Fall 2020 - MBB 431 D100

Cells and the Environment (3)

Class Number: 3105

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Tue, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Thu, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    MBB 322 and 331, with a minimum grade of C.



The cellular processes at the interface of cells and the environment will be explored in-depth. Through the use of lectures and group discussions and an emphasis on the primary literature, the focus will be on recent developments in molecular cell biology through the study of symbiosis and adaptation.


This course is an exploration into the cellular processes underlying adaptations as they relate to the environment outside the organism. The course relies on reading primary literature and will consist of interactive lectures, class discussions, and team-based learning.  A primary goal of the course is to strengthen student ability to read scientific papers critically and with perspective. A secondary goal is to enhance students’ scientific understanding of global warming and climate change, because fluency in this topic is important.    

Students will be expected to read up to 2 papers per week, and be prepared to present in class or discuss in an informal setting. A background in genetics, developmental and molecular biology is required. We will focus on a few topics and will explore them in depth, emphasizing recent developments.


  • Quizzes (ten total) 20%
  • Team presentation of published paper 20%
  • Two 700-word critical summaries of research papers 20%
  • Critical carbon footprint report 15%
  • Team-based climate action plan 20%
  • Peer evaluation of participation 5%


  • Lectures:  Synchronous (students are expected to attend scheduled lectures remotely)
  • This is a seminar course with considerable class discussion.
  • Assessments:  blended; both synchronous and asynchronous assessments



  • Access to high-speed internet
  • Computer with webcam


Required reading:   We will read review articles and primary research papers.  A basic cell biology textbook may be useful as a refresher on certain topics. We will also make use of open-source data and other on-line resources.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

  • For help with writing, learning and study strategies please contact the Student Learning Commons at
  • Students requiring accommodations as a result of a disability, must contact the Centre for Accessible Learning (778-782-3112 or e-mail:  caladmin@sfu.ca)

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).