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Plan II Honors

NANCY A MORAN


Professor

Courses


T C 358 • Genomes And Evolution

41405 • Fall 2019
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM CRD 007A

Genomes and Evolution
Course Focus - Biodiversity: Past, Present and Future

Description:
Earth is a living planet, home to a vast array of species of animals, plants, and microorganisms, each dependent on other organisms for existence. Extinction, the permanent elimination of a species, has occurred throughout Earth history, but rates of extinction have shot up recently. Many environmental scientists consider loss of biodiversity to be a greater environmental threat than climate change. We depend on biodiversity for food production, carbon sequestration, stable water supply, new drugs, and other practical needs, as well as for recreation. Human-caused biodiversity loss also raises ethical questions: some argue that humans do not have the right to eliminate other species. In this course, we will first explore biodiversity science, including research on evolutionary processes that give rise to new species, the past and present causes of extinctions, the geographic distribution of biodiversity, and methods for documenting and understanding biodiversity. Second, we will consider the kinds of solutions that have been attempted, including laws such as the Endangered Species Act, and those proposed for the future, on both local and global scales. Students will visit UT biodiversity collections and meet UT faculty involved in science and policy in this area. Both non-science and science majors are welcome; this course does not require specialized background.

Texts/Readings:

Rachel Carson. 1962. Silent Spring.

Elizabeth Kolbert. 2014. The Sixth Extinction.

Edward O. Wilson. 2016. Half Earth.

 

Assignments and Grading:

Participation in class (24%): Each student will be prepared to discuss readings during each class session. Absence will count as 0 for that day’s participation. 

4 presentations in class (20% total): Two presentations will be done with a partner; the pair will work together to provide an outline of major points in readings and to lead discussion at a class meeting. Two presentations will be done individually; each student will present two short (5-10 min) accounts of a paper or article.

2 essays (20% each = 40%): Each student will write 2 essays, each ~10 double spaced pages, one in each of the two sections of the course. Both will be on topics relating to current understanding of genome evolution. The first will address an issue relating to basic mechanisms of gene movement among organisms, and the second will involve recent evolutionary or genetic issues resulting from human activities.

2 short reports (8% each = 16%): Each student will write 2 short reports, each ~2 double spaced pages, summarizing the findings and implications of 2 articles, related to course themes. An approved scientific talk may substitute for an article. These correspond to the two individual presentations.

Final Letter Grades will be assigned as follows: >90% = A, >80%-89.99% = B, >70%-79.99% = C, >60%-69.99% =D, <59.99% = F. Pluses and minuses will not be used.

Biography
Professor Moran studies biodiversity and genome evolution, and has focused on the importance of symbiotic relationships in the evolution of life. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the National Academy of Sciences, a MacArthur Fellow, and winner of the International Prize for Biology, awarded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. She previously was a Regents' Professor at the University of Arizona and the William Fleming Professor of Biology at Yale University, before returning to UT Austin, where she was a Plan II undergraduate. She is now the Raymer Chair in Integrative Biology.

T C 358 • Genomes And Evolution

42482 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM CRD 007B

Description:
Life, from its origin 4 billion years ago to the present, is ever changing due to the differential success of various evolutionary lineages and genes. Our understanding of these changes, and our ability to influence them, has been revolutionized in recent years, mostly due to technological advances. Surprisingly, genomes are far more fluid than once believed. Furthermore, recent discoveries have enabled us to directly engineer genomes, including human genomes and those of other species. These developments are likely to have wide applications in the future and to affect all of our lives.

This course is aimed at (1) developing a basic understanding of genomics and related technology and (2) considering how these advances will be and should be used to affect welfare of humans and other species.

Course sessions will be a mix of short lectures, discussions of readings, guest lectures and student presentations. The first half will emphasize understanding fundamentals in genetics, molecular biology, and evolution. The second half will focus on student-initiated topics, and aspects of genetics and evolution relevant to society and policy. An emphasis is understanding societal consequences of research findings in genomics and genome manipulation. 

Texts/Readings:

  1. Archibald, John. 2018. Genomics: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. (will be provided by Professor Moran)
  2. *Ed Yong. 2016. I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes within Us and a Grander View of Life. HarperCollins.
  3. Doudna, Jennifer and Sternberg Samuel. 2017. A Crack in Creation: Gene editing and the unthinkable power to control evolution. Houghton Mifflin.
  4. Readings in genetics and evolution, from scientific literature and popular science articles (to be assigned)

Assignments and Grading:

Participation in class (24%): Each student will be prepared to discuss readings during each class session. Absence will count as 0 for that day’s participation. 

4 presentations in class (20% total): Two presentations will be done with a partner; the pair will work together to provide an outline of major points in readings and to lead discussion at a class meeting. Two presentations will be done individually; each student will present two short (5-10 min) accounts of a paper or article.

2 essays (20% each = 40%): Each student will write 2 essays, each ~10 double spaced pages, one in each of the two sections of the course. Both will be on topics relating to current understanding of genome evolution. The first will address an issue relating to basic mechanisms of gene movement among organisms, and the second will involve recent evolutionary or genetic issues resulting from human activities.

2 short reports (8% each = 16%): Each student will write 2 short reports, each ~2 double spaced pages, summarizing the findings and implications of 2 articles, related to course themes. An approved scientific talk may substitute for an article. These correspond to the two individual presentations.

Final Letter Grades will be assigned as follows: >90% = A, >80%-89.99% = B, >70%-79.99% = C, >60%-69.99% =D, <59.99% = F. Pluses and minuses will not be used.

Biography:
Professor Moran studies biodiversity and genome evolution, and has focused on the importance of symbiotic relationships in the evolution of life. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the National Academy of Sciences, a MacArthur Fellow, and winner of the International Prize for Biology, awarded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. She previously was a Regents' Professor at the University of Arizona and the William Fleming Professor of Biology at Yale University, before returning to UT Austin, where she was a Plan II undergraduate. She is now the Raymer Chair in Integrative Biology.

 

T C 358 • Genomes And Evolution

42855 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM CRD 007A

Instructor: Nancy Moran, Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, College of Natural Sciences

Description: Life, from its origin 4 billion years ago to the present, is ever changing due to the differential success of various evolutionary lineages and genes. Our understanding of these changes has been revolutionized in recent years, mostly due to technological advances allowing us to follow individual families of genes through evolutionary time.

Surprisingly, genomes are far more fluid than once believed. This course will address evolution of organisms from a genomic perspective. The topics will be separated into two themes, one developing a basic understanding of genes, how they move from one organism to another and how they change over time, the other aiming at exploration of how human activities are affecting genetics of our own and other species on Earth.

Texts/Readings:

1. James Watson & Andrew Berry. 2004. DNA, The Secret of Life, (ANY EDITION)

2. Itai Yanai & Martin Lercher. 2016. The Society of Genes (Harard University Press)

3. Readings in genetics and evolution, from scientific literature.

Assignments: 2 10-page papers (20% each = 40%)

Each student will write 2 short papers, one in each of the two sections of the course, both on topics relating to current understanding of genome evolution. The first will address an issue relating to basic mechanisms of gene movement among organisms, and the second will involve recent evolutionary or genetic change resulting from human impacts.

2 2-page paper reports (10% each = 20%)

Each student will write a summary of the findings and implications of 2 scientific papers, related to themes in the course.

Participation in class discussion (20%)

Each student will be able to discuss readings for that week.

Presentations in class (3 total, 15% total)

A pair of students will work together to circulate an outline of major points and lead discussion at a class meeting. Additionally, each student will present a short (5-10 min) account of paper topics and findings.

Biography: Professor Moran studies biodiversity and genome evolution, and has focused on the importance of symbiotic relationships in the evolution of life. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the National Academy of Sciences, a MacArthur Fellow, and winner of the International Prize for Biology, awarded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. She previously was a Regents' Professor at the University of Arizona and the William Fleming Professor of Biology at Yale University, before returning to UT Austin, where she was a Plan II undergraduate. 

T C 357 • Genomes And Evolution

42040 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM CRD 007A

Instructor: Nancy Moran, Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, College of Natural Sciences

Description: Life, from its origin 4 billion years ago to the present, is ever changing due to the differential success of various evolutionary lineages and genes. Our understanding of these changes has been revolutionized in recent years, mostly due to technological advances allowing us to follow individual families of genes through evolutionary time.

Surprisingly, genomes are far more fluid than once believed. This course will address evolution of organisms from a genomic perspective. The topics will be separated into two themes, one developing a basic understanding of genes, how they move from one organism to another and how they change over time, the other aiming at exploration of how human activities are affecting genetics of our own and other species on Earth.

Texts/Readings:

1. James Watson & Andrew Berry. 2004. DNA, The Secret of Life, new Ed edition.

2. Richard Dawkins. 1986. The Selfish Gene.

3. Steve Olson. 2004. Mapping Human History: Genes Race and our Common Origins.

4. Readings in genetics and evolution, from scientific literature.

Assignments: 2 10-page papers (20% each = 40%)

Each student will write 2 short papers, one in each of the two sections of the course, both on topics relating to current understanding of genome evolution. The first will address an issue relating to basic mechanisms of gene movement among organisms, and the second will involve recent evolutionary or genetic change resulting from human impacts.

2 2-page paper reports (10% each = 20%)

Each student will write a summary of the findings and implications of 2 scientific papers, related to themes in the course.

Participation in class discussion (20%)

Each student will be able to discuss readings for that week.

Presentations in class (3 total, 15% total)

A pair of students will work together to circulate an outline of major points and lead discussion at a class meeting. Additionally, each student will present a short (5-10 min) account of paper topics and findings.

Biography: Professor Moran studies biodiversity and genome evolution, and has focused on the importance of symbiotic relationships in the evolution of life. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the National Academy of Sciences, a MacArthur Fellow, and winner of the International Prize for Biology, awarded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. She previously was a Regents' Professor at the University of Arizona and the William Fleming Professor of Biology at Yale University, before returning to UT Austin, where she was a Plan II undergraduate. 

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