Montana State University
College of Letters & Science > Department of Cell Biology & Neuroscience > Courses > Biob 256: Intro Biology, Cells to Organsims

Department of Cell Biology & Neuroscience

Montana State University
P.O. Box 173148
Bozeman, MT 59717-3148

Tel: (406) 994-5120
Fax: (406) 994-7077
Location: 510 Leon Johnson Hall

Department Chair

Frances Lefcort, Ph.D.




College Department


BIOB 256 - SECTION 01 (CRN# 31027)


Prof. Steve Eiger, 507 Leon Johnson Hall,

Prof. Cathy Cripps, 309 Plant Bioscience,

Meagan Snodgrass, 106 Leon Johnson Hall,

LECTURES: M W F 8:00 – 8:50 AM             LOCATION: Leon Johnson Hall 339

REQUIRED TEXTS/MATERIALS: Text: Biological Science, Scott Freeman, 4th edition (most material is contained in Vol. 3 of soft cover version with the exception of a few chapters).
Lab text: Biology 256: Cells to Organisms Research Manual available on D2L
Lab notebook: a bound (not spiral) blank notebook, available at the MSU bookstore.
Interactive response system: I-Clicker by Holtzbrinck. This small white unit looks like a remote control, and is available at the bookstore in the textbook section. Please bring your I-clicker to class each day. You will register your clicker online: MSU homepage under current students.
Flash drive: (any size). A USB flash drive is required for the lab section of the course. You will be collecting data on the lab computers on a weekly basis, and you will need your data to write your reports.

COURSE WEBSITE: Course information will be available via Desire2Learn (D2L). Access the D2L site at Links to D2L are available on the MSU homepage under ‘Current Students’ and in the Quick Links drop down menu.  See instructions at the end of the syllabus for accessing this site.

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Introduction to form and function in the animal, plant and fungal kingdoms.  Topics will include circulation, gas exchange, chemical signals, reproduction, nutrition, and sensory systems.  Laboratories will be inquiry-based with mathematical and computational applications to biological problems.

PREREQUISITES: CHMY 141, STAT 216 and BIOH 185 with a grade of “C-“ or better.

  • Students will understand the basics of animal, plant and fungal structure and functioning as a platform for more advanced study in biology
  • Students will understand a hypothesis and how to test it through designing experiments in laboratory investigations
  • Students will know how to gather and present data in a graphical format
  • Students will learn how to apply basic statistics to answer biological questions
  • Students will know how to interpret results and express this orally and in writing

The last day to add this course is January 15th.  The last day to drop this course without a ‘W’ on your transcript is January 30th and the last day to drop with a ‘W’ on your transcript is April 12th.

ADA compliance:  Reasonable accommodation will be provided for all persons with disabilities to ensure equal participation in the course. Please contact the instructor if you require assistance.

This course adheres to the MSU Student conduct Guidelines, Course Expectations and Instructor responsibilities:

The emphasis in this course and throughout the BIOM 256, 260 and 258 sequence is on understanding biological principles in a manner that will enable you to apply concepts in a novel situation. There are several common themes that we feel are important enough to repeat in various contexts, including the lab.

1) Scientific Processes
Understanding the various ways scientific research is done, including using observational tools, developing models, and testing hypotheses. This includes the ability to state a hypothesis, design an experiment and interpret data. By the conclusion of the sequence students should be able to both analyze and construct a scientific argument. Specific goals related to this theme include

  • Demonstrate scientific literacy by reading progressively more complex articles
  • Recognize that a hypothesis may be falsified but not proven
  • Weigh contradictory evidence and reach a conclusion
  • Identify a conclusion and reasons supporting it
  • Recognize causal questions
  • Understand the difference between hypothesis and prediction
  • Present experimental data in a meaningful way
  • Generate a research question and design an experiment to test it
  • Critique badly designed experiments
  • Express a scientific argument both orally and in writing

2) Discovering Patterns 
Observing patterns as an anomaly against expectation. Understanding gradients and hierarchy as patterns.

3) Biological causation
Understanding the relationship between the structure and development of living things and their function. This relationship is multi-faceted including not only structure and function, but also the developmental, ecological and evolutionary causes of a particular system, organism, or behavior.

4) Balance in dynamic systems
The tendency to maintain an internal environment between limits or to return things to normal dictates what living systems do. The ability to recognize where this happens will be important in our investigations. Specific examples of balance in dynamic systems are homeostasis and equilibrium. 

5) Levels and scale
This includes an understanding of the different types of scales used in science and the levels of organization of biological systems. Biology is studied at the microscopic level to the ecosystems and global level and against varying time scales. Inherent in the concept of levels is the understanding that properties of a system are emergent in that they are neither (i) properties had by any parts of the system taken in isolation nor (ii) the result of a mere summation of properties of parts of the system.

6) Analyze a biological question using quantitative method
Students will learn to apply statistical analysis to determine if an experimental result is significant, generate graphs from data, and interpret graphical results.  Understanding if experimental design and data interpretation ‘makes sense’ biologically is fundamental to studying any living system. 

Grading for this course will be out of 1000 points broken down in the following way:

500 points (50%) of the grade for this course will be from lecture. This includes:
4 midterm exams (in-class, 100 points each). The lowest grade will be dropped (300 points total). There will be no make up exams administered.
Comprehensive final (during finals period, 200 points). The final is a required exam. Students who do not take the final cannot pass the course. The final is comprehensive, covering material from the entire semester.
Course tests are a combination of multiple choice, short answer, and longer questions.

100 points (10%) of the grade will come from homework. The instructors in the course will assign homework on a regular basis. A total of 100 points of homework assignments will be given out during the semester. No late homework will be accepted.

350 points (35%) of the grade will come from laboratory assignments. See your lab manual/ D2L for details.
Laboratory sections meet in 106 Leon Johnson Hall and will begin on January 16th.

50 points (5%) of the grade will come from in-class clicker questions. You can earn 25 pts for each half of the course for participation or in-class activities. This is an interactive in-class response system designed to encourage a comfortable atmosphere of active learning and participation in the classroom. You can not get points for showing up without your clicker. Bringing a friend’s clicker and clicking for them is a violation of the academic conduct code. Don’t do it!

You are responsible for registering your clicker online: Go to the MSU Homepage, click on Current Students, iclicker, and add the appropriate information. You will need to re-register your computer each semester. You will want to register it the first week of class so that your name will down-loaded into the  iclicker program.

For final grades, you are guaranteed the following grades if your final percentage (lecture and laboratory) lies within the indicated ranges.


    Letter Score
Class Component Points A 93
Best 3 of 4 lecture exams      300   A- 90
Final exam 200   B+ 87
Homework 100   B 83
Lab grade 350   B- 80
Clicker points 50   C+ 77
  C 73
Total 1000 C- 70
      D+ 67
D 63


It is highly recommended that you access each lecture before class from D2L, print out the Power Point presentation, and bring it to class.  Also see information on D2L at the end of this syllabus. Most lectures will go online the afternoon before each 8 am session. Bring your clicker to each lecture for points!

Dr. Cathy Cripps from Plant Sciences will lecture for the 1st half of the course on plants and fungi.
Dr. Steve Eiger from Cell & Neurobiology Department will teach the 2nd half of the course on animals.


  Topic Chapter
1 (Dr. Cripps) Introduction to Biological Systems --
2 (Dr. Cripps starts) Intro to Plant Systems 30
  Plant Diversity, Variation and Survival Strategies 30
3 Plants as experimental organisms reading
4 Photosynthesis: most important process on earth? 172-176 + 36
5 Martin Luther King Day- no class  
6 How are plants put together? How do plants grow? 36
7 How does water move against gravity in plants? 37
8 How is sugar transported inside plants? 37
9 How do plants acquire nutrients? 38
10 Interactive review for exam --
  EXAM 1: Plant Structure and Function --
11 How do plants sense light, gravity & touch? Immune system? 39, 776-781
12 More on plant sensory systems 39
13 Do plants have hormones? What do they do? 39
14 How do flowering plants reproduce? & Cloning 40
15 Seeds, fruits, and the problem of dispersion 40
  Presidents day—no class  
16 FUNGI: Are they really animals? 31
17 Fungi as saprophytes, parasites, and mutualists 31
18 Review on Fungi 31
19 Interactive review for exam --
  EXAM 2: Plant & Fungal Systems --
20 Animal bodies: structure, function and nutrition 41, 43
21 Animal bodies: structure, function and nutrition 41, 43
22 Animal bodies: structure, function and nutrition 41, 43
  Spring Break  
23 Immune System 49
24 Immune System 49
25 Immune System 49
26 Immune System 49
  Exam 3: Structure, function, nutrition, immune system  
  University Day- No class  
27 Chemical signals and hormones 47
28 Chemical signals and hormones 47
29 Chemical signals and hormones 47
30 Reproduction 48
31 Reproduction 48
32 Reproduction 48
  Exam 4: Chemical signals, hormones and reproduction  
33 Sensory Systems 46
34 Sensory Systems 46
35 Sensory Systems 46
36 Sensory Systems 46
37 Review for final exam  
final FINAL EXAM: Comprehensive 4-5:50 pm
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