Current and Recent Courses

BIOL 338: Genomics and Bioinformatics

The advent of next-generation sequencing technology has revolutionized biology, enabling transformative breakthroughs in fields ranging from agriculture to conservation to medicine. In this course, students will gain experience with the computational and bioinformatics tools needed to analyze “big data,” including sequence searching and alignment, assembly, gene calling and annotation. Students will learn to ask and answer their own scientific questions using sequence data, and to critically assess the conclusions of other genomics and bioinformatics studies. No prior computer programming experience is required. Associated laboratory will focus on wet lab methods for DNA/RNA extraction and preparation as well as computational analysis.

Prerequisites: Biology 125 and 126 and one of these upper level courses: Biology 240, Biology 321 or Biology 350 and concurrent registration in Biology 339
6 credit; Science with Lab, Quantitative Reasoning Encounter

BIOL 339: Genomics and Bioinformatics Laboratory (link to Biology Courses page)

Syllabus for the course (pdf)

Syllabus for the lab (pdf)

Lab Protocols (Read The Docs page)


BIOL 126: Energy Flow in Biological Systems

Follow the pathways through which energy and matter are acquired, stored, and utilized within cells, organisms, and ecosystems. The focus moves among the different levels of organization from protein function to nutrient movement through ecosystems.

Prerequisites: Chemistry 123 or 128
6 credit; Science with Lab, Quantitative Reasoning Encounter


BIOL 378: Seminar: The Origin and Early Evolution of Life

The Earth formed four and a half billion years ago. Evidence suggests that within 700 million years, life had gained a foothold on this planet. We will delve into the primary literature to explore fundamental questions about the origin and evolution of life: How did life arise from non-life on the dynamic young Earth? Where on Earth did life begin? Did life only arise once? What did the first living organisms look like? What was the nature of our last universal common ancestor? How did life alter the planet on which it arose? Could life originate elsewhere in the cosmos?

Prerequisite:Biology 125 and 126 and Biology 321 or Biology 350 or Biology 352
6 credit; Quantitative Reasoning Encounter (no lab)

Syllabus for the course (pdf)


BIOL 394: Biology Research

I often take students into the lab during the school year to do research for 1-3 credits per term.

If you're interested in joining the lab, send Rika an email and we'll chat. Here are a few things I will likely want to know:

  • Why are you interested in joining the lab (especially our lab in particular)?
  • Are there specific topics or skills you're interested in learning more about?
  • What coursework have you done or previous lab experience do you have that might help prepare you for research in the lab? (I generally prefer that students take Genomics and Bioinformatics before doing research with me, but this is not required. Having taken Intro C.S. or having even a little bit of experience with scripting is often helpful too.)

You should also be aware that, as of right now, almost all of the research we do in the lab is computationally-focused. We do very little wet lab work and spend most of our research time using bioinformatics software to conduct analyses on next-generation sequencing datasets. This is a good thing to keep in mind as you consider what skills you'd like to learn!