COVID-19: Essential Information

Glen Ernstrom

Assistant Professor of Biology & Neuroscience

 
 work(802) 443-5736
 On leave Fall 2021
 McCardell Bicentennial Hall 350

Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that can stimulate, amplify, or suppress how we feel, think, and move. In neurons, these brain chemicals are packed into vesicles, tiny intracellular compartments. When a neuron is electrically stimulated, these sub-microscopic vesicles merge, fuse, with the outer membrane of the cell to spill out their contents onto nearby target cells. Like water balloons splashing against a wall, dozens of vesicles are splashing against the surface of the nerve endings in each of the nearly 100 billion cells in our brain in every second of every day, unloading the chemicals that rapidly change the activity of other neurons, muscles, or glands.

In our lab, our research focus is on neuronal synaptic vesicles and how synaptic vesicles release neurotransmitters. While much is known, persistent unresolved questions remain. One specific research question we are addressing is how do neurons pack an optimal amount of neurotransmitters into vesicles. It is apparent neurotransmitter loading is regulated; reduced loading causes dysfunctional neurotransmission. We want to know how neurons normally control the amount of neurotransmitter loaded into each vesicle.

To investigate the biology of synaptic vesicles, we study nerve signaling in the roundworm, C. elegans, an animal that is amenable to genetic, cellular, and behavioral analysis. We take a neurogenetic approach to couple the wealth of genetic information and tools available for this animal with live cell imaging and electrophysiological methods to resolve evolutionarily conserved mechanisms involved with neurotransmitter release. Our ultimate goal is to learn the unique adaptations that have evolved to allow animals to release neurotransmitters with exquisite spatial and temporal control.

 

Courses

Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

BIOL 0145 - Cell Biology and Genetics      

Cell Biology and Genetics
In this introduction to modern cellular, genetic, and molecular biology we will explore life science concepts with an emphasis on their integral nature and evolutionary relationships. Topics covered will include cell membrane structure and function, metabolism, cell motility and division, genome structure and replication, the regulation of gene expression and protein production, genotype to phenotype relationship, and basic principles of inheritance. Major concepts will be illustrated using a broad range of examples from plants, animals, and microorganisms. Current topics in biology will be integrated into the course as they arise. (For students matriculating in Fall 2019 or later: CHEM 0103 or equivalent) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. lab DED SCI

Spring 2020

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BIOL 0314 - Molecular Genetics      

Molecular Genetics
This course will focus on the structure and function of nucleic acids in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Lectures will center on molecular mechanisms of mutation, transposition, and recombination, the regulation of gene expression, and gene control in development, immune diversity and carcinogenesis. Readings from the primary literature will complement the textbook and classroom discussions. The laboratory will provide training in both classic and contemporary molecular-genetic techniques including nucleic acid isolation and purification, cloning, electroporation, nick-translation, Southern/Northern blotting, DNA sequencing, PCR and RT-PCR. (BIOL or MBBC majors, or by waiver. BIOL 0140 and BIOL 0145 or waiver) 3 hrs. lect./4 hrs. lab./1 hr. prelab. SCI

Spring 2021

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BIOL 0370 - Animal Physiology      

Animal Physiology
This course examines the body functions of animals and humans using general physiological principles and a comparative approach. Lectures will cover the function of each of the major physiological systems (nervous, endocrine, muscular, etc.) and will describe how animal physiology has been shaped by evolution to allow animals to survive in a wide range of environmental conditions. Lectures will focus mainly on physiological processes occurring at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. Occasional journal article discussions will provide case studies of current topics in animal physiology. Laboratory exercises, reports and oral presentations emphasize experimental design, analysis and independent study using various methodological approaches including electrophysiology, neurotransmitter manipulations, nutritional analysis, and exercise physiology. (BIOL 0140 or BIOL 0216 and BIOL 0145). 3 hrs. lect/disc., 3 hrs. lab. SCI

Spring 2019

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BIOL 0420 / NSCI 0420 - Neurogenetics      

Neurogenetics
Nature versus nurture? Genes or environment? Age-old questions of those seeking to understand behavior. If genes can encode hair color, eye color, why can't genes encode aspects of behavior? This seminar will explore the evidence that genes do indeed influence animal behavior by examining three biological processes common across diverse taxa: circadian rhythms, mating behavior, and learning. We will read the primary literature, critically evaluate the data, and design new experiments to address open questions. (BIOL 145, BIOL 140 recommended; Open to Juniors and Seniors). 3 hrs. sem. SCI

Spring 2019, Spring 2020

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BIOL 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
In this course students complete individual projects involving laboratory and/or field research or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and a faculty advisor. Prior to registering for BIOL 0500, a student must have discussed and agreed upon a project topic with a member of the Biology Department faculty. Additional requirements include attendance at all Biology Department seminars and participation in any scheduled meetings with disciplinary sub-groups and lab groups. This course is not open to seniors; seniors should enroll in BIOL 0700, Senior Independent Study. (BIOL 0211. Approval required) 3 hrs. disc.

Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022

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BIOL 0700 - Senior Independent Study      

Senior Independent Study
In this course students complete individual projects involving laboratory and/or field research or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and a faculty advisor. Prior to registering for BIOL 0700, a student must have discussed and agreed upon a project topic with a member of the Biology Department faculty. Additional requirements include attendance at all Biology Department seminars and participation in any scheduled meetings with disciplinary sub-groups and lab groups. (BIOL 0211. Approval required; open only to seniors) 3 hrs. disc.

Winter 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022

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BIOL 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Seniors majoring in Biology who have completed one or more semesters of BIOL 0500 or BIOL 0700 and who plan to complete a thesis should register for BIOL 0701. In this course students will produce a written thesis, deliver a public presentation of the research on which it is based, and present an oral defense of the thesis before a committee of at least three faculty members. Additional requirements include attendance at all Biology Department seminars and participation in any scheduled meetings with disciplinary sub-groups and lab groups. Open to Biology and joint Biology/Environmental Studies majors. (BIOL 0211 and BIOL 0500 or BIOL 0700 or waiver; instructor approval required for all students) 3 hrs. disc

Winter 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022

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FYSE 1521 - Venomous Cures      

Venomous Cures
In this course we will explore surprising discoveries about how highly toxic animal venoms can be used in biomedical research and treat disease. The exploration of venomous animals will serve as an entry to learning basic principles of human and animal physiology. Students will explore this topic while learning how to communicate scientific findings effectively. We will read works from science journalists and learn to read primary research articles written by scientists. Students will learn how to incorporate scientific findings into an evidence-based argument targeted for the general public. 3 hrs. sem. CW SCI

Fall 2018

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MBBC 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Thesis
Seniors conducting independent study in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry should register for MBBC 0700 unless they are completing a thesis project in which case they should register for MBBC 0701. (Approval required).

Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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MBBC 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Students conducting independent thesis research in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry must register for MBBC 0701 while completing research projects initiated in BIOL 0500, MBBC 0700, or CHEM 0400. Students will organize and lead regular discussions of their research and research methods, and attend weekly meetings with their designated laboratory group to foster understanding of their special area, and practice the stylistic and technical aspects of scientific writing needed to write their thesis. (CHEM 0400 or BIOL 0500 or MBBC 0700) (Approval required).

Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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NSCI 0251 - Cellular/MolecularNeuroscience      

Fundamentals of Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Neurons are the building blocks of complex circuits that underlie perception and behavior. In this course we will examine the molecular and cellular basis of neuron structure and function. The topics include the molecular and cellular basis of action potential propagation, the molecular biology of synaptic transmission, the molecular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity, and the molecular mechanisms of sensory transduction. Laboratory exercises will train students in commonly used neurobiology techniques and engage students in novel investigations. (BIOL 0145 (Note: AP credit in biology cannot be used to satisfy this requirement) Open to neuroscience majors, nonmajors by waiver; Not open to seniors). 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. lab. SCI

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

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NSCI 0500 - Independent Research      

Independent Research
Students enrolled in NSCI 0500 complete individual research projects involving laboratory or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and approved in advance by a NSCI faculty advisor. This course is not open to seniors; seniors should enroll in NSCI 0700. (Approval required)

Winter 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022

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NSCI 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Research
This course is for senior NSCI majors who plan to conduct one or more semesters of independent research, or who plan to complete preparatory work toward a senior thesis, such as researching and writing a thesis proposal as well as, if appropriate, collecting data that will form the basis for a senior thesis. Senior NSCI majors who plan to complete a senior thesis should register initially for NSCI 0700. Additional requirements may include participation in weekly meetings with advisors and/or lab groups and attending neuroscience seminars. (Approval required, open to seniors only)

Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022

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NSCI 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Senior NSCI majors who have completed one or more terms of NSCI 0700, who have a GPA of 3.3 in their major courses, and who plan to complete a senior thesis should register for NSCI 0701 for the final semester of the senior thesis process. Students enrolled in NSCI 0701 write a thesis, give a public presentation of their research, and present an oral defense of the thesis before a committee of at least two Neuroscience faculty members. Faculty may recommend High honors in Neuroscience after considering the quality of these components of a student’s thesis and the student’s GPA in major courses. Additional requirements may include participation in weekly meetings with advisors and/or lab groups and attending neuroscience seminars. (NSCI 0700, Approval required)

Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022

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Department of Biology

McCardell Bicentennial Hall
276 Bicentennial Way
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753