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Viruses: Ancient Machines in a Modern World

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

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Course Description

Have you ever had a really bad cold? Maybe the flu? Do you know a polio survivor? Someone with AIDS?

Do you ever wonder exactly how these illnesses occur? It turns out we are merely guests in a fascinating microscopic world. Among the bacteria, parasites, prions, and other microbes are tiny, lifeless, parasitic beings that have been on earth long before we ever were: we call them viruses.

Viruses are everywhere, literally. We ingest billions of viral particles every day, and viruses infect every living thing on this planet. This course will provide a comprehensive analysis of viral infection from transmission to the host down to the molecular and cell biological features of the virus life cycle. Further, the course will explore the battle that exists between viruses and the immune system, and will probe at exactly what point you get sick, and why.

Viruses are everywhere, figuratively too. Viruses often attract attention in the media with stories on flu shots, the autism-vaccine controversy, HIV/AIDS, cruise ship viruses, HPV vaccines, the SARS virus, genetic engineering of deadly flu viruses, and recent outbreaks of the Ebola virus and other exotic diseases, to name a few.

We will explore these topics in a fun and exciting format with a combination of lectures, discussions, debates, online activities, assigned readings, and oral presentations. Students will also participate in hands-on laboratory sessions, learning techniques including genetic engineering of viruses and identification of virus receptors.

By the completion of this class, students will not only have a comprehensive understanding of the virus life cycle and the immunology of viral infection, but they will also have a broader understanding of how viruses affect us in our every day lives. Further, students will be able to watch or read a media story involving viruses and be able to discern whether it is true or sensationalized.

Completion of a high school biology course is required and it is highly recommended that students have also taken chemistry. It is suitable for students simply interested in biology and science, as well as for those interested in pursuing a career in science or medicine.

*Please note: This course has a supplemental fee of $150

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