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Circadian Rhythms-Biological Clocks (BIMM116-PSYC113)

Circadian Rhythms-Biological Clocks

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.


Class Textbook:
Class Text Book

The course is offered every Fall quarter, taught jointly by Drs. Michael Gorman and Susan Golden, with an enrollment of approximately 220 students. Guest speakers chosen from the CCB faculty will be invited to speak on their areas of specialty.

Meet The Instructors

Michael GormanMichael Gorman
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.

Susan GoldenSusan Golden
Distinguished Professor
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.

Meet The TAs

Ben SheredosBen Sheredos

I am a fifth-year graduate student in the Philosophy department, pursuing an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Cognitive Science. (“Wait, what?”). I study philosophy of mind and philosophy of biology, topics that overlap with this course interesting ways. As we'll see in the course, even “simple” organisms do very sophisticated work to flexibly track time in the world – their lives depend on it. When “big critters” like humans exhibit this kind of flexible engagement with the world, we tend to think they have rich, cognitive abilities. When I first TAed this course, I gained much respect for “simple” organisms, and began to wonder whether the sciences of the mind should say more about “little critters.” Since then, I have also been studying the ways that chronobiologists use diagrams and visual representations to help themselves and each other think about the mechanisms of circadian rhythmicity. In the class, you will have to follow chronobiologists in mastering a number of distinctive graphical practices to think through the complexities of timekeeping. I look forward to helping you do so.

Megan Dueck

Megan Dueck

I am a third year grad student in the Biological Sciences PhD program. I work in the lab of Professor Jeff Hasty. Our lab uses a bottom-up approach to studying biological oscillations. Historically this has involved engineering genetic circuits capable of generating stable gene expression oscillations in a non-oscillating environment. As circadian rhythms are a naturally occurring biological oscillation, my research interests overlap with the Circadian Rhythms course content. My specific research involves examining bacterial fitness with regard to biological oscillations as well as oscillating environmental conditions. I truly enjoy my research and would happily discuss it with you at any time outside of class.

Ali HarrisAli Harris

I have always had a passion for biology and strived throughout my education to explore many different facets of the field, which is what led me to take the Circadian Rhythms course during my undergraduate work; it is a fascinating field, and the course provides a wonderfully comprehensive view of circadian biology, from micro to macro scale, which is a refreshing difference from the standard biology courses at UCSD that generally focus on one or the other. I completed my undergraduate work at UCSD, majoring in Biochemistry and Cell Biology, and am currently in my final year as a Masters student in Biology. My thesis research focuses on the cross-talk between important cellular signaling pathways in the epithelium of the small intestine and attempts to elucidate the mechanism of their interaction, which has potential significance for identifying and preventing the tumor escape mechanisms underlying chemoresistance and thus impacting potential therapeutics for cancer patients. My Masters research is being conducted in the lab of Eyal Raz, M.D. of the UCSD School of Medicine.

Erin HouriganErin Hourigan

I am currently a Masters student in Dr. Paul Price's Lab. I graduated June 2012 with my BS in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. I took this course two years ago and loved how it was taught with both biological and psychological perspectives. I enjoyed the course so much that I decided to become a TA the following year. My goal for this quarter is to help students find this course as interesting as I did and to provide an enjoyable learning experience.

Ruichen Sun

Circadian rhythm has fascinated me for a long time, particularly so when I suffer from jet-lags. As a second-year international graduate student in division of biological sciences, I have quite a few experiences in which my biological clocks do not align with the natural clock. I believe understanding of how biological clock works is both beneficial and necessary. Thus, being a TA for this course is very exciting to me, and I am sure it would be a rewarding experience for myself as well. Currently, I am in Dr Ralph Greenspan's research group. My research interest lies in the intersection between engineering and neuroscience.


BioClock Studio

BioClock Studio


This program is supported in part by a grant to HHMI Professor Susan Golden at the University of California - San Diego from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Science Education Program.

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 and earn course credit as appropriate for their majors or programs. Application instructions APPLY here.

For full consideration please submit your application by October 10, 2014. Applications will be considered until positions have been filled, so please don't hesitate to apply after this date.


  1. I have never taken BIMM116/PSYC133 (Circadian Rhythms – Biological Clocks). Can I still be considered for the BioClock Studio?
    Yes. We hope that about half of Studio students will be familiar with circadian rhythms research through BIMM116/PSYC133, but we also welcome applications from students who do not consider themselves to have any kind of “science background.” We want students who are critical thinkers, makers, and creators, who can evaluate and improve upon the materials used in BIMM116/PSYC133. Prior familiarity with those materials is not required.
  2. I took BIMM116/PSYC133  (Circadian Rhythms – Biological Clocks) last year (or earlier). Can I still be considered for the BioClock Studio?
    Yes. The main purpose of the BioClock Studio is to help develop new educational materials for use in future iterations of BIMM116/PSYC133, as well as for use in educating the broader population about the results of circadian rhythms research. If you took the class in the past, we would be happy to hear from you about what worked and what didn’t, and there will be plenty of opportunity to refamiliarize yourself with relevant materials as we seek to improve them.
  3. I am taking BIMM116/PSYC133  (Circadian Rhythms – Biological Clocks) this fall, at the same time I hope to start in the BioClock Studio. Is this OK?
    Yes. We hope that about one fourth of Studio students will be currently enrolled in the Clocks class.
  4. I want to use the BioClock Studio to count towards a requirement in my major or in my College at UCSD (e.g., Sixth College’s practicum). Can I do that?
    Maybe, and we hope so! This needs to be worked out with your major, department, advisor, and college. Dr. Golden will work with the representatives of different programs to facilitate appropriate credit.
  5. I want to join the BioClock Studio, but I am not sure I will be able to continue in the Winter. Can I still be considered for the BioClock Studio?
    Your application will be considered, but preference will be given to students who expect to make a 2-quarter commitment. If you plan to be at UCSD during the 2015-2016 academic year, you should consider whether that might be the best time for you to apply.
  6. My resume and transcripts are not good indicators of my skills, since I learned them outside of school and/or have not held a job where they were put to use. What can I do to ensure that my application is evaluated properly? 
    You can use your Statement of Interest and your Sample of Work to provide us with additional information.
  7. I’m really only interested in the BioClock Studio if I get to work on one of the four projects set out for the 2014-2015 academic year. What happens if I am accepted to the Studio, but cannot work on that project?
    You should be more open-minded! Everyone in the Studio will receive basic training relevant to all the projects we hope to pursue, and everyone should expect to be exposed to something new and unfamiliar. Furthermore, everyone in the Studio will be expected to provide feedback to all of their peers, and this requires taking their work seriously even if it is not “your favorite.”  With all that said, we will be selecting applicants with their preferences in mind, so if you are accepted to the BioClock Studio, you will likely be able to work mainly on the project you find most exciting.
  8. I am interested in participating in the BioClock Studio but I am not interested or cannot take this class for credits. Will I still be considered?
    Yes. You can submit your application and use the statement of interest to explain why you are not interested in course credit for your participation in BioClock Studio.