Seminar in Biology

Course Details

Course Number: 4001  Section Number: 203

Spring 2014

Location: Bolin Hall

Classroom Number: 314

Course Attachments

Syllabus  Seminar Syllabus S2014-20140108-083424.pdf


Writing Papers in the Biological SciencesReading Primary Literature
MSU Faculty Member
Elizabeth Ann Machunis-Masuoka PhD   
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Course Objectives

Purpose of the Course

  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 the competency of graduating biology seniors in the use of microscopes.
  5. Assess the ability of graduating biology seniors to generate, understand, and correctly interpret data that are presented in tabular and graphical formats.
  6. Assess the ability of graduating biology seniors to critically and effectively read and evaluate professional literature.
  7. Take the comprehensive Major Field Test in Biology.


Course Expectations

Seminar students will be expected to:

  1. Take two proficiency exams: one exam evaluates your ability to generate, understand, and correctly interpret data presented in tabular and graphical formats and a second exam evaluates your competency and use of microscopes.
  2. Choose, present, and evaluate a peer-reviewed primary journal article published within the last TWO years involving some aspect of biological research
    1. You must get the article approved by the instructor for use in your presentation.
    2. After approval of your 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.
    3. Provide 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 following the presentation.
    4. Present a 15-minute presentation on the article and topic it concerns using Power Point or other appropriate presentation format. The presentation should address the following items (Some possible questions to consider are also listed):
      1. Background on the topic of the research article, including why the topic is important and is there any prior or related work to report on the topic
      2. Hypothesis/Problem addressed in the research article, including why the research was performed in the first place and what question were the authors trying to answer
      3. Methods and procedures used, including an explanation/summary of how the research was conducted
      4. Results of the experiments, including a statement as to whether the authors answered the hypothesis/problem/question asked and an indication of whether any unexpected results/problems came up
      5. Conclusions, including an indication of whether the conclusions drawn were appropriate given the experiments performed and the questions asked by the researchers
      6. Critique of the work, which could include statements on whether the methods were appropriate for the study, whether the interpretation of any of the data was incorrect, whether anything should have been done differently, and an indication of additional work that you would suggest be done to more fully address the hypothesis/problem
    5. After you complete your presentation, you will be expected to answer questions concerning your topic from those in attendance.
    6. Your presentation should be one that YOU have prepared specifically for this class and should not be one that was used in any of your previous classes or by anyone else.
      1. In other words, DO NOT recycle presentations prepared by you, or by anyone else!
      2. Be forewarned: if it is determined that you have recycled a presentation for seminar, you will receive an automatic “F” for the course.
      3. Students should refer to the current MSU Handbook and Activities Calendar for university policies on academic dishonesty, student rights and activities.  See page 4 for the student honor creed.
    7. 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.
  3. Each student will evaluate all presentations for fellow classmates. Thus, attendance at ALL seminar presentations is MANDATORY.
    1. 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.
    2. Student presentations will be scheduled during the first week of classes. We will have either one or two presentations per class meeting (depending on the number of students enrolled) with the first presentation being given starting in the sixth week of classes.
    3. Start working on your presentations right away in case you have any problems getting your presentation together (i.e. computer problems, interlibrary loan orders, etc.). DO NOT PROCRASTINATE!!
  4. Take the Major Field Test (MFT) in Biology: students will meet Saturday morning, March 8, 2014, at 9:00 A.M. to take the comprehensive MFT in biology.
    1. This separate date/time is necessary due to the length of this standardized exam, which will take 2 hours to complete.
    3. Your performance on the MFT exam will count as 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.


Grading Standards

Course Grades

Grades in the course will be broken down as follows:


Oral presentation (including attendance and reprints)     60%

                        Presentation:                                     150 points

                        Attendance & peer evaluations:      30 points

                        Reprint distribution:                         20 points

                        {Total points possible:                      200}

            Microscope proficiency exam                                              10%

            Graphs/Tables proficiency exam                                        10%

            Written exercise on reading & evaluating literature        10%

            Major Field Test in Biology                                                  10%

            Total course grade for BIOL 4001                                      100%



Submission Format Policy

See individual assignments.

Note: 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.

Late Paper Policy

No late assignments are accepted.

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

See course expectations.

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.