Laboratory Studies in Cell Biology

Biology 323L

Prof. R. Malcolm Brown, Jr.

Laboratory Studies in Cell Biology satisfies Area 1 Blue List requirements for the cellular or molecular option for the B.A. degree in biology. This course also satisfies the requirement for an extensive writing component.

Course Syllabus (in PDF format)

Class Home Page

Instructor Biographical Sketch (in PDF format)

The field of cell biology has undergone a revolution since this course was first offered in 1982. Gene sequencing is now a routine practice, available to not only molecular biologists but also to cell biologists. This sequence data is being used to map out the thousands of metabolic reactions so beautifully compartmentalized within the living cell. 
In fact, cell biology is undergoing a renaissance because it is through the tools of microscopy and biochemistry that scientists can begin to fully comprehend the complex metabolic interactions within and between cells. Because these are such exciting times for cell and molecular biology, it is my goal to make this class, Laboratory Methods in Cell Biology, one of the most exciting courses you will complete in your university program.
In BIO 323L/BIO 388L the student will have the unique opportunity to use high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HR-TEM) to visualize the 3.4 inter-atomic spacings of carbon atoms in graphite. The student will have direct access to a state-of-the-art digital image processing facility where we will demonstrate new applications for cell and molecular biology.
Combining the use of transmission electron microscopy, digital image processing, video microscopy, and a variety of optical methods, the student will be exposed to some very sophisticated, recent methods in cell and molecular biology -- procedures which will most likely be applied and used during the student's post-graduate and professional affiliations. The lab exercise on high resolution imaging with the TEM is a direct outgrowth of former Biology 323L students who inspired me to seek support from the Welch Foundation on atomic and molecular imaging with the transmission electron microscope. This year, we will expand our molecular image vocabulary by taking on new challenges in the digital processing era.

As a result of a substantial grant from the National Science Foundation (IGERT), we have secured 12 special digital cameras and computers so that images can be downloaded into the computer and integrated into the lab reports. This will mark a major improvement for our data recording, and the student will learn new imaging techniques. We hope to see a major increase in graduate enrollment under the auspices of IGERT.

Course Objectives:

(1) The student will gain a practical, hands-on experience in cell and molecular biology rather than reading about it in textbooks. This will be accomplished through data gathering, observations, and extensive writing in the form of a laboratory report.

(2) The student should emerge from this course with a better appreciation for cellular and molecular biology and will be prepared from this experience to make informed decisions on future career choices in the biological sciences.

Course Statement:

We encourage the student in Biology 323L/388L to develop an active participation in this laboratory experience. The class is sufficiently small that the student will have ample opportunity to get to know the instructor and teaching assistants, all of whom are dedicated to the premise that they can be of assistance and provide the learning experience of a lifetime for the student. 

In considering a given laboratory experiment, the student should try to understand why a particular experiment was chosen for study, how it may help to better understand a more general phenomenon, where the laboratory experience fits into the relevant experimental design and literature on the particular subject, and who in the field has contributed or is active in the research area. 

We hope that the student will energetically participate in class discussions and make suggestions for improving the next round of experiments. 

The student who really enjoys these laboratory exercises and excels in them frequently demonstrates the motivation and skills to conduct independent research. Many undergraduate students are not fully aware of the numerous opportunities to enroll in independent research courses with UT faculty. Such a favorable combination of circumstances often leads to a decision to pursue a graduate career in cellular and molecular biology.

BIO 388L:

BIO 388L is the graduate version of the undergraduate course BIO 323L. Both classes meet at the same time and place.  Students enrolled in BIO 388L do all of the work done in BIO 323L and in addition undertake a special project in which they give a 30 minute seminar on an assigned topic in cell biology. The student presents using PowerPoint and CD-ROM to gain experience in this new form of communication which is now being implemented at national and international meetings. The student is judged on accuracy, style of presentation, clarity, and overall communication effectiveness. The seminar combines abilities to gather and organize information on a topic of great interest and to present it in a relatively short time and make the topic both interesting and fast-moving!