Genetically Modified Organisms: Fall 2004
Seminar Information

Focus: Genetically modified organisms are splashed across headlines and sound bite but many people only know the caricatures. What does it mean that something is genetically modified? How do scientists modify the genes of an organism? What are we genetically modifying? and Should we being doing that? Along these lines we will read articles about GMOs that are currently available and their potential implications to our health and well being as well as the health and well being of the environment. Within one of these topics, you will develop an individual topic which will be the focus of your final webproject.

Before the first class you should
1) read over the schedule of assignments,
2) take the survey found on Blackboard
There is no formal textbook for the class. We will be reading journal articles. You will need a ZIP disc. The lab we will meet in for web workshops s equipped with Dell PCs. If you are totally opposed to working on a PC I should be able to arrange for access to departmental Macs although NOT during scheduled class periods.

I will provide instruction on webpage basics using MacroMedia Dreamweaver. I do expect that you are relatively comfortable using a computer (word processing, familiar with the fact that the wwweb exists) and that you know how to access your Davidson NT server space ('Louise'). If any of these are not the case please speak to me and/or the helpdesk.

Most assignments are technology based. Why? Being familiar, or even comfortable, with webauthoring and powerpoint presentations is an important skill and can only be learned by practice. In order to complete the assignments you must deal with the technology. Back up your work often and do not wait until the last minute to complete it. Last minute technology problems are not valid reasons for extenstions and late assignments will be penalized.

How will the seminar work?

We meet once a week for 3 hours. Since you have taken other Bio courses you are used to a 3hour lab format but a 3 hour discussion class may seem daunting. Each class will have more than one component. The Assignments Due and Topics for each week are found in the syllabus. Note that in many cases assignments are submitted electronically and are due throughtout the week--not just on Thursdays. I have highlighted those assignments in yellow to make them more visible.

Assignments include:

GM people: Many people have strong opinions about genetically modified organisms. The homepage includes a list of people who have various stands on the GM debate. During this assignment you will create a webpage that contains a short biography (500 wordmax) about one of these activists. The page should introduce the person, their credentials/background and their views on GMOs and their use

GM events: In this assignment you will create a small website (3-4 pages of content and 1 page of bibliography) that provides information about a controversial development or event in the field of GMOs and their use. Possible topics include
1) discussing the development of a new technology and the arguments for and against its use (ex. terminator seeds that are sterile)
2) court cases focused on the use of GMOs or on activists actions to block that use
3) government laws or policies about growing or importing GMO

Projects: The entire semester will be used to develop a project related to the course theme. Parts of this project will include work done in groups of three and parts are done individually. By the fourth week of class you will submit a description of two possible topics and I will set up the groups according to your interests. Course assignments that involve your project include:
Annotated Bibliography Entries: submitted by each individual. Please note the staggered due dates to accomodate group presentations and discussions.
Discussion Papers: two papers provided by each group to be used for class discussion (meet with me to discuss choices and plan intro/leading).
Paper Introduction: a Powerpoint presentation by each pair providing background on your discussion paper. (Plan on a traditional class period-- 40-50 minutes with all group members participating). The goal is to introduce the general topic as well as any techniques or background that would be helpful to know before reading the articles you have chosen.
Lead Discussion: Each trio needs to provide study question and lead in class discussion of the paper you chose.
Project webpage: Webpages designed by each trio that introduce your group's topic, state how it relates to the seminar's theme, define its important terms and areas of interest, provide background and perhaps include links to other organization's webpages for more information.The project must have an introductory homepage and at least five other pages that you have created. Five is the absolute minimum and would be considered barely getting by. A thorough website is likely to have eight to ten (or more) pages within it.
All webpages should be backed up by appropriate research and correctly formatted in text references (included on the site). No more than 50% of your references should be websites.
Final Paper: submitted by each individual. This final paper is a more traditional 'term paper' that expands upon a particular aspect of your group's project. It is to be written and referenced like you would any other term paper--however-- before submitting it you will convert it to html format and turn it in as a link off of your group project page. It should be between 8-10pages, Time New Roman,12pt, 1.5space. See the link from the course homepage for a more thorough description

Participation: This is a seminar therefore participation is very important and a major component of your overall evaluation. We only meet thirteen times. You cannot miss any of them.
Showing up is expected and does not count as participating. Because we meet only once a week you must come to class with the material read, your mind ready to discuss the topics and you need to actually speak. Showing up but never participating earns no points (just like turning in a blank test). Come with questions. Make sure that you understand and participate.
Some (perhaps many) of the topics are controversial. Your opinion may not be the same as your classmates' and may not be the same as mine. Agreement is not required. Respectful and polite interactions are. Your group will have meetings outside of formal 'class time' and your preparation, attendance and participation at those meetings also forms part of your evaluation.

Assignments and the Honor Code: All assignments must be completed in accordance with the Honor code. Since all are electronic, turning in the assignment pledges that the work is your own and was completed under the Honor code. By participating in a group project you pledge to contribute equally to the project. Group members may have different strengths but no one person will 'carry the load'. You may receive technical help in preparing and posting your web and powerpoint based projects. Remember help constitutes aid, not 'subcontracting'-- you should be able to perform the functions on your own or from your notes.

References Be sure to include proper in-text references and end of paper bibliographies for all sources used-- this includes lab manuals and online resources as well as texts and journal articles. Bibliographic references to texts and articles must follow the style and format used in the journal Cell. (see References to online resources must follow the MLA format for online sources (see ). There is no such thing as the 'three source rule' and not providing proper credit is plagiarizing. Read the DEPARTMENTAL STATEMENT ON PLAGIARISM. If you have questions--- ASK BEFORE YOU TURN SOMETHING IN.

Grading: Your numerical grade will be based on the following categories.

Participation (I)
including webwork assignment (2%)
Critique (I) 2.5%

GM people assignment (I)
webpage (5%), presentation (2%)

GM events assignment (I)
list (1%), annotated refs (1%),
website (9%)

Group project (G)
list (1%-I),
annotated refs (0.5%ea set/2.5%total),
paper choices (1%)
Background presentation (10%)
Lead Discussion (10%)
Website (10%)
Website introduction (2%)


Final Paper (I)
Paragraph description (2%)
Draft/ outline (5%)
Final paper (15%)


Group assignments (labeled 'G') will receive one evaluation (with comments) per group. Each member of the pair is expected to have contributed equally to the preparation and presentation of the material. Peer evaluations will also be used (completed both by group members and classmates).

Projects receiving individual assessment are labeled 'I'.

Your numerical evaluation will be converted into a course grade using the following scale:

Letter grade  B+ = 3.3 = 87-89 C+ = 2.3 = 77-79 D+ = 1.3 = 67-69  
A =4.0 =93-100 B = 3.0 = 83-86 C = 2.0 = 73-76 D = 1.0 = 60-66 F = below 60
A- =3.7 = 90-92 B- = 2.7 = 80-82 C- = 1.7 = 70-72    

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