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Biology 203 - Microbiology

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Course Syllabus - Fall 2021

Lecture: MWF 1:00 PM – 1:50 PM (Hudson Hall 106)    
Lab A: TR 9:30 AM - 10:55 AM (Hudson Hall 222)
Lab B: TR 12:30 PM - 1:55 PM (Hudson Hall 222)
Lab C: TR 3:30 PM - 4:55 PM (Hudson Hall 222)


Dr. José de Ondarza, 211 Hudson Hall, 564-5156

Office Hours
Textbook & Laboratory Manual

All reading assignments refer to the 13th edition of the Tortora textbook. However, you may choose to use another Microbiology textbook or edition. If you use a different text, you will be responsible for selecting the appropriate chapters corresponding to the lecture outline.

Additional Materials
Course Description (see Course Catalog)
Course Website ( and on Moodle

The course web site and Moodle site are formal and official means of communication for Biology 203 (Microbiology). Students are expected to participate in on-line activities such as the discussion forum, and detailed instructions for assignments and bonus points can be accessed via the web site.

Course Objectives
  1. To understand the structural differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells
  2. To recognize the nutritional and environmental needs of microbes for growth and reproduction
  3. To understand and explain methods of controlling microbial growth
  4. To understand the major metabolic pathways of microorganisms, and how these correlate with the organisms’ biochemical responses
  5. To comprehend the major concepts of microbial genetics: replication, gene expression, recombination, transformation, and mutation
  6. To appreciate, and be able to describe, the role of microbiology in industry, medicine, and ecology
  7. To recognize the diversity of the microbial world and understand its classifications
  8. To be familiar with basic microbiological laboratory techniques and procedures
  9. To be able to apply these concepts in a laboratory setting through the:
    1. preparation of microbial culture media
    2. control of microbial growth by physical, chemical, and biochemical means
    3. successful culturing and propagation of specific bacterial strains
    4. successful identification of various microorganisms using their physical, physiological, and biochemical characteristics
    5. examination of microbial roles in industry, ecology, and medicine.
  10. To effectively communicate scientific findings and information in forms such as a term papers, laboratory reports, and/or oral reports.
General Education Learning Objectives

Natural Sciences and Technology — Courses in this category develop in students “understanding of the methods scientists use to explore natural phenomena” and “application of scientific data, concepts, and models in one of the natural sciences” (SUNY Required Learning Outcomes). Courses will explore the fundamental assumptions and principles of the scientific method, illustrated by laboratory and/or fieldwork. Courses will make clear the difference between science and technology and enable students to critically assess technological worth. Courses will strengthen students’ skills in qualitative and quantitative reasoning and in critical thinking and analysis, by careful study of both historic and contemporary scientific problems. In addition, courses will reinforce students’ understanding and appreciation of the sciences and their ability to use technology effectively (Plattsburgh General Education Objectives).

Attendance policy

Attendance during lecture periods is required. Lectures will cover the topics outlined in the course calendar (see below), and may contain material not covered by the textbook. Students are responsible for all material covered in lecture, as well as any announcements made during the lecture period. We will discuss new topics, seek to apply these in practical terms, and lay the foundation for upcoming laboratories.

Because this course is intended to be a laboratory-based investigation of microbiology, and because labs cannot be made up, laboratory attendance is mandatory. You will be permitted a maximum of three absences from laboratory (for any reason), after which 5 points will be deducted from your course point total for each additional absence from lab.

Reading Assignments

Chapters and/or page numbers assigned for each lecture and lab period are indicated on the course calendar (below). Readings should be completed before the corresponding class period. The reading assignments are intended to illustrate, support, supplement, and expand on the lectures. All exam questions will come from material covered in the lectures/labs. As such, the text will provide invaluable aids to studying and serve as a reference for the many terms and concepts we will cover. Please take the reading assignments seriously.

Additional Reading Assignments

    The faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences hold that literacy skills, including reading and writing, are integral to our students’ education. Therefore, each course in this Department will include a required supplemental reading assignment. The supplemental reading assignment for this course is Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone. Completion of the assigned readings will be assessed via bonus questions on each exam.

 Grading policy

Your course grade will be based on the following (800 points total):

Exams 1 - 4 will cover material as indicated on the calendar.  The comprehensive final examination will consist of 50% new material (last 2 weeks) + 50% comprehensive material (revised questions from exams 1 - 4) and will be given during final exams week. 

Make-up exams
are available only if: 1) you notify me prior to the scheduled exam time, and schedule a make-up exam at that time, or 2) you miss an exam for a valid reason, such as a medical emergency. In all other cases, a make-up exam will automatically incur a 10 point penalty. Make-up exams must be taken within one week of the originally scheduled exam, and will differ in format (usually short-answer) from the original exam.


Exam Corrections may be done for Exams 1 - 4 (and new material from the Final Exam).  Exam corrections give you the opportunity to regain up to 50% of the points lost on the exam.  Corrections are limited to 10-12 questions (maximum 15 points). Corrections must be turned in within 1 week of the exam's return in class. Detailed instructions


Term Paper: 5-10 pages (1500 words minimum), based on your research about a topic in Microbiology.   Term papers are intended to go beyond the scope of the textbook, include research into the current scientific literature, and promote your written and oral communication skills. Plagiarizing part or entirety of your paper may result in a grade of “0” for the term paper and/or the course.  Detailed Instructions


Extra Credit Policy: You can earn up to 25 bonus points for the semester by participating in the weekly on-line assignment (up to 15 points), the "Mystery Microbe" lab project (5 points), the CV bonus (5 points). On-line assignments are posted weekly on Moodle, are based on the special readings found on Moodle, and cannot be made up. Alternate bonus options may be given as deemed appropriate and if available (e.g. attendance at presentations).

Laboratory grading

Your laboratory grade will consist of the following (200 points total):

Grading scale
A 93% – 100% B- 80% - 82% D+ 67% – 69%
A- 90% – 92% C+ 77% – 79% D 60% – 66%
B+ 87% – 89% C 73% – 76% E < 60%
B 83% – 86% C- 70% – 72%    


Honor Code

 It is expected that all students enrolled in this class support the letter and the spirit of the Academic Honesty Policy as stated in the college catalog.


You must read and acknowledge the course plagiarism policy found on the course Moodle site.

How will Plagiarism/Academic dishonesty be dealt with?

Depending on the perceived severity of the offense (Intentional or inadvertent? How much of the course grade was affected? How much of an assignment was plagiarized? Was this a repeat offense?) the instructor may:

  1. Mark down the assignment by one letter grade
  2. Give a grade of "0" for the assignment
  3. Give a grade of "E" for the course
  4. Refer the student to the campus judicial committee for academic dishonesty. This will result in a hearing before the judicial committee and may result in expulsion from the University. 
Use of electronic devices in class

All electronic devices such as cell phones, Blackberries, iPods etc should be turned off during class time except if needed for emergency contacts. No electronic devices are permitted to be in use during exams, including but not limited to cell phones, Blackberries, iPods, calculators, and electronic dictionaries. If you require special testing conditions, please contact Student Support Services.

Writing Standards for Department of Biological Sciences

 It is the position of the Department of Biological Sciences at Plattsburgh State that all students must learn to write in a clear and intelligent manner.  We recognize that this goal cannot be achieved by depending only on the efforts of others to foster good writing. We further believe that the general quality of student writing will not improve unless we as a department are willing to state explicitly the standards we expect students to meet and to enforce those standards.  Therefore, in courses taught by the Department of Biological Sciences, in addition to grading the content of written assignments, all faculty will also grade assignments for writing.

Assessment of Student Learning:  Analytical skill development and understanding of fundamental biological principles

     The faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to providing students with a first-rate educational experience as articulated in the Departmental Mission Statement:

             “The Department of Biological Sciences strives to provide students with the fundamental understanding of the principles and methods of the life sciences within the context of a sound liberal arts education.  Emphasis is on the development of the student’s ability to analyze problems, apply scientific method, communicate biological information, and interpret current advances in research.”

 Student progress toward attaining the goals set forth in the Departmental Mission Statement will be assessed in part by an exam or quiz question that has been selected for this purpose by the faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences.


Course help will be available to you in various ways. Please feel free to come to my office during office hours to discuss course-related questions or problems. If you cannot make it in during regular office hours, please schedule an alternate time with me. Many questions can also be addressed via email, and I encourage you to use this approach. I will attempt to answer each message I receive within a day.

Additional study hints and helps are found in your text (e.g. Appendix I: Review of Chemistry of Biological Molecules) and lab manual. I also recommend forming small study groups, perhaps with your lab partners or friends in class.

Furthermore, I strongly encourage that you make use of this website and the links it provides to other informative sites.  These links include images of and information about the microorganisms which we are studying, announcements, on-line assignments (bonus points), and instructions for assignments.

Student Accommodations

If you are a student that requires academic or other accommodations, please contact the Student Accessibility Services (SAS) office— 011 Macomb Hall, call 518-564-3844 or email You must certify with this office before using accommodations.


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