Spring 2021


Listed in: Biology, as BIOL-110


Alexandra E. Purdy (Sections 01 and 02)


This course explores the biological mechanisms underlying infectious disease, as well as the challenges associated with fighting their emergence and spread. We will begin by learning about diseases of global health importance, such as HIV/AIDS and cholera, to introduce strategies that pathogens have evolved that ensure their persistence. We will investigate their fundamental biology, and interpret patterns of evolutionary divergence that aid in understanding patterns of transmission. We will study treatments and prevention measures, but we will also see that this knowledge must be integrated with awareness of complex ecological and societal issues to inform and implement solutions.  As we consider these questions, we will focus much of our attention on the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in order to critically examine what we know about the virus, its emergence, disease susceptibility and symptoms, as well as treatments and preventative measures. Discussions will focus upon the many perspectives from which infectious diseases are encountered, drawing on resources from the literature on microbiology, policy, and ethics, as well as personal accounts, current news stories, and readings from Spillover by David Quammen, as well as other popular science books. Three hours of lecture and discussion per week.  This course is for non-science majors and will not count toward the Biology major.
Limited to 20 students. Spring 2021. Professor Purdy.

Learning approach:  Hyflex. This course will be conducted in a hybrid format, with on-line and in-person components as needed, supported by appropriate technology.  Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person.

If Overenrolled: Preference will be given to non-science majors and those who have not had previous courses in biology. Otherwise, students will be selected in order to ensure a wide range of class years and majors can contribute to the class.


Science & Math for Non-majors


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Spring 2021