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BIOL 479

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Biol 479 General Endocrinology
Fall 2013
3 credits


Lecture room: 367 Willard

Time: MWF 12.10-1.20pm


Professor:  Dr. Ruud Schilder

Office: 409 Mueller 

Phone: 814-863-2154



Office hours: Wednesday 1.30-2.30pm or you can make an appointment.


Note: this syllabus is subject to change.  Changes to the syllabus shall be distributed in writing and posted on Angel.


Optional textbook:  

Vertebrate Endocrinology (5th ed.) – Norris & Carr  

This book will be available from Elsevier after June 27th 2013.

The previous (4th) edition is available online (e.g. amazon has used copies listed at major savings from the price for a new 5th edition ~$75).



 Angel Courseweb


Course Goals and Objectives:

The objective of this course is to present a comparative approach to understanding how hormones coordinate and control life history processes (i.e. developmental, physiological and behavioral) in animals.  The model organism focus has provided many endocrinological insights but has been limited to a small subset of animals. This course will provide a broader survey of comparative vertebrate endocrinology, and since research on invertebrate species has significantly contributed to our understanding of hormone action, these will not be entirely neglected.  

The course will in principle be structured as follows: we will focus on endocrine mechanisms involved in 7-8 major life history topics. Each topic will be covered in roughly 2 weeks worth of lecture materials and assigned reading. During this time, we will determine the important issues at hand for organisms, endocrine mechanisms involved in dealing with these issues, and discuss striking case studies across different species. Applications to human biology will be discussed throughout, as well as how the environment(al changes) may affect(s) and/or drive these mechanisms.

Note that while this is not your typical general (human) endocrinology course it should be highly relevant to students in diverse fields including biology, (pre-)medicine, health and human development and nutrition.


Materials & Methods:

The lecture material for this course will consist of powerpoint lectures and other assigned reading materials that will include scientific publications (all will be posted on Angel).  The textbook is optional but contains ample reference material to the topics discussed. A provisional listing of optional readings from the textbook will be provided below (see Course schedule).


Examination and grading:

Grades will be determined based on a total of 350 points, made up from the following exams:


1. Midterm and Final exams (300 pts total).  The two midterm exams (date/time to be announced) are worth 100 pts each; the final exam is worth 200 pts.  The midterm exams will be non-cumulative, covering the preceding materials (the second midterm exam will be on the material covered starting from the first midterm exam).  The final exam will cover the entire course material. This makes 400 pts available, and you can drop the midterm (!) exam with the lowest score only.


Exams will consist of multiple choice, fill in the blank and short answer questions.

There will be no make-up option for the two midterm exams. A missed midterm exam will automatically become the midterm exam score you will drop.  


2. Quizzes (50 pts total). I will post online quizzes that cover materials in obligatory reading materials (not the optional textbook readings) that I will post on Angel.  Please be sure to save your quiz report that Angel gives back after the quiz, to be able to provide evidence of your grade in case Angel misbehaves.  


Quizzes will consist of multiple choice questions.


Point totals between 90-100% qualify for an “A” grade, between 80-90% for a “B” grade, between 70-80% for a “C” grade, between 60-70% for a “D” grade, and between 50-60% for an “F” grade.  I reserve the right to adjust these cutoffs. Borderline cases will be judged according to overall participation and attendance in the course. 


Exam dates: to be announced

Quiz posting dates: to be announced


Attendance policy

When you are enrolled in this course, I expect you to attend the classes and be on time.  


Course schedule (provisional):

This is the intended structure of the course, but I reserve the right to alter topics, topic order and lecture material contents during the semester. 


Date                           Topic                                                                         Readings

Aug 26–30                Introduction to comparative endocrinology         TBA   

Sept 2 =  Labor Day – no class

Sept 3-6                     Introduction to comparative endocrinology         TBA


Sept 9-13                   Development & Growth                                          TBA

Sept 16-20                 Development & Growth                                          TBA


Sept 23-27                 Energy homeostasis                                               TBA

Sept 30-Oct 4            Energy homeostasis                                               TBA


Oct 7-11                     Osmoregulation                                                       TBA

Oct 14-18                   Osmoregulation                                                       TBA


Oct 21-25                   Stress                                                                         TBA

Oct 28-Nov 1             Stress                                                                         TBA


Nov 4-8                      Sex determination/Reproduction                          TBA

Nov 11-15                  Sex determination/Reproduction                          TBA


Nov 18-22                  Biological clocks                                                      TBA

Nov 25-29 = Thanksgiving break – no class

Dec 2-6                      Biological clocks                                                      TBA


Dec 9-13                    Climate change & pollution                                               TBA



Dec 16-20 = Finals week (final exam date & time TBA)


Academic integrity statement

All Penn State University policies (as listed at regarding ethics and honorable behavior apply to this course.

Nondiscrimination statement

The Pennsylvania State University is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to programs, facilities, admission, and employment without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance, or qualifications as determined by University policy or by state of federal authorities. The Pennsylvania State University does not discriminate against any person because of age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, national origin, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status.