Biology 010 - Issues In Human Biology
Fall, 2012
The Spice of Life

Dr. Tammy Tobin


"Recipes are much more than just ingredients strung together. They're about the culture they come from and the lives of the people that prepare them."
~Sarah Marx Feldner, pastry chef at Lombardino's in Madison, Wisconsin

The goal of this course is to introduce you to the fundamental concepts and techniques of a variety of science disciplines through a somewhat unusual lens; the food you eat. Gaining a complete understanding of the science of food requires that you investigate not only its basic biological and chemical components, but also the nutritional values of its ingredients and the ways in which food handling, processing and cooking impact those values. We will also explore the amazing ways in which food production has shaped broader subjects, from human history to global ecosystems. Ultimately, I hope that this course will help you to make informed, ethical (and tasty!) decisions about the foods you eat, and the methods you use to prepare those foods.

Prerequisite 3rd year standing or permission of instructor and advisor.  4 SH. 3 lecture hours. 3 laboratory hours. CC: Scientific Explanations, Interdisciplinary, Team Intensive.


After taking this course, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate knowledge of the basic concepts and vocabularies central to:

a) The fundamental biology, chemistry and physics principles of food and cooking;
b) The scientific basis for the techniques and tools employed in food preparation;
c) The nutritional values of different foods and the impacts that food production has on those nutritional values;
d) The impact that food production has on the world around us.

2.  Use multiple disciplines, including biology, chemistry, physics, physiology, ecology and nutrition to explore and analyze the basics of food science, as detailed above, and to explore the ways in which food production shapes, and is shaped by, human society.

3.  Articulate an understanding of the ways in which these disciplines can be brought together not only to supplement and reinforce each other, but also to highlight the complexities and ambiguities inherent to explaining issues in food production.

4. Describe the philosophical underpinnings of science as it is used to explain the impacts that different foods have on health, nutrition and global ecosystems.

5. Apply scientific methods in the laboratory to solve a variety of "gastronomic mysteries".

6. Describe how theories are proposed, revised, tested, and accepted by the scientific community.

7. Evaluate the validity of information about food that is presented as science.

8. Consider the interactions between food science, the applications of food science, ethics, and societies, particularly as they pertain to sustainability.

9. Learn to work more effectively in groups. In particular, students will demonstrate processes needed for a positive working relationship with team members, demonstrate and evaluate the roles and functions of leadership and team



The final grade will be a composite of your performance in 2 Unit Exams (20% each), Laboratory Analysis of Food activities and report (15%), Readiness Assurance Process (RAP) activities (10%), Team and Individual Concept Application Activities (15%), a"Small Changes" Sustainability Reflection Paper (10%) and a comprehensive Final Exam (10%).

Your final grades will be based on the scale below:

A 94-100%
A- 90-93
B+ 87-89
B 84-86
B- 80-83
C+ 77-79
C 74-76
C- 70-73
D+ 67-69
D 64-66
D- 60-63
F All those numbers below 60


Attendance is required at all scheduled Tests, RAPs, Concept Application Activities and Laboratories, and you will receive a zero for all work performed during a class that you fail to attend. If you know in advance that you have a direct conflict with an upcoming class activity, please come speak with me about the nature of the conflict so that we can determine if a make-up assignment is possible. If a make-up assignment is possible, then you must complete it in order to get credit for work done during the missed class. In other words, an excused absence does NOT excuse you from the work done that day. Note that make-ups will not always be possible - particularly for laboratory experiments and teamwork. In general, and unless something completely unforeseen has happened (a natural disaster, etc.), you will only be allowed to arrange a make-up assignment for a missed class activity in advance of that activity.

***Special Note for Fall and Thanksgiving Breaks*** No, you will NOT be allowed to make up material that you miss because your ride/flight/other travel plans for these breaks cause you to miss this class, unless the travel is directly related to a course-sponsored event. Please take note of the official start and end times for those breaks and plan accordingly.

I am aware that there are many perfectly legitimate reasons for arriving to class late (other professors rambling on and on, for example), and that occasionally you'll just plain have a bad day. Thus, if you arrive late to class, please feel free to sneak quietly to your place and join in. By contrast, if you are consistently late to class (and have not spoken to me about extenuating circumstances), your punishment will be to start your in-class exams at the same time you typically arrive to class. Of course, you will still be expected to complete your exam at the same time as everyone else.


I am just as addicted as you are, but unless you have cleared it with me beforehand, all of your electronic communication devices must be off and in a closed container during the entire class. Trust me. You can make it through two hours without texting or Words With Friends. Occasionally we will have chocolate in class to help with the withdrawal. If you know you cannot trust yourself to follow this policy without some help, I am happy to store your communication device for you during each class.

If I see you using an unapproved electronic device, or using an approved electronic device in an unapproved manner (games, email, Facebook/Twitter etc.), I will confiscate the device until the end of class - no matter how bad your withdrawal is. (You abuse it, you lose it). Fear not - I will return the device to you at the end of class. However, repeat offenders (more than one such offense during the semester) will be asked to leave class for the day along with their communication devices. All work missed due 'communication device-inspired classroom ejection' will, of course, receive the normal zero. No make-ups will be allowed.


If you have a documented learning disability, I am happy to set up any appropriate arrangements for testing, classes, etc.  Simply provide me with the paperwork from the center for disability services, and let me know what I can do to make the class work for you.


On Food and Cooking (Required!)
by Harold McGee (ISBN

Also required: Non cell-phone scientific calculators. They must have LOG, LN, and square root functions. You may NOT use your cell phones as a calculator, since they will be locked up in closed containers during the entire class time, making it quite inconvenient to use them.


234 F Natural Science Center
Phone: 4067
Office hours are Thursday from 8 am - 2 pm. Other office hours are available by walk-in or by appointment. My door is usually open, and I am on campus 5 days a week.



Each new topic in this course will begin with a Readiness Assurance Process, or RAP. In the 'Schedule of Events' below, you will see that each RAP begins with assigned pre-class readings, podcasts and/or videos that are designed to introduce you to the central concepts of each unit. You will be expected to read/listen to/view these pre-class assignments before coming to class that day. When you come to class you will be held accountable for your pre-class preparation using the RAP quizzes described below. If any of the concepts in your pre-class assignments are confusing or unclear, you may ask questions in class before taking the RAP, and we will discuss them. Following the RAP, you will apply the course concepts using a series of in-class team concept activities and laboratories.

I-RAP: When you first arrive in class, you will take a 10 question, closed-book multiple-choice test that is taken individually (I-RAP). I use this test to assess your comprehension of the assigned readings, and your readiness to move on to application of the material. Thus, your preparation for the RAP should focus on basic information, facts and terms, rather than on problem-solving or application. The I-RAP will be worth 50% of your RAP grade.

T-RAP: Following the IRAP, the same multiple choice test will be re-taken as a team (T-RAP). In this portion of the quiz, you and your team members will help clarify concepts that may have been confusing to other team members. The T-RAP will be worth 50% of your RAP grade.

Appeals: Once the team test is completed your team will have an opportunity to submit an appeal for questions where you disagree with the question, the answer or the readings. I will review the appeals outside of class time and report the outcome of your team appeal at the next class meeting.

Feedback and Mini-lecture: Following the tests and appeals I will answer any further questions on the reading material, and then generally give a small lecture to expand upon the reading concepts and to introduce the associated team concept activities or labs.


Throughout the course (both in lecture and in lab), you and your team will be asked to apply your knowledge of course concepts to real-life issues. During these graded Concept Activities the focus will be on your judgment and your ability to apply your knowledge, rather than on your ability to simply recall information.


During the second unit of this course, you will be asked to design and carry out experiments to test the veracity of claims that manufacturers make regarding the antioxidant composition of their products. The grade for this laboratory analysis will be determined in the following manner: 10% for participating in the experimental design class, 50% for participation in the generation and analysis of your results (carrying out the experiments and participating in the preparation of your posters), and 40% for the quality of your final poster presentation.


Your final comprehension of the basic science concepts introduced in lecture and lab will be assessed during two unit exams, as indicated in the 'Schedule of Events'. These exams will generally consist of two parts. The first part will contain 5-7 short answer questions that will be intended to assess your basic comprehension of unit concepts. You will be graded on all but one of the questions in this part, and you may choose which question to drop. The second part of the exam will contain one question that will evaluate your ability to synthesize and apply course concepts. All students will be required to complete part 2 in its entirety. The unit exams will be closed-book, individual efforts. If you are caught cheating on an exam you will receive a zero for that exam, and a letter will be sent to the Dean of Students. If you are caught cheating on a second exam, you will fail the course. The Dean will, of course, be notified again.


The "Small Changes Reflection Paper" will serve as your unit exam for the final course unit on sustainable agriculture. It will be due on the last day of class and will be worth 10% of your final grade. Details will be provided during the third unit.


At the end of each unit you will have the opportunity to evaluate your team-mates. This Peer Evaluation will consider how well each of you prepared for and contributed to the RAPs, and your overall contribution to the team application exercises. There will be a separate, but similar evaluation for the labs. You will evaluate each other using the following criteria:

Preparation: Was your team member prepared when they came to class?

Contribution: Did your team member contribute productively to group discussion, work and leadership?

Respect for others' ideas: Did your team member encourage others to contribute their ideas?

Flexibility: Was your team member flexible when disagreements occurred?

You will give each of your teammates a percentile grade based on these criteria, and that percentile grade will directly adjust that student's RAP grade for the unit. So, for example, if a student gets an 85% on their RAPs and a 34 out of 40 team evaluation (85%), their final RAP grade would be 72.25% (85% of 85). It is important that you raise the evaluation of people who truly worked hard for the good of the group and lower the evaluation of those you perceived not to be working as hard on group tasks. Those who contributed should receive the full worth of the group's grades; those who did not contribute fully should only receive partial credit. Here is the rubric that you will be using to assess each team member's performance: Peer Evaluation Rubric.

  Printer-Friendly Version of the Syllabus



Spice of Life

Schedule of Events - Unit One

Click on the following links for Unit Two, Unit Three

click Here for a Printer-Friendly version of the syllabus and schedule

Unit 1: Basic Science of Foods and Cooking

Class 1: Introduction to The Spice of Life

Syllabus Overview, Class Rules and Goals, Team Formation

Practice RAP

Class 1 Handouts: Introduction to Team-Based Learning; Peer Evaluation Rubric

Practice RAP

Class 2: Introduction to Scientific Reasoning

M&M's Activity

Class 2 Handout:

M&M's Activity


M&M's Activity


Class 3: Readiness Assurance: Are you Ready to Start Playing Around With Your Food?

Read Chapters 15-16 pp. 792-818

RAP 1: Focus on understanding fundamental terms and concepts (particularly the terms in BOLD in section headings and words that are highlighted by italicized text in each section), For example, I might ask you to understand the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats, and to know what is meant by the term 'rancid' as it applies to fat, but I would NOT ask you to draw a molecule of linoleic acid or to tell me the exact pH of lemon juice.

Class 3 Handout: Properties of Atoms, Chemical Bonding and Chemical Reactions


Properties of Atoms Team Application Problems


Class 4: The Chemistry of Food - Water and Lipids

Read Chapter 11, pp. 632-635 (Eggs as Emulsifiers through A Sensitive Sauce)

Class 4 Handout: Water and Lipids

Class 4 Team Application Problems: Can You Get Oil and Water to Mix?

Turn in Can you Get Oil and Water to Mix? Team Application Problems


Class 5: Oil, Water, Mayonnaise and Experimental Design

Class 5 Team Application Problems: Making Better Mayo

Day Two Handouts (only print out the handout for your team): Team Flay, Team Deen, Team Fieri, Team Symon

Turn in Making Better Mayo Team Application Problems

Class 6: The Chemistry of Food - Carbohydrates and Phases of Matter

Class 6 Handout: Carbohydrates and Phases of Matter

Class 6 Team Application Problems: Fun with Phases: Meringue Cookies and Oobleck!

Turn in Fun With Phases Team Application Problems


Class 7: The Physics of Food - Energy and Energy Transfer

RAP 2: Read Chapter 14, pp. 777-791

Class 7 Handout: Energy and Energy Transfer


Class 8: Energy Transfer, Protein Structure and...The Incredible, Edible Egg!

Read Chapter 2, pp. 68-89

Class 8 Handouts: The Chemistry of Food - Proteins and Denaturation

Class 8 Team Application Problems: Eggsperiments Worksheet Part One

Turn in "Eggsperiments!" Part One

Class 9: Applications of Energy Transfer, Protein Structure and Eggs: Making Cheesecakes!

Read Chapter 2 pp. 92-100

Class 9 Handout: Eggsperiments Part Two


Class 10: Microbial Energetics, Fermentation and Food: 'Cultural', Historical and Scientific Perspectives.

Read: 'The Art of Fermentation' located in the Blackboard Content folder. Focus on Chapter 1

Class 10 Handout: Microbial Energetics, Fermentation and Food: 'Cultural', Historical and Scientific Perspectives

Turn in "Eggsperiments!" Part Two

Class 11: Applications of Microbial Fermentation: Kombucha!

Read: 'The Art of Fermentation' located in the Blackboard "Content" folder. Focus on Chapters 2 and 3 and the bit on Kombucha

Class 11 Handout: Making Kombucha (Handout will be available in class)



Class 12: Readiness Assessment: The Science of Flavor

Read The Scientist "Matters of Taste"

Watch ON Networks "Food Science "video: What do steak, coffee beans, caramel and toast have in common?

RAP 3 - Do NOT focus on specifics of cellular signaling pathways or names of receptor molecules for the RAP. DO learn big concepts, the names of the different types of taste, where taste receptors are located, what scientists think they are doing there....etc...

Class 12 Handout: The Flavor Experiment Worksheet


Class 13: The Science of Flavor, Part II

Read The Scientist "Sensing Fat"

Class 13 Handout: The Science of Flavor

Turn in "The Flavor Experiment" Worksheet


Class 14: Peer Evaluation of Teamwork/Review Session

Class 14 Handouts: Peer Evaluation of Teamwork, Test 1 Review Questions.

Turn in "Peer Evaluation of Teamwork"

Class 15: Test 1

Example Unit 1 Test from Fall 2008 (The content has been changed since this test - but the format will remain more or less the same)



Class 16: Teamwork Feedback Appointments

Individual meetings in 234F Naural Science Center for approximately 5-10 minutes each.


UNIT TWO BEGINS - Click Here or on link at top of Unit One Schedule of Events to proceed to the Unit Two Schedule of Events.


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