Circadian Rhythms-Biological Clocks is an upper-level undergraduate course taught jointly between the Division of Biological Sciences (as BIMM 116) and the Department of Psychology (as PSYC 133). This 4 credit-hour course explores the fundamental properties and mechanisms of the daily biological clock in humans, other animals, plants, and microbes. Topics include the experimental approaches that are employed to understand how organisms keep time and the relationship of the clock to human health. Prerequisites are Psychology 106 or BILD 1 or consent of instructor.
The course is offered every Fall quarter, taught jointly by Drs. Michael Gorman and Susan Golden, with an enrollment of approximately 300 students. Guest speakers chosen from the CCB faculty will be invited to speak on their areas of specialty.
Department of Psychology
Executive Committee, Center for Circadian Biology
I joined the faculty of the UCSD Psychology Department in 1998, where I have witnessed the growth of UCSD as a "world capital" of circadian research. As a psychologist, my work naturally includes a heavy focus on behavior, particularly how the environment influences the rest/activity cycles of rodents and how physiology and behavior are programmed to vary on a season basis. Recently, we have also begun exploring how circadian clocks influence alcohol dependence and addiction in mice. The thrill of this class -- and of my research -- is in illustrating how environments, genes, cells, brains and behavior fit together as a solution to the adaptive problem of a spinning earth tilted on its axis and the consequences of those evolutionary solutions for human behavior.
Division of Biological Sciences
Director, Center for Circadian Biology
I'm relatively new to UCSD, moving my lab here in November 2008 after almost 23 years as a professor at Texas A&M University. My specialty is in cyanobacteria -- a type of photosynthetic bacteria sometimes called "bluegreen algae" that carry out the same kind of photosynthesis as plants. So far, cyanobacteria are the only bacteria we know of that have genuine circadian rhythms. My lab developed the genetic model system for studying the cyanobacterial circadian clock, which we approach through genetics, genomics, biochemistry, and structural biology. UCSD has an exceptional strength and breadth of circadian researchers, spanning work like mine to sleep research in humans. This class provides a wonderful forum in which students can tap the rich resource of circadian biology at UCSD, and I'm happy to be a part of it.
Benjamin Rubin (Tom)
I work on the organism that gave us the world, or cyanobacteria. They are responsible for our oxygen environment, and have served as the engine for all plants and algae as the ancestor of the chloroplast. As scientists, we now turn to cyanobacteria as the simplest model of the circadian clock, and as a potential biofuel producer. I study them in Susan Golden’s laboratory as a third year PhD student. I balance all this science, with a healthy dose of every board and endurance sport I can try, and a bit of gardening.
Dongyang Li (Tom)
Timing is everything. It turns out, that the conventional wisdom holds true, when it comes to the biology of time. Circadian rhythm has been linked to the functioning of a host of biological processes on different scales from molecules to whole organisms. Our knowledge on how the molecular “cogs" of biological clocks work together has a broad implication on our physical health as well as mental well-being. On a personal note, this is an exciting field that I’m still learning about. I will be glad to help you as we move along in our journey to a better understanding of the ins and outs of chronobiology.
Kevin Huynh (Tom)
I am a first year master’s student conducting research in Dr. Kim Barrett’s lab at UCSD’s School of Medicine. I study the brain-gut-microbiota axis which is the interaction between your gut’s microbiota and your brain. More specifically I look at how pathogens like pathogenic E. coli can affect memory and anxiety. Having taken this course before, I found the most valuable aspect of this course was that it exposed students to how actual scientific research is conducted. This by itself distinguishes this course from almost every other course offered to UCSD undergraduates. You are walked through how researchers conducted their experiments, how they interpreted their results, and how they came up with their next step. All the while, you are learning about circadian biology which is becoming ever popular in numerous fields (I can attest to this at the SOM). In my free time, I enjoy long walks on the beach and competitive ping pong matches.
Jingtong Wang (J)
I completed my undergraduate work at UCSD majoring in Microbiology, and am currently a Master student in Dr. Susan Golden's Lab. My research thesis focuses on the biofilm formation related to the prophage in cyanobacteria, which has potential significance for creating new biotechnology tools, and increasing the efficiency of the biofuel collection. I would be more than happy to help you with this course as well as discuss the research.
I am a graduate student of the Biological Sciences PhD program. Now I am in my fourth year and I work in Pruneda-Paz lab. My research is mainly focused on the cross talk between plant defense response and plant circadian rhythm. Just as our immunity is regulated by the circadian clock, the immunity and defense of plants is also regulated by the clock. There is also some evidence showing the existence of reverse regulation. This is a new and interesting field and I am excited to work in it. I am very happy to have this chance to help the students and learn more about the circadian clock.
The BioClock Studio is an innovative course concept in which a team of undergraduate students, drawn from diverse disciplines, will work collaboratively to develop their scientific and communication skills and produce creative educational materials. The products of the BioClock Studio will be used to enhance scientific understanding within and among different audiences, including the general public, researchers, and the students’ academic peers.
BioClock Studio students will train intensively in writing and in using a variety of media; develop critical thinking, rhetorical, and technical skills; and experience the synergy that emerges when students from a variety of disciplines work collaboratively. Products will include demonstration videos, original visuals, text that is informed by primary sources but focused appropriately for a non-specialist audience, and interactive exercises that make abstract concepts more understandable.
The BioClock Studio will make the activities of more than two dozen research labs more accessible to the larger class of students through production of videos that demonstrate how circadian data are collected for different kinds of organisms—including humans, mice, plants, fungi, tissue culture cells, and cyanobacteria—and different kinds of biological rhythms, including rhythms in behavior, body temperature, protein levels, and gene expression.
As a longer-term goal, the BioClock Studio will challenge students to translate and communicate research findings to the public to promote more widespread awareness of the importance of circadian rhythms for daily life, work, and health. BioClocks Studio students will work closely with researchers in workshop, conference, and interview settings to bridge the communication gap between scientists and the public.
Undergraduate students enrolled at UCSD can apply to participate in the BioClock Studio (Winter 2015) and earn 4 units of course credit as appropriate for their majors or programs. Application instructions APPLY here.
Applications will be considered until positions have been filled.
Advanced Topics in Neuroscience: Neurobiology of Circadian Clocks
Mammalian physiology and behavior is organized in a daily program that allows coordinated anticipation of the 24 hr day/night cycle. To serve this purpose, mammalian cells contain “circadian clocks” composed of genes that interact in oscillatory transcriptional networks within cells and regulate the expression of many other genes critical for cell physiology and metabolism. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of clock genes and circadian regulation for health; circadian clock genes have been directly implicated not only in sleep disorders but also in diabetes, cancer, and bipolar disorder.
For proper functioning of the circadian timing system, all the circadian clocks in the body must be kept synchronized with one another and to the 24 hr day; this is the function of the master circadian pacemaker in the brain, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Like other cells, SCN neurons can generate autonomous circadian rhythms. But SCN neurons are special in several important ways. First, they receive direct photic input from the retina, which allows them to synchronize to the day/night cycle. Second, they have distinct, topographically organized coupling mechanisms which allow them to remain synchronized to one another even in constant darkness. Third, they generate a pronounced circadian rhythm of neuronal firing rate which allows them, through a variety of direct and indirect output pathways, to synchronize other cells throughout the body. Thus, the SCN master pacemaker synchronizes (“entrains”) to the light/dark cycle, and in turn synchronizes other subsidiary cellular oscillators. Further, as a result of internal coupling, the SCN also generates a coherent output signal even in the absence of a light/dark cycle, accounting for the “free-running” circadian (ca. 24 hr) rhythms of physiology and behavior that persist under constant conditions
Course Director: David K. Welsh, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, UCSD
Instructors: Takako Noguchi, PhD (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dominic Landgraf, PhD (email@example.com)
Tanja Diemer, PhD (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Grading: There are no mid-term or final exams for this course. Students will receive a Pass/Fail grade based on their participation in discussion of readings.
If interested, please contact Erin Gilbert <email@example.com> to register.