Biology 446 - Unsolved Problems in Cell Biology - Fall 2015

Meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10:10 AM-11:00 AM, Genome Sciences Building Room 1374.

Albert Harris:
Office 103 Wilson Hall; phone 919-966-1230
Home phone 919-493-1572 (Durham)

Office Hours: 11:00 to 1:00 Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 1:30-4:00 Friday, and by appointment



Wed. August 19: Philosophy of Science Assignment: Read this web page
A revised version of this page was posted at 5 pm on August 23rd.

Fri. August 21: Assignment: Read the book "The Double Helix" by James Watson

Mon. August 24: Continue discussing the lessons of Watson's autobiography.


Wed. August 26: Begin autoimmune diseases:

Fri. August 28: continuing with multiple sclerosis:


Wed. September 2

Fri. September 4


Wed. September 9

Fri. September 11


Mon. September 14

Wed. September 16


Mon. September 21

Wed. September 23


Fri. September 25

Wed. September 30

Wed. October 21

Fri. October 23

    Please see revised notes on the erroneous paper report. Since we had an entire class on ulcers and Helicobacter pylori, this is not a good topic for this year.


Mon. October 26

Wed. October 28


Mon. November 2


Mon. November 9

Wed. November 11

Fri. November 13


Mon. November 16

    class notes: Why Has Physics Progressed Farther Than Biology? Gradients in limb grafts. Retino-tectal connections

Wed. November 18

    questions about diverse topics: affinophoresis, Levinthal's paradox, turning off luxury gene expression, antibody binding sites and protein folding, and brain power

Fri. November 20



review questions for the final exam
Saturday December 5, 8:00 pm: The list is now complete.


Format of the final exam.


choosing problems to study for a career in biological research


Schedule for student presentations updated October 27th

Final exam study questions from last year's class


James Watson mentions that he was stimulated to go into science by reading the book "Microbe Hunters" when he was a boy. This same book is credited by every scientific biography I have read, and it also stimulated me when I read it at about age 10.

Please watch the youtube lecture. "Paul De Kruif: The Microbe Hunter and Author" presented by John Lehman, who is a Professor and administrator at ECU medical school.

And please read the article at this URL:

Another book worth reading is the novel "Arrowsmith" by Sinclair Lewis.
Inexpensive copies can often be found in local used bookstores, or you can get the entire text on line here.

Quotes from the Wikipedia article about the novel "Arrowsmith":

"Arrowsmith is arguably the earliest major novel to deal with the culture of science."
"This novel has been inspirational for several generations of pre-medical and medical students."
"Professional jealousy, institutional pressures, greed, stupidity, and negligence... also tireless dedication, and respect for the scientific method and intellectual honesty."

and about "Microbe Hunters":

"...Paul de Kruif... 1926 book, Microbe Hunters.. a bestseller for a lengthy period... has remained high on lists of recommended reading for science and inspiration for many aspiring physicians and scientists."

This entire book is posted on the web, but is NOT assigned reading for this course:


The syllabus will continue to be developed as the semester goes on.



This course requires the equivalent of a term paper, which is due to be turned in no later than the week before Thanksgiving. How to write this paper is described below. You have to find a published research paper, the conclusions of which have turned out to be seriously wrong. That doesn't mean "fraudulent" and it also doesn't just mean that progress has shown the truth to be more complicated. Specific examples of appropriate papers will be discussed in class.

The Dreaded Erroneous Research Paper Assignment [REVISED OCTOBER 22]