7.22 | Fall 2005 | Undergraduate

Developmental Biology


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 2 hours / session

Recitations: 1 session / week, 1 hour / session

Class Format

The goal of this course is to introduce you to the very broad field of developmental biology. A particular emphasis is the intimate connection between developmental biology and evolution, which will be a theme throughout the course. Additional emphasis is on the connection between mechanisms of normal development and disease etiology. The course will cover general principles of development and current important issues. Relevant ethical issues will be discussed. Both invertebrate and vertebrate model systems will be covered, including Drosophila, C. elegans, chick, frog, zebrafish, mice and human.

The course will be divided into multiple topics, each of which will be covered by two hours of lecture and two hours of discussion of research papers. In some cases, guest lecturers working in a specific area will teach a topic. One review article and one research paper will be handed out one week ahead of time and will be relevant to that week’s lecture topic. Groups of students will be responsible for leading discussion of research papers. Instruction on how to structure these discussions will be given.

Another emphasis of the course is to teach you how to experimentally approach the topics of development. We will therefore emphasize how to formulate and test hypotheses. Students will become familiar with cutting edge molecular, genetic and imaging techniques that are applicable to analysis of many aspects of development.

Finally, since development is a three (and four) dimensional subject, modeling materials will be used in some sessions. We will also discuss current news and movies relevant to the lecture material. Prof. Sive will offer an optional additional discussion module using the book Jurassic Park as a tool to approach ethical and experimental issues in developmental biology research.

The following book is a very useful text, and recommended. Selected readings will be suggested for some topics.

Gilbert, Scott F. Developmental Biology. 7th ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2003. ISBN: 9780878932580.

Background will be provided for students who have not studied development before, and Microsoft® PowerPoint® presentations will be made accessible to the class.

See the readings section for a complete list of recommended texts.


Assignments for both undergraduate and graduate students include presenting primary literature material and leading weekly paper discussions for the class. Undergraduate students also must complete two exams and a final exam. Graduate students must complete a written review of a recent paper as a final project.

Course Requirements

All Students

Active participation is expected, and questions are encouraged in both lecture and paper review sessions. However, do not be intimidated - you are here to learn! Naïve questions are encouraged and no question will be considered stupid. It is also expected that you will have read and considered all papers before the discussion session.

You will be asked to keep a written record of techniques relevant to specific questions as the course proceeds. We will give you clear guidelines about how to put together such a compendium of techniques, which will serve as a useful future reference.

Graduate Students

Pass/Fail. Attendance at all classes, active participation in class, and leading discussions as assigned is expected, as well as completion of the final project.

Undergraduate Students

The course will be graded or can be taken Pass/Fail. Attendance at all classes, active participation in class, and leading discussions as assigned is expected. Two exams will be given during the semester, during recitation times or at some other mutually acceptable time. A final will be given during exam week. Practice exam material will be available. Exams will strongly emphasize formulation of hypotheses and design of experimental approaches to test these.


Graduate Students

This course is graded on a pass/fail basis for graduate students.

Undergraduate Students

Class Attendance, Participation, and Student Led Discussion Sessions 1/3
Two Exams 1/3
Final Exam 1/3

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2005
Learning Resource Types
Presentation Assignments
Written Assignments