Introduction to Cell & Molecular Biology (BIOL121) - Dr. S.G. Saupe (; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321

An Introduction to Cell & Molecular Biology


Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D. (call me Steve, Dr. Saupe, or whatever feels most comfortable to you)
Office:  PENGL 335
Phone: (320) 363-2782
Office Hours: available via web site
email Address:
Home Page:
Section Home Page:

COURSE DESCRIPTION/OBJECTIVES:  Welcome to Biology 121!  Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology is designed to create a foundation for study in the life sciences by introducing students to the biology of the cell, classical genetics and molecular genetics.  The goal for this course is not only for you to become familiar with life at the cellular level, but the means by which it is investigated as well.  Some outcomes of this familiarity will be an understanding of the:

  • cell theory and the differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.

  • structure and function of the major organelles of eukaryotic cells.

  • structure and function of cell membranes.

  • basic structure and function of the four major types of biological molecules

  • importance of energy transformations and the role of enzymes in metabolic pathways.

  • processes of cellular respiration and photosynthesis

  • cell cycle, mitosis and meiosis.

  • principles of Mendelian inheritance.        

  • molecular basis of inheritance:

  • mechanisms of DNA replication, transcription and translation.

  • control of gene expression in prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

In lab you will gain hands on experience with a diversity of biological systems: from DNA and enzymes to spinach chloroplasts and jewel wasps.  While investigating these systems you will become familiar with a variety of technical skills such as microscopy, spectrophotometry, polymerase chain reaction and aseptic technique and you will also gain an understanding of how scientists communicate with each other using descriptive statistics, graphs and tables, scientific figures and written lab reports.

COURSE THEMES: This course will focus on biological chemistry, energetics (enzymes, photosynthesis, respiration) and genetics (Mendelian and molecular).  Evolution and the integration of the form and function will be two major themes running through our discussions.

AUDIENCE: This course is the first of a three-semester introductory biology sequence. This course is required for students majoring in biology. This course also fulfills the Core guidelines for Natural Science for non-science majors.

CLASS TIME/PLACE: This class meets even days (2-4-6) from 9:40 - 10:50 am in PENGL 325. You must also attend a laboratory session once per cycle that you have separately scheduled. 


  • RJ Brooker, EP Widmaier, LE Graham, and PD Stiling (2008) Biology.  McGraw-Hill, Dubuque, IA. (It is available in the bookstore in either a single hardcover or three separate paperback volumes.  You should have received a letter about this prior to the start of school. We recommend purchasing the full-text unless you only plan to take the course for a single semester such as pre-nursing students or students who are fulfilling a non-majors science core requirement.)
  • Concepts of Biology Lab Manual - Fall 2007 (handed out during your first laboratory period)
  • Student Lab Notebook for Life Science (available at the SJU Bookstore)

COURSE STRUCTURE/FORMAT:   Your success as a student in this course will require regular attendance, careful note taking and mastery of the textbook material through careful study.  You will meet for a 70-minute lecture period every other day.   Since the labs are smaller than the lectures, you will probably attend another lab section than most of the people in your lecture.  Labs are taught by professors and student Teaching Assistants, and meet once every cycle (including cycles 1 and 12).  Lab attendance in your lab section is mandatory.  The time scheduled for each lab is 2 hours and 50 minutes, but occasionally you may need to stay longer to complete assigned work, or come in outside of the regularly scheduled time to check on the progress of an experiment.


  • Music will greet us at the beginning of class (selected by the class leader;  The music will set the stage for our studies and relax our minds so that we can focus on our task ahead.)
  • Gather Materials - check the front desk or appointed place for any handouts. (A good student is prepared and ready to begin work when the period begins.)
  • When the music goes off at the beginning of our scheduled meeting time, class begins.
  • Opening Greeting: I will greet you by saying "Good Morning/Afternoon". The class will respond in unison, "Good Morning/Afternoon".  (Please return my greeting heartily. "The secret of joyful living is joyful greeting and that is why we greet each other" - Dr. P. Pendse).
  • I will then ask, "How are you this morning/afternoon?" The class answers enthusiastically (one of the following on the overhead or other selected by the class leader):

"Fine and dandy! Why shouldn't I be?"
"I am super good, and getting better!"
"I am fantastic, and improving by the second!"
"I am terrific, you better believe it!" (while saying this thrust your finger towards the instructor)
Or, other greeting selected by the class leader

  • Announcements (from instructor and solicited from the class)
  • Class overview (provided by the instructor)
  • Class Activities - during each class we will typically provide time to:

Review the previous class material (definitions, summary, quizzes, etc.)
Introduce new material (lecture, dialogs, videos, slides, etc.)
Practice & drill new material (exercises, quizzes, etc.)
Cool Down - review class activities

  • Five-Minute Warning - the time keeper (class leader) will give us the signal.
  • End of Class - please do not pack up to leave until we show our mutual respect for one another.  I will close by saying, "Thanks - that ends another incredible day of biology."  The class responds by saying, "Ditto, dude!"  Or, the class leader selects a different closing. 

CLASSROOM ETIQUETTE: The following is a list of suggestions to make our classroom experience as enjoyable and productive as possible for all of us:

  • Please turn off your mobile phone before class.
  • Obviously, if you need to use the toilet during class, please do so.  However, please attempt to use the toilet before class so that you do not disrupt class proceedings when leaving/returning to your seat and you do not miss any class activities.
  • Unless you absolutely need to leave class before the period ends, please wait for me to dismiss the class before packing up your books, etc.
  • If you bring food to class, please eat quietly and clean up after yourself.
  • Tidy your area before leaving class - return any supplies to the front desk, etc., throw away garbage, papers, etc.
  • If you arrive late, please sit in the first available seat to minimize disrupting other students.
  • Please do not talk, pass notes, send text messages, etc., during class.

REVIEW SESSIONS/STUDY TIPSThere will be a review/tutor session held every cycle.  These sessions are optional, but students who earn less than 75% on exams should certainly plant to attend.  There are many ways to effectively study for this course (check out some Study Tips I prepared).  In short, your best strategies for doing well on exams are to: (1) take copious notes in class; (2) keep up with class proceedings; and (3) attend review sessions.  Also, be sure to check out and use the CD-ROM and/or text book website.  If you ever need assistance or have questions, please come and see me. 

EVALUATION: Grades will be determined on the basis of your performance on:

    1. Lecture Exams (68%)
    2. Laboratory Work (25%)
    3. Class Leader (2%)
    4. Assignments/Participation (5%)

1. Lecture Exams (68%) - there will be four exams. The first three exams are each worth 16% of your final grade. The fourth (and final) exam is worth 20% of your final grade (it is worth more than the others because it has a significant, 20%, comprehensive component).  The exams will be a mixture of subjective (i.e., short answer, definition) and objective (e.g., multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank) questions.  Exam questions may be taken directly from homework assignments and material that we cover in class.  In fact, anything that we do in class is "fair game" for an exam. 

2. Laboratory Work (25%) - Your laboratory instructor will submit at the end of the semester a grade (from 0 - 100) that reflects your performance in lab. Please note that this grade is worth one-quarter (25%) of your final grade in the course!  Take lab very seriously - it can make or break your grade.

3. Class Leader (2%) - Once during the semester you will be assigned to be our "Class Leader". On this day it is your responsibility to:

  • Arrive five minutes before class
  • Choose the music for the day that will be played at the beginning of class.  Bring in a tape or CD or select one of mine
  • Choose the "Greeting for the Day" (or create your own)
  • Choose the "Quote of the Day" and write it on the board.  This quote should be either biological (i.e., related to the course) or inspirational.  To find a quote, I have a large selection in a file in my office.  Or, you can visit the "Quote Jar" in the Bailey Herbarium or any quote website.
  • Provide a citation for a relatively recent (within five years) biological article that is related (at least distantly) to the topic of the class/unit.  Write this reference on the board using the proper citation format (see below).  Note - this must be an article from a journal.  Your best bet is to go to the Alcuin or Clemens libraries and browse through the areas where new journals/magazines are housed.  Among the possibilities include Science News, American Scientist, Scientific American, Science, Nature, Natural History, Discover, and New Scientist.
    • There are many potential ways to cite a scientific reference.  The format that we will use for citing a journal article is:  Author AB, Author BC (date) Title of article.  Title of Journal . Volume (number, if provided): inclusive page numbers. 
    • Here's an example:  Saupe SG (2006) Making maple syrup at St. John's: Records show shifts in the 'Sticky Business.' Headwaters 23: 25 - 38.
  • Bring to class a hard copy of the article.
  • Write a summary of the article that is suitable for publication in The Record or other newspaper.  In other words, write the summary in ordinary terms that could be understood by one of your peers.  At the top of your page you should include the complete reference citation.  Your summary should be no more than one page.  Typed.  It will be evaluated on the basis of both of accuracy and rhetoric.
  • Be timekeeper - sound the buzzer when there is five minutes remaining in class.  Also make sure we stay focused - let me know if we get off on a tangent.
  • Make sure that I have the attendance sheet and stickers ready to be passed out
  • A grading rubric for this assignment is posted in our course web site

4. Assignments/Class Participation  (5%) - This component of your final grade will reflect your performance on assignments.  Typically there will be one formal assignment in every unit.

GRADE ASSIGNMENT: Grades will be assigned based upon the percentage of total points accumulated according to the following scale: 100 - 90% = A; 89 - 87% = AB; 86 - 82% = B; 81 - 79% = BC; 78 - 72% = C;  71- 69% = CD; 68 - 60% = D; below 59% = F

    Getting good grades is very important. Work hard and you will succeed! Remember, review sessions are your secret weapon for success!

    Good achievement on exams will be recognized by stars on your exams (gold = top score; silver = 2nd highest, red = 3rd, green = 4th, blue = 5th). We will applaud when the name of the student earning the top score on the exam is announced. Gold stars will also be given to the lowest grades in the class in recognition that the course is not easy and that we appreciate the hard efforts that everyone is making to succeed in the course.

    To determine your approximate grade at any time during the semester, simply divide the total number of points you have accumulated by the total possible. This information will always be provided. In addition, I will periodically provide you with a grade report. You should check this report for accuracy and to give you an indication of your progress. Keep all of your graded work, including lab work, for your records.

    Never hesitate to come and talk to me about your grade, or any aspect of the course, at any time during the semester!

    S/U grading is NOT available for this course; students who are not science majors should please heed this warning.

APPEALSYou have the option of appealing the grading you've received on any assignment or exam question.  To do so, type on a separate sheet of paper your rationale for why you should receive credit for the question.  Be sure to frame your argument carefully and concisely.  Turn in your typed appeal and the exam or assignment to me before the next exam - no appeal will be accepted after the date of the subsequent exam (or within one week of returning an assignment).  Please note that if I have made any errors in grading your exams (i.e., incorrectly counted up points, mis-marked a question) please see me immediately and I will correct the error without the need for an appeal.

COURSE INSTRUCTORS:  Biology 121 has more than 10 lecture sections and 20 laboratory sections.  If questions or problems arise do not hesitate to contact me, the instructor of your laboratory, or the course coordinator.  We are always willing to talk with you and, if possible, assist you with your concern.  We wish you a successful and exciting semester!  The instructors for this course are: 

Ms. Carol Jansky
NSC 218: 363-3178
Lab/Lab Coordinator

Dr. Bill Lamberts
PENGL 353; 363-3160
Course Coordinator; Lecture

Dr. Ellen Jensen
NSC 206: 363-3092

Dr. Michael Reagan
NSC 216; 363-3110

Dr. Cheryl Knox
NSC 254: 363-3224
Lecture and lab

Dr. Charles Rodell
PENGL 357; 363-3174

Dr. Jeanne Marie Lust, O.S.B.
NSC 208; 363-2777
Lecture and lab

Dr. Stephen Saupe
PENGL 335; 363-2782
Lecture and lab

Dr. Barbara May
NSC 204; 363-3173

Dr. Shawn Thomas
PENGL 303; 363-3275
Lecture and lab

Dr. Phil Chu
Pengl 307; 363-3561
Lecture and lab

Dr. Marcus Webster
PENGL 313; 363-3176

 Dr. Kristina Timmerman
 Pengl 301
 Lecture and lab

BONUS WORK:  You will have the opportunity to earn bonus points by attending lectures, analyzing journal articles, participating in formal nature walks, or even reporting on science-related television programs.  If it is "scientific" and can be reasonably considered to pertain to our course you can earn bonus points for participating in the activity.  Print a "Bio-Bonus Form," follow the directions, and then turn it in to me following the activity.  Cards are due no later than Study Day.  As a rule of thumb, more than 20 bonus points will have little impact on your final grade.

HOW MUCH TO STUDY? As a general rule of thumb, you should study at least 2 hours for every hour in class. Thus, at a minimum you should be studying at least six hours per cycle for lecture exams. Note that this doesn't include lab work or completing assignments. Imagine that you are an academic athlete working on the mental practice field. 

HOW TO STUDY?  I recommend reading the chapter before class.  I would read it quickly to get an overview of what will happen in class.  At a bare minimum, read the summary at the end of the chapter.  Then, go to class and get good notes.  Heaps of notes.  If your hand isn�t sore at the end of class, you haven�t taken enough notes.  The main reason to take lots of notes is because I write the tests directly from my class notes, which in turn are based on the chapters with my own additions/interpretations.   I prepare my notes from the material in the textbook, but there is lots of stuff in the book that we don�t cover.   I would use the text as a reference to help improve my understanding of class material, to add other examples, etc.  What we cover in class is what you need to know for the exam.   So, if you study one thing � study the class notes.  Thus, taking good notes is one of the best things that you can do to help insure a good grade.  Do not sit and listen and assume that you will remember what went on; write it down!  As a rule-of-thumb, if you don't have a verbatim written transcript of each day's class, then you haven't taken enough notes.  If you can't write fast enough to copy everything down, consider bringing a tape recorder to class.  After class, I would then open my notebook and go to the textbook and read the pertinent sections that are related to the topics discussed.  Sometimes you may have to read more than just the specific pages to put things into perspective.  I would take notes from the textbook into my lecture notes.  Perhaps it may be necessary to rewrite another summary set of notes.  Then, once you�ve done this it�s time to study.  Ask yourself if you understand everything that you see in your notes.  Quiz yourself by taking the online quizzes or checking out my study guides or the questions at the end of the chapter or preparing a concept map for every topic.  For each class period you should probably be spending at least two hours outside of class studying. 

THREE-RING BINDERS:  I recommend the use of a 3-ring binder for your course materials and notes.  All class handouts will be punched with three holes to make it easier to put in a binder.  In my experience, students with organized notebooks perform better in the course than those with messy ones.

PERSONAL FILE, REFERENCES and CUBBY: You will have a file folder in a file in the Botany Lab, SC 342. You may use it to store papers/notes/etc. In addition, I will place in this file any assignments not returned to you personally, extra copies (if any) of handouts, and course readings. When in doubt or need, check here.

HONOR CODE: I run this class on the honor code system; in other words, I trust you to do your own work at all times. Cheating, plagiarism and other dishonest acts will not be tolerated. If you violate my trust, the consequences will be severe. If you have even the slightest doubt that an activity violates the Honor Code - don't do it.  Violations of academic integrity will be dealt with according to the procedures outlined on pages 24-25 of the 2005-2007 Academic Catalog. 

ATTENDANCE: Each class I will pass around an attendance sheet to sign/initial.  To reward you for your attendance you will receive a nifty sticker.  You will not be directly penalized for missing class, but remember that being absent does not excuse you from completing assignments on time (i.e., turning in any that are due and getting the assignment for the next class). In general, you will not be able to make up anything missed in lecture or lab.

EMAIL:  I typically check and respond to email first thing in the morning (between 8 & 9:00 am) and then again before I leave in the evening (usually about 5:30 pm).  If you send an email after about 400 pm I will not see it nor respond to it until the following day because I do not check email after leaving my office.  Please plan accordingly.

TIPS FOR SUCCESS:  In some ways, this may be the most difficult course in the biology curriculum because (a) it is the first college-level biology course that most students take and (b) it is taught differently (faster, more material, more emphasis on understanding rather than memorization) than the typical high school biology class.  In fact, doing well in high school is no guarantee for success in this course.  I don't say this to scare you; rather, to encourage you to work to your full potential.  If you study, you will succeed.  There are some simple things that you can do to help insure success in the course including:  taking copious notes, studying about two hours per class, reading the text, attending review sessions, and answering as many biology questions as possible.  For more tips, check out the "Study Tips" I wrote. 

     I also encourage you to get involved in your own learning by:  (1) becoming active in various campus clubs and organizations (e.g., Biology Club, Allied Health Club, Chem Club); (2) seeking out a faculty member(s) who can be a mentor, advisor, friend; (3) taking advantage of advising/counseling services offered on campus; (4) visiting the Career Resource office; (5) completing at least one independent study/internship/research experience during your academic career; (6) reading outside of class (e.g., magazines, newspapers, journals); and (7) getting involved in activities that relate to your area of interest (e.g., Arboretum, maple syrup).

VISITORS: Visitors to our classroom are welcome. Please introduce your visitors to me. They should plan to participate (as best they can) in class activities.

LATE ASSIGNMENTS: I expect that assignments will be turned in on time. I reserve the right to accept/refuse late assignments and determine the point penalty for its lateness.

PRIDE: I believe that the appearance of an assignment is a reflection of the quality of the work and the degree of respect it deserves. Thus, for your benefit I require that:  (1) Written assignments must be typed. There will be many obvious exceptions. For example, any assignments completed in a worksheet need not be typed. If in question about whether an assignment should be typed, please ask. Assignments not typed will be penalized 50% of the total possible points; (2) Assignments with multiple pages must be stapled.  Any assignment that is not stapled will automatically loose 2 points.  Please note that I have a stapler available with me in every class; (3) Frayed edges - any assignment turned in on paper with frayed edges ripped out of a spiral bound notebook will automatically loose 2 points.  If you use a spiral notebook that's fine - simply remove the edges before turning in the assignment.

COURSE PHILOSOPHY:   I think that learning should be enjoyable. Hopefully we will laugh together and have fun. Stamps, stars and stickers will adorn some of your graded assignments. "Biological" music will greet you when you arrive in class. This is all done in good fun, to make our learning environment more pleasant. Yet, we will always be respectful of one another. Some students in the past have commented that they think some of what we'll do is "childish." I hope so because I want to generate some of the fun and enthusiasm that children have for learning. But remember, even though we may be silly and have fun, I am still very serious about the goals of our course.  For more on my teaching philosophy, check out an essay I wrote, "Statement of Teaching Philosophy." 

COMPUTER LITERACY: Every biologist should be familiar with word-processing (i.e., WordPerfect, Word), database (i.e., Access), and spreadsheet (i.e., Excel, Word, Access) software. Computing Services offers many interesting workshops that you should consider if you need to improve your computing skills.

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Last updated: July 14, 2009     � Copyright by SG Saupe