Introduction to Life Sciences

Course Name: Introduction to Life Sciences

Credits: 2.0

Level: Undergraduate

Pre-requisite: None

Lecture Time: 20 weeks, 1 sessions/week, 2 hours/session

Instructors: Dr. Tao Xu, Dr. Anming Meng, Dr. Dexing Zhang, Dr. Yanling Song and Dr. Xianen Zhang

Course Description

This course is designed to introduce basic principles of life sciences to any undergraduate students on campus regardless of major. On the theme of life, the course will introduce students to fundamental concepts of biology, as well as the frontiers of modern biotechnology to inspire the innovative thinking and to promote interdisciplinary studies.

Topics and Schedule

  1. Introduction (2 hrs, Dr. Tao Xu)

1.1.   What are Life Sciences?

1.2.   Unity and Diversity of Life

1.3.   A Brief History of Life Sciences

1.4    How to Study Life Sciences?

  1. The Material Basis of Life (12 hrs, Dr. Tao Xu)

2.1.   The Chemical Basis of Life

         2.1.1.   Atoms

         2.1.2.   Chemical Bonds and Molecules

         2.1.3.   Properties of Water

         2.1.4.   The Carbon Atom and the Study of Organic Molecules

         2.1.5.   Formation of Organic Molecules and Macromolecules

         2.1.6.   Carbohydrates

         2.1.7.   Lipids

         2.1.8.   Proteins

         2.1.9.   Nucleic Acids

2.2.   The Physical Basis of Life

         2.2.1.   Where Physics Meets Biology?

         2.2.2.   The Physics of Life

         2.2.3.   Biophysical techniques

2.3.   Cell

         2.3.1.   General Features of Cell

         2.3.2.   Membrane Structures, Synthesis and Transport

         2.3.3.   Energy and Metabolism

2.4.   Cell-cell communication (Neuroscience)

2.5.   Stem Cell

2.6.   Tumor (Immunobiology)

  1. Inheritance, Development and Mutation (6 hrs, Dr. Anming Meng)

3.1.   Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance

         3.1.1.   The History of Genetics

         3.1.2.   Basic Principles of Genetics: Mendel's Genetics

         3.1.3..  From Genotype to Phenotype

         3.1.4.   Mendelian Traits in Humans

3.2.   The Chromosome Theory of Inheritance

         3.2.1.   Genes and Chromosomes

         3.2.2.   Chromosomal Theory of Inheritance

         3.2.3.   Genetic Linkage and Recombination

         3.2.4.   Genetic Mapping

3.3.   The Molecular Basis of Inheritance

         3.3.1.   DNA: The Molecular basis of Inheritance

         3.3.2.   The Structure and Replication of DNA

         3.3.3.   Form DNA to Proteins

         3.3.4.   The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology

3.4.   The Structure and Regulation of Gene

         3.4.1.   Genes: the Units of Inheritance

         3.4.2.   Cistron

         3.4.3.   Operon

         3.4.4.   Introns and Exons

         3.4.5.   Overlapping Genes

         3.4.6.   Transposons

         3.4.7.   Oncogenes and Tumor Suppressor Genes

         3.4.8.   Genes Outside the Chromosomes

         3.4.9.   Regulation of Gene Expression at different levels

3.5.   Mutations and Genetic disease

         3.5.1.   Chromosome Aberration

         3.5.2.   Genetic Mutations

         3.5.3.   Probing For Genetic Disease

  1. Biodiversity (6 hrs, Dr. Dexing Zhang)

4.1.   An Incredible Diversity of Life-Forms on Earth

         4.1.1.   Virus,Viroid and Prion

         4.1.2.   Bacteria and Archaea

         4.1.3.   Protists

         4.1.4.   Fungi

         4.1.5.   Plants

         4.1.6.   Animals

         4.1.7.   The Complexity of Life-Forms on Earth

         4.1.8.   A deeper understanding of Life-Forms on Earth

4.2.   The Link between different Life-Forms

         4.2.1.   Similarities and Differences between the Life-Forms

         4.2.2.   The Classification of Life-Forms

         4.2.3.   Taxonomy: A Branch of Science that deals with Classifying Species

         4.2.4.   Taxonomy: Current Status and Future Challenges

4.3.   Mechanisms for Biodiversity

         4.3.1.   What is Biodiversity

         4.3.2.   The Material Basis of Biodiversity

         4.3.3.   Genetic Diversity

         4.3.4.   Species Diversity

         4.3.5.   Ecological Diversity

         4.3.6.   Behavioural Diversity and Cultural Diversity

4.4.  Processes and Patterns of Evolution

         4.4.1.   Evolutionary Processes

         4.4.2.   Evolutionary Patterns

         4.4.3.   Evolution and the Diversity of Life

         4.4.4.   The Future of Life on Earth

         4.4.5.   Evolution of Life in a Cosmic Context

         4.4.6.   Evolutionary Enlightenment

5.    Ecology (6 hrs, Dr. Yanling Song)

5.1.   Some basic concepts of Ecology

         5.1.1.   What is Ecology?

         5.1.2.   The Relationships between Ecology and other Biological Science

         5.1.3.   Concept of Limiting Factors

5.2.   Scientific Method for Ecological Research

         5.2.1.   Observations, Hypothesis, Predictions and Experiment

         5.2.2.   Systems Analysis and Simulation

5.3.   Branches of Ecology

         5.3.1.   Autecology

         5.3.2.   Population Ecology

         5.3.3.   Communities and Ecosystems

5.4.   Ecology and Human Lives

6.    Biotechnology (6 hrs, Dr. Xianen Zhang)

6.1.   Introduction to Biotechnology

         6.1.1.   What is Traditional Biotechnology

         6.1.2.   Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering

         6.1.3.   The definition and classification of Biotechnology

6.2.   Principles of Biotechnology

         6.2.1.   Genetic Engineering

         6.2.2.   protein Engineering

         6.2.3.   Microbial Engineering

         6.2.4.   Enzyme Engineering

         6.2.5.   Tissue Engineering

         6.2.6.   Cell Engineering

6.3.   Applications of Biotechnology Techniques

         6.3.1.   Environmental Biotechnology

         6.3.2.   Analytical Biotechnology

         6.3.3.   Medical Biotechnology

         6.3.4.   Agriculture Biotechnology

         6.3.5.   Industrial Biotechnology

         6.3.6.   Energy Biotechnology

6.4.   Frontiers in Biotechnology

         6.4.1.   Biosensors and Biochips

         6.4.2.   Nanobiotechnology

         6.4.3.   Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

         6.4.4.   Gene Editing

         6.4.5.   Synthetic Biology

         6.4.6.   Precision Medicine

         6.4.7.   Cancer Immunotherapy

         6.4.8.   Biosafety and Bioethics

6.5.   Closing Remarks


Homework will be assigned after almost every lecture, the homework will be graded and their scores will count for 20% of the total grade. At the end of the semester, a final examination will be arranged, which will count for 70% of the total grade. The remaining 10% will be based on attendance and in-class performance.


Brooker, Widmaier, Graham and Stiling Biology Third Edition, McGraw-Hill, 2013


[1] Qingyu Wu, Essential of Life Science, Second Edition, China Higher Education Press, 2006 (Chinese Version)

[2] Weijie zhang, An introduction to life science, Second Edition, China Higher Education Press, 2008 (Chinese Version)

[3] Renneberg Reinhard, Biotechnology for Beginners, Academic Press 2007.