genes and behavior (BIOL4070)

This course will discuss genetic approaches to the study of behavior. Detailed genetic analyses of several behaviors will be examined and include studies on chemosensory behavior, foraging behavior, aggression, and human behavioral conditions. Differences in behavior between the sexes and the effects of environment on behavior will also be explored.

Professional development (BIOL9006)

This course discusses issues related to the responsible conduct of scientific research. The course also covers the development of career skills. Topics include: searching for jobs and grant opportunities, grant writing, writing and creating cover letters and curriculum vitae, alternative careers in science, and research ethics.

Inquiry to Innovation: Sensing in Animals and Robots - Biology MEETS ENGINEERING (biol2030/pd2030)

Complex behavior is often assumed to require a large brain. However, many animals can get by just fine with relatively simple brains, or no brain at all, and can deal with challenging and unpredictable changing environments. For example, ants continuously expand their large and complex nests. Female crickets find mates hidden in the grass by homing in on their calls. Honey bees can discover nectar sources by following the directions given to them by their sisters. Research has revealed a common theme uniting these feats: small-brained animals use specialized sensory organs in combination with simple behavioral rules. This surprising elegance of nature’s solutions increasingly inspires roboticists to look to animals for solutions to engineering challenges. For example, flying robots are piloted using the same principles as flying insects while other robots navigate their environment in the same way as ants, bats or fish.

Taught by a team of interdisciplinary instructors, this course will introduce students to the exciting interface of biology with robotics, and instill the fundamentals of how behavior is guided by senses, in both animals and robots. The course lays out foundational concepts of sensory guidance and advances into more complex behavior. In particular, the students will gain an understanding of how biology can inform robotics and vice versa. We will also explore the principles underlying the organization of animal societies and evaluate their utility as inspiration for so-called swarm robotics. Through team-based projects, students will apply their gained skills and knowledge to the design and testing of robot systems.