Fundamentals of Biology Now Available in MIT OpenCourseWare’s Innovative OCW Scholar Format

Fundamentals of Biology is the 7th of seven courses OCW has published this year specifically to meet the needs of independent learners.

CAMBRIDGE, MA, September 6, 2012 -- MIT OpenCourseWare has released a new version of 7.01 Fundamentals of Biology in the innovative OCW Scholar format designed for independent learners. Presented by a team of notable faculty from the MIT Department of Biology, this undergraduate-level course focuses on the basic principles of biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, and recombinant DNA. Understanding these core concepts allows students to begin exploring more advanced topics in Biology, for which many additional courses can found on OCW.

This Fundamentals of Biology course presents six outstanding MIT professors lecturing in their respective specialties. For example, Professor Eric Lander, perhaps best known as one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, which mapped the genetic structure and sequence of human DNA, delivers a series of introductory lectures on genetics. The chance to hear each of these professors, many of them recognized as pioneers for their groundbreaking research, deliver course material drawn from their own area of expertise presents a unique opportunity for the independent learner.

This new OCW Scholar course is divided into four major units that integrate MIT’s three Introductory Biology classes, known as 7.012, 7.013 and 7.014. It provides a thorough grounding in basic biological concepts while showing how they figure in new and exciting research occurring in biology labs today. The course places a special emphasis on problem-solving skills and how they can be applied to understanding human disease, environmental quality, and biodiversity.

OCW Scholar courses represent a new approach to OCW publication. MIT faculty, staff and students work closely with the OCW team to structure the course materials for independent learners. These courses offer more materials than typical OCW courses and include new custom-created content. The Fundamentals of Biology course provides a complete learning experience for independent learners. Each unit is divided into individual sessions, which focus on a topic or concept of biology.  First, the users are presented with excerpts of lecture videos, followed by interactive concept quizzes. Problem sets and solutions enable students to practice what they have learned, while problem solving videos by graduate student Teaching Assistants provide extra help with difficult concepts. Lists of important terms and definitions are provided, as well as suggested topics and links for further study. Each unit ends with an exam to help students solidify their understanding of the lessons.

The first OCW Scholar courses were launched by MIT OpenCourseWare in January 2011, and have collectively received more than 800,000 visits in less than a year. The initial OCW Scholar courses included Classical Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, Solid State Chemistry, Single Variable Calculus, and Multivariable Calculus.

Seven OCW Scholar courses were published in 2012. Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, Principles of Microeconomics, and Introduction to Electrical Engineering and Computer Science were published earlier this year. Fundamentals of Biology, Introduction to Psychology, and Introduction to Computer Science and Programming were published this past month. OCW Scholar courses are published on the OCW site with the support of the Stanton Foundation.

About MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseWare makes the materials used in teaching most of MIT's undergraduate and graduate courses—more than 2,100 in all—available on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world. OCW receives an average of 1.75 million web site visits per month from more than 215 countries and territories worldwide. To date, more than 125 million individuals have accessed OCW materials. MIT OpenCourseWare is supported by donations from site visitors, grants and corporate sponsorship, including underwriting from our Next Decade Alliance sponsors Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin and MathWorks.

About the Faculty

Eric Lander is a Professor of Biology at MIT and Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School. He is the President and Founding Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Director of its Genome Biology Program. As one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, Lander and colleagues are using these findings to explore the molecular mechanisms underlying the basis of human disease.

Robert A. Weinberg is a Professor of Biology at MIT and a pioneer in cancer research. He is a founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. The Weinberg lab is widely known for its discoveries of the first human oncogene -- a gene that causes normal cells to form tumors -- and the first tumor suppressor gene.

Tyler Jacks is a Professor of Biology at MIT and Director of the The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT.  He is also an HHMI Investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  The Jacks lab research interests include the genetic events that contribute to the development of cancer and the effects of mutations on normal embryonic development.

Hazel Sive is Associate Dean of the School of Science at MIT as well as a Professor of Biology and member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. The Sive lab uses zebrafish and frog embryos to understand the evolution and molecular structure of the vertebrate nervous system.

Penny Chisholm is a Professor of Biology and also a Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at MIT.  The Chisholm lab research interests include ecological genomics with particular focus on ecology, evolution, and comparative genomics of marine cyanobacteria and the viruses that infect them.

Graham Walker is a Professor of Biology at MIT and an HHMI Professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The Walker lab focuses on the regulation and mechanism of action of proteins involved in DNA repair and mutagenesis and in other cellular responses to DNA damage.

Michelle Mischke is Technical Instructor in the Department of Biology at MIT. She has been an instructor for all three versions of the Introductory Biology courses at MIT, and has received the MIT School of Science Dean’s Education and Advising Award in 2004 and 2006. Dr. Mischke worked closely with MIT OpenCourseWare on developing this OCW Scholar website.

About the Stanton Foundation

The Stanton Foundation was created by Frank Stanton, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest executives in the history of electronic communications. During his 25 years as president of CBS, he turned a lesser-known radio network into a broadcasting powerhouse. Stanton made many historic contributions to the industry and to the society it served. In 1960, he initiated the first televised presidential debates—the famous Nixon-Kennedy "Great Debates"—which required a special Act of Congress before they could proceed. He also spearheaded the creation of the first coast-to-coast broadcasting system, allowing CBS to become the first network to present a news event live across the continental United States, a speech by President Truman at the opening of the Japanese Peace Conference in San Francisco. Frank Stanton was the commencement speaker at MIT in 1961.


Stephen Carson
External Relations Director
MIT OpenCourseWare