From Venoms and Toxins to Drugs: Fall 2001
Seminar Information

Focus: This seminar will include student lead discussion of topics such as: research supporting/disproving cellular benefits of herbal supplements, uses of dietary supplements (glucosamine chondroitin, creatine) and toxic substances used for medicinal purposes (taxol, thalidomide, lithium, various snake venoms). The overall focus of the seminar is to look at the use of naturally occurring substances for medicinal purposes. The class will determine exactly how this topic is developed. The title indicates venoms or toxins, this is in reference to the fact that many chemotherapeutic drugs are exceedingly toxic but also life-saving and that deadly venoms are used for cosmetic purposes. The 'drug' part comes in to cover development of other substances--remembering that most of our drugs had 'natural' beginnings. Aspirin 'comes from' tree bark. Morphine 'comes from' the poppy seed. From ideas generated by the class we will decide on main topics for discussion. 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 have an idea of one or two topics on which you would be interested in focusing. (Read on to get ideas). There is no formal textbook for the class. You will need a ZIP disc. The lab we will meet in for web workshops s equipped with Mac G3's which do not have 3 1/2" disc drives ('normal discs'). You can purchase a Mac or an IBM formatted ZIP disc, either will work in a Mac. If you are totally opposed to working on a Mac I should be able to arrange for access to departmental Dells although NOT during scheduled class periods.

During the semester you prepare two presentations (using Powerpoint), lead a discussion of a journal article, make a personal homepage, prepare a web site as a class, and prepare a final webproject that explores your topic in depth.

I do not expect that you are proficient in Powerpoint presentations or that you have ever made a webpage before. The course includes instruction in those areas. 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. For Webauthoring I will provide instruction using Netscape Composer. Macromedia Dreamweaver is available through the department and you may use it (or any other) program but since I have not used it I cannot  provide support for Dreamweaver.

A MAIN POINT: All topics must include a discussion of how the substance acts at the cellular level. Such as why is Botox good at getting rid of 'crows feet' wrinkles? What does it do to the cells? Do we know why or what part of St John's Wort causes it to be effective in maintaining 'mental stability'? Other areas for discussion could include pros' and cons of using the substance (uses and abuses in some cases) and any controversy over the topic (public opinion vs. reality, inappropriate good press, inappropriate bad press, who can patent what and why)

The class project will include discussion of drug testing --what the process is and how it works. A twist on this topic could be to include the treatment of syphillis and government experiments in the 40's where people were (unknowningly) exposed to the disease. Besides discussing the trouble with getting 'test subjects' and the obvious ethical implications of that work, you would need to include a discussion of what syphillis is and why it ends up making people 'go mad'--what happens at the level of the neuron?

How will the seminar work? (Syllabus)

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. Our focus and assignments for each week are listed below. Each component is separated by a (---) in the syllabus below. At this time this is a rough outline since the presentation schedule will be determined after classes begin. Note that in many cases assignments are submitted electronically and are due throughtout the week--not just on Thursdays.

Week 1 (Aug 20th) Our first classes will cover many of the mechanics with which you will need to be familiar. We will devise a scale for ranking websites by composition and content. Frank Molinek will provide instruction on performing online literature searches and references resources within Little library. We will go over how to prepare a Powerpoint presentation. Last, but definitely not least, we will discuss the ideas/directions that you want to develop. You will be assigned a website to evaluate using the criteria that the class designed.

Week 2 (Aug 27th) Your evaluations will be emailed to me by 5pm Monday(2page MAX) and will be presented in class (tour of the site noting strengths and weaknesses). By 12:30pm Thursday you will email me an annotated bibliography containing 5 references that are pertinent to your topic. (You will be adding to this bibliography throughout the semester.) You may find that you need to revise your topic. That is fine but you must discuss it with me before change directions.
In class we will discuss the websites you evaluated and the rating scale. I will meet with each of you to discuss your project topic. The personal homepage assignment will be discussed and the class will develop a plan for the class project "Gaining Approval".

Week 3 (Sept 3rd) By 5pm Tuesday you will email me 3 more annotated references for your project. In class you will present a proposal for the topic and approach of your topic (10min max). The class will provide comments and suggestions.
We will have a workshop to search for sources for the course website, 'storyboard' how the site will be laid out and help with any problems in preparing your personal webpage.
For Week 4 you should find and bring resources, write up rough copy to use for the class site

Week 4 (Sept 10th) Homepage due 5pm Monday  Presentation of background material and into to first article for discussion (topic TBA: presentation by Dr Bernd)
Work time for class project. Finalize rough design/setup.

Week 5 ( Sept17th) Due in class: 2 topics for discussion and appropriate reading
Discussion of First article (lead by Dr Bernd) Secretary takes minutes of discussion and distributes (via email) by noon Sunday.
Meetings with me to discuss/defend proposed discussion topics
Work time for group page and presentation

Week 6 (Sept 24th)  Gaining Approval course page due 5pm Saturday (SEPTEMBER 22nd!)
Powerpoint  Presentation of 'Gaining Approval'--(not just reading of website.)
College community will be invited.

Week 7 (Oct 1st) Due in class: Reading list for your article discussion-- including pages/text background readings when appropriate and copy of article for discussion,
Film viewing and discussion (title TBA)

Week 8 (Oct 8th) Background for discussion 2:  Joey, Lauran, and John (+ Secretaries)
Discussion of progress/problems in individual projects

Week 9 (Oct 15th) Article Discussion 2:  Joey, Lauran, and John (+ Secretaries)
Those not leading discussion --3 annotated references due.
Web help, work on projects. (Bring material to work on!)

Week 10 (Oct 22nd) Background for discussion 3:  Paul, Jeffrey, Amy and Julie  (+ Secretaries)
Discussion of progress/problems in individual projects

Week 11 (Oct 29th) Article Discussion 3:  Paul, Jeffrey, Amy and Julie  (+ Secretaries)
Those not leading discussion --3 annotated references due.
Round table: each student informally presents current progress on final project (possible points includinc development of theme, resources found, storyboard plan)

Week 12 (Nov 5th) Background for discussion 4: Max, Andre and Lane (+ Secretaries)
Discussion of progress/problems in individual projects

Week 13 (Nov 12th) Article Discussion 4: Max, Andre and Lane (+ Secretaries)
Those not leading discussion --3 annotated references due.
Meetings with me to discuss progress on final projects
Submit film requests.

Week 14 (Nov 19th) Thanksgiving: No Class (Show off your work in progress to friends, family)

Week 15 (Nov 26th) Film viewing and discussion

Final webproject due Monday December 3rd by 8pm.

Individual projects: The entire semester will be used to develop an individual project related to the course theme.  For example your topic could be the identification and development of taxol (from the Yew tree) as a chemotherapeutic drug. Your individual project will consist of a series of webpages devoted to exploring/explaining your topic. You project must have a 'homepage' that introduces the topic, how it relates to the course and where you will be going with it. Each individual project must contain at least one webpage (that you wrote--not just a link) that discusses the specific cellular mechanism(s) effected by the compound (perhaps a discussion of how taxol effects microtubule formation). All webpages should be backed up by appropriate research and in text references (included on the site). No more than 50% of your references should be websites. The entire site must contain least 6 (but no more than 9) additional pages that you wrote (not just outside links). The entire project is due by 8pm on Monday December 3rd .

Grading: This is a seminar, therefore, a good deal of participation is expected and is a major component of your overall evaluation. Your group will have meetings outside of formal 'class time' and your preparation, attendance and participation at those meetings also forms part of this evaluation. Your numerical grade will be based on the following categories.

Participation 20%
Evaluation of webpage (2pg) 2%
Project proposal 2%
'Gaining Approval'
Website and presentation 
Secretarial role 2%
Background Presentation and Leading Discussion 18%
Individual Web project  
          Annotated Bibliography 3%
          Personal page prep 3%
          Final Project site 25%

Group assignments (2 presentations, project proposal and group project website) will receive one evaluation (with comments) per group. Each member of the group 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).

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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