BIOC 793A Syllabus

Credit Hours:             3 credit hours

Class Days/Times     Wednesdays and Fridays, 9:00 to 10:30 AM.

Class Location:         TBD   

Instructors:                           Steven M. Frisch, Ph.D.    (Course coordinator)

                                               Marieta Gencheva, Ph.D.

                                               Ramamurthy, Ph.D.

                                               Scott Weed, Ph.D.     

Office Hours:                        Flexible: contact each instructor as needed

Contact Information:           (SF):




Course Pre or Co Requisites:  Completion of the first year graduate curriculum in biomedical sciences. 

Course Description

The course will be divided into four modules, each representing one disease area.

  1. Metabolic disease (Gencheva).

In this module, Dr. Gencheva will focus on the pathogenesis of metabolic diseases, primarily metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.  The underlying normal physiologic and cellular basis of metabolic homeostasis will be addressed first, emphasizing carbohydrate and lipid utilization with regard to cellular energetics;  organ-specific functions in maintaining homeostasis will be emphasized as well. Dr. Gencheva will then explore the pathogenesis of metabolic diseases, including the important roles of obesity, chronic inflammation, and gene variants in this process, as well as current strategies for disease prevention and management.  The module will end with a discussion between the students and a physician about clinical aspects of these diseases.

  1. Cancer (Weed)

In this module, Dr. Weed will focus on cancer, which is a collection of related hyperproliferative pathologies.   First, the general characteristics of each cancer type will be compared, to identify similarities and differences (e.g., incidence, metastatic frequency, survival rates from time of diagnosis).

Mechanisms of 3-4 selected oncogenes and 3-4 selected tumor suppressor genes will be addressed. The basis of cellular heterogeneity in tumors will be explored, especially, the important roles of epigenetics, tumor microenvironment and cellular metabolism.  Conventional and “biologic” therapies will then be discussed, especially with regard to current and pending developments in immunotherapy.   The module will end with a discussion between the students and a physician about clinical aspects of these diseases.

  1. Neurodegeneration (Ramamurthy)

In this module, Dr. Ramamurthy will focus on understanding the mechanisms that lead to the death of neurons and ultimately cause neurodegenerative diseases. We will use retinal neurons as a model system and focus on age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. We will hear from clinicians who diagnose and treat patients afflicted with these diseases. Our current understanding of the disease has led to innovative therapies, and we will discuss the implications of these approaches broadly in treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

The module will end with a discussion between the students and a physician about clinical aspects of these diseases.

  1. Aging (Frisch)

In this module, Dr. Frisch will introduce the concept of biologic aging, as a common mechanistic thread that promotes the three preceding disease states as well as other chronic diseases (e.g., cardiovascular disease).  Topics emphasized here with include:  cellular metabolism/metabolic stress, chronic inflammation and age-dependent loss of adaptive immunity (immunosenescence), telomeres, cell senescence, autophagy, mitochondrial energetics, genome stability, the circadian clock and epigenetics.  Ramifications of each of these processes in age driven chronic disease will be the overarching theme of this module, focusing on recent developments in the field including anti-aging interventions. The module will end with a discussion between the students and a physician about clinical aspects of these diseases.


Within each module, the course will combine conventional and active learning format sessions, which will usually alternate.  “Conventional” is defined as lectures accompanied by powerpoint presentations.  Students will complete an at-home quiz after each lecture, which the instructor will grade and return to the students, who will then correct their answers reiteratively and resubmit until each student achieves 100% comprehension.

Active Learning.  Studies have shown the superior effectiveness of active learning.  A prominent feature of active learning is that the students read and learn some of the content before class, followed by class discussions that focus on integration and application of the principles derived from the content   For “active learning format” sessions, students will read assigned content, which may include review articles, research articles and/or instructional videos (e.g., Khan Academy) prior to each session. In the class session that follows, individual students will informally present conceptual content, based on Discussion Points that will be posted on SOLE in advance. These informal discussions will not include a powerpoint presentation.  Some discussion points will be instructor-generated;  others will be generated by the students.  The latter may include, for example:  concepts that the students wish to clarify or explore in more detail, ways to integrate together concepts that were presented separately, proposals for future directions of the field, or implications of the content for human disease. A discussion of the highest priority points will constitute each classroom session. 

Students will also be required to write and post discussion points for the session with the physician (1 session per module).  These will be graded.

You should check the course calendar on SOLE regularly for dates of assignments, student presentations and other deadlines.

Each student will meet with Dr. Frisch individually by zoom or in person around the middle of the semester, to review progress and address questions/concerns/comments. These meetings will be scheduled at a mutually convenient time.


All reading materials will be posted on SOLE.


Your grade for this course will be based on the required assignments and point values listed below:

  • Class attendance and participation*                                      40 points
  • Grades on papers (1 per module)                                          40 points
  • Quality of discussion points for physician                              16 points
  • Completion of quizzes                                                            4 points

*See Class Participation, below

The grading scale for this course is as follows:

A (Excellent, 85-100%)                                                         

B (Good, 75-85%)                                                     

C (Fair, 65-75%)                                                        

D (Poor, 55-65%)                                                                   

F (Failure<55%)                                                         


**Plagiarized material in any assignment automatically results in a grade of “F” for the assignment.  It is your responsibility to inform him/herself on the definition of plagiarism.  Not knowing the definition cannot excuse instances of plagiarism.  It is your responsibility to make sure that final paper submitted for an assignment is the final version of his/her paper (and not a previous draft).  See academic integrity/dishonesty policy below for further information. 


The key to success in an active learning format is reading and understanding content prior to the class, followed by regular, active and insightful participation in class. Thus, increased responsibility falls to each student to structure your preparation time and participation in ways that optimize your contribution to the intellectual environment of the course.   Accordingly, a significant fraction of your grade (40%) will be based on class participation.

One essential aspect of class participation is engagement in discussions even when you aren’t the primary presenter.  You will be expected to have read the assigned material and be able to discuss it with your student colleagues and instructor.   In addition, we anticipate that there will be conceptual gaps and difficulties with the reading material, that we will attempt to fill via the class discussions.  Your contributions to both types of discussions will be considered valuable.

The following table illustrates assessment of your Discussion Points presentations:





Narrow and shallow background introducing only the most obvious aspects.  Poor organization, difficult to follow

Hits the major points but misses some details.  Decent organization with obvious effort. Makes the obvious connections but misses some subtle ones

Broad and deep background providing information on all aspects of the questions.  Discusses relevance/significance. Very well organized and easy to understand.  Connections are very clear.


Minimal content.  Covers the question in a superficial way.  Narrow and shallow.

Comprehensive but has some areas that are unbalanced.  Some focus but  wanders at points

Addresses different aspects of the question in depth.  Balanced coverage of all aspects of the question (breadth).

Discuss tie ins to block

Only the most obvious tie ins are discussed

Makes some connections mostly to past blocks, some diversity but not comprehensive in scope

Multiple connections to different lectures are presented.  (later on connections to lectures in different blocks)

Answer questions

"Yes" "no" "I don't know"

(If you don't know an answer it is important to admit you don't know, rather than guess)

Some questions answered well, others not or only partially answered

Demonstrate mastery of your presentation by providing a detailed answer providing additional material that you didn't present.

Time management

Way too long, way too short.  Frequently wanders far off topic

One or two not in sync with the rest, talk falls 5 min too short or long

Presentation completed in proper time.  Balanced time for different components/individuals

--Attendance:  You are expected to attend all class sessions.  In the event of personal issues that prevent you from attending, you must inform Dr. Frisch at least 24 hours in advance of your absence from class. Uninformed absences will result in a loss of points from your grade

For extreme circumstances that necessitate your short-term absence, such as a death in the family or hospitalization, contact the Office of Campus and Community Life at 304-293-5611. The Office of Campus and Community Life will notify your instructors of imminent absence in situations if you are unable to do so.


The West Virginia University community is committed to creating and fostering a positive learning and working environment based on open communication, mutual respect, and inclusion. If you are a person with a disability and anticipate needing accommodation in order to participate in this class, please advise me and make appropriate arrangement with the Office of Accessibility Services (304-293-6700). For more information on West Virginia University's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, please see


The integrity of the classes offered by any academic institution solidifies the foundation of its mission and cannot be sacrificed to expediency, ignorance, or blatant fraud. Therefore, I will enforce rigorous standards of academic integrity in all aspects and assignments of this course. For the detailed policy of West Virginia University regarding the definitions of acts considered to fall under academic dishonesty and possible ensuing sanctions, please see the West Virginia University Academic Catalog at   Should you have any questions about possibly improper research citations or references, or any other activity that may be interpreted as an attempt at academic dishonesty, please see me before the assignment is due to discuss the matter. 


A grade of I (Incomplete) is a temporary grade assignment used when unforeseen, non-academic circumstances arise that prohibit you from completing the last course assignments or examinations at the end of the semester.  The grade of Incomplete is typically assigned because of an excused absence from the final examination, or because assignments are unavoidably incomplete, as determined by the instructor.  Those who are failing a course (exclusive of the incomplete work) may not request an Incomplete.

If you want to be considered for an Incomplete, you must apply to the instructor prior to the end of the term. If the instructor agrees, the instructor and the you must negotiate the conditions under which the grade of I will be changed to a letter grade and sign a contract.  The date to submit the incomplete work should not be set beyond the last day of class of the following semester. If don’t complete the terms of contract then the instructor should submit a grade of F. All incomplete contracts must be filed with the department and Dean’s Office. 

To remove the grade of I, you don’t need to register for the course again. 

If the Incomplete grade is not changed by the end of the next major term (excluding summer), the I grade will be replaced with an IF.


West Virginia University (WVU) does not tolerate sexual misconduct, including harassment, stalking, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, or relationship violence [BOG Policy 44].  It is important for you to know that there are resources available if you or someone you know needs assistance.  You may speak to a member of university administration, faculty, or staff, but keep in mind that they have an obligation to report the incident to the Title IX Coordinator.  If you want to speak to someone who is permitted to keep your disclosure confidential, please seek assistance from the Carruth Center, 304-293-9355 or 304-293-4431 (24-hour hotline), and locally within the community at the Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center (RDVIC), 304292-5100 or 304-292-4431 (24-hour hotline).


If a student becomes sick or is required to quarantine during the semester, they should notify the instructor. The student should work with the instructor to develop a plan to receive the necessary course content, activities, and assessments to complete the course learning outcomes.


Fall Semester 2022

  • August 15 - General Registration
  • August 17 - On-Campus First Day of Classes
  • August 23 - Last Day to Register, Add New Courses, Make Section Changes, Change Pass/Fail and Audit
  • September 5 - Labor Day Recess: University Closed
  • October 6 - Mid-Check Grades Due
  • October 7 - Fall Break
  • November 8 - General Election Day: University Closed
  • November 15 - Last Day to Drop a Class and Last Day to Withdraw from the University
  • November 19-27 - Fall Recess
  • December 8  - Last Day of Classes
  • December 9 - Prep Day for Finals
  • December 12-16  - Final Exams
  • December 17 - Commencement
  • December 17 - Winter Recess Begins







Week 1 (Aug 17,19)

Metabolic Disease


Week 2 (Aug 24,26)

Metabolic Disease


Week 3 (Aug 31, Sept 2)

Metabolic Disease


Week 4 (Sept 7, 9)



Week 5 (Sept 14,16)



Week 6 (Sept 21,23)



Week 7 (Sept 28,30)



Week 8 (Oct 5 only)



Week 9 (Oct 12)



Week 10 (Oct 19,21)



Week 11 (Oct 21,28)

Aging and chronic disease


Week 12 (Nov 2,4)

Aging and chronic disease


Week 13 (Nov 9,11)

Aging and chronic disease


Week 14 (Nov 16 only)

Course wrap up