Directed reading and discussion of Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem, 2007 Harper Collins, NY.


Instructor:  Dr. Jerry Wilkinson, Department of Biology, room 2223 Biology-Psychology Bldg


Contact info: phone: 301-405-6942, email:, website:


Class Schedule (Thursdays 4-6; PLS 1146)


Date                            Chapters          Topic                                       Presenters


Jan         31                   Intro               Organizational Mtg                 Wilkinson

Feb          7                  1 & 2               Diabetes                                 

              14                  3 & 4               Genes and diet                        

              21                                          no meeting

              28                         5               Manipulative microbes           

March      6                         6               Jumping genes                       

              13                         7               Methylation and epigenetics

              27                         8               Reproduction and aging

April        3                                          Papers due!



Class Format


Each week a group of 3-4 students will be responsible for leading a discussion of the assigned chapters.  The group that is leading the discussion each week should introduce additional material during their presentation.  Please do not simply reiterate what you have read.  Rather than summarize what is in the chapter, each group should attempt to identify issues/topics that need clarification or that provoke discussion.  Then, use the notes for each chapter at the back of the book to find additional information to present to the class. A good target would be to spend no more than 1/2 of the class time presenting information and 1/2 in active discussion.  My evaluation of your presentation will include an assessment of how well you were able to get the class involved in a discussion.


Everyone in the class is responsible for reading the assigned chapters each week!  Your participation score will be reduced if I discover you have not read the assignment or if you fail to contribute to the discussion.


Those not presenting will evaluate the group that is presenting using the questions listed below.  You can either give these to me at the end of the class or the beginning of the next class.  Those who are presenting must fill out the peer evaluation of their team members.  I will use this information to distribute points to the presenters.






Each group is encouraged to be creative in deciding how to present information and organize a discussion during the class.  Your goal should be to use the topics presented in the book to develop one or more themes, find additional information from the library, internet or other citable source, and then present that information to the class and, if possible, come up with a mechanism to insure active participation by everyone. My hope is that you can simultaneously learn about genetics, health and evolution as well as improve on your public speaking skills.




Peer evaluation of presentation                                20

Instructor evaluation of presentation                       30   

Class participation/attendance                                  30    

Paper                                                                       20




In addition to the presentation, each person must turn in a short paper, between two and four single-spaced pages, which provides a short review of one of the topics mentioned in the book.  The goal is to 1) verify that the author provided an accurate summary of the information and 2) report on any related findings that have been obtained more recently. I recommend you use either PubMed or the Web of Science to locate original and newer sources.  I will grade papers for content and style, so you should check to make sure there are no grammatical or spelling errors and that you have given complete bibliographic citations to any references you mention.


Classroom etiquette


To avoid disrupting class, I urge everyone to arrive on time and be prepared to listen and discuss the assigned reading.  If you donŐt talk, I will assume you have not read the material and not give you full credit for participation.


Also, please do not forget to silence all cell phones before entering class.




If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me.  I prefer to receive and will try to respond promptly to email.  If it is urgent, you can also call me.  I will try and get back to you as soon as possible.  You are all welcome to visit my office and lab (2223 Bio/Psych).  I teach M 2-4, but am usually around most other afternoons.


Group:                                           Group Presentation Evaluation                              Date:


Content:   Did the group?


1.         Identify the key points / issues of the chapter?




2.         Present new information not in the original article?




3.         Give a summary of the take-home lessons or conclusions?






1.         Was the presentation well organized?




2.         Did the group make good use of visual aids?




3.         Was the group able to stimulate class discussion?




What was the best aspect of the presentation? Be specific.






What was the worst aspect of the presentation?  Be specific






Assign a numerical score to the presentation (10 best, 1 worst):