The Sobel Lab

Binghamton University (SUNY) - Dept of Biological Sciences

Biodiversity | Evolutionary ecology & genetics | Genomics

Advanced EEB I, BIOL 533

This is a graduate level advanced evolutionary biology course, aimed at 1st year PhD students. My learning objectives in this course are for students to: gain a strong background in empirical evolutionary biology, improve scientific reading and writing skills, develop and critically review scientific experiments to test specific hypotheses, develop quantitative problem-solving skills, learn to apply statistical procedures to the analysis of biological data, and gain an appreciation for ‘what graduate school is all about’, i.e. embrace self-guided learning. The course is driven primarily by student discussion of foundational evolutionary biology topics. There are some “lectures” focused on topics from the textbook, but the format of these is informal, and student participation is required. Many class sessions consist of group discussions of assigned readings from the primary literature. I have selected papers that illustrate important concepts, and students are assigned dates to be group discussion leaders. We will also sometimes stop to work through sample problems that illustrate important concepts using the R statistical programming language. There is one large paper writing assignment at the end of the course, with multiple benchmarks due throughout the semester.

Mechanisms of Evolution, BIOL 351

This course is called, “Mechanisms of Evolution”; therefore, rather than focus on patterns in nature, we will spend most of our time discussing the processes that generate biological diversity. We will cover the fundamental evolutionary forces of mutation, selection, genetic drift, and migration in detail, and we will use simple mathematical models to describe their effects on populations. These forces will be covered in the light of the impacts that developmental systems have on their outcome, and modern molecular and genomic data will be integrated throughout the course. Because of its central role in evolution, the process of adaptation by natural selection will be covered thoroughly, and we will use phylogenetic relationships among species to understand the evolutionary history of adaptive traits. We will also examine the process of species formation by applying what we learn about evolutionary processes to diverging lineages. Finally, we will apply evolutionary biology to human systems, focusing on examples of recent adaptive and demographic events. Prerequisites: BIOL 117 and 118.

Genes and Heredity, BIOL 330

An in-depth analysis of transmission genetics, including multiple gene effects, recombination, linkage and gene mapping, medical genetics, and modern genetic research with model organisms.  Course will develop quantitative and problem-solving skills. 

Speciation, BIOL 480/580

The astounding diversity of life on this planet largely arises as a result of the interaction between the fundamental processes of adaptation and speciation. Therefore, the genetic changes responsible for divergence and the genomic consequences of adaptation and speciation are of primary interest to evolutionary biologists. In this seminar course we will examine the various forms of evidence used to characterize these two processes. Topics may include studies of molecular signatures of natural selection, the genetic and molecular basis of traits that promote divergence, and direct assessment of the fitness effects of these traits in nature. The course will focus on discussion of readings from the primary literature, and emphasis will be placed on the systems for which multiple lines of evidence have been obtained.