A cell biology laboratory is composed of an assortment of techniques
and procedures collected over a period of time by the author. To some
extent the collection represents the bias of the author for selection
of topics and specific exercises. The present collection is no
exception. Friends who knew of the existence of the collection thought
there was a need for its publication. The original collection
encompassed about 100 pages of hand-outs and yielded an excess of 350
The exercises are organized into fifteen chapters and ten appendices dealing with topics that are considered fundamental to an appreciation of modern cell biology. Material will be added on a regular basis. Suggestions and specific exercises are welcome. In reviewing courses taught by dozens of instructors of cell biology, and looking at summary curricula from a hundred others, it is apparent that there is great diversity in the instruction of cell biology. At some institutions, cell biology is an introductory course with no prerequisites and often substitutes for general biology. It may be taught with no laboratory component or with rather simple tools and equipment designed to illustrate basic concepts. At the other extreme, the course borders on the senior undergraduate to first year graduate level, with sophisticated, expensive and time-consuming procedures, usually centered around the instructor's area of professional research. The preponderance of courses in cell biology fall between these extremes; they are courses offered to biology majors with a prerequisite of general biology, a preference for some chemistry background and designed to lead toward further work at the molecular level of study (Genetics and Molecular Biology or Immunology).
The exercises are at three levels. Level I exercises present fundamental concepts and utilize minimal techniques required to study cells. It is believed that any institution should have the facilities to complete these exercises. Level II presents techniques and procedures which require more time and energy from the students and instructors. Work at this level is appropriate to a biology major continuing on to graduate and professional studies. It requires more equipment and supplies than Level I. Departments serious about current studies in cell biology will either have available or will be planning to purchase the equipment required to perform Level II activities. Level III meets the needs of advanced work and independent studies in the field. The exercises presented at this level have been performed by students working with the author and thus can be performed at an undergraduate institution. The Level III exercises are meant to encourage student research projects. Students will be responsible for work beyond the scheduled laboratory. Level III exercises combine several advanced techniques and often require instrumentation which may not be readily available in the average college biology department.
However, there are no exercises that some undergraduate institution is not currently performing. The decision to place an exercise at a given level is solely that of the author; not everyone would divide the exercises in the same manner. Therefore, the indication of the level is a guide, not an absolute.
This work is supported by grant No. DUE 9451132 from the National Science Foundation.
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If you have comments on the exercises, corrections, or improvements, please contact us. If you wish to add an exercise, we would review the exercise and add it to the list. You will be given full credit for the exercise, but you must allow free use of the exercise through the network.