COVID-19 Information: Brown University continues to closely monitor and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic locally, nationally and around the world. After careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to cancel all residential on-campus and off-campus Pre-College Programs for Summer 2020. We will continue to offer online courses. Please visit the Pre-College COVID-19 web page for additional information.

Molecular Biology of Life: From Ancient Bacteria to Animals

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This course is no longer being offered.

Course Description

The theme of this course concentrates on biology as a way of knowing and understanding the world. We begin with a focus on evolution and the origin of life by an examination of the various groups of living things (bacteria, archaea, protista, fungi, plants, animals, etc.). As we study these organisms, we will be as interested in how they differ from one another as in how they are alike. We will also use these organisms to test hypotheses developed by the students and learn about the diversity of their own genes within the classroom itself.

We will cover many topics in one short week, so come ready to multi-task like a true scientist! Observing and comparing various groups of living organisms, from bacteria to animals, will be the core of the course. Additionally, we will be developing hypotheses and performing experiments to test our theories using many of these organisms. Students will transform bacteria to make it glow, test how different water conditions effect phagocytosis and vacuole formation in protozoans, determine which common foods contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), explore what conditions cause yeast to sporulate, compare muscle proteins between invertebrates and vertebrates, and learn about human genetic variation by testing their own DNA for the caffeine metabolism gene.

This hands-on course will teach students the scientific method of making an educated guess (hypothesis), figuring out the best way to test it, and performing those experiments. Accurately recording and analyzing the collected data will round out the steps it takes to become a scientist! Each exercise will be guided by a worksheet the student will follow, along with some follow up questions they will be able to work on after lab. At the end of the week, groups of students will give a short presentation about their favorite topic they learned this week, and what it means to them in life outside of the classroom.

After completing this course, students should be able to
-Be able to compare and contrast key characteristics and adaptations of bacteria, protists, plants, fungi, and animals
-Conduct laboratory investigations, accurately record observations in a professional style notebook, and critically analyze experimental results
-Organize and interpret raw data for inclusion in worksheets
-Become familiar with experimental laboratory techniques such as: PCR, DNA digestion with restriction enzymes, bacterial transformation, SDS-PAGE electrophoresis, and Western blot
-Utilize DNA and protein databases

Prerequisites: Students should have a basic understanding of DNA, RNA, and protein, with preferred experience using micropipette.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEBI0921
  • Length: 1 week
  • Supplemental Fee: $100

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2020.

Program cancelled.

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