Preparation for Introductory Biology: DNA to Organisms

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Course Date: 23 August 2014 to 20 September 2014 (4 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

Through this class you should be able to explain basic concepts in cellular and molecular biology using correct terminology, as well as develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can be applied to all of your studies of biology.

Estimated Workload: 8-10 hours/week

Course Instructors

Adrienne Williams

Dr. Adrienne Williams received her Ph.D. in comparative animal physiology from the University of California, Irvine. She is a lecturer with twelve years of experience teaching university-level biology and physiology. She conducts biology education research at the University of California, Irvine and has been associated with Bio 93 for the past eight years.

Diane O'Dowd

Professor Diane O'Dowd holds a Ph.D. in neurobiology from the University of California, San Diego.

For the past 20 years Professor O'Dowd's research lab at UCI has studied the activity of living neurons from the brains of both flies and mice. Using molecular genetic manipulations and whole cell electrophysiology, she and her team are exploring the role of specific genes in regulating functional plasticity of developing and mature neural circuits.

Course Description

This course is designed for students who are taking or about to take introductory biology at the college level.  Its focus will be providing the repeated practice and critical thinking activities that will enable students to be successful in the class in which they are formally enrolled.

This course will cover the foundational concepts of cell biology and chemistry:

  • Parts of a cell and its membrane
  • Polarity, charge and water
  • Membrane transport, rearranging the cell and  cell movement
  • Biological macromolecules and their functional chemistry
  • Manufacturing and transporting of proteins


Will I get a certificate after completing this class?

Yes. Students who successfully complete this class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment from Coursera.


  • Week One: Atoms, molecules, water, carbon, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids.
  • Week Two: Membrane structure and fluidity, membrane function and transport
  • Week Three: The cytoskeleton, organelles and protein manufacturing.
  • Week Four: Genes and alleles, inheritance, and disease


There will be four units in the course.  For each unit, you will:
  • Watch basics videos and take online quizzes
  • Work on practice packets, watch online demonstrations
  • Answer difficult analysis questions via online group discussion boards
  • Sample midterm and final exam to gauge your progress and complete the course.

Suggested Reading

A college-level introductory textbook will be highly beneficial.

The on-site course uses this textbook: 
Biology  (9th Edition), Campbell and Reece. Benjamin Cummings 

Another option is to use the free, online OpenStax Biology text.

Course Workload

8-10 hours/week

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