Biology 494                  Honors Biology                      Spring 2013


Instructor: James Lawrey

Office: DK 3032 (Fairfax); Occoquan 432 (Prince William)

Office hours: TW: 8:30-10:30am (Fairfax)

Phone: 703-993-1059; email:


Schedule is tentative and may change to take advantage of new or interesting papers or guest speakers.

Changes can be found online at









Immortal jellyfish

1. NYTimes magazine article

2. National Geographic article

3. Piraino, Stefano, F. Boero, B. Aeschbach, V. Schmid. 1996. Reversing the life cycle: medusae transforming into polyps and cell transdifferentiation in Turritopsis nutricula (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa). Biological Bulletin 190: 302–312


Brain stimulation and depression

1. Science News article

2. Tye, R. et al. 2012. Dopamine neurons modulate neural encoding and expression of depression-related behaviour. Nature. Published online December 12, 2012.

4. Chaudhury, D. et al. 2012. Rapid regulation of depression-related behaviours by control of midbrain dopamine neurons. Nature. Published online December 12, 2012.




1. WaPo story on genetically altered salmon.

2. NYTimes report.

3. AquAdvantage salmon Wikipedia


Politics of evolution

1. NYTimes op-ed piece.

2. National Center for Science Education website

3. Guardian piece.

4. NYTimes piece.


More Alzheimer’s

1. NYTimes article.

2. Jonsson, T. et al. 2012. Variant of TREM2 associated with the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. New England Journal of Medicine 368:107-116.

3. Gerreiro et al. 2013. TREM2 variants in Alzheimer’s disease. New England Journal of Medicine 368:117-127.


Brain implant improves thinking in monkeys

1. NYTime article.

2. Hampson et al. 2012. Facilitation and restoration of cognitive function in primate prefrontal cortex by a neuroprosthesis that utilizes minicolumn-specific neural firing. Journal of Neural Engineering Online issue doi:10.1088/1741-2560/9/5/056012







Using HIV to treat cancer

1. NYTimes article.

2. NYTimes article.

3. Porter et al. 2011. Chimeric antigen receptor–modified T cells in chronic lymphoid leukemia. New England J Med 365:725.


Elena, Sam, Katie

1. National Geographic article.

2. Boadi, D. et al. 2004. Mitigation strategies to reduce enteric methane emissions from dairy cows: Update review. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 84: 319-335.


Que, Danial, Annie

1. NewTimes article.

2. Hanna, J. et al. 2007. Treatment of sickle cell anemia mouse model with iPS cells generated from autologous skin. Science 318:1920.


Agata, Jacques, Hijab, Sharon

1. Huffington Post article.

2. Grewal, R. S. 2011. A defence of the vermiform appendix. CMAJ 183: 1556.

3. Ansaloni, L. et al. 2009. What is the function of the human vermiform appendix? Eur Surg Res 43: 67-71.


Hinduja, Mandy, Lauren, AnNa

1. Wired Science article

2. overview

3. Monti, M.M. 2010. Willful modulation of brain activity in disorders of consciousness. New England Journal of Medicine 362: 579-589.


Francis, Salma, Kavita

1. NPR story and transcript

2. Nature Outlook


Negin, Ryan, Haley, Katharine

1. O’Doherty, J.E. et al. 2011. Active tactile exploration using a brain–machine–

brain interface. Nature 479: 228-231.

2. NYTimes article.

3. Nature summary article.



Published articles are accessible through E-journals link on the GMU Library webpage unless noted. If you encounter any problems, contact the instructor.


Attendance: All students are expected to attend all sessions during the semester. One absence only will be permitted without penalty. Any additional absences will result in lost credit for that week.


Honor Code: Preparation for each weekly session can be done in groups, but weekly graded materials (summaries, quizzes) must be produced by students individually. If published material is used in a summary, references must be given. Group presentations are collaborative and group members will be graded as a group.


Grading: Student grades will be based on weekly news summaries, quizzes, presentations and participation in class discussions. There are 13 graded sessions, 12 of which will determine the final grade. If a student attends all sessions, the lowest grade will be dropped.


Weekly newspaper-worthy summaries: Each student is expected to bring to each class session a one-page or less newspaper-worthy summary of the topic being discussed that week. This is usually based on the assigned reading, but can also include other materials obtained by the student. It must be suitable for the nonscientific public, exciting, timely, lively and publishable.

Weekly quizzes: At the end of each class discussion students will take a short quiz concerning the topic assigned for that week.

Presentation: Group presentations will be graded by the class members and the instructor.

Participation: All class members are expected to attend each class session and participate in all discussions. No missed work can be made up or turned in late.


Prize Paper Assignment: Each student must propose a paper for discussion by the class. Search the recent literature for a paper you think will be interesting and worthy of discussion and write a one-page justification. The instructor will choose one of these for discussion during the semester; the sponsor will not be required to turn in a summary or take a quiz that week.


Group Presentations: Groups will be formed by the instructor by the third week of class and each group will choose a paper for class discussion. The paper must be approved by the instructor at least two weeks before presentation. The group members will be responsible for introducing the topic the week prior to the presentation, presenting the topic, leading the discussion, and giving the quiz. Presenters will be evaluated by the class and the instructor.