BIOL100               INTRODUCTORY BIOLOGY                 CSUN
Spring 2018                         Course Number 16676         TR 9:30-10:45                              LA181 

Instructor: Dr. Cheryl Van Buskirk

Office hour: Wednesdays 9:30-10:30am, and by appointment (you can also try just stopping by, but I might have to shoo you away if I'm in the middle of an experiment).

Office: Citrus Hall 3216A   (Citrus Hall is on Lindley, about a 5min walk north of the VPAC) 

Phone: 818-677-4591



Top Hat student account (required; see ‘Top Hat’ section below) $44 online. This fee includes the online textbook with embedded homework questions, the in-class response system, and the 'secure test' exam system. One-stop shopping!

In addition, my lecture slides are posted under the Modules at the top of this page if you'd like to follow along during lecture. You'll also find helpful video links and some cheesy jokes in there.


Students should become familiar with scientific method and the role of experiments in adding to scientific knowledge. Students should gain understanding of key principles in modern biological sciences, in order to make informed decisions in everyday life. My goal is for you to lose your fear of science (if you have one) and have fun learning some interesting things about biology.


This class will be using the Top Hat learning environment throughout the semester. There you will find the textbook, homework questions, and you'll be able to use Top Hat to answer questions in class and get credit for it, along with immediate feedback.

Students can participate using their laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and even ’non-smart’ cell phones by texting answers to (315) 636-0905. Each class I will ask about 4 Top Hat questions, for a total of about 100 questions throughout the semester. Each question you answer correctly is worth 0.25pt. If you answer 80 correctly, you'll get the full 20 points. That's 10% of your grade, just for paying attention in class! Yay!

    Register for a student account at Enter the course code 544234. The subscription fee is $44 per semester and covers all of your classes that use the system.

You must enter your correct student ID number when registering for Top Hat, otherwise all of your hard work will be for nothing!

Any help you need understanding your Top Hat score can be found by clicking on Top Hat support (the question mark in the upper right of your course Top Hat website). It is your responsibility to contact them if you think your points are not being counted correctly. This is what your subscription fee is for- for them to help you out when you need it. Do this before the final exam: whatever score I see in Top Hat on the day of the final is the score I will use for your grade calculation, no exceptions. 


There are three midterms and a final exam scheduled. Please bring a picture ID and a charged-up phone, tablet, or computer to take the exam via Top Hat. During exams, belongings must be placed under your seat. You will have 60 min to complete each midterm and 90 min to complete the final exam. If you have a scheduled conflict with an exam date, you can take the exam BEFORE the exam date, not after. Contact me at least ten days prior to the exam to set up an alternate exam date. The only case in which a make-up exam will be given is in the case of a missed exam due to verifiable sickness (with a doctor’s note) or bereavement (with obituary). Note: when taking exams in this class be aware that copying or allowing your work to be copied qualifies as academic dishonesty - see below for details.


Your mastery of the material will be assessed through:

110 pts: midterm exams (35,35,40 pts each)

  50 pts: final exam

  20 pts: Top Hat homework

  20 pts: Top Hat in-class answers (80 @ 0.25pt each) 

200 points total 

Your points will be converted to a percentage and a letter grade as follows:

92.0-100.0% A            80.0-83.99% B         68.0-71.99% C        56.0-59.99% D  

88.0-91.99% A-          76.0-79.99% B-        64.0-67.99% C-       52.0-55.99% D-  

84.0-87.99% B+         72.0-75.99% C+       60.0-63.99% D+      below 52% F

Letter grades will be assigned automatically and are not subject to change.


Please consult the academic calendar located in your schedule of classes for the relevant date for unrestricted withdrawals. Thereafter, withdrawal is possible with a signed doctor's note from the CSUN Health Center, or with other verifiable evidence of a compelling reason. Poor performance does not constitute basis for withdrawal.


Students with disabilities that require special test taking accommodations must register with the Center on Disabilities and complete a service agreement each semester. The Center on Disabilities is located in Bayramian Hall, room 110. Staff can be reached at 818-677-2684.


Students that participate in cheating receive a failing grade in class, and their names will be forwarded to the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs for disciplinary action. Keep in mind that this applies to students that allow their work to be copied as well as to students that copy.  Respect your fellow students’ right to learn- help each other before and after, not during, the exams. Please consult the CSUN catalog for details.


It's a smart move to read the posted chapter before coming to class. Not only will this allow you to get points for the embeded homework questions, it will really improve your understanding and your grade! As you read, try to create a summary or flowchart of the material (also called a ‘concept map’) for future study purposes; this will save you a lot of time when it comes to studying for exams. By making a summary before you come to class, you will be able to:

1.    Use the lecture for review and clarification, taking advantage of examples, movies, and exercises meant to  enhance your understanding. If you come without ANY reading done, it will just seem like a string of (boring) jargon. If you've done a little reading, the lecture will be understandable, maybe even  enjoyable! :)

2.    Identify concepts that are more difficult, so you can pay special attention to these topics and ask questions during lecture.

Set aside a time to do this and stick with it. By reading before class, you are being more efficient with your study time. Not only will you do better in this course; in the long run you will have more time to focus on other classes.


Be mindful of your fellow students’ right to learn during lecture. Turn your cell phones to silent mode (vibration OFF). Do not engage in activities that may be distracting to your fellow students – youtube, etc. Remember that talking or whispering is super annoying to the students around you. Students that are distracting their classmates will be asked to leave and will not be able to accumulate Top Hat points for that day. Lastly, show respect for your peers by allowing them to work through exams independently. Thanks!


If you have a question about the material, you're probably not the only one! For this reason I like to answer as many questions as I can in class, where everyone can benefit. If you are too shy to ask in class, no problem - you can come to my office hour or just email me your question and I'll address it at the start of the next class.  Importantly, the grading system outlined here is straightforward and there is no extra credit or curving, so please don't ask me to 'discuss your grade'. You have the same information that I do with respect to your grade in the course. Every year there is someone who emails me after the final exam to see 'what they can do' about their grade. Don't let this be you! There is nothing I can do about your grade - you are in charge of it, not me. Your exam performance, homework, and in-class Top Hat answers under your control.