Animal Physiology  BIOL-47600
Spring 2010

Dr. Andrew Smith

155 CNS


:  TR 1:10-2:25

Discussion T 2:25-3:25
CNS 119

Office Hours:  M 4-5, T 9-10

Text:  As noted above, there is no required text for this class.  Most of your reading will consist of primary research reports.  It would be helpful to have an animal physiology text available as a reference, though. 
Course Description Academic Honesty  
Goals and Outcomes
Course Requirements
Students with Disabilities

Tentative Schedule

Couse Description: 

This course will explore hormonal control, emphasizing current research.  Lectures will give background on the key concepts, then they will focus on in-depth analysis of the major vertebrate hormones using published research.  We will study topics such as gender differentiation, growth, reproduction, weight control, diabetes, the stress response, and other areas of current interest.  The lectures will emphasize discussion and analysis of the scientific literature.  The discussion period will provide time for more in-depth writing exercises, discussions and occasional demonstrations.

The reasons for using the scientific literature instead of a more typical, textbook-based lecture approach are four-fold:

Course goals and learning outcomes:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the principles of hormonal control
  2. Learn the structure, function and regulation of the major vertebrate hormones
  3. Learn a variety of common methods in molecular biology and their strengths and weaknesses
  4. Identify connections between processes at the molecular and organismal level
  5. Critically analyze information on hormones, including analysis of the effectiveness of methods, the meaning of observational and experimental data, and the appropriateness of the conclusions
  6. Effectively communicate information about hormones in both oral and written form.

Course requirements

Attendance and participation:  Because this class depends on interaction, attendance is expected as is regular contribution to the class discussions.  If you will be unable to attend a class, notify me in advance (I check e-mail and voice-mail regularly).  Students will be expected to contribute to class discussions, and everyone will be called on with regularity to respond to questions related to assignments or discussions.  You will not be called on unless you have had a chance to prepare.  Your grade will not be affected by whether you are right, only on whether you are prepared and have made a reasonable attempt to answer the question. 

Graded writings:  There will be at least one writing assignment each week.  The writing assignments will focus on analysis (goals 3 - 6).  There will also be a few quizzes early in the semester to test required background information (goals 1 + 2).  Writings may involve analyzing or commenting on a scientific paper or specific elements of a paper, suggesting further experimental approaches, or considering the broader implications of some finding.  You will not be expected to memorize the details of any particular experimental study. 

Ungraded writing assignments:  There will be additional, informal writings that will be used to stimulate your thoughts on specific topics. 

Review paper:  You will write an extended paper on an endocrinology topic of your choice.  Your grade will depend on thoroughness, clarity, quality analysis and depth of understanding.  These papers are typically 10+ pages and typically review 10-20+ primary sources.  The paper will be written in stages, and will be peer-reviewed, with parts of the grade assigned at specific stages.

Presentations:  Each week a group of 2-3 students will be responsible for preparing an oral presentation of a paper we are reading.  The presentations should be brief (roughly 10 min) and focused.  You will not be graded on the presentation style – instead, you will submit your Powerpoint, which will be graded for clarity, focus and depth of understanding.

Final:  The final will be a graded writing like the other ones throughout the semester, and will be counted in with the rest.


Graded writings and quizzes 55%
Review paper 25%
Class participation

Grades will be given based on whether the student met the expectations of the assignment, using a scale of 0 – 3 as follows:

0 = No evidence of achieving goal.  The work was either not done, or done so poorly that one cannot discern sufficient progress towards achieving the goal.


1 = Approaches goal.  The guidelines of the assignment were followed and the work shows evidence of progress towards meeting the goal.  Nevertheless, it may be unclear, partially incorrect, or reflect misunderstandings.


2 = Meets goal.  The work is performed with minimal errors or misunderstandings and is of overall good quality.  It could be improved, however, with increased analysis, integration, sophistication or rigor.


3 = Exceeds goal.  Performs the task at the level expected of an experienced scientist.  There are no significant errors or misunderstandings, the work is clear and comprehensive, and it demonstrates sophisticated thinking (insight, analytical ability, integration etc…). 

These grades correlate loosely to letter grades as follows:

A         Meets the goals of almost all assignments, occasionally exceeding the goals (2.3+)

A-/B+  Meets the goals of all assignments (~2)

B         Meets the goals of most of the assignments (~1.7+)

C         Typically approaches goals, only occasionally meeting them (~1.3)

D         Approaches the goals roughly half of the time (~0.5)

F          No evidence of achieving goals (< 0.5) 

I take into account progress over the semester.  I typically expect students to have more trouble meeting the goals early in the semester, but as their skills develop, they can meet the goals more easily.  Demonstrating full ability to meet the goals at the end of the semester carries a lot of weight in the grading.

Students with disabilities:

 Accommodations will be made for students with disabilities following the college’s procedures as outlined in the Student handbook.

Academic Honesty:

All the work in this class must be your own, unless stated otherwise.  For many of the assignments, it is expected that you will discuss ideas with your classmates.  Nevertheless, the final work must be your own, and must reflect your own analysis and interpretation. 

Confirmed instances of academic misconduct will result in a zero for that assignment/quiz and referral to the school judiciary system.  Please refer to the Student Handbook for a detailed description of the policies regarding student academic conduct.  If you have a question about what constitutes plagiarism, refer to the following web site:

Course Evaluations: 

Student input is highly valued and is important to maintain high quality instruction.  Course evaluations are mandatory.  They will be administered on-line at the end of the semester.  You will get a zero for a homework assignment if it is not completed by the due date.  The evaluation will be submitted to the Department Assistant. She will verify that you have submitted the form.

Sample Schedule: *We will use a similar schedule, though after the first three weeks there will be considerable flexibility in choosing topics that reflect student interest or emerging areas of research.



Discussion topic


Introduction, course overview, what determines hormone function

Hormone/receptor interactions

IGF’s, milk and cancer – evaluating evidence


Overview of major hormones, feedback control of hormone levels

Hormone classes, complexity of hormonal control

Estrogenic chemicals and mouse genetics


Experimental methods

Experimental methods

Histology of glands


Thyroid hormones and metabolism




Weight control / energy balance



Energy balance and reproduction



Hormonal signals that trigger reproduction or reproductive development



-- Spring Break --

-- Spring Break --


Gender differentiation / hormones and reproductive behavior



Hormones controlling labor and childbirth



Environmental chemicals that disrupt reproductive hormonal control



Growth hormone, IGF’s and aging



Hormonal control of bone density



Evolution of the blood pressure / salt balance control system



Hormones and the stress response


Go to the Biology Courses
Go to Andy Smith's home page.
Go to the Ithaca College home page.

Page maintained and updated by Nancy Pierce and Andy Smith.
Last updated 1/11