
GEN 110Genetics Orientation1
GEN 112Genetics Orientation for Transfer Students0.5
GEN 349The Genome Perspective in Biology3
GEN 409Molecular Genetics3
GEN 410Analytical Genetics3
GEN 490Independent Study1-5
GEN 491Undergraduate Seminar, Professional Practice in Genetics Disciplines1
GEN 499Genetics Research1-5
BCBIO 110BCBIO Orientation0.5
BCBIO 322Introduction to Bioinformatics and Computational Biology3
BCBIO 401Fundamentals of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology3
BCBIO 402Fundamentals of Systems Biology and Network Science3
BCBIO 444Bioinformatic Analysis4

Graduate Study

Understanding the genetic blueprint and the functions of cells is critical to virtually all aspects of biology. The basic mission of the Department of GDCB is to achieve a greater understanding of fundamental principles of life. The GDCB faculty and students conduct hypothesis-driven research into the biology of animals, plants and microbes. While research in GDCB is often based on discovery and analysis of molecular mechanisms of life processes, a true understanding of living organisms will ultimately require the integration of molecular mechanisms in the context of dynamic structural components of the living cell. Thus, research efforts within GDCB use molecular, genetic, biochemical, computational and imaging techniques to study systems at increasingly complex levels of organization.

GDCB faculty contribute to a broad but integrated array of cutting-edge research topics. Faculty implement interactive and multidisciplinary approaches that bridge conventional boundaries, and they incorporate experimental and computational biology as complementary approaches. Examples include using genetics and molecular biology to investigate the cellular basis of development, or combining biochemical and computational approaches to study basic subcellular functions, signal transduction or metabolism.

The faculty in the GDCB Department train graduate students in several interdepartmental majors/programs, including bioinformatics and computational biology; ecology and evolutionary biology; genetics and genomics; immunobiology; plant biology; interdisciplinary graduate studies; microbiology; molecular, cellular and developmental biology; neuroscience; and toxicology. Graduate work leading to degrees in the master of science (M.S.) and doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) is available.

Prospective graduate students need a sound background in the physical and biological sciences, as well as mathematics and English. Interested students should check the links on the GDCB website ( for specific admissions procedures and the latest information about individual faculty and their research programs. The interdepartmental majors and programs require submission of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) aptitude test scores. Advanced GRE scores are recommended. International students whose native language is other than English must also submit TOEFL scores with their application.

Students who are enrolled in the interdepartmental graduate majors and who have affiliations with GDCB are required to actively participate in seminars and research activities, and they are required to show adequate progress and professional development while pursuing their degree. Completion of either the M.S. or Ph.D. requires that research conducted by the student culminates in the writing and presentation of a thesis or dissertation. The Graduate College, the GDCB faculty, and the individual student’s major professor and Program of Study Committee provide requirements and guidelines for study. General information about graduate study requirements can be found at the website for the Graduate College (, and requirements for the interdepartmental majors can be found by following the links from the GDCB website ( Although not a formal requirement, the GDCB faculty recommends that students pursuing the Ph.D. include teaching experience in their graduate training.

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Courses primarily for graduate students, open to qualified undergraduates:

(3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. F., offered even-numbered years.

High level success at modern science requires entrepreneurship both in and outside the laboratory. Scientists are in a unique position to not only think, but to thrive, "outside of the box" and take unorthodox approaches to research that lead to positive paradigm shifts in our lives. Exploration of many facets of science, technology, industry and commerce, with frequent guest lectures from entrepreneurs.

(3-0) Cr. 3. F.

Prereq: GEN 410 or graduate standing
In-depth investigations of modern research practices of transmission genetics. Designed for students interested in genetic research. Topics include: Mendelian genetic analysis, analysis of genetic pathways, mutational analysis of gene function, chromosomal mechanics, genetic mapping, epigenetic inheritance, human genetic analysis.

(Cross-listed with MCDB). (3-0) Cr. 3. S.

Prereq: BIOL 313 and BBMB 405
Mechanisms of molecular genetic processes in eukaryotes and prokaryotes, including DNA replication and repair, transcription, translation and regulation of gene expression. Critical evaluation and discussion of current primary literature, methodologies and experimental data.

(Cross-listed with PLBIO). (2-0) Cr. 2. Alt. F., offered even-numbered years.

Prereq: BIOL 330, PHYS 111, CHEM 331; one semester of biochemistry recommended
Photosynthesis, respiration, and other aspects of plant metabolism.

(Cross-listed with MCDB). (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. F., offered even-numbered years.

Prereq: Courses in general cell biology and biochemistry
Cell biological processes including cell signaling, cell division, intracellular trafficking, biogenesis of organelles, cell adhesion and motility.

(Cross-listed with MCDB). (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. F., offered odd-numbered years.

Prereq: BIOL 314 or BIOL 423
Fundamental principles in multicellular development. Emphasis on cellular and molecular regulation of developmental processes, and experimental approaches as illustrated in the current literature.

(Cross-listed with STAT). (3-0) Cr. 3.

Prereq: STAT 401, STAT 447; GEN 320 or BIOL 313
Statistical models and methods for genetics covering models of population processes: selection, mutation, migration, population structure, and linkage disequilibrium, and inference techniques: genetic mapping, linkage analysis, and quantitative trait analysis. Applications include genetic map construction, gene mapping, genome-wide association studies (GWAS), inference about population structure, phylogenetic tree construction, and forensic and paternity identification.

(Cross-listed with B M S, EEOB, FS HN, HORT, NREM, NUTRS, V MPM, VDPAM). Cr. 1. Repeatable. F.S.SS.

Sessions in basic molecular biology techniques and related procedures. Offered on a satisfactory-fail basis only.

(Cross-listed with B M S, BBMB, EEOB, FS HN, HORT, NREM, NUTRS, V MPM, VDPAM). Cr. 1. Repeatable. F.S.

Includes genetic engineering procedures, sequencing, PCR, and genotyping. Offered on a satisfactory-fail basis only.

(Cross-listed with B M S, BBMB, EEOB, FS HN, HORT, NREM, NUTRS, VDPAM). Cr. 1. Repeatable. S.SS.

Prereq: Graduate classification
Techniques. Includes: fermentation, protein isolation, protein purification, SDS-PAGE, Western blotting, NMR, confocal microscopy and laser microdissection, Immunophenotyping, and monoclonal antibody production. Sessions in basic molecular biology techniques and related procedures. Offered on a satisfactory-fail basis only.

(Cross-listed with B M S, BBMB, EEOB, FS HN, HORT, NREM, NUTRS, V MPM, VDPAM). Cr. 1. Repeatable. F.S.

Includes: immunophenotyping, ELISA, flow cytometry, microscopic techniques, image analysis, confocal, multiphoton and laser capture microdissection. Offered on a satisfactory-fail basis only.

(Cross-listed with B M S, BBMB, EEOB, FS HN, HORT, NREM, NUTRS, V MPM, VDPAM). Cr. 1. Repeatable. S.

Includes: Agrobacterium and particle gun-mediated transformation of tobacco, Arabidopsis, and maize, and analysis of tranformants. Offered on a satisfactory-fail basis only.

(Cross-listed with B M S, BBMB, EEOB, FS HN, HORT, NREM, NUTRS, V MPM, VDPAM). Cr. 1. Repeatable. F.

Includes: two-dimensional electrophoresis, laser scanning, mass spectrometry, and database searching. Offered on a satisfactory-fail basis only.

(Cross-listed with B M S, BBMB, EEOB, FS HN, HORT, NREM, NUTRS, V MPM, VDPAM). Cr. 1. Repeatable. F.

Includes: metabolomics and the techniques involved in metabolite profiling. For non-chemistry majoring students who are seeking analytical aspects into their biological research projects. Offered on a satisfactory-fail basis only.

(Cross-listed with B M S, BBMB, EEOB, FS HN, HORT, NREM, NUTRS, V MPM, VDPAM). Cr. 1. Repeatable. S.

Offered on a satisfactory-fail basis only.

(Cross-listed with BCB, COM S, CPR E). (4-0) Cr. 4. F.

Prereq: MATH 165 or STAT 401 or equivalent
A practical, hands-on overview of how to apply bioinformatics to biological research. Recommended for biologists desiring to gain computational molecular biology skills. Topics include: sequence analysis, genomics, proteomics, phylogenetic analyses, ontology enrichment, systems biology, data visualization and emergent technologies.

(Cross-listed with MCDB, PLBIO). (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. F., offered odd-numbered years.

Prereq: BIOL 313, BIOL 314, BIOL 330 or BBMB 405
Plant nuclear and organelle genomes; regulation of gene expression; hormone signaling; organization, function, and development of plant cells and subcellular structures; regulation of plant growth and development.

(Cross-listed with B M S, NEURO). (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. F., offered odd-numbered years.

Prereq: BIOL 335 or BIOL 436; physics recommended
Fundamental principles of neuroscience including cellular and molecular neuroscience, nervous system development, sensory, motor and regulatory systems.

(Cross-listed with NEURO). (3-0) Cr. 3. Alt. S., offered odd-numbered years.

Prereq: NEURO 556 or equivalent course
Research methods and techniques; lectures, laboratory exercises and/or demonstrations representing individual faculty specialties.

(Cross-listed with BCB, COM S, STAT). (3-0) Cr. 3. S.

Prereq: BCB 567 or (BIOL 315 and STAT 430), credit or enrollment in GEN 409
Statistical models for sequence data, including applications in genome annotation, motif discovery, variant discovery, molecular phylogeny, gene expression analysis, and metagenomics. Statistical topics include model building, inference, hypothesis testing, and simple experimental design, including for big data/complex models.

(Cross-listed with BBMB, BCB, COM S, CPR E). (3-0) Cr. 3. F.

Prereq: BCB 567, BBMB 316, GEN 409, STAT 430
Molecular structures including genes and gene products: protein, DNA and RNA structure. Structure determination methods, structural refinement, structure representation, comparison of structures, visualization, and modeling. Molecular and cellular structure from imaging. Analysis and prediction of protein secondary, tertiary, and higher order structure, disorder, protein-protein and protein-nucleic acid interactions, protein localization and function, bridging between molecular and cellular structures. Molecular evolution.

(Cross-listed with BCB, COM S, CPR E, STAT). (3-0) Cr. 3. S.

Prereq: BCB 567 or COM S 311, COM S 228, GEN 409, STAT 430
Algorithmic and statistical approaches in computational functional genomics and systems biology. Analysis of high throughput biological data obtained using system-wide measurements. Topological analysis, module discovery, and comparative analysis of gene and protein networks. Modeling, analysis, and inference of transcriptional regulatory networks, protein-protein interaction networks, and metabolic networks. Dynamic systems and whole-cell models. Ontology-driven, network based, and probabilistic approaches to information integration.

(Cross-listed with BCB, M E). Cr. 4. F.

Prereq: Acceptance into the P3 program or instructor permission.
Principles of engineering, data analysis, and plant sciences and their interplay applied to predictive plant phenomics. Transport phenomena, sensor design, image analysis, graph models, network data analysis, fundamentals of genomics and phenomics. Multidisciplinary laboratory exercises. None

Cr. arr. Repeatable.

Prereq: Permission of instructor

Courses for graduate students:

(Cross-listed with BBMB, NEURO). (2-0) Cr. 2-3. Repeatable. Alt. S., offered even-numbered years.

Prereq: NEURO 556 (or comparable course) or permission of instructor
Topics may include molecular and cellular neuroscience, neurodevelopment, neuroplasticity, neurodegenerative diseases, cognitive neuroscience, sensory biology, neural integration, membrane biophysics, neuroethology, techniques in neurobiology and behavior.

Cr. 1. Repeatable.

Research seminars by faculty, invited speakers, and graduate students. Offered on a satisfactory-fail basis only.

Cr. 1. Repeatable.

Faculty research series.

(Cross-listed with AGRON, BBMB, FOR, HORT, PLBIO). Cr. 1. Repeatable.

Research seminars by faculty and graduate students. Offered on a satisfactory-fail basis only.

(Cross-listed with BBMB, MCDB, MICRO, V MPM). (2-0) Cr. 1-2. Repeatable. F.S.

Student and faculty presentations.

Cr. arr. Repeatable.

Research for thesis or dissertation. Offered on a satisfactory-fail basis only.

(Cross-listed with A ECL, ANTHR, EEOB, IA LL). Cr. 1-4. Repeatable.