Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Penn State Science
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BMMB 542: Eukaryotic cell biology

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BMMB 542:  Eukaryotic cell biology
T, R 9:45-11:00 am
026 Burrows Bldg

Instructor:      Lorraine Santy:
208 Althouse
(814) 863-6813

This course will investigate a variety of topics central to cutting edge research in cell biology.  We will focus on processes affecting the cell as a whole, including regulation of cell shape, compartmentalization and life cycle.  Our class includes instructor lectures, student presentations and group discussion of recent research papers from the published literature.

The format for the semester will be a Thursday lecture followed by the presentation of recent papers from the field by students in the class on Tuesday.

Course Objectives.

1) To increase students’ knowledge and appreciation of current areas of research focus in Cell Biology and their knowledge of current research techniques.

2) To improve students’ skills in reading and analyzing the primary literature and their ability to think critically about experimental design, interpretation and presentation of data.

3) To improve students’ skills in oral and written communication of scientific concepts and research.

ANGEL Site. There is a site for this class on ANGEL.  Login to your ANGEL account at and look for it in “my courses”.  The papers for the presentation class will be posted in the lessons section of the class site at least 2 weeks prior to that class.  All students should download and read these papers prior to the student presentations.  All presentations, papers and homework must be turned in to the appropriate dropbox on Angel before the start of the Tuesday class.

Grading. 25% of grade: in class presentations of assigned research article(s).  25% of grade: two reviews of a presented research article to be turned in prior to the presentation.  30% of grade:  two tests.  20% of grade: active and consistent participation in classroom discussion and submission of weekly homework.

Presentation. Prepare a 25-30 minute presentation in the format of a journal club (albeit an abbreviated one). Introduce the background, the methods used, present key experiments and figures, summarize the remaining figures and present the conclusions. You may discuss possible future directions. You should plan to lead discussion of the paper for 5-10 minutes. Presenters should email a couple of questions for discussion to the entire class 24-48 hours before the presentation.

Paper. Prepare a one page critical review of an assigned article. Provide a critical analysis of the paper involving the hypothesis(es), an experimental overview, an analysis of data and its interpretation, and a discussion of possible follow-up experimentation and approaches.  Papers are due before the start of the class when that paper is presented.

Weekly homework. For each assigned paper answer the following questions.  1) What is the main hypothesis being tested in this paper?  2) What is one thing that you learned and will remember from this paper?  3) Relate some aspect of the paper back to the lecture topic for the module.  Homework is due before the start of the class when that paper is presented.

Missed Exams or Assignments.  Only illness, emergency, or unavoidable university business are acceptable excuses to qualify for a makeup exam.  Prior notification of an expected absence is expected.  Exams must be made up within two weeks, or you will receive a zero.  Assignments and homework handed in late (after the presentation class has started) will receive at most 50% credit and must be turned in within one week.

The Eberly College of Science Code of Mutual Respect and Cooperation ( final.pdf) embodies the values that we hope our faculty, staff, and students possess and will endorse to make The Eberly College of Science a place where every individual feels respected and valued, as well as challenged and rewarded.

The Eberly College of Science is committed to the academic success of students enrolled in the College's courses and undergraduate programs. When in need of help, students can utilize various College and University wide resources for learning assistance.

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic adjustments in this course, contact the Office for Disability Services (ODS) at 814-863-1807 (V/TTY). For further information regarding ODS, please visit the Office for Disability Services Web site at

In order to receive consideration for course accommodations, you must contact ODS and provide documentation (see the documentation guidelines at If the documentation supports the need for academic adjustments, ODS will provide a letter identifying appropriate academic adjustments. Please share this letter and discuss the adjustments with your instructor as early in the course as possible. You must contact ODS and request academic adjustment letters at the beginning of each semester.

Academic Integrity: All Penn State Policies regarding ethics and honorable behavior apply to this course.



Tuesday         1/10/17                       Scheduling etc.

Thursday       1/12/17                       Sub-cellular organelles

Tuesday         1/17/17                                   Paper discussion

Thursday       1/19/17                       Organelle inheritance and maintenance

Tuesday         1/24/17                       Actin Dynamics

Thursday       1/26/17                                   Student presentations on techniques

Tuesday         1/31/17                                   Presentations-Actin

Thursday       2/2/17                         Microtubules

Tuesday         2/7/17                                     Presentations

Thursday       2/9/17                         Mitosis

Tuesday         2/14/17                                   Presentations

Thursday       2/17/17                       Centrosomes and cilia

Tuesday         2/21/17                                   Presentations

Thursday       2/23/17                       Apoptosis

Tuesday         2/28/17                                   Presentations

Thursday       3/2/17                                     Review/presentations if needed

3/7-3/11                                             Spring Break

Tuesday         3/14/17                       TEST 1

Thursday       3/17/17                       Trafficking

Tuesday         3/21/17                                   Presentations

Thursday       3/23/17                       Autophagy

Tuesday         3/28/17                                   Presentations

Thursday       3/30/17                       Polarity yeast/worm

Tuesday         4/4/17                                     Presentations

Thursday       4/6/17                         Polarity and Trafficking in polarized cells

Tuesday         4/11/17                                   Presentations

Thursday       4/13/17                       Morphogenesis/Planar Cell Polarity

Tuesday         4/18/17                                   Presentations

Thursday       4/20/17                       Cell biology of metastasis

Tuesday         4/25/17                                   Presentations

Thursday       4/27/17                                   Review/presentations if needed

TBA during Finals week     TEST 2