Biology 140: Laboratory Investigations in Life Science
Instructor(s): Anna Shcherbinina (TA) and Bernardita Germano (Lab Faculty). Every section of Biol 140 has a different TA and lab faculty. Anna was really sweet and funny, but her problems with English made explaining your ideas to her a little challenging. As for Bernardita, I’m just bitter towards her because she wouldn’t let me resubmit a failed assignment following an email mishap. Oh technology, how I love and despise you.
Textbook: You receive a Biol 140 lab manual at the beginning of the term, which is basically your Bible as far as this course is concerned. They recommend Biological Science by Freeman as well, but I never once used it for this class.
What We Learned: There are two components to Biol 140: a lab component and a field component. During the first half of the course, you are given an experimental organism from your terrestrial or marine ecosystem (mine was the Pacific sideband snail). You are expected to learn as much as you possibly can about this organism, and then design and carry out an experiment testing your organism’s response to a change in abiotic factors. This goes on for about 7 weeks. Then, you get assigned a new organism (usually a plant) and go on a field trip to Pacific Spirit Park to look at the abundance of your species.
What I Actually Learned: Way more about the Pacific Sideband snail and the sword fern than I ever wanted or needed to know. I also learned to double-check the spelling of my TA’s last name before sending her an email.
Homework/Assignments: There are weekly homework assignments for Biol 140 that range in difficulty from filling out a worksheet in the lab manual to full-blown research papers. You also have to write an experimental report detailing your first experiment, which is worth a huge chunk of your mark (around 35%). For your second organism, following your trip into the forest, your group does a Powerpoint presentation on the distribution and abundance of your organism in Pacific Spirit Park. There is a lab exam near the end of the semester that is half-practical (i.e. going from station to station around the lab and completing various activities) and half-written. This course has no final exam.
Comments and Tips: This class was literally the most mind-numbingly awful class I have ever taken. If you took AP/IB and have advanced biology credit, for the love of God, take it so you can avoid the torture that is Biol 140. It wasn’t that this course was hard. The material is pretty simple, and it . It’s just that the assignments and the experiments were annoying and pointless. However, it’s a necessary evil if you’re planning on majoring in anything life science-related, so just grit your teeth and watch your organism run around in the soil. Follow the lab manual’s instructions religiously, and you should be able to do reasonably well in this course. Just don’t fail to submit one of the major assignments like I did, and you’re golden.