Biology 446 - Unsolved Problems in Cell Biology - Fall 2018

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 12:00 Monday and Wednesday, and by appointment



Wed. August 22: Philosophy of Science Assignment: Please read this web page.

Fri. August 24: Assignment: Read the book "The Double Helix" by James Watson
There should already be copies of this in the textbook section of Student Stores.
If you are unable to find it, please see the store link:

Friday class discussion and links: Erwin Schrödinger's book What Is Life?


Mon. August 27: Continue discussing the lessons of Watson's autobiography.


Some things to think about, and some video links that may interest you.


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.

There is a YouTube video called "Paul De Kruif: The Microbe Hunter and Author" presented by John Lehman, who is a Professor and administrator at ECU medical school. This is nearly an hour long, and is not required, but you may find it interesting.
"Paul De Kruif: The Microbe Hunter and Author"

Please do read the article at this URL:

From the Wikipedia article about 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:


Another book worth reading, but not required, is the novel "Arrowsmith" by Sinclair Lewis.
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."



Wed. August 29: Please read the following for Wednesday:
Helicobacter pylori as the cause of gastric ulcers


Fri. August 31: Please read the following for Friday:
Osteoporosis; Electric Fields in tissues; Transmembrane voltage functions.

Wikipedia image to be discussed in class today


Monday, September 3rd is Labor Day. No classes was held.


Wed. September 5 : Autoimmune Diseases in one easy lesson
Multiple sclerosis

There is a somewhat longer version of the notes on autoimmune diseases on my web site for Biology 441 last spring, including some illustrations that you may find useful:


Fri. September 7 : Multiple sclerosis, continued. Please look at the following links:



Mon. September 10 :
Some more thoughts on bone formation


Wed. October 3 : Begin discussion of cancer
Please read this web page on cancer from last spring's Biol 441 course.


Wed. October 10 : Regeneration
Please read this web page on regeneration


Wed. October 17: Written assignment on connective tissue development, due October 26

This assignment requires reading two chapters from a book that is available online through the UNC library. The instructions give the link. If you're off campus, you will need to log into the library with your onyen in order to open it. If you have problems retrieving it, search the UNC library catalog for Cell and Matrix Mechanics. Please let me know if you are unable to find it.

Mon. October 29 : Handout on trans-membrane voltages

Fri. November 9: video of cells on adhesion gradient


Fri. November 16: Some notes on cell differentiation


Fri. November 30: Handout on contact inhibition and a link to a paper to read


Mon. Dec 3: Questions about this paper for discussion and perhaps for the final exam

>Wed. Dec 5: Web page on cancer (which was posted on October 3)

video of cancer cell and normal cell, to be discussed in class


Format of the final exam.

review questions for the final exam

Questions 20-22 have been deleted, also question 60.




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 in the link 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

Assigned class reports and participation in class discussion will also be part of the grade.