THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA GRADUATE CATALOG
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6.4 DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (BSC)

Chairperson: Professor Dr. Janis M. O’Donnell, Office: 1320 Science and Engineering Complex.

Graduate Director: Professor Stevan Marcus, Office: 3310 Science and Engineering Complex

 

The department offers programs leading to the Master of Science in Biological Sciences, Master of Science in Marine Science, and Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences degrees. The graduate program is designed to provide broad training in the biological sciences, with specialization in the fields of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) or Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics (EES). Research foci within MCB include disease model systems; evolutionary and developmental genetics; microbiology and immunology; genomics; and protein biochemistry. Research foci within EES include population, community, and ecosystem ecology; microbial ecology; evolutionary biology; conservation genetics; animal behavior and physiology; and systematics, with a special emphasis on aquatic systems.

 

Research facilities include: Molecular Biology Core Facility, Steven Johnson Molecular Systematics Lab, Optical Analysis Facility, Aquatic Chemistry Laboratory, Animal Care Facility, as well as extensive museum collections and databases in the Scientific Collections Facility.

 

Local field sites include: J. Nicholene Bishop (Tanglewood) Biological Station, The University of Alabama Arboretum, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Point Aux Pins Marsh Lab, and Talladega National Forest.

 

 

Admission Requirements

 

Before entering graduate study in the biological sciences, the student is expected to have a substantial knowledge of chemistry, mathematics, and physics, and to have completed basic courses in the biological sciences with high standards of scholarship. In general, a curriculum equivalent to that required of undergraduate majors in the Department of Biological Sciences is expected. Students admitted without this background may be required to make up course deficiencies without receiving graduate credit.

 

Two types of admission to the graduate program in the biological sciences are possible: regular admission and conditional admission. In general, to be considered for regular admission, a student must have an overall scholastic average of 3.0 (based on a 4.0 system), including a 3.0 grade point average for the last 60 hours attempted and a 3.0 average in all biological sciences courses attempted. In addition, the applicant must have received a combined score of at least 1200 on the verbal and quantitative portions on the general test of the Graduate Record Examination.

 

Consideration for conditional admission requires an overall scholastic average of 2.5 (based on a 4.0 system), including a 3.0 average for the last 60 hours attempted and a 3.0 average in all biological sciences courses attempted. Also required is a combined score of at least 1000 on the verbal and quantitative portions on the general test of the Graduate Record Examination. Each student admitted conditionally to the biological sciences graduate program must maintain a 3.0 average for his or her first 12 hours in the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of Alabama. All hours taken in the semester in which the student reaches 12 hours will be considered, even if by so doing the total exceeds 12 hours. If this requirement is not met, the student will be automatically dismissed without appeal following the semester in which these 12 hours are earned, except in those cases that are obviously beyond the student's control.

See the Admission Criteria section of this catalog for more information.

 

 

 

Degree Requirements

 

Students should refer to the Graduate Student Handbook of the Department of Biological Sciences for additional information.

Master of science. Plan I and Plan II both are available for the MS degree. A student pursuing an MS degree under either plan is expected to submit a formal research proposal by his or her second semester in residence, and to take final written and oral examinations before the degree is granted. Plan I requires 24 hours of coursework and a formal thesis; Plan II requires 30 hours of coursework and a written research report approved by the student's graduate committee. A "B" average must be maintained in all coursework.

 

Doctor of philosophy.  A doctoral Plan of Study must be submitted to the Graduate School by the time the student completes 30 hours of UA and/or transfer for the doctorate.  A minimum of 48 semester hours of graduate course credit is required for the PhD degree. A "B" average must be maintained in all coursework. Students also are required to take at least 24 hours in BSC 699 Dissertation Research. All requirements for the PhD must be completed within a period of seven years following admission to the doctoral program. There is no general requirement for a foreign language, although individual graduate committees may require a language. A formal dissertation is required, in addition to preliminary written and oral examinations and a final oral examination.


A department-approved Admission to Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree is submitted to the Graduate School as soon as possible after passing the preliminary (comprehensive) examination.  See the online Graduate Catalog (Sec. 4.11.3) for details on Plan of Study, Admission to Candidacy, and all other degree requirements.

Additional information on the various degree programs is available on request from The University of Alabama, Department of Biological Sciences, Box 870344, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0344; or visit our website.

 

Course Descriptions
Prerequisite: Graduate standing.
Courses at the 500 level are not open to students who have received credit for the same courses at the 400 level.


BSC 500 Vertebrate Functional Morphology. Four hours. Three lectures and one three-hour laboratory period.
Prerequisites: BSC 114:115, BSC 116:117, BSC 300, or permission of the instructor.
Morphology of animals, primarily vertebrates, with emphasis on functional aspects of anatomy. Laboratory deals mainly with comparative anatomy of the vertebrates.

BSC 503/BSC 504 Introduction to Biological Sciences Instruction. Two hours.
Prerequisites: Strong background in biological sciences, formal application, and interview.
Students in the MS program who are not teaching assistants may receive up to 2 hours' credit. Students in the PhD program who are not teaching assistants may receive up to 4 hours' credit provided they teach two different laboratories.

BSC 506 Introduction to Research in Biological Sciences. One hour.
Corequisite: Student must be in the first year of the graduate program.
Surveys research programs in biological sciences.

BSC 507 Research Techniques in Biology. One to six hours.
Individualized instruction and the application of research techniques to specific problems for graduate students in the department.
 

BSC 512 Limnology. Three hours. May be taken separately or with BSC 513.
A study of freshwater environments and organisms living in lakes, ponds, and streams.

BSC 513 Limnology Laboratory. Two hours. One laboratory period. An optional laboratory accompanying BSC 512.

BSC 514 Dendrology. Three hours. One lecture and one four-hour laboratory period.
Identification, classification, characteristics, and distribution of the principal forest trees of the United States. Two weekend field trips are required.

BSC 516 Aquatic Vascular Plants. Four hours. Two lectures and one four-hour laboratory period.
Prerequisite: BSC 434 or BSC 534.
Identification, classification, characteristics, and distribution of aquatic plant species. One weekend field trip is required.

BSC 517 Environmental Modeling. Three hours. Two lectures and one discussion period.
Prerequisites: BSC 114:115, BSC 116:117, CH 101, CH 102, and MATH 125 (or equivalent).
An integrated survey of quantitative principles and computer-based solution techniques important for understanding environmental systems and for environmental problem solving.

BSC 520
Principles of Systematics. Three hours. Three lectures.
One organismal class (e.g., BSC 360, Plant Biology, BSC 373, Vertebrate Zoology, BSC 376, Invertebrate Zoology) AND BSC 383, Evolution, or permission of instructor.
An introduction to the principles, methods, and applications of systematic zoology and the zoological classifications. 
 
BSC 521 Geomicrobiology. Three hours.
Prerequisites: One year of chemistry (CH 101:102); either physical science (GEO 101:102), ecology (BSC 385), microbiology (BSC 310), or permission of the instructor.
This interdisciplinary course examines the interrelationships between microorganisms and earth processes and environments. Topics will focus on microorganismal involvement in mineral precipitation and dissolution and processes that control distribution of elements at and below the surface of the earth, as well as geochemical and mineralogical factors that exert important controls on microbial evolution and the structure of microbial communities.

BSC 522 Climate Dynamics. Three hours.
Prerequisites: PH 101:102, MATH 125, GY 101:102.
This course will provide students with a quantitative introduction to the earth's climate on global and regional scales, including interaction between atmosphere, ocean, and biosphere.

BSC 523 Freshwater Ecosystems. Three hours.
Prerequisites: CH 101:102, CH 231:232 recommended, MATH 125, BSC 412/BSC 512 or equivalent. This course addresses the integration of physical and chemical components of drainage basins with biological metabolism, growth and reproduction along functional gradients of river, wetland, reservoir, and lake ecosystems.

BSC 524 Human Physiology. Three hours. Three lectures.
Prerequisite: BSC 300. May be taken with BSC 525 or separately.
Examines the cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, muscular, neural, renal, reproductive and respiratory systems.

BSC 525 Human Physiology Laboratory. One hour. One four-hour laboratory period.
Prerequisite: BSC 424.
Corequisite: BSC 524.
Centers on principles of physiology and instrumentation for physiology.

BSC 528 Biology of Fishes. Three hours. Two lectures and one laboratory period.
Prerequisite: BSC 373 or permission of the instructor.
A survey of the structure, function, ecology, and classification of fishes.

BSC 531 Pathogenic Microbiology. Three hours. Three lectures.
Prerequisite: BSC 311 or permission of the instructor.
A study of microorganisms related to health and disease.

BSC 532 Pathogenic Microbiology Laboratory. Three hours. One lecture and two laboratory periods.
Prerequisite: BSC 313 or permission of the instructor.
Prerequisite or corequisite: BSC 531 or permission of the instructor.
Practical experience in the isolation, characterization, and identification of pathogenic microorganisms.

BSC 534 Plant Taxonomy. Four hours. Two lectures and one four-hour laboratory period.
Characteristics and distribution of the major families of vascular plants, and practice in the collection and identification of flowering plants. One weekend field trip is required.

BSC 535 Immunology. Four hours. Three lectures.
Prerequisite: BSC 310 or permission of the instructor.
Thorough exploration of various aspects of modern immunology at the molecular and cellular levels. 

BSC 536 Immunology Laboratory. Three hours. One lecture and two laboratory periods.
Prerequisite: BSC 435, BSC 535, or permission of the instructor.
Practical experience in modern immunological techniques.

BSC 539 Molecular Biology Laboratory. Three hours. One lecture and one four-hour laboratory period.
Prerequisites: CH 337 and either BSC 450 or BSC 550, or permission of the instructor.
A survey of the common analytical techniques used in molecular biology. Topics include protein purification and characterization, enzymology, DNA isolation and restriction endonuclease mapping, and gene cloning.

BSC 541 Developmental Biology. Three hours. Three lectures.
Prerequisites: BSC 300 and BSC 315, or permission of the instructor.
The course provides basic information about events in developing animal systems, emphasizing cellular, molecular, and genetic research approaches to the study of development.

BSC 544 General Virology. Three hours. Three lectures.
Prerequisites: BSC 300 or BSC 311, and BSC 450 or BSC 550; or permission of the instructor.
The molecular biology of bacterial, animal, and plant virus replication, including the biophysical, biochemical, and biological properties of virus particles.

BSC 548 Animal Behavior. Three hours.

Prerequisites: Principles of Biology I & II (BSC 114/115 and BSC 116/117 or BSC 118/120); Ecology (BSC 385).

This course is designed to provide modern perspectives on the study of animal behavior, pulling from fields as diverse as evolutionary biology, ecology, psychology, neurobiology, economics, and conservation biology.  Throughout the course, there will be an historical undercurrent, which will illustrate the roots of this truly inter-disciplinary field. The course is structured in a way that will allow you to gain a basic understanding of topics ranging from sexual selection, anti-predator behavior, personalities, and aggression during lecture.  You will then have the opportunity to master some of the more important theories, concepts, and cutting-edge new hypotheses using various active learning approaches, including the art of reading and evaluating primary literature, critically dissecting experimental design, and working through intellectual problems in the field of animal behavior. This course is not meant to be an exhaustive tour-de-force through animal behavior; rather, we will dedicate our energies to understanding in great detail some of the most influential concepts in the field.

BSC 549 Endocrinology. Three hours.        
Prerequisites:  Principles of Biology I & II (BSC 114/118 or BSC 116/120); Cell Biology (BSC 300)
This course is designed to familiarize you with the endocrine system complete with the structure and function of various glands, the molecular triggers that activate hormone production from these glands, the biosynthesis of many hormones, and the actions of these hormones at the cellular, physiological, and behavioral levels. Lectures will be partly traditional, and partly interactive. Students should come prepared to engage in discussion, and to ask questions. Writing is a significant component of this course, and students will need to demonstrate proficiency in writing to earn a passing mark.

BSC 550 Fundamentals of Biochemistry. Three hours. Three lectures.
Prerequisite: CH 332 or permission of the instructor.
A one-semester survey of protein structure, enzyme kinetics, bioenergetics, and metabolism and its regulation.

BSC 551 Molecular Biology. Three hours. Three lectures.
Prerequisite or corequisite: BSC 550 or permission of the instructor.
A one-semester survey of the synthesis, processing, and degradation of DNA, RNA, and protein and the regulation of these processes.

BSC 556 Microbial Ecology. Three hours. Three lectures.
Prerequisite: BSC 311 or permission of the instructor.
A study of microorganisms in the environment, with emphasis on their roles in energy transformations, biogeochemical cycles, and biotic interactions.

BSC 557 Microbial Ecology Laboratory. Two hours. One four-hour laboratory period.
Prerequisite: BSC 311 or permission of the instructor.
Corequisite: BSC 556.
A laboratory course that provides training in techniques for examination of the abundance, diversity, and activity of microorganisms in natural water, soil, and sediment environments.
 
BSC 560 Human Developmental Biology. four hours.
Prerequisites: BSC 300 and either BSC 400 or BSC 500 are recommended.
Lecture and laboratory.  Development of the human embryo and fetus, including molecular, physiological, and structural aspects of  morphogenesis  and functional development.

BSC 564 Biology of Algae. Four hours. Two lectures and one four-hour laboratory period.
Freshwater and marine algae and their structure, development, taxonomy, and distribution.

BSC 565 Principles of Toxicology. Four hours.
Study of  the  adverse affects of chemicals on living organisms and of methods for predicting the likelihood of these effects, including descriptive, mechanistic, and regulatory aspects.
 
BSC 569 Histology of Vertebrates. Four hours.
Prerequisites: BSC 114:115 or BSC 118 and BSC 116:117 or BSC 120
Lecture  and laboratory.  Identification of  tissue types and components, histogenesis and function of tissues.

BSC 572 Mycology. Three hours. Two lectures and two laboratory periods.
Prerequisite: BSC 310 or permission of the instructor.
An introduction to the fungi and their biology, including aspects of their structure and function, taxonomy, genetics, and ecology.

BSC 575 General Entomology. Four hours. Two lectures and one four-hour laboratory period.
Prerequisite: BSC 376 or permission of the instructor.
A survey of the structure, function, classification, and habits of insects.

BSC 576 Aquatic Insects. Four hours. Two lectures and one four-hour laboratory period.
Prerequisite: BSC 475, BSC 575, or permission of the instructor.
A survey of aquatic insects, with emphasis on their identification, life histories, and ecology.
 
BSC 580 Aquatic Biology. Three hours. This course will examine the ecology of plants at different levels: individual, population and community.

BSC 582 Conservation Biology. Three hours. Three lectures.
A thorough examination of the principles of conservation biology.

BSC 583 Evolution. Three hours.
Prerequisites:  BSC 114:115 or BSC 118, BSC 116:117 or BSC 120, and BSC 315.
Thorough  investigation of evolution, including population genetics, molecular evolution, adaptation, and speciation.

BSC 584 Aquatic Biology Seminar. One hour.
Review and discussion of current topics in aquatic biology.

BSC 587 Biogeography. Three hours. Three lectures.
Prerequisite: BSC 385 or permission of the instructor.
Examination of the ecological and historical factors influencing the geographic distribution of plants and animals.

BSC 590 Stream Ecology. Four hours. Two lectures and one laboratory period.
Prerequisite: BSC 385.
A thorough study of the structural (physical and biological) and functional (energy flow, nutrient cycling, community structure) attributes characteristic of stream and river ecosystems.

BSC 593 Cell Cycle Regulation. Three hours.        
Prerequisites: BSC 300 Cell Biology and BSC 315 Genetics.
In-depth review and discussion of recent scientific research  literature  dealing  with mechanisms of eukaryotic cell cycle regulation and their significance in human cancers. Provides a  foundation  for further studies in the cell cycle field, which impacts many areas of cell, molecular, and developmental biology.

BSC 594 Signal Transduction in Neurobiology. Three hours.
Prerequisites: Undergraduate-level genetics and cell biology or developmental biology.
Seminar on current topics related to signal transduction, as it pertains to the molecular basis of neurobiology and development.

BSC 595 Advanced Cell Biology. Three hours. Three lectures.
Prerequisite: BSC 300 or permission of the instructor.
Presents the structures, functions, and relationships of cellular organelles and the cytoskeleton.

BSC 596 Bioremediation. Three hours. Three lectures.
Prerequisite: BSC 450 or BSC 550, and CH 331; or permission of the instructor.
Study of the biological degradation of toxic chemicals in the environment 

BSC 598 Research Not Related to Thesis. One to fifteen hours. Pass/fail. 

BSC 599 Thesis Research. One to fifteen hours. Pass/fail.

BSC 602 Advanced Molecular Research Seminar. One hour. Pass/fail.
Student presentations of research background and current results. Students may enroll each semester.

BSC 603 Current Topics in Molecular Biology. One hour. Pass/fail.
Student presentations of current research literature.

BSC 604 Development, Toxicology, and Physiology Seminar. One hour. Pass/fail. 

BSC 605 Ecology and Systematics Seminar. One hour. Pass/fail. 

BSC 606 Advanced Ecology and Systematics Seminar. One hour. Pass/fail.
Students attend and participate in a one-hour weekly seminar and present a 45-minute seminar during the semester. The seminar presented should be a synthesis of research on a particular topic in ecology or systematics, requires a practice session, and includes written evaluations by the faculty.

BSC 607 Advanced Research Techniques in Biology. One to six hours.
Individualized instruction and the application of research techniques to specific problems at an advanced level for graduate students in the department.

BSC 612 Aquatic Secondary Production. Three hours. Three lectures.
A study of the population and production dynamics of aquatic animals, including theory, methods, and interpretation of the role of animals in ecosystem bioenergetics.

BSC 631 Molecular Genetics of Lower Eukaryotes. Three hours.
Prerequisites: BSC 300, BSC 315.
Survey of lower eukaryotic model systems using current and historical literature with an emphasis on the usefulness of these organisms to address particular biological questions.

BSC 632 Higher Eukaryotic Genetic Model Systems. Three hours.
Critical analysis of higher eukaryotic genetic model systems used in modern molecular research.

BSC 633 Critique of Research in Molecular Biology. Three hours.
Prerequisites: Any two graduate courses in molecular and cellular biology.
Critical analysis of current research in molecular biology. Narrow topics from rapidly moving fields will be selected for detailed reading and class discussion.

BSC 634 Practical Molecular Biology. Three hours.
Prerequisites: Undergraduate-level biochemistry and genetics courses.
This course presents the theoretical basis for commonly used molecular biology procedures that are in general use in all fields of biology. 

BSC 635 Developmental Genetics. Three hours. Two lectures and one discussion period.
Prerequisite: BSC 441, BSC 541, or equivalent.
A course in the genetic and molecular mechanisms of development for graduate students.

BSC 651 Population Ecology. Three hours.
Prerequisites: BSC 385 or equivalent and MATH 125 or equivalent.
Theory and practice of population ecology (plants and animals); sampling, population processes, regulation, interspecific interactions, age structure analysis, and applications in resource management.

BSC 652 Community Ecology. Three hours.
Prerequisites: BSC 385 or equivalent; MATH 125 or equivalent; CHS 525; ST 550 or equivalent.
Thorough investigation of theory and empirical studies of ecological communities (plant, animal, microbial), including methods, community structure, diversity, succession, links to ecosystem function, resource management.

BSC 653 Ecosystem and Global Ecology. Four hours.                                            Prerequisites: At least one undergraduate course in ecology.

This course provides comprehensive coverage of ecosystem concepts and processes at scales from local to the biosphere. The course encompasses the full range of the earth’s biological diversity (plants, animals and microbes), and its ecosystems (freshwater, terrestrial, marine, and many intermediates). It explicitly integrates the roles of these organisms into ecosystem functioning and global processes.

BSC 656 Microscopical Techniques. Four hours.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
An introduction to the methods and applications of electron microscopy in biological research, including techniques for preparation of biological specimens, operation of the transmission and scanning electron microscopes, and photography.

BSC 660 Protein Structure and Function. Three hours. Three lectures.
Prerequisite: BSC 439, BSC 539, CH 462, or CH 562.
A study of the structure and function of proteins: enzymatic reaction mechanisms and enzyme kinetics.

BSC 695 Special Topics in Biological Sciences. One to four hours.
Courses with this number may address any biological topic not covered by existing courses. The credit hours and format are arranged as appropriate to each topic. The specific course title is added at the time the course is taught.

BSC 696 Resident Study at an Approved Biological Station. Two to six hours.
Prerequisite: Written approval from the department must be received in advance.
Credit for the course is determined by the extent of the coursework.

BSC 698 Research Not Related to Dissertation. One to fifteen hours. Pass/fail. 

BSC 699 Dissertation Research. Three to fifteen hours. Pass/fail.

 


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