A journey through the historical development of our understanding of genes and their role in the development and evolution of living organisms. This course will emphasize the process of scientific discovery, from Mendel’s “heritable factors” to Crick’s “central dogma” of molecular biology and our ever-growing ability to manipulate genetic information. Open to majors and non-majors students.

This course is meant to help you...

  • describe what genes are and how they work.
  • speak/write helpfully[1] about (a) the power of genes to shape organisms, (b) the limits of that power, and as a result (c) the importance of the interactions between genes (“nature”) environment (“nurture”) and chance, in shaping an organism.
  • demystify the biological role of DNA, both for yourself and for others.
  • tell stories of how we came to know what we know…:
    • about how traits are transmitted from one generation to the next
    • about where genes are physically located in cells
    • about the physiological activity of genes (what a gene does)
    • about the chemical nature of genetic information
    • about the storage, replication, and expression of genetic information
  • predict the effects or results of genetic crosses involving various types of dominance, and sex linkage
  • use results of genetic crosses (or pedigrees) to evaluate hypotheses about genetic relationships, modes of inheritance, dominance relationships between alleles, and sex linkage.
  • describe how a gene (DNA) exerts an influence over an organism’s phenotype (observable characteristics).
  • strengthen your understanding of science: an activity that is on the one hand human, imperfect, incomplete, and subject to ambiguity and uncertainty, but on the other hand produces increasingly reliable descriptions of our world.



[1] What does it mean to speak/write “helpfully”? In a nutshell, I think of “helpful” communication as being a lot like good teaching: that, when a question about genetics arises, you can provide or find an answer that is relevant, understandable, informative, and accurate. The fact that this course is a “W” (writing) course is meant to help you develop and refine your skills in written communication. 



An introduction to cell biology with a focus on eukaryotic cells. Lectures and labs will introduce students to apply microscopy, biochemistry, and molecular genetics to study structure and function at the cellular level of organization. Subjects to be explored include the structure, genesis and function of biological membranes; the endomembrane system and its role in the post-translational modification and transport of proteins; cellular communication and signaling; the cytoskeleton; intercellular junctions and the extracellular matrix; and the regulation of the cell cycle. Prerequisite: BIOL-1310. Recommended: CHEM-1010 and CHEM-1020.


The effects of toxins and toxicants on living organisms – from individual cells to ecosystems – illuminate many biological principles and processes, and also inform perspectives on several issues in contemporary society. This course will use case studies and laboratory exercises to introduce students to the mechanisms by which certain chemicals (including natural products, pharmaceuticals, and industrial/agricultural chemicals) exert toxic effects on living things, and to connect that knowledge to broader interdisciplinary topics, such as the perception and assessment of risk; the design, ethics, interpretation of, and extrapolation from scientific research; the value and limitations of biological and mathematical models; the distinction between good science, bad science, and pseudoscience; and the translation of research insights into public policy. Includes a laboratory component (BIOL-3950L). A laboratory fee will be assessed. Prerequisite: 30 credit hours of university-level studies, including 6 credit hours in Biology.


Quantitative research methods in ecology, using as examples species and habitat types common to the region of southern Manitoba. The course will cover experimental design, field data collection methods, and data analysis and presentation in ecology. Prerequisites: BIOL 2510 and MATH-1000; recommended: BIOL-3510.

This course is a study of the evolutionary process and survey of current biological diversity, with emphasis on the eukaryotes. An overarching theme in the course is the connection between form and function in living things, in the context of their interactions with their biotic and physical environments. Pre-requisite: BIOL 1310 or permission of the instructor.


Microbiology, as the name implies, is the study of the smallest living things. The scope of microbiology typically includes single-celled organisms such as bacteria, yeasts, and protists, but it also includes viruses, which straddle the line between the living and non-living worlds. Without microbes, life as we know it could not exist. However, our encounters with these remarkable creatures do sometimes make us sick. This course provides an introduction to microbiology with a primary focus on human health and illness. Over the course of the term, we will learn about different types of microbes, how they function, how they interact with us, and the ways in which we try to control those interactions.