For the UMM students taking my class next week

Classes start next week, and I'm teaching genetics again. I'm getting lots of questions from incoming students that I will answer right here, just in case there are a few of you reading the blog.

  1. There will be no labs the first week of class — first lab is on Tuesday, first lecture is on Wednesday, and I hate dragging students into a lab completely cold.

  2. Yes, you can use back editions of the textbook. Current edition is the 9th, but I'll give out reading assignments and problems with numbers from the 7th, 8th, and 9th editions. It's a pain in the butt, but the books are ridiculously expensive, and they don't change that much from edition to edition.

If you are a UMM biology major in their junior year, I have another important announcement: I'm going to be on sabbatical next year. We are having a serious surge of enrollments that is making our required course in molecular biology into a major bottleneck, and we had to decide whether my temporary replacement would be someone to take over my genetics course, or someone who could offer a second section of molecular biology. Molecular biology is the priority right now.

That means that if you were counting on taking genetics next year, you can't, and you're going to have to rejigger your schedule and take it this year. Contact me soon, I'll be very, very generous in squeezing more students in this term.

We now return Pharyngula to topics of more global interest.

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I envy your students. I think if I tried to take a class from you I would be too busy trying to squelch my awe at actually sitting in the same room as you to actually pay attention.

By Archaneus (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

yeah I'm totally jealous... my profs here and Indiana University are decent tho...

By stewy.cvl (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

Aw, you never know how your students feel exactly, any of the smart ones will just soak it in and apply the lessons as needed.

I had a sociology prof who taught us all about existentialism and turned everyone who listened to him into an atheist, if they weren't already. We all just adored him, but I'm sure he never quite knew how we felt, as no one really fawned over him or anything.

"I hate dragging students into a lab completely cold."

Yeah, right.

If this were true, why are you living in Minnesota?

Uh, Dr. Myers, I have a question.

Is this going to be on the test?

"I hate dragging students into a lab completely cold."

Well, it sounds like just the kind of task you should hire a hunchbacked assistant for. Or just, you know, start dragging them right after you've killed them - they don't go completely cold until a few hours later.

By Phillip IV (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

Darn, I wanted to take Economics 318 (Business Cycles) and History 412 (Victorian English Politics) this semester. Now I'll have to take that silly Genetics course instead.

Sulk and whine.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

I guess I shouldn't transfer to UMM so that I can take a class with PZ. But my genetics prof was pretty cool.

It's a pain in the butt, but the books are ridiculously expensive, and they don't change that much from edition to edition.

WTF? First you get on the Pope's shit list, and now you're disrespectin' the Textbook Publication Mafia. You're gonna be swimmin' with the fishes any Friday now.
Any fool can see that the new book's got a red CD that nobody will use while the old edition has a shitty blue one that nobody used.

Thompson's execs need Porches too.

My college days are 15 years behind me, so this doesn't affect me ... but kudos to you for the multi-edition handling of the book.

I can't tell you how many books I had to buy new because they had just changed editions or, on the flip side, I couldn't sell back because they were changing for next term.

That is a mighty nice thing you are doing, in that it makes extra work for you. I wish many of my own instructors were as thoughtful.

I'm going to be on sabbatical next year.

Did I miss something?

By NoAstronomer (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

...and creationists assume that PZ is a merciless, venom spewing, hard beaked, 24 tentacled, hirsute, spectacled, cephalopodic monster when in fact, he's awfully merciful with his students tight budgets. What other deadly and horrendous monster is as considerate?

By Helioprogenus (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

You should be ashamed of yourself Dr. Myers. We all know the best profs remain entirely aloof of their students and force their TAs to teach the parts of the course that show up on the exams, and create courses of such a patchwork mosaic that only a library of textbooks could begin to contain all of the necessary information. Furthermore, tutorials in the first week of class are held without being announced! I assume this is something you will work on during sabbatical.

@14
No, that's the term used for when professors take time off teaching in order to focus on stuff like research.

I just sat here and read that whole blog entry. Why? I have work to do! What is the matter with me? And now I'm leaving a comment!

By RoaldFalcon (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

Ummm, what's wrong with having the molecular biologist teach the genetics course too? At the college I graduated from, one prof (molecular biologist) taught both for a while and also quite teaches a summer biochemistry course.

By liveparadox (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

#14: Yes. Apparently, you missed the news about PZ going on sabbatical next year.

By James Haight (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

Oops, strike "quite" out of that last line there...
(...MUST hit preview before posting...)

By liveparadox (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

hmmm - it would seem that some of us aren't on the mailing list
I trust that PZ's caribbean cruise sabbatical, is from his inconsequential teaching duties only, and not from his vital blogging responsibilities

Any chance we could get you to have a book publication party PZ? That is when you get done with writing the best seller. It would be very cool to meet some of the regulars on here in person.

By druidbros (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

There will be no labs the first week of class — first lab is on Tuesday, first lecture is on Wednesday, and I hate dragging students into a lab completely cold.

Does that mean there's no class on Tuesday? Or that it will be a lecture instead of a lab? Or something else?

I'm not one of PZ's students, so it doesn't really matter if I understand it. I just thought it might be confusing to others, too.

Sabbatical, sweet sabbatical. The best part of being an academic. I'm looking forward to mine as well. Just four more months!

For #1 and #2-

Quite a few UMM biology students don't know anything about PZ's reputation in the blogoshpere and Atheist community. Being a science major at UMM myself, I've heard quite a few conversations about his teaching and advising style with a little, "Isn't he famous for being an Atheist or something?" thrown in.

Prof. PZ, Prof. PZ... Are you going to put all your PowerPoints up online now? At the beginning of the semester? So I can download all of them ahead of time? And YouTube your lectures?

What, you're not? Ah, man... I am so going to write a bad course evaluation of you. If I remember to.

[Getting ready for the new semester myself...]

Lowell, no labs the first week. First a couple of lectures, then to the labs the second week. That's pretty straightforward.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

Your surge in enrollments sounds promising. Good to hear that so many UMMers are pursuing an education in the sciences.

I for one, can't wait to take your class. Apparently, you are unaware of the fact that evolution is a myth created by satan and that the world was created in 6 days. I can't wait to tell you all about this in class. Over and over again. all semester long.

When I taught, I always let my students use whatever textbooks they wanted since I didn't actually use them. I gave all the assignments as handouts and never tested them on anything I didn't cover in class. The bad part from the student's point of view was that they had to attend my classes. It was part of my evil plan because I hated teaching to an empty classroom.

The bad part from the student's point of view was that they had to attend my classes. It was part of my evil plan because I hated teaching to an empty classroom.

If I were teaching I'd make very good handouts. If you let your ego get in the way of serving the students as best as possible, you have failed.

Unless you think they're best served by being in the class? In my experience that is not always the case and I often wished for better notes.

By Marc Abian (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

Dr. Myers,

Just a note to let you know you're an inspiration to me, and I'm sure many others. Thank you for being so generous with your time and thoughts. You're a credit to your college and profession. (I know this sounds like cheese, but I am nat a current or future student, just a grateful reader.)

By Liz Tracey (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

Molecular Biology? Genetics?
You don't say which text you are using, but for those who may be unaware, or as a reminder, of the reputable, FREEly searchable textbooks at the NCBI bookshelf..

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=Books

Relevant titles, among many others, include:

Molecular Biology of the Cell (Alberts)
Molecular Cell Biology (Lodish)
Genomes (Brown)
Modern Genetic Analysis (Griffiths)
Introduction to Genetic Analysis (Griffiths)
Human Molecular Genetics 2 (Strachan)

(just click on a book image)
The NCBI Bookshelf was an FSM send for this poor student!

By Sauceress (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

Too bad you're preemptively excommunicated. Any professor who goes to the effort of providing 3 editions worth of page numbers deserves nomination for sainthood.

For all you taking my class in Microbio at LSU, get cracking! I want to see some improvement in grades this semester. Labs have started already and the first exam is sooner than you think!

First rule of good teaching: know your audience. Since PZ uses three volumes of the same text, I would say he has a very good idea of his audience. Most of them don't have a lot of spare money.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

PZ, for this-

"Yes, you can use back editions of the textbook. Current edition is the 9th, but I'll give out reading assignments and problems with numbers from the 7th, 8th, and 9th editions. It's a pain in the butt, but the books are ridiculously expensive, and they don't change that much from edition to edition."

-you are a hero. MOST professors won't do this, as I'm sure you know. So instead of buying a used old-edition book for 10 bucks on the internet, we have to buy new or new-edition used ones for WAY more money, and the books are often so similar it really shouldn't make a difference. Thanks on behalf of broke college students everywhere :)

By whitedevil (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

*sigh* I wish I could go to UMM....

By Jim Belcher (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

Unless you think they're best served by being in the class?

I always assumed that since the school was paying me to teach and the students were paying for the course that sitting in my class and being taught was a "desirable thing". Of course, I could be wrong and perhaps the students would have been better served by sleeping late.

I know that an old professor of mine won't use the same textbook twice, and won't use anything but a new book since solutions manuals are readily available online after the first semester, and readily used by his students.

"Molecular Biology? Genetics?
You don't say which text you are using..."

==

If it's a 9th edition intro genetics textbook, it's almost certainly Griffiths, Wessler, Lewontin & Caroll.

By Bueller_007 (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

From Canada
I am not planning on being a student.
Yet is genetics really a subject of substance or just a very entry level raw dealing with trivial concepts.
The reason I say this is because i'm told marsupials are not placentals because of wide genetic variance. Yet i know that a marsupial mole or wolf or cat or bear is exactly the same
as these creatures eleswhere in time and place save they are placental.
So the genetics is wrong. The genetics are not a roadmap but rather simply evidence that if there is a innate change then there would be a genetics change. So any collection pressure that makes all the creatures of a region change some aspect of their bodies would result in like genetic change. This segregating them from their cousins elsewhere to quite a genetic extent. Yet still cousins. the genetics are hand in hand with body changes and so great genetic differences are not evidence of great difference in relatedness but just evidence of some sudden body change.
Would I pass these courses with these strong conclusions/convictions.?
If the teacher disagrees should he be teaching genetics in 2009 A.D?

By Robert Byers (not verified) on 16 Jan 2009 #permalink

Students of Dr. Myers,

Please ignore Robert Byers. In the family Pharyngula he is the crazy uncle living in the attic whom you don't leave the kids alone with.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 17 Jan 2009 #permalink

Im sure PZ will be relieved to see that Byers has no plans to being a student with him...:-)

Dude I never took biology in university (too awed at cosmology, but very basic nonetheless), and even I know Byers is full of ... (Sorry, is this a clean thread?)

By the way, Byers, why would you assume the teacher is wrong when you can't even come up with right conclusions to your wrong assumptions? And what exactly are you trying to imply with your "sudden body change"? Why not just be up-front with what you're trying to say here?

How nice of Byers to drop by to offer the students a living example of the effects of ignorance. It's like a scientific Scared Straight.

If in the course of the semester you should become frustrated or fear the material is too difficult (which I highly doubt will happen with PZ as your professor), just look back at that post to remind yourself of the importance of a scientific education and spur you to apply yourself to your studies.

Best of luck!

Hooray for supporting old editions! Textbooks companies pull such bullshit and most professors seem totally unaware. It doesn't help that most them don't even know the prices of the textbooks while they pick them, there was a proposed law in Missouri that would fix this (not sure if it passed or not).

By Ian Monroe (not verified) on 17 Jan 2009 #permalink

i'm told marsupials are not placentals because of wide genetic variance. Yet i know that a marsupial mole or wolf or cat or bear is exactly the same as these creatures eleswhere in time and place save they are placental.

Beyers, you've written some really silly things, but this easily ranks as the silliest you've ever been.

Marsupials are not placentals because several aspects of their bodies differ from placentals. Marsupials possess a cloaca for elimination (marsupial penises are strictly for reproduction). Several marsupials possess four pairs of molar teeth in each jaw, whereas placental mammals never have more than three pairs. And the marsupial reproductive system is vastly different from the placental reproductive system.

Similarities between particular species of marsupials and placentals are cases of convergent evolution. Marsupial moles and placental moles are only related in that they're members of Class Mammalia, despite having the same common name.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 17 Jan 2009 #permalink

I also envy those taking your course. Maybe a computer version for your groupies?

My atheistic husband got this Missouri Synod Lutheran reared woman to start reading your blog - and i love it!
Read Darwin's Origin of the Species last year - don't understand anything that people complain about anymore!

I am interested in Feline Genetics. I used to foster kittens and their "unwed mothers" - how can the kittens sometimes have no resemblance to the mother? Well, I do understand that we don't know where "Daddy" is.

Any book I can read specifically dealing with Feline Genetics?

Thank you!
Traci

It's like a scientific Scared Straight.

Once again, I re-learn the lesson not to take a mouthful of liquid just before reading SC's comments :).

Any book I can read specifically dealing with Feline Genetics?

Don't know any books to recommend offhand, but you may find the discussion of calico cat genetics at the following site interesting:

Mosaicism and Chimerism

Don't let the technical jargon in the title turn you off; the discussion is actually quite accessible, with the additional knowledge at the outset that "cyto" means "cell" or "of a cell".

@44: I reasoned that too... what a bunch of nerds we are for even bothering to think about that!

And my current genetics course was taught by Griffiths himself until a couple of years ago. I'm always late to stuff >.<

Yes, you can use back editions of the textbook.

You're one of those kind of profs, eh? Could have used a few more in my day. :)

You say this is of no importance to anyone but your students, but all those of us who were students recently are just heartwarmed to know that somewhere out there is a professor who doesn't bow to the textbook racket. Making it clear when the class schedule's changing a semester in advance is just icing on the cake (I was used to having classes suddenly no longer offered and having counselors tell you that it was your problem and you should have planned better).

many, Many thanks.

From Canada
#51 Tis himself
I know there are a few minor differences between marsupials and placentals.
Yes its the reproduction but this is minor and explainable from a biblical creationist view.
Yes marsupialism is all about greater production off offspring. male and female.
The teeth are minor adaptation from either the same origin of the reproductive system or the same need to adapt to the area they were immigrating too.
Its been a strange error of classification to see marsupial, because of a few minor points, different from creatures elsewhere which they resemble because of hundreds or thousands of points.
A bear is a bear. A dog is a dog. A cat is a cat. Pouches or not does not wtell these tails.

By Robert Byers (not verified) on 17 Jan 2009 #permalink

I'm support staff in a public university science department. It warms my heart to hear "surge in enrollment" for science classes. Let the creationists try to foist their mythology on kids all they will - the bright ones will figure it out and follow the path to knowledge.

A thylacine is a dog? A water bear is a bear? A panda is a bear? Byers, what the hell are you on?

Byers is a cowgull. He flys in, goes squawk, shits some stupidity a smart high-schooler could refute, then leaves without apologizing or cleaning up after himself. A real dirty, stupid bird (did I get it right Emmet?).

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 18 Jan 2009 #permalink

Byers posted twice thread. PZ must really piss him off. Of course, the intellectual quality of both post is best described as a temper tantrum by a six year old.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 18 Jan 2009 #permalink

A panda is a bear?

Yes, actually. They are the first ones to split off the main bear line, and thus had the most time to become the most derived in many ways (hyperdeveloped radial sesamoid, bamboo eating, coloration, and so forth).

Your other points are well-taken, though.

From Canada
#64Thalartus
I don't know how Pandas got involved. Yet in the past the panda was said to be a big raccoon, I believe, like the smaller Red panda(I think). Its now said its a bear.
I know in the fossil record there is a raccoon that was so big. in S America, that it looked like a panda.
I don't know.
I do know marsupials, placentals and other orders, now extinct, of creatures likewise with same shaped bodies but said to be unrelated are indeed the same critters.

By Robert Byers (not verified) on 18 Jan 2009 #permalink