Majors

At Duke Kunshan University, each major consists of an interdisciplinary set of courses that integrate different forms of knowledge and a distinct set of disciplinary courses that provide expertise in specific areas.

Molecular Bioscience (Tracks: Cell and Molecular Biology, Biogeochemistry, Genetics and Genomics, Biophysics)
The Molecular Bioscience major is designed to integrate fully the fields of biology, chemistry, and physics throughout the major’s course of study, so students trained in molecular bioscience will be better prepared to understand and make fundamental advances on the tremendous challenges facing our current and future generations in human health, agriculture, biotechnology, and global environmental change.

Career Path

Graduates will be prepared to begin careers in biomedicine industries, health care, technology and other private/public sectors. Students can also pursue advanced study in biology, biogeochemistry, biophysics, genetics and other areas.

Mathematical Foundations 1

The fundamental concepts and tools of calculus, probability, and linear algebra are essential to modern sciences, from the theories of physics and chemistry that have long been tightly coupled to mathematical ideas, to the collection and analysis of data on complex biological systems. Given the emerging technologies for collecting and sharing large data sets, some familiarity with computational and statistical methods is now also essential for modeling biological and physical systems and interpreting experimental results. MF1 is an introduction to differential and integral calculus that focuses on the concepts necessary for understanding the meaning of differential equations and their solutions. It includes an introduction to a software package for numerical solution of ordinary differential equations.

Integrated Science 1

This course focuses on the concept of energy and its relevance for explaining the behavior of natural systems. The conservation of energy and the transformations of energy from one form to another are crucial to the function of all systems, including familiar mechanical devices, molecular structures and reactions, and living organisms and ecosystems. By integrating perspectives from physics, chemistry, and biology, this course helps students see both the elegant simplicity of universal laws governing all physical systems and the intricate mechanisms at play in the biosphere. Topics include kinetic energy, potential energy, quantization of energy, energy conservation, cosmological and ecological processes.

Mathematical Foundations 2

The fundamental concepts and tools of calculus, probability, and linear algebra are essential to modern sciences, from the theories of physics and chemistry that have long been tightly coupled to mathematical ideas, to the collection and analysis of data on complex biological systems. Given the emerging technologies for collecting and sharing large data sets, some familiarity with computational and statistical methods is now also essential for modeling biological and physical systems and interpreting experimental results. MF2 is an introduction to probability and statistics with an emphasis on concepts relevant for the analysis of complex data sets. It includes an introduction to the fundamental concepts of matrices, eigenvectors, and eigenvalues.

Integrated Science 2

This course focuses on the collective behavior of systems composed of many interacting components. The phenomena of interest range from the simple relaxation of a gas into an equilibrium state of well-defined pressure and temperature to the emergence of ever increasing complexity in living organisms and the biosphere. The course provides an overview of some fundamental differences between traditional disciplines as well as indications of how they complement each other some important contexts. Topics include thermodynamic (statistical mechanical) equilibrium, fundamental concepts of temperature, entropy, free energy, and chemical equilibrium, driven systems, fundamentals of biological and ecological systems.

Integrated Science 3

Integrated Science 3 emphasizes the physics and chemistry concepts of oscillating systems, waves, and fields, and includes applications to human perception. In addition to their fundamental importance to physics and chemistry proper, these ideas are essential for developing an awareness of the principles employed by engineers in the construction of the electrical and optical devices that are ubiquitous in modern civilization. Topics include harmonic oscillators, sound waves, light, and reaction-diffusion patterns.

Career Path

This major prepares graduates for advanced study in computer science, math, statistics and related areas, and for careers in fields such as science, engineering, health care, finance and economics as well as quantitative social science.

Integrated Science 4

Integrated Science 4 has more of a chemistry/biology emphasis, with physics brought to bear as needed. It treats topics relevant to understanding organisms, biochemical engineering, and the environment. Topics include evolution, modern biology, ecosystems, hydrology, and climate.

Scientific Writing and Presentations I

Scientific Writing and Presentations cover some of the areas of scientific communication that a scientist needs to know and to master in order to successfully promote his or her research and career. Students will learn to recognize and construct logical arguments and become familiar with the structure of common publication formats. It will help students to advance their skills in communicating findings in textual, visual and verbal formats for a variety of audiences.

Scientific Writing and Presentations II

Scientific Writing and Presentations cover some of the areas of scientific communication that a scientist needs to know and to master in order to successfully promote his or her research and career. Students will learn to recognize and construct logical arguments and become familiar with the structure of common publication formats. It will help students to advance their skills in communicating findings in textual, visual and verbal formats for a variety of audiences.

Introduction to the Molecular Basis of Life

Though there is no exact definition of life, living organisms share some common properties including the ability to keep their interior composition distinct from their external environment and the ability to reproduce. Each of those properties relies on a set of molecules to perform these tasks. This course will examine the molecules involved in the ability of cells to maintain the inside-outside boundary including the proteins and lipids that make up a membrane and the proteins and carbohydrates that make up the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, and plants.

Introduction to Biochemistry

Provides an introduction to the chemistry of biological macromolecules from the single molecule to cellular metabolism to the whole organism level. Protein biochemistry topics include protein synthesis, folding and structure, enzyme catalysis and kinetics, and analysis methods. Cellular metabolism topics include glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, the Krebs cycle, oxidative phosphorylation, and fatty acid and amino acid metabolism. Whole organism biochemistry/physiology topics include glycogen storage, insulin signaling and diabetes. The laboratory portion will focus on protein purification and enzymatics. Students will isolate specific proteins from both native sample and E. coli and characterize the enzyme kinetics of their purified samples.

Introduction to Biophysics

The application of physics theory and experimental techniques to biological systems can be used to answer complex questions. The biological systems examined can range in scale from single molecules, to organelles, cells, tissues and whole organisms and the types of physics applied can include chemical, mechanical, electrical and others. The laboratory portion would include experiments in the biomechanics of movement, electrical activity in neurons and chemical binding of ligands and receptors.

Genomics and Evolution

Examines the structure and function of genomics and the flow of genomic information from parent to progeny and through populations. Changes in genetic makeup underlie important biological processes from disease to adaptation and evolution. Topics include classical transmission genetics (inheritance, assortment, recombination), bacterial and phage genetics, gene regulation, genome structure and stability, mutation and repair, population genomics, complex trait inheritance evaluation and modern genomic techniques. The laboratory portion examines genetic inheritance in common laboratory model systems like yeast and Drosophila with projects that show what can be learned about gene function by the examination of mutants. Mutants will be created by random mutagenesis as well as targeted recombination and CRISPR.

Biomedical Ethics

This course examines the study of ethical issues emerging from technological advancements in biomedical research using a combination of disciplines including biology, philosophy, and law. Topics discussed may include disease diagnostics quandaries (pre-natal as well as elderly); genetic modification of animals and plants for agriculture, and of humans for disease relief; and animal rights with regard to research, farm, and home. The legal aspects of genomics, cloning and diagnostics will also be discussed.

Molecular Genetic Analysis

A range of genetic traits can be mapped and investigated using molecular approaches. Here we will utilize several model systems to examine different molecular methods to identify genetic traits ranging from single gene complementation/rescue in yeast to recombination and SNP mapping in Drosophila to whole genome association studies in human populations.

Cell and Molecular Biology

Introduces major concepts in eukaryotic cell biology with a focus on molecular biology. A major emphasis is placed on transcription, translation, protein targeting and transport. In addition, the structure and function of organelles and how they function in metabolism and energetics will be examined. The role of the cytoskeleton and extra cellular matrix in governing cell shape and motility will be addressed as well as the genetic regulation of DNA replication and its place in the cell cycle and how disruption of either can lead to cancer. The laboratory portion of the class would introduce common laboratory molecular biology techniques like DNA isolation, PCR, cloning, sequencing, immunocytochemistry and fluorescent microscopy.

Microbiology

This course examines a number of different types of microbes including bacteria, archaea, fungi and viruses. Classical and modern approaches to the study of microorganisms and their roles/applications in everyday life, food, medicine, research and the environment. Topics covered include microbial cell structure/function, growth, genetics, energetics/metabolism, evolution and ecology. Virology topics include structure, life cycle, modes of transmission and host ranges. Additional examination of the role of microorganisms in disease, infection and immunology. The laboratory portion would stress aseptic technique and microbial culture; molecular, cytochemical, and physiological tests for microbial identification; and fermentation and its products for food and industrial production.

Cell Signaling and Diseases

During the past several decades, exploration in basic research has yielded extensive knowledge about the numerous and intricate signaling processes involved in the development and maintenance of a functional organism. In order to demonstrate the importance and processes of cellular communication, this course will focus on cell signaling mechanisms and diseases resulting from their malfunction, such as cancer, stroke, and neuron degeneration (including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Students will be exposed to current literature and cutting edge knowledge.

Experimental Molecular Biology

Progress in laboratory molecular biology and biotechnology have yielded phenomenal advancements in research, medicine, and diagnostics. In this hands-on laboratory course, students will perform many of the most common experimental methods in molecular biology: PCR, protein purification, site-directed mutagenesis, CRISPR and gene synthesis in one continuous project involving regulated protein localization.

Molecular, Behavioral and Social Evolution: Evolution of Genomes, Traits, Behaviors and Societies

Looks through the lenses of different disciplines to examine Darwin’s theories on natural selection and evolution, and explore current ideas about the evolution of complex social behaviors and societies. This course starts with an introduction to the key concepts of biological evolution; variation, inheritance, fitness, natural selection and the modification of physical traits, followed by an examination of how simple behaviors evolved in animals and humans. Discussion of these topics also considers ideas from other disciplines that influenced Darwin, such as those of economist, Thomas Malthus and geologist, Charles Lyell. The second part of the course investigates how Darwin’s theories might also explain the evolution of social behaviors such as cooperation, altruism and language, and considers some contemporary theories about the evolution of societies. Finally, the course will end with an investigation of Darwin’s influence on important ideas within other disciplines such as those of political theorist; Karl Marx, psychologist; William James and philosopher/sociologist; Herbert Spencer.

Advanced Biochemistry: Cell Metabolism

Builds on and extends the core metabolism concepts introduced in BIOL305: Introduction to Biochemistry. Detailed examination of additional cellular anabolic and catabolic pathways including nucleotides, lipids, cholesterol, and others. This course had an increased focus on the metabolic similarities and differences between humans, bacteria, and plants.

Developmental Biology: Development, Stem Cells, and Regeneration

Mechanisms of fertilization, control of cell divisions, diversification of cell types, organization and differentiation of cells and tissues of the organism, and patterning necessary to establish the body plan of many organisms including vertebrates, invertebrates and plants. Included among these mechanisms are the roles of transcription factors in controlling the trajectories toward tissues, signal transduction, morphogenetic movements, and other mechanisms used by different plants and animals to build a functional adult. Also includes stem cell biology, regeneration of tissues, sex determination, and evolutionary mechanisms of diversification.

Computational Biology and Bioinformatics

This course focuses on the analysis of genomic and genome-related biological data sets using computational methods. The course will cover not only the identification, retrieval and exploration of specific values from a large, genomic data set, but will also include the genome-scale comparison of data sets. Topics discussed will include genome sequence assembly, alignments, RNAseq analysis, motif finding, and gene classifications.

Physical Biochemistry

This course examines the theory and methods used to characterize the physical properties of biological macromolecules like DNA, RNA, and protein. A portion of the course will cover thermodynamics of biological macromolecules including both molecular measurements and statistical thermodynamic modeling. A second portion of the course will examine analysis methods including X-Ray diffraction, Spectroscopy, NMR, and Mass Spectrometry.

Cancer Genetics

Overview of the genetic changes associated with cancer and the molecular events that transform normal cellular processes into tumor-promoting conditions. Topics include: tumor viruses, oncogenes, growth factors, signal transduction pathways, tumor suppressors, cell cycle control, apoptosis, genome instability, stem cells, metastasis, and current therapeutic approaches.

Dynamic Earth and Oceans: Physical and Biological Sciences for the Environment

Introduction to the dynamic processes that shape the Earth, the oceans, and the environment and their impact upon society. Earth science topics include volcanoes, earthquakes, seafloor spreading, floods, landslides, groundwater, seashores and geohazards. Ocean sciences topics include seafloor evolution, marine hazards, ocean currents and climate, waves and beach erosion, tides, hurricanes/cyclones, marine life and ecosystems, and marine resources. Emphasis on the formulation and testing of hypotheses, quantitative assessment of data, and technological developments that lead to understanding of the biosphere dynamics and associated current and future societal issues.

Introduction to Biogeochemistry

Biogeochemistry is the study of how chemical elements flow through living systems and their physical environments. This course will investigate the factors that influence the cycling of those elements that are essential to life as well as the liberation, transport and exposure pathways of toxic trace elements. Concepts of nutrient limitation, element stoichiometry, primary productivity and carbon sequestration will be covered in depth, and will be applied to the study of human impacts on the global biogeochemical cycles of water, carbon, nutrients and trace metals.

Ecophysiology

This course examines how plants sense and react to environmental change in both an organismal and evolutionary context and how those reactions are scaled to the specific change. The environmental changes examined include light, temperature, water, CO2, and nutrient availability. To examine these changes at the molecular level, a detailed review of plant development, growth, and physiology is also covered.

Ecosystem Service

Ecosystem services are the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems and utilizes a system level approach to examine the interactions between four services. The course will include discussion of nutrient recycling as a supporting service, food production as a provisioning service, carbon sequestration as a regulating service and education as a cultural service as well as how they fit together in a sustainable system. Students will learn through case studies of the application of conservation, restoration and market valuation approaches to protecting critical ecosystem processes.

Global Change Biology

The rapid change in Earth’s climate has distinct biological causes and effects and in this course, both will be addressed. Beginning with a review of the Earth’s climate system and how it has evolved over time to its current state, students will then examine the human-driven causes of its rapid CO2 and temperature changes. These changes have consequences and detailed examinations of examples such as species range shifts, extinctions, and changes in biological event timing will be discussed.

Biodiversity and Conservation

An overview of biological diversity, its patterns, and the current extinction crisis. Historical and theoretical foundations of conservation, from human values and law to criteria and frameworks for setting conservation priorities; island biogeography theory, landscape ecology, and socioeconomic considerations in reserve design; management of endangered species in the wild and in captivity; managing protected areas for long term viability of populations; the role of the landscape matrix around protected areas; and techniques for conserving biological diversity in semi-wild productive ecosystems such as forests.

Ecology of Human Health

Humans are the dominant species on Earth and ecology is key to understanding the multiple feedbacks through which their activities affect human health. Fundamental principles of ecology, from population to ecosystem levels, will be examined through the lens of human health. Topics include human population growth and carrying capacity, why we age, infectious disease dynamics, the microbiome and human health, sustainable agriculture and food security, sustainable harvest of wild foods, dynamics of pollutants in food webs, ecosystem services to humans, and human impacts of climate change.

Food Web Ecology

This course examines the movement of food energy through a community and ecosystem. After examining species diversity and abundance in ecosystems, the course will look at the species interactions within that ecosystem, including the role of keystone species. The roles of primary and secondary producers in a community and the role of decomposers will be examined to bring the cycle to a close.

Microbial Ecology

Microorganisms represent the greatest diversity of life on Earth and couple the geochemical world to the living one across many ecosystems. This course will examine the role of microorganisms in biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Other topics discussed will include the symbiosis of microbes with plants, animals and other microbes to form communities. Finally, the role of microorganisms in converting or decomposing biological or geochemical materials will be addressed.

Population Ecology

This course examines a species population and its interactions within their ecosystem. Topics covered include demography and dynamics of structured populations, population regulation, population dynamics, metapopulations, and life history strategies. Interspecific interaction topics covered include competition, mutualism, host-parasite and predator/prey interactions.

Molecular Genetic Analysis

A range of genetic traits can be mapped and investigated using molecular approaches. Here we will utilize several model systems to examine different molecular methods to identify genetic traits ranging from single gene complementation/rescue in yeast to recombination and SNP mapping in Drosophila to whole genome association studies in human populations.

Cell and Molecular Biology

Introduces major concepts in eukaryotic cell biology with a focus on molecular biology. A major emphasis is placed on transcription, translation, protein targeting and transport. In addition, the structure and function of organelles and how they function in metabolism and energetics will be examined. The role of the cytoskeleton and extra cellular matrix in governing cell shape and motility will be addressed as well as the genetic regulation of DNA replication and its place in the cell cycle and how disruption of either can lead to cancer. The laboratory portion of the class would introduce common laboratory molecular biology techniques like DNA isolation, PCR, cloning, sequencing, immunocytochemistry and fluorescent microscopy.

Computational Biology and Bioinformatics

This course focuses on the analysis of genomic and genome-related biological data sets using computational methods. The course will cover not only the identification, retrieval and exploration of specific values from a large, genomic data set, but will also include the genome-scale comparison of data sets. Topics discussed will include genome sequence assembly, alignments, RNAseq analysis, motif finding, and gene classifications.

Experimental Methods in Functional Genomics

Functional genomics aims to identify a function for every gene in a genome. Using model systems like yeast, fruit flies and human cell lines, scientists can work toward this goal using a variety of methods. Approaches discussed will include a genetic approach by systematically reducing gene function by mutation or RNAi and examining a phenotype. Cellular location approaches using GFP fusions, yeast two-hybrid, and proteomics approaches will also be reviewed.

Population Genomics and Molecular Evolution

This course examines the genetic mechanisms of evolutionary change at the DNA sequence level in populations. Topics covered will include models of nucleotide and amino acid substitution, linkage disequilibrium and joint evolution of multiple loci. Evolutionary topics include neutrality, adaptive selection and hitchhiking. Case histories of molecular evolution as well as hypothesis testing and estimation of evolutionary parameters will be discussed.

Biodiversity and Conservation

An overview of biological diversity, its patterns, and the current extinction crisis. Historical and theoretical foundations of conservation, from human values and law to criteria and frameworks for setting conservation priorities; island biogeography theory, landscape ecology, and socioeconomic considerations in reserve design; management of endangered species in the wild and in captivity; managing protected areas for long term viability of populations; the role of the landscape matrix around protected areas; and techniques for conserving biological diversity in semi-wild productive ecosystems such as forests.

Molecular, Behavioral and Social Evolution: Evolution of Genomes, Traits, Behaviors and Societies

Looks through the lenses of different disciplines to examine Darwin’s theories on natural selection and evolution, and explore current ideas about the evolution of complex social behaviors and societies. This course starts with an introduction to the key concepts of biological evolution; variation, inheritance, fitness, natural selection and the modification of physical traits, followed by an examination of how simple behaviors evolved in animals and humans. Discussion of these topics also considers ideas from other disciplines that influenced Darwin, such as those of economist, Thomas Malthus and geologist, Charles Lyell. The second part of the course investigates how Darwin’s theories might also explain the evolution of social behaviors such as cooperation, altruism and language, and considers some contemporary theories about the evolution of societies. Finally, the course will end with an investigation of Darwin’s influence on important ideas within other disciplines such as those of political theorist; Karl Marx, psychologist; William James and philosopher/sociologist; Herbert Spencer.

Microbiology

This course examines a number of different types of microbes including bacteria, archaea, fungi and viruses. Classical and modern approaches to the study of microorganisms and their roles/applications in everyday life, food, medicine, research and the environment. Topics covered include microbial cell structure/function, growth, genetics, energetics/metabolism, evolution and ecology. Virology topics include structure, life cycle, modes of transmission and host ranges. Additional examination of the role of microorganisms in disease, infection and immunology. The laboratory portion would stress aseptic technique and microbial culture; molecular, cytochemical, and physiological tests for microbial identification; and fermentation and its products for food and industrial production.

Developmental Biology: Development, Stem Cells, and Regeneration

Mechanisms of fertilization, control of cell divisions, diversification of cell types, organization and differentiation of cells and tissues of the organism, and patterning necessary to establish the body plan of many organisms including vertebrates, invertebrates and plants. Included among these mechanisms are the roles of transcription factors in controlling the trajectories toward tissues, signal transduction, morphogenetic movements, and other mechanisms used by different plants and animals to build a functional adult. Also includes stem cell biology, regeneration of tissues, sex determination, and evolutionary mechanisms of diversification.

Systems Biology

Introduction to concepts and applications of Systems Biology. Identification of molecular interactions that underlie cellular function using data acquired through high-throughput approaches. A focus on transcription networks, and the types of network motifs they contain, including feed-forward loops, autoregulation, and the single-input module will be discussed. Examples of networks in development will be covered.

Genomics of Adaptation

Contemporary studies of how populations and species evolved adaptations to their ecological habitats. Focus on modern methods of genome mapping and sequence data and analysis in wild populations that can identify genetic changes that contributed to ecological adaptations. Emphasis on case studies of genomics of adaptation in plant and animal systems, including humans and our adaptations to environments that our ancestors encountered as they colonized diverse habitats throughout the world. Examples will also illustrate how speciation and hybridization can contribute to adaptive biodiversity.

Organic Chemistry I

The structures and reactions of the compounds of carbon and the impact of selected organic compounds on society. Laboratory: techniques of separation, organic reactions and preparations, and systematic identification of compounds by their spectral and chemical properties.

Physical Biochemistry

This course examines the theory and methods used to characterize the physical properties of biological macromolecules like DNA, RNA, and protein. A portion of the course will cover thermodynamics of biological macromolecules including both molecular measurements and statistical thermodynamic modeling. A second portion of the course will examine analysis methods including X-Ray diffraction, Spectroscopy, NMR, and Mass Spectrometry.

Nonlinear Dynamics

Introduction to the study of temporal patterns in nonequilibrium systems. Theoretical, computational, and experimental insights used to explain phase space, bifurcations, stability theory, universality, attractors, fractals, chaos, and time-series analysis. Each student carries out an individual research project on a topic in nonlinear dynamics and gives a formal presentation of the results.

Advanced Biophysics

Builds on and extends the core concepts introduced in Introduction to Biophysics. Advanced topics and recent developments in biophysics.

Quantitative Physiology

This course is a mathematical examination of processes in human physiological systems including pressure and electrical forces, concentration, kinetics and diffusion and mechanical forces. Examples of each will be discussed in the nervous, cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and endocrine systems. The laboratory portion will complement the lecture topics and use detailed statistical analysis of data.

Cell and Molecular Biology

Introduces major concepts in eukaryotic cell biology with a focus on molecular biology. A major emphasis is placed on transcription, translation, protein targeting and transport. In addition, the structure and function of organelles and how they function in metabolism and energetics will be examined. The role of the cytoskeleton and extra cellular matrix in governing cell shape and motility will be addressed as well as the genetic regulation of DNA replication and its place in the cell cycle and how disruption of either can lead to cancer. The laboratory portion of the class would introduce common laboratory molecular biology techniques like DNA isolation, PCR, cloning, sequencing, immunocytochemistry and fluorescent microscopy.

Thermal and Statistical Physics

This course focuses on the basics of equilibrium thermodynamics and introduces the concepts of temperature, internal energy, and entropy using ideal gases and ideal paramagnets as models. The chemical potential is defined and the three thermodynamic potentials are discussed with use of Legendre transforms. It will also cover topics including the power of thermodynamics in gases and condensed matter, phase transitions, probability theory, and quantum statistics.

Quantum Mechanics

Introduction to the non-relativistic quantum description of matter. Topics include experimental foundations, wave-particle duality, Schrodinger wave equation, interpretation of the wave function, the state vector, Hilbert space, Dirac notation, Heisenberg uncertainty principle, one-dimensional quantum problems, tunneling, the harmonic oscillator, three-dimensional quantum problems, angular momentum, the hydrogen atom, spin, angular momentum addition, identical particles, elementary perturbation theory, fine/hyperfine structure of hydrogen, dynamics of two-level systems, and applications to atoms, molecules, and other systems.

Modeling Biological Systems

Students will determine the topics covered in this research seminar on mathematical methods for modeling biological systems based on their own research interests. Students will review mathematical methods of differential equations and probability, and discuss how to use mathematical techniques in development of models in biology. The seminar is highly interactive and students are expected to contribute to presentations and class discussions on individual research projects. In the first weeks of the course each student will work with the instructor to agree upon a substantial final individual student modeling project that the student will develop over the course of the class.