Montana State University

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.



BIOH 323: Developmental Biology

Spring 2013 Syllabus

Instructor: Dr. Christa Merzdorf

Office: LJH 529
Phone: 994-5645

Textbook: Gilbert, S.F, Developmental Biology 9th Ed
Office hours: Will poll class for best time
Also by appointment – please call, e-mail, or drop by

Course Goals:
This course is an introduction to the developmental processes that establish the basic body plan.  Emphasis will be on fundamental concepts that underlie development, such as tissue interactions, cell signaling, and morphogenetic processes.

Intro and gametogenesis Pages 1-4; Ch. 1 (not pp. 18-22, covered later)
  Ch. 16: 602-613 (not insect oogenesis)
Gametogenesis Ch. 16: 602-613
Fertilization Ch. 4
LJH 223  
Lab: Gametogenesis slides. Microscopy of male and female gametogenesis
Fertilization, early cleavage Ch. 4; Ch. 5: 159-162; Ch. 7: 241-244; Ch. 8: 300-304
Early cleavage Ch. 5: 159-162; Ch. 7: 241-244; Ch. 8: 300-304
Student presentation 1 Fertilization: sperm-egg recogn/prevention of polyspermy
Student presentation 2 Fertilization: effects of Calcium/egg metabolism
Stem cells Pages 32-34, 323-331, 466-471, 590-591; click “Bioethics”; click “ES cells, adult stem cells…”
  Ch. 1: 19-22; Ch. 5: 162-164; Ch. 7: 241-252
Gastrulation (frog)  
Quiz 1  
Gastrulation (frog) Ch. 1: 19-22; Ch. 5: 162-164; Ch. 7: 241-252
Gastrulation (frog) Ch. 1: 19-22; Ch. 5: 162-164; Ch. 7: 241-252
Differential gene expression Ch. 2: 31, 35-66
Student presentation 1 Early cleavage, MPF, cell cycle
Student presentation 2 Gastrulation/fate map/MBT
Lab: Models of frog gastrulation.  
Differential gene expression Ch. 2: 31, 35-66
Differential gene expression Ch. 2: 35-66
Differential gene expression: Read in depth the assigned paper: “Transcription factors: from enhancer binding to developmental control”; Nature Reviews Genetics Vol. 13, pp.613-624 (2012).
Student-lead discussion  
Student presentation 1 Transcription factors/Promoters
Student presentation 2 Differential gene expression
Cell-cell signaling Ch. 3: 79-84
Quiz 2  
Cell-cell signaling Ch 3: 84-107 (for paracine factors: focus on TGFbeta, Wnt, hedgehog)
  Ch. 3: 69-79
Differential cell adhesion  
Differential cell adhesion Ch. 3: 69-79
Model systems I: Ch. 7: 242-272
Amphibian development  
Student presentation 1 Cell signaling
Student presentation 2 Differential cell adhesion
Axis formation Ch. 7: 252-272
Axis formation Ch. 7: 252-272
LJH 223  
Axis formation Ch. 7: 252-272
Lab: Exp 1: Axis determination. Read lab materials before class.
  Axis group homework due next Wed.
Quiz 3  
Axis formation. Ch. 7: 252-272
Model Systems II: Chick devel. Ch. 8: 287-300
Chick development Ch. 8: 287-300
LJH 223  
Student presentation 1 Axis formation before gastrulation
Student presentation 2 Amphibian axis formation during gastrulation
Lab: Finish axis determination lab report and homework. Axis lab report and homework due
Chick development  
  Ch. 8: 287-300
Chick development. Ch. 8: 287-300
Model Systems III: Mouse devel. Ch. 8: 300-321
EXAM #1 All material up to and including chick development
Mouse development Ch. 8: 300-321
Stem Cells Pages 32-34, 323-331, 466-471, 590-591; click “Bioethics”; click “ES cells, adult stem cells…”; look in index of book under “stem cell…”, “embryonic stem cells”, “adult stem cells” etc.
  Have a great break!
Transgenic mice; Ch. 1: 22-23 and additional figures
Teratogenesis Ch. 17: 628-643
LJH 223  
Student presentation 1 Mouse development – cell lineages/implantation/AP axis
Student presentation 2 Therapeutic cloning (somatic nuclear transfer)
Teratogenesis Ch. 17: 628-643
Lab: chick embryo stages, models.  
Exp 2: testing the effects of teratogens on chick embryos  
  Read lab materials before class
Quiz 4 Includes all of mouse development
Formation of the nervous system Ch. 9: 333-358
Nervous system Ch. 9: 333-358
  Stem cell paper due at beginning of lecture
Dr. Vincent E. Giuliano Kopriva Lecture
Longevity researcher and writer 5:30 pm Hagar Auditorium, Museum of the Rockies
LJH 223  
Nervous system Ch. 9: 333-358
Lab: Evaluate teratogen results Finish lab reports; due Monday at beginning of lecture
Debate team assignments  
Nervous system Ch. 9: 333-358
  Interview notes due at beginning of class
Student presentation 1 Formation of nervous system/DV patterning of spinal cord
Student presentation 2 Tissue architecture of nervous syst/neuron differentiation
Roles within debate teams chosen Turn in list of major arguments for your assigned position (pro or con)
  Ch. 9: 359-365
Eye development  
Quiz 5  
Epidermis Ch. 9: 365-371
Epidermis; Neural crest Ch. 9: 365-371; Ch. 10: 373-392
Student presentation 1 Eye development/induction/lens etc
Student presentation 2 Epidermis/hair follicle development
Neural crest Ch. 10: 373-392
Axonal specification Ch. 10: 392-410
Debate preparation  
Axonal specification Ch. 10: 392-410
Axonal specification Ch. 10: 392-410
Axonal specification Ch. 10: 392-410
Paraxial mesoderm Ch. 11: 414-433
Quiz 6 Ch. 11: 414-433; Ch. 11: 434-462; Ch. 12: 445-448, 456-462, 466-471
Paraxial, intermediate, and lateral plate mesoderm  
Paraxial, intermediate, and lateral plate mesoderm Ch. 11: 414-433; Ch. 11: 434-462; Ch. 12: 445-448, 456-462, 466-471
Limb development Ch. 13
FINAL EXAM Cumulative with questions covering the entire course, but with emphasis on the material covered since the first exam, including mouse development

18% Exam #1 (100 pts)
18% Final Exam (100 pts)
14% Student presentation
14% Participation in lab exercises and active participation in class
18% Debate (background paper, interviews, debate contributions and participation in debate)

Quizzes:  There are 6 quizzes.  Each quiz has 10 points, composed of a 5 point individual component, followed by a 5 point group component.  There will be no makeup quizzes.  The top 5 quizzes will be counted.  The score from the top 5 quizzes will be doubled to arrive at a total of 100 possible points.  These quizzes will be in class.

Student presentations:

  1. These presentations are 5-10 min long (please do not exceed 10 min – aim for 5-8 min).  Please run through your presentation out loud to ensure that you can fit all your main points into 8 min or less.  (See at bottom for online option.)
  2. Pairs of students will present each week.
  4. Please select a concept from the material since the last student presentation (see syllabus for broad topic guidelines).  I encourage you to include items in your presentation that weren’t clear to you (you might even point these out), since chances are that others were confused as well.  In order to receive an A on your presentation, you must present an aspect pertaining to your topic, which was not covered in class.  This can be a medically relevant aspect of your topic, but it does not have to be.
  5. Let your imagination roam.  You can create and bring any kinds of visual aids.  You can act, make models (which I highly encourage), use the board or transparencies.  You can combine various presentation techniques and you might think of something else yet.  Please don’t use pre-made images, but create your own.
  6. Submit 2 thoughtful potential exam questions to me at the time of your presentation.  These questions should not ask about a very specific detail from your talk, but should ask about a concept or about a relatively general idea that you are covering in your talk.  These questions should be designed so that they can be answered in one sentence (please do not submit questions that can be answered in one or two words).  Please submit draft answers along with your questions (these draft answers can be longer than one sentence, but please underline what you consider the key information).  I won’t be able to use every question on exams that is submitted.  I will have to make choices, but the more well-designed your question, the more likely I will be to include it on an exam or quiz.  (I need to reserve the right to not use even excellent questions, depending on what I need to cover on quizzes and exams.  I would also like to reserve the right to change questions if needed.)

For grading, key points are: (also see grading sheet/rubric at end of syllabus)

  1. Create any models, slides, animations, videos yourself and do not use prefab stuff off the web.  You can use similar images as what you find in the book or on the web, but you have to draw them on the board or recreate them yourself in some other way. The point is to really learn your topic and only when you make a model, a drawing, an animation, etc yourself do you really understand.  If you would like to use something pre-made, please check with me during the class before your presentation for approval.
  2. Present focused background information from the lecture/book (particularly something that may not have been clear from my lecture - hopefully your audience will gain understanding of concepts that may have remained obscure from my lecture).
  3. Present information on your topic that goes beyond the material covered in class (e.g. you are highly encouraged to talk about connection to a disease or other medical relevance, although this does not work for every topic).
  4. Make sure that your presentation focuses on a concept with enough detail to really understand, i.e. capture the content of your subject and convey it clearly and convincingly.
  5. Be sure to remain focused so that you do not exceed 10 min.
  6. Quality of the 2 potential exam questions and quality of the draft answers.

Have some fun with this assignment!  Be creative!  But don’t feel like you have to spend incredible amounts of time (or money) on creativity.  Content matters.  But keep in mind that a picture, a visual aid, or a homemade model/animation can be worth a 1000 words.  Thus, DO NOT use slides with text on them other than a heading (and the slides have to be drawn by you).

Audience: please be on time for these presentations.  It is extremely disruptive for those who are speaking when people trickle in.
The content of the presentations is part of the course material.  I will use the questions submitted by presenters on quizzes and exams.
Presenters: please make sure you are ready to go right at the beginning of class.

Stem cell debate:
            Separate handout.

Lecture notes, handouts, quizzes, exams etc will be posted on D2L.  Please check D2L often for messages regarding the course, content, etc.


Grading will be as follows:
91.6-100% = A; 90-91.5% = A-  (MSU grade submission web site doesn’t allow A+)
88.5-89.9% = B+; 81.6-88.4% = B; 80-81.5% = B-
78.5-79.9% = C+; 71.6-78.4% = C; 70-71.5% = C-
68.5-69.9% = D+; 61.6-68.4% = D; 60-61.5% = D-
0-59.9% = F
Lecture exams will focus on the material presented since the last exam, but they will presume knowledge gained earlier in the course.  Active participation during lectures and during all other parts of the course is highly desired and wi

ll be considered very favorably during the assignment of final grades.
Make-up exams will only be given in unusual circumstances, confirmed by written documentation regarding health issues or issues dealt with by the office of the Dean of Students.  Unless the circumstances make it impossible, advanced permission must be obtained before a make-up exam will be allowed.  Make-up exams are historically more difficult than the original exam.
As defined in the MSU student Academic and Conduct Guidelines and Grievance Procedures (available on the MSU web site), there are specific procedures to be followed in case of suspected cheating, plagiarism, or academic misconduct.  Any cheating on any exam or assignment will lead to a grade of zero for that examination or assignments and consideration of a grade of F for the course.

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

CriterionVery goodSatisfactoryPoor
 2 points1 point0 points
IntroductionConcise, connects well to lecture materials, makes all required points to fully understand the information that follows.Good introduction with some important points missing or small gaps in understanding.Rambling introduction or understanding lacking or does not connect well to course material or does not introduce topic well.
New information or disease connectionConcise, substantive, focused, in depth discussion of a new aspect(s) of the topic. Molecular detail provided, connections to course material made.Good presentation of new material, with some degree of depth or clarity lacking.Shallow overview without going into real depth with any new material.
ConclusionConcise discussion and assessment of conclusions, implications and/or consequencesGood conclusion, which summarizes the talk, but doesn’t clearly discuss further impli-cations/consequences/assessment.No conclusion.
Understanding of materialPresentation suggests deep under-standing of the material presented.Good understanding with some minor gaps.Gaps in understanding.
PresentationWell-practiced, well-organized presentation, within the 5-10 min time frame (no points will be deducted for being nervous).Very good presentation, but lacking in some aspect of organization or usage of allotted time.Presentation too long or too short; or not very clear; or lacking in content.
Sources usedDraws upon several serious sources for information – e.g. review papers or primary research papers (scientific papers obtained from e.g. PubMed, although they are online, are not considered online sources).  Good sources, mostly internet.Only internet-based sources.
IllustrationsAll developed by students (except if pre-approved by me); clearly illustrate points.A combination of pre-made illustrations and those made by students.Downloaded or in some other way pre-made illustrations.
Extra Credit: modelsOne or more 3D models that clearly illustrate points (occasionally, a model can be 2D, depending on its purpose)A model was made, but it didn’t fully serve its purpose in illustrating the desired aspect of the subject.No models made
Answering questions from the class Answers are detailed and show deep and broader understanding of the topic at hand.Good answers, which are relatively limited in scope.Difficulty answering questions or explaining material in more depth.
Two exam questionsQuestions require understanding of the concepts to answer. Thoughtful and detailed answer included.Questions that ask for facts rather than concepts.  Answer included.Short-answer or multiple choice questions.  Answer not included.


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