BIOL 112 – Unicellular Life
Instructor: Dr. Karen Smith. Sweet little blonde lady who knows her biology. Only complaint I have is that she’d sometimes “answer” a question by going on for 10 minutes about something else. I’d definitely recommend her, though.
Textbook: Biological Science by Scott Freeman, Canadian 3rd ed. Old versions of the text are fine for the most part, I had the 2nd edition (the one with a giant squid on the cover) and the only differences are the page numbers and the examples aren’t Canadian. Also, you need an iClicker for this class. When I say need, I really mean it, as the clicker questions count towards participation marks.
What I Learned: Cell membrane structure and transport, protein synthesis, DNA replication, gene regulation, cellular respiration, photosynthesis, and nutrient cycles, all with a focus on single-celled organisms (read: lots and lots of E. coli)
Midterms/Final: There were two midterms in this course, one worth 10% and one 20%, both of which were multiple choice. The first midterm will lull you into a false sense of security; it was only 15 questions and fairly easy since only a few topics had been covered by that point. The next midterm, which covers protein synthesis and DNA replication is much more difficult. I did about 20% worse on the second midterm. You’ve been warned. The final exam was worth 50% and covered all topics from protein synthesis onward, with more focus on topics after the second midterm. The format of the questions in the exams is super annoying, and sometimes I feel like they’re intentionally trying to trick you. You’re allowed to bring in a cheat sheet to the midterms and final, but I didn’t find it really helped very much. You need to know your stuff, especially given the confusing nature of the questions.
Comments/Tips: Memorization can only get you so far; in this class, it’s all about conceptual knowledge. Another lesson: lecture slides being posted online does not mean skipping class on a regular basis is a good idea. The answers to the Clicker questions aren’t posted online, but the exam questions tend to be very similar to them, so attending lecture is a must. Also, don’t forget your iClicker at home 90% of the time (like me). That being said, this course had the most interesting content out of the three first-year biology classes I took (in my opinion). The exam questions were rough, but really allow you to think critically about biology. Besides, it’s a necessary evil if you’re planning on specializing in anything life science related.