Course Details

Course Number: 4001  Section Number: 202

Spring 2013

Location: Bolin Hall

Classroom Number: 209

Days & Times:

BIOL 4001-202 Meets Fridays from 12:00 - 12:50 PM.

Course Attachments


MSU Faculty Member
Dr. James Masuoka   
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Course Objectives

The purpose of this seminar class is to:

  1. Provide students with an opportunity to express themselves orally by preparing and presenting a seminar presentation such as would be expected at professional meetings and conventions.  Seminar should help the student prepare to communicate with an audience of peers both formally and informally.
  2. Provide a forum for discussion and evaluation of peer-reviewed research journal publications on current topics.
  3. Examine basic concepts and current topics in biology.
  4. Assess competency of biology graduating seniors in the use of microscopes.
  5. Assess ability of biology graduating seniors to generate, understand, and correctly interpret data that are presented in tabular and graphical formats.
  6. Assess ability of biology graduating seniors to critically and effectively read and evaluate professional literature. 
  7. Take the comprehensive Major Field Test in Biology.

Course Expectations
  • You are expected to be prepared for course discussion by reading the material (text, online or research article) prior to coming to class.
  • You are expected to arrive a few minutes early in order to mentally prepare.
  • Student Conduct: Please refer to the MSU Student Handbook for university policies related to student responsibilities, rights and activities. For example, see page 41 for valid grounds for an instructor drop (excessive absence, indifferent attitude, disruptive conduct, failure to meet class assignments), page 70 for the university's policy on classroom conduct, and page 71 for definitions of academic dishonesty that may be subject to disciplinary action (cheating, plagiarism, and collusion).
  • Points will be deducted from assignments turned in late.
  • Students with disabilities: It is the responsibility of the student to first contact Disability Support Services and then the instructor to determine what accommodations might be made for a disability. It will be the responsibility of the student to make arrangements to acquire notes. Any requests for accommodations must be made 2 weeks prior to the first exam.
  • CELL PHONES (and other electronic devices): (READ THIS TWICE, PLEASE) There are NO cell phones permitted to be out in this class. This class, as well as your other classes, requires your engagement, and cell phones serve to detract from that engagement. Additionally, your phone should be not only put away, but on “silent” (NOTE: vibrate is NOT silent). If your phone is out and/or in sight, you will be asked to put it away.
  • The instructor reserves the right to amend these rules as needed throughout the term.

Grading Standards

Assignment Summary:

Oral Presentation (incl. attendance & reprints)


Microscope Proficiency Exam


Graphs/Tables Proficiency Exam


Written Exercise on Reading & Evaluating Literature


Major Field Test in Biology








1.  Students in Seminar will take two proficiency exams: one that evaluates your ability to generate, understand, and correctly interpret data that are presented in tabular and graphical formats and another exam that evaluates your competency and use of microscopes.

2. We will have a single Saturday morning meeting on March 23 at 9:00 A.M. in which each student will take the comprehensive Major Field Test (MFT) in Biology. This separate date/time is necessary due to the length of this standardized exam being 2 hours. YOUR ATTENDANCE ON THIS DATE TO TAKE THE EXAM IS MANDATORY! Your performance on the MFT exam will count 10% of your grade for seminar. Your grade will be based on a 180 point scale. This is taken from the fact that your total test score from the ETS Major Field Test will range anywhere from 120-200. Take pride in yourself and take it seriously! Prepare for it thoroughly and try to do your best on it.

The majority of the course (effort, points, etc.) will focus on analysis, critique and presentation of current primary research articles taken from the biological literature. This project will include:

3a. Choosing a peer-reviewed primary journal article published within the last TWO years involving research on some aspect of biology and getting the article approved by the instructor for use in your presentation. After approval of article/topic, decide on an appropriate title for your seminar presentation and prepare flyers to announce your presentation before posting in the halls of Bolin Science Hall. Flyers should also be approved by the instructor before being posted in the halls. Presentation title should not be exactly the same as the article used as basis for your presentation.

3b. Providing a reprint of the journal article to everyone in seminar ONE WEEK IN ADVANCE of your presentation day. Each student should then read the presenter’s article prior to the actual presentation and come with questions about the article or topic to ask the presenter during the question and discussion period after the presentation has been made.

      3c. Presenting a 15-minute presentation on the article and topic it concerns using Powerpoint or other appropriate presentation format. After  you complete your presentation, you will be expected to answer questions concerning your topic from those in attendance.

3d. You will be required to complete a written exercise that will assess your ability to critically and effectively read and evaluate professional literature (see separate handout concerning the exercise). This exercise will be completed and turned in to your instructor ONE WEEK BEFORE your presentation along with the reprint of the article you have chosen to use as the basis for your oral presentation.

3e. Each student will evaluate all of your fellow classmates’ seminar presentations. Therefore, attendance at ALL seminar presentations is MANDATORY.  Points will be deducted from your final grade for any days missed.  We only meet one day a week for an hour, so I expect all of you to always be here for class.  See page 43 of the MSU Handbook and Activities Calendar for information on class attendance policy.

Grading, concerning presentations:

Oral presentation                                   150 points
Attendance & peer evaluations              30 points
Reprint distribution                                   20 points
                                                                   200 points

Submission Format PolicyNote: You may not submit a paper for a grade in this class that already has been (or will be) submitted for a grade in another course, unless you obtain the explicit written permission of me and the other instructor involved in advance.

Plagiarism Policy Plagiarism is the use of someone else's thoughts, words, ideas, or lines of argument in your own work without appropriate documentation (a parenthetical citation at the end and a listing in "Works Cited")-whether you use that material in a quote, paraphrase, or summary. It is a theft of intellectual property and will not be tolerated, whether intentional or not.

Student Honor Creed

As an MSU Student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else do so."

As students at MSU, we recognize that any great society must be composed of empowered, responsible citizens. We also recognize universities play an important role in helping mold these responsible citizens. We believe students themselves play an important part in developing responsible citizenship by maintaining a community where integrity and honorable character are the norm, not the exception. Thus, We, the Students of Midwestern State University, resolve to uphold the honor of the University by affirming our commitment to complete academic honesty. We resolve not only to be honest but also to hold our peers accountable for complete honesty in all university matters. We consider it dishonest to ask for, give, or receive help in examinations or quizzes, to use any unauthorized material in examinations, or to present, as one's own, work or ideas which are not entirely one's own. We recognize that any instructor has the right to expect that all student work is honest, original work. We accept and acknowledge that responsibility for lying, cheating, stealing, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty fundamentally rests within each individual student. We expect of ourselves academic integrity, personal professionalism, and ethical character. We appreciate steps taken by University officials to protect the honor of the University against any who would disgrace the MSU student body by violating the spirit of this creed. Written and adopted by the 2002-2003 MSU Student Senate.

Students with Disabilities The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Disability Support Services in Room 168 of the Clark Student Center, 397-4140.

Safe Zones Statement The professor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being - regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the professor's expectation that ALL students consider the classroom a safe environment.

Contacting your Instructor All instructors in the Department have voicemail in their offices and MWSU e-mail addresses. Make sure you add your instructor's phone number and e-mail address to both email and cell phone lists of contacts.

Attendance Requirements

Students are expected to attend all meetings of the classes in which they are enrolled. Although in general students are graded on intellectual effort and performance rather than attendance, absences may lower the student’s grade where class attendance and class participation are  deemed essential by the faculty member. In those classes where attendance is considered as part of the grade, the instructor should so inform  students of the specifics in writing at the beginning of the semester in a syllabus or separate attendance policy statement. An instructor who has  an attendance policy must keep records on a daily basis. The instructor must give the student a verbal or written warning prior to being dropped from the class. Instructor’s records will stand as evidence of absences. A student with excessive absences may be dropped from a course by the instructor. Any individual faculty member or college has the authority to establish an attendance policy, providing the policy is in accordance with the General University Policies. [MSU Student Handbook, p. 37]

Absences will be excused for:

  1. Death of an immediate family member.  An immediate family member is considered to be a grandparent, parent, sibling, spouse, in-law, aunt, uncle, or child.
  2. Summons to appear in court or jury duty. A copy of the summons is required.
  3. Call to military service.  A copy of your orders to report is required.
  4. University sponsored event. Members of athletic teams, college bowl participants, etc. will be excused with proper notification.
  5. Debilitating illness or disability. Illnesses will be addressed on an individual basis. If a student is affected by an illness that is not debilitating, (i.e. flu, virus infection) which may result in the student missing one or more consecutive class sessions, that student will be marked as unexcused for the amount of days missed unless a doctor’s note is provided.

It is the responsibility of the student to obtain notes or other information covered in class during an absence.

Other Policies

E-mail Policy:

I will respond to e-mail during regular school hours (8:30 am – 5:00 pm M-F). I will make every effort to respond to e-mail sent during the week within 24 hours. Those sent over the weekend will be attended to on Monday.

Always include a subject line in your e-mail messages. It would be particularly helpful to include in the subject line the course number & section (i.e. BIOL 4001).

Writing Proficiency Requirement All students seeking a Bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University must satisfy a writing proficiency requirement once they've 1) passed English 1113 and English 1123 and 2) earned 60 hours. You may meet this requirement by passing either the Writing Proficiency Exam or English 2113. Please keep in mind that, once you've earned over 90 hours, you lose the opportunity to take the $25 exam and have no option but to enroll in the three-credit hour course. If you have any questions about the exam, visit the Writing Proficiency Office website at, or call 397-4131.