General College Biology I

I.     Course Prefix/Number: BIO 121

       Course Name: General College Biology I

       Credits: 4 (3 lecture; 3 lab)

II.    Prerequisite

BIO 101 with minimum grade of C or one year of high school biology with minimum grade of C, either option completed within the last five years.

III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Laboratory course examines basic principles of biology.  Content includes cellular biochemistry and physiology, photosynthesis, and cellular respiration; details of protein synthesis and functions of DNA and RNA in gene function.  First of two –course sequence.  Intended for those wanting strong biological focus in curricula.

Recommended: High school chemistry or its equivalent, such as CHM 101 or CHM 105.

IV.   Learning Objectives


After successfully completely this course, a student should be able to do the following:

  1. Summarize the three types of chemical bonds (ionic, covalent, and hydrogen), with inclusion of their definitions and examples of their occurrence in biologically important molecules.
  2. Relate the structure, function, and biological significance of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids to methods of their formation and breakdown.
  3. Analyze the primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary levels of structural organization related to protein function.
  4. Specify the parts of prokaryotic cells in microorganisms and of eukaryotic cells, with descriptions of their structures and functions.
  5. Examine the similarities and differences between diffusion, osmosis, and active transport, with explanations of their biological applications.
  6. Analyze the basics of cell signaling.
  7. Explain enzymatic mechanism of action with inclusion of specific enzymes, their substrates, and products formed.
  8. Summarize respiration: including glycolysis, Krebs cycle, and the electron transport system.
  9. Examine the similarities and differences between respiration and fermentation with respect to biodiversity in bacteria and fungi.
  10. Summarize photosynthesis: light reactions and dark reactions.
  11. Examine the similarities and differences between respiration and photosynthesis regarding substrates - products, enzymes and appropriate cellular locations.
  12. Summarize the processes of DNA replication, transcription, and translation.
  13. Analyze control of genetic expression in prokaryotes and eukaryotes.
  14. Examine the applications of recombinant DNA research, with an explanation of microorganisms’ role.
  15. Evaluate information presented as fact or opinion with consideration and comparison of multiple solutions to problem solving.
  16. Explain the historical development of several course concepts.
  17. Analyze ethical principles involved with choices associated with the application of certain biological information as it pertains to the individual as well as all other life forms.


  1. Demonstrate proper use and care of microscope.
  2. Determine the size of objects microscopically.
  3. Learn the proper use of a spectrophotometer.
  4. Construct absorption spectra and standard curves from experimental data.
  5. Know the steps of the scientific method and how to apply them in defining problems, constructing hypotheses, and interpreting data from lab or lecture experiences.
  6. Communicate findings from lab experiences involving group or team work in an effective written and /or oral presentation.
  7. Distinguish qualitative from quantitative tests.
  8. Analyze the effect of hypotonic, isotonic, and hypertonic solutions on cells.
  9. Compare and contrast the parts of plant and animal cells.
  10. Observe and explain the effects of temperature and pH on enzyme activity.
  11. Analyze DNA fingerprints generated by gel electrophoresis.
  12. Analyze the effect of light intensity on photosynthetic end products.

Learning Outcomes

By the completion of your biology courses at Oakton, you will have gained the experience to.....

  1. Think critically – identify, define, analyze, interpret, and evaluate ideas, concepts, information, problems, solutions, and consequences. This includes the ability to compute and comprehend quantitative information and to engage in the scientific process.
  2. Communicate – communicate ideas, concepts, and information through written and oral means. Collaborate with people of diverse backgrounds and abilities.
  3. Demonstrate literacy – demonstrate the ability to read critically within content areas. Use technology to locate, evaluate, and communicate data, information, ideas, and concepts. Assess, critique, and select from a variety of information resources.
  4. Demonstrate responsibility – demonstrate an understanding of personal responsibility and ethical behavior in one’s own academic and civic life.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

Lecture Topics:

Unit I Introduction of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Topics include organizing the diversity of life by the Linnaean system, 3 basic domains, speciation (Chapter 1 of Campbell)
Atomic Structure
Chemical Bonds
Properties of Water
Macromolecules: Carbohydrates, Lipids, Proteins, and Nucleic Acids
Unit II Cell Structure and Function
Topics include: comparing plant vs. animal cell (Chapter 6 in Campbell)
Cell Organelles: Nucleus, Endoplasmic Reticulum, Golgi, Secretory Vesicles, Lysosomes, Peroxisomes, Microbodies, Cytoskeleton, Mitochondria, Chloroplasts Comparison between Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells
Cell Membranes: Fluid-Mosaic Model, Membrane Transport: simple diffusion, facilitated diffusion, osmosis, active transport, endocytosis, exocytosis
Cell Walls
Cell Signaling
Unit III Enzymes and Metabolism
Topics include the evolutionary significance of glycolysis, classifying different organisms based upon metabolism, and Englemann’s experiment on light absorption in different organisms/ (Chapter 9 and 10 in Campbell)
Apoenzymes, cofactors, coenzymes, holoenzymes
Induced fit hypothesis
Activation Energy
Enzyme inhibition: competitive and noncompetitive inhibitors
Factors that affect enzyme activity
First and Second Law of Thermodynamics
Cell Respiration
Glycolysis, Krebs Cycle, Electron Transport System, Oxidative Phosphorylation Fermentation
Photosynthesis: Historical background
Light and Dark Reactions
Unit IV DNA, RNA and Proteins
Topics include: DNA replication in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells (Chapter 16), gene expression in bacteria, archaea, and eukarya (Chapter 17)
DNA as the genetic material
DNA structure
DNA replication
Gene Regulation
Recombinant DNA and Biotechnology

Lab Skills:

  1. Microscope
    1. Identify Parts of the Microscope
    2. Use and care of the microscope
    3. How to measure objects under the microscope
  2. Spectrophotometer
    1. Know how the spectrophotometer operates
    2. Use the spectrophotometer to establish an absorption spectrum
    3. Use the spectrophotometer to establish a standard curve and determine concentration of unknowns
  3. General Procedures
    1. Distinguish between qualitative and quantitative tests
    2. Make accurate volumetric measurements with pipette and graduated cylinder
    3. Plot graphs of enzyme reaction rates

Lab Topics:

WeekLab schedule
1 Scientific Methods & Metric System
2 Microscopy:
Identify Parts of the Microscope
Use and care of the microscope
How to measure objects under the microscope
3 Biochemical Molecules:
Molecular Models/Structures – chemical groups and isomers of biologically important molecules
Components of Protoplasm – qualitative testing for reducing sugars, proteins, DNA, and RNA
4 Cell Structure:
Slides and models, EM’s for determining size of organelles
Gram Stain – bacterial cell structure, microscopic staining
Isolation and staining of Drosophila chromosomes
Bacteriophage – aseptic technique, dilution, and plating
5 Spectrophotometer lab:
Know how the spectrophotometer operates
Use the spectrophotometer to establish an absorption spectrum
Use the spectrophotometer to establish a standard curve and determine concentration of unknowns
6 Protein Analysis:
Paper chromatography for amino acids,
Standard curve for protein concentration
Determination of unknown protein concentration using standard curve
7 Diffusion & Osmosis:
hemolysis, crenation, plasmolysis, turgidity
8 Respiration Videos:
Kreb cycle
Electron transport chain
9 Enzyme Lab:
Effect of pH & Temperature on Amylase Activity
Succinic Dehydrogenase – enzyme extraction and competitive inhibitors
Phosphorylases – enzyme extraction, pH denaturation, and reverse reactions
10 Photosynthesis I:
Effect on light on the production of starch by photosynthesis
Paper chromatography separation of spinach leaf pigments involved in photosynthesis
Absorption spectrum of spinach leaf pigments
11 Photosynthesis II:
Light reactions as measured by oxygen production and reduction of DICP
12 Part 1: DNA Extraction & DNA Model Kits
Isolation of DNA from cheek cells
Learning the concepts of replication, transcription and translation using models
13 Part2: PCR Amplification
Polymerase Chain Reaction of the cheek cell extracted DNA
Electrophoresis of the PCR products with standards
14 Part 3: Gel Electrophoresis
Agarose gel electrophoresis for DNA fingerprinting

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

The course will be presented by way of three hours of lecture-discussion and a three hour laboratory period each week.  Supplementary audio-visual material and handouts are used.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Reading:  textbook, handouts

Writing:  notes, homework assignments, exams

Lab Practices:  three hours each week

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Biology with Mastering Biology, 10/e, Campbell & Reece, Addison & Wesley Publishing

BIO 121 Oakton Lab Manual

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

May vary depending on the instructor.  In general, methods of evaluation are based on objective examinations concerning lecture material and examinations concerning laboratory material.  Final grades are determined on a percentage basis.  Percentages below sixty are not passing.

XI.   Other Course Information

This will vary depending on the instructor.  Lecture and lab attendance are required

Additional course information may vary but may include:

  • information concerning group and/or individual reviews scheduled during class time or outside of class time
  • information concerning biology tutors
  • suggestions for success in class (i.e. careful note-taking by students)
  • use of study sheets to aid in preparation for lecture or laboratory exams

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.