68019 - Elements of General Biology

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student will: (a) have basic knowledges allowing the use of specific terminology and the understanding of a scientific text of medium complexity; basic knowledges in general biology (structure and functions of the pro- and eukaryotic cell, cellular respiration and photosyntesis, principles of genetics, etc) and of the anatomy/physiology of human systems and apparatuses); be able to analyse and critically discuss the fundamental aspects of human health and well-being (specific parasites of scholastic interest, correct nutrition, good life practices for prevention, etc); is able to suggest how to build didactic units on the different topics for the specific educational level.

Course contents

Macromolecules : carbohydrates , lipids , proteins and nucleic acids. The prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Autotrophic and heterotrophic metabolism. The 6 kingdoms.

The eukaryotic cell. Biological membranes: structure and functions; exo and endocytosis.

Structure and functions of the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi apparatus. The lysosomes. The mitochondria. Cellular respiration and photosyntesis. The peroxisomes.

The cytoskeleton: microfilaments, microtubules and intermediate filaments. Cellular communication.

The nucleus. Duplication and transcription. Translation: genetic code and protein synthesis .

Cell division : mitosis and meiosis . The asexual and sexual reproduction .

Heredity: genes, alleles, characters, genotype and phenotype. Mendel’s 1st and 2nd law. Incomplete dominance and co-dominance .

Mendel’s 3rd law and genetic association. Gene interactions and epistasis. Quantitative inheritance. Pleiotropy. Lethal genes.

Sex-linked inheritance. Genotypic and environmental sex determination .

Heredity and environment.

Genic, chromosomal and genomic mutations.

The origin of life: the prebiotic synthesis, the RNA world, compartmentalization, prokaryotic cells, the symbiotic theory for the origin of eukaryotic cells. The origin and diversification of multicellular organisms. The theory of Evolution.

Other topics of specific interest will be defined with students.


Science labs: an interdisciplinary lab and disciplinary labs

(only for students who started their graduate course in/after A. Y. 2016-2017)

Starting from A. Y. 2018-2019, science labs have been revisited and improved, resulting not only in the reorganization of the disciplinary laboratories but also in the realization of interdisciplinary laboratories spanning over Physics, Chemistry, Ecology and Biology.

Given the 360° education required for primary school teachers, these laboratories were planned to be both interdisciplinary, thus involving the four scientific disciplines, and multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary as well: maximum effort will be put into highlighting links with non-scientific knowledge, in order to clarify that there is no dichotomy between sciences and humanities.

The main goals of this rearrangement of the scientific education of teachers are to:

• stimulate curiosity towards scientific themes;

• highlight the ethic and social impact of science and technology;

• communicate the importance of delivering a scientific education starting from the lowest school levels;

• provide conceptual and practical tools mandatory to plan and carry out science-based activities with pupils.

Science labs focused on single disciplines are activated as well, after being improved following aforementioned goals and rationales.

The interdisciplinary laboratory deals with a topic underpinning all the scientific disciplines involved in the master degree with the aim of showing that the same issue can be investigated under different frameworks, each related to a different discipline, and how we can obtain “a big picture” of a given issue by integrating all the different aspects. Disciplinary laboratories, dealing with Physics, Chemistry, Ecology, and Biology, are strictly interconnected with lectures: these classes have the specific purpose of “putting into practice, showing, and touching” some of the course’s topics.

Students will be divided into small work teams and will carry out simple experiments. The lab teacher will conduct also the discussion of results. Suitable experiments have been laid down so that they can be easily reproduced at pre-primary and primary schools.

The following disciplinary laboratories have been planned:

“Outcomes of light-matter interactions”

“Touching DNA”

“Light and sight”

On the other hand, the planned interdisciplinary laboratory is:

Not just HtwoO: The unexpected features of water

Students must follow two laboratories: the interdisciplinary laboratory and one of the disciplinary laboratories of their choice. All these classes will take place at the Opificio Golinelli (via Paolo Nanni Costa, 14 – Bologna), and their scheduling will be communicated before the beginning of the course. A disciplinary laboratory and an interdisciplinary laboratory will be scheduled in summer.

Each laboratory provides 1 CFU, meaning 8 presence hours and xf17 homework hours. In fact, laboratories involve not only the active participation of students but also a “final product”. After the completion of the laboratory experiences, where some disciplinary aspects are investigated and some strategies for stimulating scientific knowledge are proposed, the planning of a didactic activity is requested (which might be useful during school trainings as well).

Students will be graded by lab teachers with -1, 0, or +1 (on a 30 scale). The grade obtained in one of the disciplinary laboratories will add to the final score of the Physics course, while the grade obtained in the interdisciplinary laboratory will add to the final score of the integrated Chemistry and Ecology course. These grades will be available up to the completion of the grading procedure. You cannot register for any disciplinary exam (Elements of General Biology, Elements of Chemistry and Ecology, Elements of Physics) unless you have attended both a disciplinary laboratory and an interdisciplinary laboratory.


- Insegnare la biologia ai bambini (Dalla scuola dell’infanzia al primo ciclo d’istruzione) - G. Santovito, Ed. Carocci

- Principi di Biologia - Campbell, Reece et al., Ed. Pearson

- Biologia - Sadava et al., Ed. Zanichelli

Teaching methods

The course will be developed through frontal lessons and the discussion / design of didactic units dealing with the main topics addressed in the course.

Assessment methods

The assessment will take place through the presentation of a written didactic unit chosen by the student (to be delivered 10 days before the assessment day at the Dipartimento BiGeA, Via Selmi 3) and the oral answer to three specific questions on the topics dealt with during the course.

Final score based on ../30.

The students can attend the exam at each exam session.

Student's score will be registered within 5 days from the exam.

Teaching tools

.ppt presentations

Office hours

See the website of Federico Plazzi