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Biology - BY 131: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology

Blocks 1 and 2- Ralph Bertrand and Darrell Killian


This course satisfies the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World (Lab) and Quantitative Reasoning requirements. 

This course will provide students with a strong foundation in Molecular and Cellular Biology from conceptual and laboratory-based approaches that foster critical thinking skills, technical lab skills, and quantitative reasoning. Students will study and think about how scientific questions can be addressed experimentally. Scientific research is communicated through seminars and research articles; students will begin to develop these basic science communication skills through oral presentations and science writing assignments that are integrated into the topics and labs of this course.

Cells are the basic unit of all living things and thus an understanding of life at the cellular level is a basic foundation in Biology. The field of Cell Biology serves to investigate the diversity, energetics, physiology, architecture, organization, motility, and specialization of cells. Molecular Biology is an area of active investigation concerned with the myriad and complex molecular interactions that govern life at the cellular level. In addition, the field of Molecular Biology has developed numerous tools that are indispensable for research in essentially all aspects of biology as well as biochemistry, biophysics, forensic analysis, medicine, and other fields. It is difficult to imagine studying Cell Biology without Molecular Biology and vice versa; indeed Molecular and Cellular Biology is often considered a unified field known as Molecular and Cellular Biology. BY131: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology will introduce the structures and functions of macromolecules, organelles, and cells, will explore the flow of energy and genetic information within and among cells, and will introduce some of the tools and techniques that can be used to investigate the unanswered questions about life at the molecular and cellular levels.  


  • This course serves as a gateway to the Biology major (required for the Molecular and Cellular Biology Track as well as for the Organismal, Ecology, and Evolution Track). This course is also required for the Neuroscience major and the Biochemistry major.
  • This two-block course fulfills the requirement of BY131 Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology, a required course for the Biology major, the Neuroscience major, and the Biochemistry major.
  • This course involves a lab that will meet roughly 2-3 times per week in the afternoons starting at 1pm and running for a few hours each time. In addition, there will be afternoon or evening review sessions prior to exams.
  • This course is most appropriate for students with a strong high school chemistry preparation such as students that have successfully completed AP Chemistry or IB Chemistry courses.