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. Evaluate a hypothesis using scientific method.
  2. Evaluate the roles of ionic, covalent and hydrogen bonds, with respect to the structure and function of biological molecules.
  3. Distinguish among the four types of biological macromolecules based on their structure, chemical bonds, and functions.
  4. Compare and contrast prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells with respect to their structures and the functions of the cellular components within them.
  5. Compare and contrast the action mechanisms of receptor mediated cell signaling.
  6. Compare and contrast competitive, noncompetitive and feedback inhibition of enzyme catalyzed reactions.
  7. Compare and contrast the stages of cellular respiration, fermentation, and photosynthesis.
  8. Differentiate between the stages and functions of mitosis and meiosis.
  9. Differentiate between the processes of DNA replication, transcription, and translation in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes.
  10. Distinguish between different types of mutations.
  11. Examine the applications of recombinant DNA technology.


  1. Apply the steps of the scientific method in defining problems, constructing hypotheses, and interpreting data from lab.
  2. Analyze the chemical differences among ionic and covalent compounds and between acids, bases and buffers.
  3. Differentiate between the biological macromolecules qualitatively.
  4. Perform quantitative analysis of macromolecules using spectrophotometer to determine the concentration of unknown sample using the standard curve.
  5. Use microscope to determine the size of objects and also to differentiate between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.
  6. Analyze the effect of hypotonic, isotonic, and hypertonic solutions on cells.
  7. Analyze the effect of temperature and pH on enzyme activity.
  8. Investigate the effect of light on photosynthesis and the effect of different types of sugars on the rate of fermentation.
  9. Construct the stages of mitosis and meiosis in order to understand the mechanisms involved in the two types of cell division processes.
  10. Perform DNA fingerprinting using gel electrophoresis.
  11. Communicate findings from lab experiences involving group or team work in an effective written and /or oral presentation.
  12. Perform lab clean up completely as per given instructions.

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 Topics
Unit I

Introduction of Chemistry and Biochemistry (Chapter 1-5)
Elements, biological importance of trace elements; compounds; Atomic Structure: number and arrangement of electrons, protons, neutrons, Octet rule, Valence electrons, isotopes; Periodic table properties: groups, periods, Determining atomic number and atomic mass, Electronegativity, relationship between group number and valence electrons, Inert elements; Chemical Bonds: Ionic (cations, anions), covalent bonds (single, double, triple covalent bonds, Polar and Non-Polar covalent bonds), Hydrogen bonds;  Properties of Water: polar, hydrophilic and hydrophobic, pH and buffers, like dissolves like, solubility of ionic compounds in water; Caron and it’s properties: molecular diversity, carbon chain, hydrocarbons, linear, branched and ring structures; Biologically important functional groups and their structures, isomers (Geometric, Structural and enantiomers), and Structure and Function of Macromolecules: Carbohydrates (Monosaccharides: glucose, fructose, galactose, Disaccharides: Maltose, Lactose and sucrose, Polysaccharides: Starch, Cellulose and Glycogen), glycosidic bonds, Lipids (Triglycerides, fatty acids, cholesterol, phospholipids) ester linkage, Proteins (Amino acids: hydrophilic amino acids, hydrophobic amino acids, positively charged amino acids and negatively charged amino acids, Polypeptides and proteins, four levels of protein structure and functionality at each level, denaturation) and Nucleic Acids (Nucleotides, structure of DNA and RNA, type of five carbon sugar and functions, single or double strands).

Unit II

Cell Structure and Function (Chapter 6, 7, 11)
Structure and functional differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, examples, Structure and Function of Cellular Components:  Nucleus, smooth and rough Endoplasmic Reticulum, Golgi, Secretory Vesicles, Protein trafficking, Lysosomes (phagocytosis and autophagy) and lysosomal diseases (Pomp’s disease and Tay Sach’s disease), Peroxisomes, Cytoskeletal proteins and their functions (microtubules, microfilaments, intermediate filaments, motor proteins), Mitochondria, Chloroplasts, free and bound Ribosomes (and their differential functions), chromosomes vs chromatin, Cell Membranes:  Fluid-Mosaic Model: bilayer arrangement of phospholipids, role of cholesterol and fatty acids in membrane fluidity, Integral and peripheral membrane proteins, glycolipids and glycoproteins, semi-permeability function, Membrane Transport: simple  diffusion, facilitated diffusion, osmosis, active transport, endocytosis, exocytosis; channels, carrier proteins and pumps, Na+-K+ pumps,  Cell Walls; Cell Signaling: synaptic, autocrine, paracrine, and endocrine mechanisms, hydrophobic and hydrophilic nature of the ligands and location of their receptors, membrane bound receptor pathways (G-protein linked receptor pathway, Tyrosine kinase pathway, Ion-channel receptor pathway), primary and secondary messengers, amplification of signals, apoptosis, enzymes involved in signaling (kinases, phosphatases, adenylyl cyclases, GTPases, phosphodiesterase, tyrosine kinase)

Unit III

Enzymes and Metabolism (Chapter 8, 9 and 10)
Definitions: Enzyme, rate of reaction, activation energy (EA), active site, substrate, cofactor, coenzyme, competitive inhibitor, noncompetitive inhibitor, allosteric site, Allosteric inhibitor and activator, Feedback inhibition, metabolism, catabolism and anabolism Induced fit hypothesis; Factors that affect enzyme activity (substrate concentration, pH, Temperature, allosteric, Feedback); First and Second Law of Thermodynamics, Free energy, relationship between catabolic, anabolic, exergonic, and endergonic reactions, Potential and kinetic energy, structure and function of ATP, ATP-ADP cycle and their relationship with catabolic and anabolic reactions, stages of cellular respiration, fermentation, and photosynthesis with respect to their overall reaction (catabolic / anabolic; exergonic / endergonic), function, cellular location, reactants and products, the type of energy molecules involved and the type of electron carriers (their oxidized and reduced forms), REDOX reactions, substrate level and oxidative phosphorylation; Glycolysis (investment and payoff phase, role of hexokinase and (phosphofructokinase, final product and number and type of energy molecules produced from one glucose molecule), Pyruvate oxidation (enzyme, location, reactions, products and number and  type of energy molecule produced), Krebs cycle (location, final product and number and type of energy molecules produced per glucose molecule), ETC (location, substrate for ETC, name and function of four complexes and the two electron membrane carriers, movement of H+ ions, final electron acceptor, ATP synthase, total number of NADH and FADH2 reaching ETC from one glucose molecule and the number of ATPs generated, oxidative phosphorylation), Fermentation (products, type and number of energy molecule per glucose, NAD+ recycle), Photosynthesis: (Light  and Dark Reactions, products and by products of photosynthesis, electron carriers).

Unit IV

DNA, RNA and Proteins (Chapter 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 20)
Cell Cycle (G1, S, G2 and M phase); Mitosis (stages and importance in normal and disease states); Meiosis (stages, importance of independent assortment, crossing over and random fertilization in genetic diversity, haploid, diploid); Contribution of all the scientists in the discovery of DNA as the genetic material; DNA structure (complimentary rule, Chargaff rule, Anti-parallel nature of the two strands, polarity); Central Dogma for genetic information transfer; DNA replication: site in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, models of DNA replication, semi-conservative model, role of various proteins like DNA Polymerases, RNA primases, helicases, topoisomerases, ligases, single strand binding proteins, Mechanism of DNA replication ( continuous and discontinuous synthesis, leading and lagging strands, Okazaki fragments), Telomeres and telomerases; Transcription (selective transcription of genes, RNA polymerases, Mechanism of Transcription and enzymes and proteins involved (initiation, elongation and termination), Transcription unit, regulation of transcription, Transcription factors, Role of TATA and TATAAT boxes, post transcriptional modifications in eukaryotes; Translation: Genetic code, Codons and anticodons, start and stop codons, Wobble hypothesis, Mechanism of translation, structure and function of ribosomes, function of three types of RNA; Mutations; 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. Thermal Cycler
    1. Use of micropipettes
    2. Use of centrifuge machine
    3. Know how thermal cycler works based on polymerase chain reaction
  4. Gel Electrophoresis
    1. Perform Agarose gel electrophoresis
    2. Analyze the results of gel electrophoresis using UV transilluminator
  5. Lab Report:
    1. Students will be required to write at least one formal lab report. The formal lab report will include all relevant sections including: introduction; methods; results; discussion; conclusion and incorporation of references from credible sources as appropriate.
    2. The specific lab/experiment chosen for the formal lab report requirement is left to the discretion of the instructor. The instructor will provide opportunities for the student to learn how to prepare for and write a formal lab report.
  6. 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:

Week Lab schedule
1 Scientific Methods & Metric System
  1. Explain the steps of the scientific method.
  2. Assess whether a hypothesis is measurable or not measurable.
  3. Differentiate between dependent and independent variables.
  4. Create a labelled graph (title of the experiment, units, dependent and independent variables)
  5. Practice metric system conversions
  6. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

Chemistry of Life

  1. Differentiate between ionic and covalent compounds based on their conductivity capacity.
  2. Distinguish between polar and non-polar covalent compounds.
  3. Distinguish between acids, bases and buffers.
  4. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

Qualitative Analysis of Biological Macromolecules

  1. Compare and contrast the monomers and polymers of the four biological macromolecules.
  2. Qualitative analysis of macromolecules.
  3. Qualitative test for amino acids using paper chromatography.
  4. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

Quantitative Analysis using a Spectrophotometer

  1. Creating a standard curve using albumin to determine the concentration of unknown albumin samples.
  2. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

Microscopy and Cells

  1. Differentiate between the different parts of the microscope.
  2. Calculating of total magnification of a microscope.
  3. Visualization of microscopic inversion.
  4. Determination of the field of view of the microscope and factor of magnification.
  5. Determination of the microscopic dimensions of specimens (plant and animal cells).
  6. Understanding the reason why cells are microscopic in size.
  7. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

Diffusion and Osmosis

  1. Assay the movement of solutes across semi permeable membrane via diffusion.
  2. Assaying osmosis using a shell-less egg model.
  3. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

Evaluating the Factors affecting Enzymatic Activity

  1. Quantitative determination of the effect of temperature on amylase activity.
  2. Quantitative determination of the effect of pH on amylase activity.
  3. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

Modeling Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis

  1. Modeling cellular respiration focusing on the stage –specific key reactants, products and the number of ATP, NADH and FADH2
  2. Modeling the two stages of photosynthesis focusing on the stage specific key reactants and products formed.
  3. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.


  1. Determine the effect of light on photosynthetic activity in leaves.
  2. Isolation of the photosynthetic pigments from spinach leaves.
  3. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

Anaerobic Respiration: Fermentation

  1. Assay alcoholic fermentation in yeast cells with varying sugar sources and the temperatures.
  2. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

Mitosis and Meiosis: Subset of the Cell Cycle

  1. Differentiate between mitosis and meiosis by using modeling kits.
  2. Animal and Plant Mitosis – Estimate the relative length of each stage of mitosis and interphase.
  3. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

DNA: Extraction and PCR Amplification

  1. Extraction of DNA from your cheek cells.
  2. Amplification of extracted DNA using thermocycler.
  3. Modeling DNA replication.
  4. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

Electrophoresis of PCR Products

  1. Separation of PCR products using Gel electrophoresis
  2. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

DNA Fingerprinting

  1. To analyze and determine whether suspect 1 or suspect 2 was present at crime scene using two different DNA samples digested with restriction enzymes and gel electrophoresis.
  2. Work through learning check exercises and critical thinking questions at the end of the lab.

VII.  Methods of Instruction

The course will be presented by way of three hours of lecture-discussion and a three hour laboratory period each week in the face to face class.  Laboratory exercises include microscopy, data collection and analysis, and using gel electrophoresis, thermocycler and spectrophotometer.

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

VIII. Course Practices Required

May vary depending on instructor, but may include:

  • mandatory attendance during lectures and laboratories
  • active participation in supervised laboratory exercises
  • satisfactory performance in written lecture and laboratory tests or quizzes
  • lab practical exams

IX.   Instructional Materials

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

Textbook: Biology with Mastering Biology, 11/e, Campbell & Reece, Addison & Wesley Publishing

Laboratory Manual: General College Biology I . Custom Lab Manual, Bluedoor Publishing, 2018.

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.