• 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


of students

responded that the seminar helped develop critical thinking skills


of students

reported being able to interact comfortably with the professor


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.

Spring 2023 Seminars

  • 1 cr., S/U, January 23, 2023 - March 14, 2023, Thursday, 12:55 PM - 2:25 PM
  • Instructor: Jennifer Houtz (jlh498 [at] cornell.edu)

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.

  • 1 cr., S/U, January 23, 2023 - March 14, 2023, Monday, 2:40 pm - 4:35 pm
  • Instructor: Orchi Anannya (oa223 [at] cornell.edu)

Ever wonder about the origin of life, how you store and recall memory, how you can create drugs to combat even the resistant bacterial or viral pathogens or how you can find the cure for cancer? In search for answers scientists hypothesize and test experiments, not much different to when you are trying to find the best conditions for your garden to grow or when you are experimenting with reagents to get to the perfect culinary recipe. Join us in this class to take a closer look into the scientific process of guiding the scientific question into your hypothesis, designing your experiment and apply your findings to current research in the field. This class will explore these topics and by the end of the class students will be able to design their own individualized research project in biology

  • 1 cr., S/U, March 15, 2023 - May 9, 2023, Wednesday, 7:30 PM - 9:25 PM
  • Instructor: Katie Edwards (kae24 [at] cornell.edu)

We often take over-the-counter and prescription medications to treat various acute and chronic conditions, but how does that pill in a bottle lead to relief of symptoms? This seminar course will allow students to appreciate the intersection of biology and chemistry driving the science behind successful therapeutics. Why does a drug work better for some people than others? Why is taking many medications with grapefruit juice ill-advised? Students will learn the fundamentals of drug action and timing using selected FDA-approved drugs as examples in these sessions. The interactive lectures will allow students to better understand drugs marketed to consumers and gain familiarity with the terminology used in drug development and clinical application. Students will develop their critical thinking skills by exploring a drug of their choice in the scientific literature and have an opportunity to practice their written and oral communication skills through open discussion of their findings.

  • 1 cr., S/U, March 15, 2023 - May 9, 2023, Tuesday, 12:25 PM - 2:20 PM
  • Instructor: Imanol Miqueleiz (im298 [at] cornell.edu)

Extinct, or not extinct, that is the question. Current biodiversity loss is primarily driven by human actions, leading to the so-called Sixth Extinction. Many species have disappeared in recent years, and enormous amounts of human and economic resources are being devoted to preventing endangered species from adding to this tally. However, successfully protecting threatened species involves numerous challenges beyond short-term survival, including prioritization of resource allocation, genetic variability, and human-nature interactions. In this course, we will analyze case studies of success (or failure) in species conservation in the modern world. As we critically evaluate the outcomes of conservation actions, and discuss alternative strategies, we will test the idea that successfully protecting species relies primarily on insights from conservation biology. Along the way, we will embrace a global perspective on present and future conservation challenges.

  • 1 cr., S/U, March 15, 2023 - May 9, 2023, Monday, 2:40 pm - 4:35 pm
  • Instructor: Orchi Anannya (oa223 [at] cornell.edu)

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.

  • 1 cr., S/U, March 15, 2023 - May 9, 2023, Thursday, 2:40 pm - 4:35 pm
  • Instructor: Janelle Veazey (jv448 [at] cornell.edu)

In the years of COVID, we have all heard a lot about vaccines and antibodies, but the immune system is more than just antibodies. Thousands of cells across the entire body have to coordinate perfectly for the host to survive infection. So how does the host ensure the right cells find the infection site in a timely manner and only kill infected cells? What are the first cells to respond to infection and how do they know what to do? How does the immune system tune the response depending on whether it’s fighting a bacteria, virus or allergen? What happens if the immune system is too active or not active enough? This class will explore these questions and provide a greater understanding of the many cells of immune system and how they work together to keep us healthy.

Examples of Previous BIOG 1250's

What is sex? How has sex been studied historically? How have political and societal structures shaped the way sex is studied, addressed, and interpreted in scientific research? In this course we will examine and discuss the implicit and explicit biases present in the study of sex across the fields of evolutionary, behavioral ecology, neuroscience, and medical research. We will explore historical and cutting edge research in these fields using a case-study approach. The book "Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong-and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story” will be a central text for the course paired with primary literature for each topic and case-study.

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.

Even though as humans we have our own inherent defense against pathogenic microbes, our immune system, against some pathogens this defense is not enough. To protect against the pathogens that plague us, humans have developed a molecular arsenal, mainly vaccines and antimicrobial agents, in order to aid our immune system and successfully defend against harmful microbes. This course takes students through the history of vaccines and antimicrobial agents that have been developed for some of the toughest pathogens, such as smallpox, tuberculosis, influenza, and SARS-CoV-2. Through this course students will explore the process it takes to develop these tools, the biology behind them, and the implications they have for public health.

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."