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Willson Kwok, Ph.D. M.B.A. P.A.


308 Compton Science Center

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Developmental Biology (BIOL 440/540)


Classical and modern study of processes producing structural and functional changes during the development of plants and animals. Three hrs. lecture, two hrs. lab. Fall, even numbered years.


BIOL 150 General Biology II or BIOL 160 General Zoology.  Students are expected to possess a basic proficiency in biology, zoology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. It is the student’s responsibility to review background materials as necessary.


The wonder of an embryo directing its own biological development into an adult organism is nearly unfathomable in its complexity. However, recent technological advances have begun to shed light on the fundamental genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that guide development of multicellular organisms including plants and animals. This course is designed to introduce students to these technological discoveries as well as basic concepts and definitions of classical and modern developmental biology. 

Topics in the lecture include: (1) roles of gene regulation and cell signaling in Developmental Biology, (2) cell-cell interactions, (3) gametogenesis, (4) fertilization, (5) cleavage and cell division embryology, (6) gastrulation, (7) organogenesis, (8) sex determination,  (9) neurulation and neural crest migration, (10) development of dorsal-ventral axis, (11) teratology, and (12) plant development. The scientific, ethical and political issues surrounding assisted reproductive technology, cloning, and stem cell technology may also be considered.  In the lab, students will become familiar with modern Developmental Biology techniques used to manipulate and examine developmental processes in several key model systems.

Course goals

The successful student in this course will develop a working knowledge of fertilization, cellular differentiation, cloning, assisted reproduction technology, stem cell technology, gastrulation, organogenesis, limb formation, teratogenesis, comparative embryology, and the molecular basis of development. In addition, the successful student will demonstrate proficiency in embryo dissection, developmental histology, morphology, and developmental gene expression assays.

Grading Weight Frequency Subtotal
Lecture Exams 50 points 4 200 points
Final Exam 100 points 1 100 points
Laboratory Notebook Evaluations 50 points 2 100 points
Laboratory Practicals 50 points 2 100 points
    Total 500 points

The standard grading scale will be used and grades are computed using the following formula:
A           89.5% and above 
B           79.5% - 89.4%
C           69.5% - 79.4%
D           59.5% - 69.4%
F            below 60%



Publisher website
Week Lecture Chapter
1 1 1. Comprehending Development - Generating New Cells and Organs
2 2 2. Differential Gene Expression in Development
3 3 3. Cell-Cell Communication in Development
3 4 4. Fertilization - Beginning a New Organism
4 5 Plant Development (Download chapter)
4 6 5. Early Development - Rapid Specification in Snails and Nematodes
5 - Review and Exam 1
6 7 6. The Genetics of Axis Specification in Drosophila
7 8 8. Early Development in Vertebrates - Amphibians and Fish
7 9 9. Early Development in Vertebrates - Birds and Mammals
8 10 10. The Emergence of the Ectoderm - Central Nervous System and Epidermis
8 11 11. Neural Crest Cells and Axonal Specificity
9 - Review and Exam 2
9 12 12. Paraxial and Intermediate Mesoderm
10 13 13. Lateral Plate Mesoderm and the Endoderm
10 14 14. Development of the Tetrapod Limb
11 15 15. Sex Determination
12 16 16. Postembryonic Development - Metamorphosis, Regeneration, and Aging
12 - Review and Exam 3
13 17 17. The Saga of the Germ Line
13 18 18. Birth Defects, Endocrine Disruptors, and Cancer
14 19 19. Ecological Developmental Biology - Biotic, Abiotic, & Symbiotic Regulation of Development
14 20 20. Developmental Mechanisms of Evolutionary Change
15 - Review and Final Exam


(Free access code comes with Developmental Biology textbook)
Publisher Website

External Resources

Model Organism Info

Embryology Tutorials

Society for Developmental Biology

Last Updated on 09-04-2015 at 09:30:28 PM
This page is designed and maintained by Dr. Willson Kwok