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Circadian Rhythms-Biological Clocks (BIMM116-PSYC133)

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.


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.

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 IAs


Koorosh Askari

I did not know much about circadian rhythms until I got the privilege to work in Dr. Panda's circadian lab in Salk institute. Having volunteered for one year in the lab, I wanted to expand my knowledge and took the Circadian Rhythms class at UCSD. I learned a lot through the class materials and papers I was assigned to read in the lab. During the last quarter of my Bachelor's Degree, I thought I should try to use what I had learned to expand the knowledge of fellow students, so I joined the BioClock Studio. Currently, I am a Master’s student investigating the effects of sleep fragmentation and its relation to Circadian rhythm, and developing a sleep fragmentation model.

Maksat Idris

Maksat Idris

I am a BS/MS Contiguous Masters Student working in Dr. Gorman's Circadian Rhythms Lab. I took this class as an incoming transfer student in the Fall of 2016 and I became very interested in Circadian Biology. Specifically, Dr. Gorman's research on bifurcation and its possible applications to shift work and jet lag piqued my interest because of how big a problem shift work is and its immense cost. I really wanted to be involved and joined Dr. Gorman's lab as an undergraduate as part of the BS/MS program and I am now continuing the program as a Masters student. I am currently studying dim light and bifurcation and its implications on the mammalian circadian clock. I hope to have a great quarter with all of you.


Alisa Kim

Hello! I am a first year biology graduate student and former undergrad bio major at ucsd. I was in the BIMM116 class of FA18 and also in the BioClock Studio WI19. My team and I helped create the entrainment simulator that is now incorporated into the class curriculum. I am looking forward to being a TA for BIMM116 and reinforcing my knowledge of circadian biology. I love my dog and supersmash ultimate (ness).


Nhien Nguyen

I am a Master's student in the Contiguous BS/MS Program. I majored in Human Biology as a Revelle College undergraduate and am now working toward my Master's degree in Biology. My research project focuses on dysregulation of fatty acids and their regulatory enzymes in anorexia nervosa.


Golnesa Safavi

I am an undergraduate student in my last quarter at UCSD studying Human Biology. While taking BIMM 116, I was fascinated by both the instant applicability of the course material to everyday mood and overall health, as well as the endless examples of important biological clocks in nature. I later enjoyed expanding my knowledge on this topic as a part of the BioClock Studio, where I and other members created educational resources for the general public and future BIMM 116 students. I'm looking forward to continue learning and teaching this quarter as an IA!


Alston Wong

I am a 4th year undergraduate in Dr. Gorman's circadian rhythms lab. I am currently studying the effects of SCN knockouts on circadian rhythm flexibility in mice under extreme light-dark cycles and observing their behavioral patterns under these conditions. I joined Dr. Gorman’s lab in my second year because of my interest in sleep cycles and my desire to contribute to improving the health and sleep schedule flexibility of night shift workers. I am extremely excited to be your IA and I hope to have a great quarter with you all!


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.

For basic information, go to the BioClock Studio Website

More detailed information, including Applications, can be found here


The BioClock Studio is an innovative course in which undergraduate students, drawn from diverse disciplines across the arts and the sciences, work collaboratively to develop their scientific and communication skills and produce creative educational materials. UC San Diego's Center for Circadian Biology (CCB) is home to two dozen research labs that perform world-class research on circadian rhythms (in behavior, body temperature, protein levels, gene expression) in diverse systems (including humans, mice, plants, fungi, tissue culture cells, and cyanobacteria). Students in the BioClock Studio will work with CCB faculty to enhance scientific understanding among different audiences, including the general public, clinicians and researchers outside of circadian biology, and students’ academic peers.

The BioClock Studio's final iteration will occur in Winter quarter of 2020. The class will meet twice a week, with an additional contact hour each week related to projects. Students can participate in the BioClock Studio by enrolling for 4 units in the following courses, upon approval of their application:

       BIMM116B (BioClock Studio) – P/NP or Letter grade
       CAT124 (Sixth College Practicum)

The BioClock Studio challenges 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. BioClock Studio students  work closely with researchers in workshop, conference, and interview settings to bridge the communication gap between scientists and the public. You can see a detailed list of past BioClock Studio projects here

NEU221 - Neurobiology of Circadian Clocks

NEU221 - Neurobiology of Circadian Clocks

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 (tnoguchi@ucsd.edu)

                        Dominic Landgraf, PhD (dlandgraf@ucsd.edu)

                        Tanja Diemer, PhD (tdiemer@ucsd.edu)

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 <egilbert@ucsd.edu> to register.

Fall, 2014, Thursdays, 2:30-4:30PM, MET 221

NEU221 schedule