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General Information on Course Requirements and Grading


Biology 201A, "Principles of Cell and Molecular Biology," is one course of a two-semester sequence for biology majors, Biology 201A and 201B

In 201A we introduce principles that apply to all living organisms. The underlying theme is the unity of life while Biology 201B covers the diversity of life. Some of the biological disciplines that are touched on include biochemistry, cell biology, classical genetics, and molecular biology. Consequently, Biology 201A provides a foundation for much of your upper division coursework in biology, particularly Genetics and Evolution (Biol. 352) and Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology I, II, and III (Chemistry 365, Biology 366, and Biology 567).


Although Biology 201A is introductory in nature, we have a lot of ground to cover. Therefore, as a minimum background you should have all of the following:

1. A college-level chemistry course such as Chem. 200 is required as a prerequisite. You should not take Biology 201A course without Chem. 200 or its equivalent.  You face possible course failure for lacking prerequisites. 

2. A working knowledge of algebra (graphing, interpreting graphs, simple equations, logs, exponents, etc.).

Biology 201A Course Information:

All information for this course will be posted on Blackboard.  Only the syllabus will be provided on the Bio201A Webpage.  The Biology 201A Blackboard site contains course information including the lecture schedule, lecture notes if they are available, and a bulletin board for course announcements.

Your E-mail accounts that are registered through SDSU are an official means of communication with you, and you are responsible for checking your E-mail regularly and keeping your account available to receive messages.  Students can obtain a free E-Mail account if they do not already have one; check in the Student Computing Center in the Love Library. Please note that email from Hotmail and Yahoo accounts often gets filtered out by spam filtering software. 

Course Organization

Biology 201A is a team-taught course as are many courses for Biology majors. There are two lecturers who cover topics in their particular fields of expertise, and graduate teaching assistants who handle the laboratory sections. The lecture portion of the course is divided into 4 unequal segments:




Cell Structure and Function,

Energy Metabolism

Dr.  Terry Frey

Phone: 594-6756 or 3044

Office: NLS 104
Office Hours:  By appt.
For an appointment you can also contact Patti Swinford in LS 104
Ph: (619) 594-5504 | E-Mail:

Classical Genetics

Molecular Biology

Dr. Kelly Hester
email: TBA
Office Hours:  by appt

If you must contact the instructors, make sure to put Biology 201A at the beginning of the subject line to help sort out student emails.

The lab exercises have been designed to reinforce concepts presented in lecture, and to introduce you to some of the procedures and instruments used in biological research. We have tried to schedule the various lab topics so that they come after the relevant material has been covered in lecture.

Textbook Required
Campbell and Reece, Biology  7th Edition, Pearson/Benjamin Cummings, 2005

Lab Manual: Biology 201 Principles of Cell and Molecular Biology: Lab Exercises published by Burgess (ISBN# 0-8087-4495-X); available at Aztec Bookstore

Learning Objectives

In this course you will learn the fundamentals of Cell and Molecular Biology - principles that apply to all living organisms. 

Specific Objectives include:

 Students are encouraged to actively participate in the learning process



Your final grade will be calculated using the following weighting:

We use a point system and your grade will be based on a straight percentage basis (90% A, 80% B, etc).  The point values of the lecture exams are shown on the lecture outline. Consult the lecture schedule for exam dates. The Final Exam is comprehensive, and segment coverage for this exam breaks down as follows:

Exam I material

100 points

Exam II material


Exam III material

100 points

Final exam

100 points from last section of course, 100 points comprehensive

The lecture exams will be objective (mostly multiple choice) with possibly some short-answer essays (a sentence or two up to a couple of paragraphs). These exams will assess your knowledge of both lecture and reading assignments. Questions will be drawn from both the lecture and reading assignments.

If you have a legitimate excuse to miss an exam, be sure to notify the appropriate lecturer by the day after the exam and be prepared to provide written confirmation (letter from your doctor etc.). Job related excuses are not acceptable; you are responsible for arranging your work schedule around your classes. Please note that the exam dates are firm; they will not be altered so please write the dates in your calendars.

Cheating during exams will not be tolerated! Students caught cheating will receive a score of 0 for that exam and will be referred to the proper academic authorities.

Lab performance is evaluated by several criteria with the indicated weights:



Write ups


The quizzes are given at the beginning of the lab period and test whether you have carefully read the lab exercise(s) before coming to lab. Unprepared students tend to make mistakes in lab and become a liability for their lab partners. Write-ups refer to the material you hand in from the previous week's exercise (graphs, answers to questions, etc.). Neatness counts here! In many cases you will share data with other students, but the lab writeup you turn in must be your own work. Turning in a copy of someone else's work is Plagarism and is considered a serious academic offense. Two students who turn in the same lab report will each receive no points for the writeup.  Multiple offenses of cheating, including plagiarism, will result in the student being reported to the judicial office.  The genetics paper is a formal write-up of the "Segregation Analysis" experiment, and must be typewritten in a format spelled out in the lab syllabus and by your lab instructor at the appropriate time.

Your final score for the course is calculated as follows: 0.75*(lecture percent) + 0.25*(lab percent)

Important Note: Attendance at lab meetings is mandatory! Role is taken at each meeting, and missing more than one lab without a legitimate excuse is grounds for failing.

Another Important Note: You must pass both the Lecture Component and the Laboratory Component to pass the course. A superior performance in lab will not make up for a failing performance on lecture exams. A superior performance in lecture will not make up for a failing performance in lab. You must obtain at least a 50% score in the lecture portion of the course in order to pass.
A score less than 50% will result in a grade of F.

Final Note

Biology 201A covers a lot of material. In order to pass the course, you should keep up with the material on a daily basis. Attend lectures, take detailed notes (this involves more than copying down what the lecturer writes on the board!), either annotate or recopy your notes while the lecture is still fresh in your mind, and use the text to fill in gaps and correct ambiguities. Try to answer questions at the end of the text chapters or use the "Interactive Study" guide on CD ROM which comes with your text. These are all proven mechanisms for obtaining command of the subject matter, but it requires time. Lastly, do not wait until the last minute to study We have documented that students that delay studying until the last minute score up to 15 percentage points lower on exams than those that actively study throughout the course.

Each lecturer and lab TA has specific office hours and a desire to help students understand the material and the assignments. If you need assistance for any reason (for example to clarify a confusing concept or explain what the instructor expects, etc.) take advantage of office hours. If the posted times do not fit your schedule, arrange with the instructor a time of mutual convenience, but don't expect your instructor or TA to drop whatever she/he is doing at the moment you drop by to help you. You can also contact your instructors by E-Mail, and this will often prove an efficient and quick way to obtain answers to simple questions.

Finally, be sure you understand the material as we go. Memorizing facts without understanding the conceptual framework is like trying to memorize 100 telephone numbers. Use the text and/or the instructor's office hours to sort out difficulties in understanding the material when these problems arise, not the day before the exam!

Most students find that the exams are hard! They will test your understanding of concepts as well as the facts that support them. We will ask you to use your knowledge, not just spit it back. One method many students find successful is to study in small groups, but also leave time to study on your own. You should plan on devoting 10-12 hours per week study time (outside of class time).