92% of Students Responded

99% of Students Reported


  • Increase the opportunity for students to have a meaningful interaction with a biologist
  • Perpetuate excitement in studying biology
  • Develop critical thinking skills by exploring topics in the biological sciences (review at least one scientific paper)
  • Increase sense of community by expanding social and academic networks
  • Learn the value of collaborative learning
  • Discuss ethical issues in science


first-year students

enrollment is limited.



over seven weeks


credit awarded

with an S/U grade only.

Small groups explore a topic in biology while learning to think like a scientist

Are you interested in catching the excitement of biology by talking with a faculty member and other inquisitive students? If you answered yes, then consider enrolling in a BIOG 1250 Seminar that is facilitated by enthusiastic faculty members who love teaching.

Fall 2023 Seminars

  • 1 cr., S/U, October 11, 2023 - December 4, 2023, Tuesday, 10:10 AM - 12:05 PM
  • Instructor: Cole Gilbert (cg23 [at] cornell.edu)

In the natural world, unless you look directly at the sun (don’t do this) or the back end of a firefly, almost all the light we see is reflected, and our eyes and visual system have evolved over hundreds of millions of years to interpret these patterns of reflected light to form our perception of the real world. This seminar will focus on how 2D pictorial art from Paleolithic cave paintings in southern Europe through mid-20th century abstract expressionism is interpreted by our visual system. This is not a course in art appreciation.  If art critics tell us that a red square by Mark Rothko is great art, it is great art, and we will look at some cool paintings in the classroom and the Johnson Museum. But we will want to understand how we see form and color in Rothko’s work. We will also get into line, depth, facial representation, eye movement, illusions, etc. The course is about how clever and skillful artists have arranged (mostly natural) pigments on their 2D canvas, or board, or rock face, to be deciphered by the neural mechanisms of the retina and brain as some sort of representation of the real world. You don’t need to know anything about art or neurobiology as a prerequisite for this course.  You do need to be willing to engage, to gain insight into one of your own perceptual systems, and to learn a bit about Western pictorial art.

  • 1 cr., S/U, October 11, 2023 - December 4, 2023, Thursday, 2:30 PM - 4:25 PM
  • Instructor: Adam Francisco (cg23 [at] cornell.edu)

Getting old is a major problem!  Our bodies work well for a long time, and then not so well. What is going on? In this course we will discuss the biology of tissue homeostasis and cellular regeneration. We will review the principals of cell division and programmed cell death and discuss how cellular status affects tissue health and overall life span. We will look at how age affects different model organisms and discuss topics of vertebrate and human longevity.

Examples of Previous BIOG 1250's

Anxiety. Burnout. Stress. These are common feelings experienced among students in college. When we worry or experience stress, our body turns on our fight or flight response, the same physiological response that animals experience in the wild. In this course, we will explore the stress response in humans and wild animals. We will discuss the biological mechanisms that orchestrate the response, when the stress response goes from good to bad, and strategies for coping with stress in college.

For millennia, viral pathogens have been infiltrating the human population causing widespread disease and from their history we can better understand the outbreaks that currently burden mankind. This course takes a case-study approach to introduce students to the world of infectious disease by investigating outbreaks that have occurred throughout the globe during the 20th and 21st centuries. During this course, students will explore basic microbiology principles from the unique perspective of global health and epidemiology. Key topics cover the emergence, pathogenesis, control, and socioeconomic effects of viral pandemics, including Ebola, HIV, influenza, and SARS-CoV-2.

The molecular machines of our cells comprise the enzymes, receptor molecules and ion channels which use chemical energy to generate motion. These tiny machines silently work away to keep you breathing, your blood circulating and cells dividing to help you grow. These are essential for your survival yet you do not need conscious efforts to keep them going when you are awake or when you are asleep. In this course we will learn how do these molecular machines keep going and what happens if they pause. Finally we will look into pharmacological strategies that can target these molecular machines to make sure you keep going even when you are asleep.

Unsubstantiated claims about COVID-19 and vaccines circulate as rapidly as the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and they can be just as serious. How can you distinguish pseudoscience from real science? How can you make well-informed decisions about your health if you don’t know immunology?  The answer is that you become science literate … capable of asking questions, finding scientifically reputable sources, determining answers, and engaging in productive social conversations based on your informed views.  This course will teach students how to evaluate scientific claims and make science-informed views. It will provide a foundation of basic understanding of the immunology of vaccines and the COVID-19 pandemic.  Students will apply science literacy skills by exploring a sociocultural issue of the pandemic, such as vaccine hesitancy, and communicating their informed views.

From the current COVID-19 pandemic to Romaine lettuce recalls, pathogens make the news when there are outbreaks, but researchers are always studying these disease-causing microorganisms and rely upon a variety of cell-based and animal models to do so. In this course, students will explore the basics of bacterial pathogenesis, the models that scientists use to learn about pathogens, and the benefits, limitations, and ethics associated with these models. As students explore these topics week by week, they will also learn to read and understand primary literature as we work through relevant sections of a representative primary research article in class. By the end of the course, students will be equipped to present a primary research article of their choice, addressing the topics covered in the course.

Student Feedback

Random responses from students who were asked if they would recommend the seminar to other students:

  • "I definitely would. It piqued my interest in marine life. The lecturer was instrumental in doing that."
  • "Yes, it’s a great foundation-builder in biological research skills!"
  • "Yes. This course helped me feel less intimidated by scientific papers, introduced me to a variety of topics, and helped me understand the general format of scientific papers required by different journals."
  • "Yes I would recommend the course, it was very informative and would especially benefit anyone with an interest in botany or pharmaceuticals."

"I would definitely recommend this course to others. Not only did it help me understand some medical issues seniors have to face, it also helped me understand the economics of the US healthcare system. This class also exposed me to concepts I have never touched upon and it was interesting."

  • "It was good to study a variety of topics chosen by students who had an interest in them. An awesome idea for a course – combining both discussion of papers and practical laboratory skills."
  • "Yes, but only to those people who are serious about majoring in science and who want to improve their communication skills (i.e., as they present)."
  • "Yes. It’s a great experience in a wide range of areas/skills. I definitely would, it is a great way to learn a bit about microbiology. I really was not thinking about taking microbio but I think I will now."