Melanie Brink

The following information comes from the named instructor and should describe characteristics general to courses as taught by this instructor. Individual sections of specific courses will deviate from this description in some respects.

Class Format

I teach various courses so, therefore, there are various formats. However, in general:

Lecture courses are largely lectures (unsurprisingly) with (hopefully) significant student input. Versions of each lecture with strategically placed blanks to be filled in are made available on the course website before the lecture so that students can produce a study guide for that lecture during the class. Interruptions to the lecture in the form of "pop" quizzes occur as often as I happen to think of it and/or when students request them. These quizzes cover material we are covering at that time (so no time for "study") and are great ways to find out if students are understanding the material when it is being covered (rather than waiting until the night before the exam). Questions on the quizzes come off the top of my head or sometimes from student suggestions and are specifically designed to focus on main points and material that have been repeated several times.

Lab courses generally begin with a (hopefully) brief introduction to the concept that the lab is designed to illustrate and any instructions needed to do the lab. After that, I try very hard to shut up and let the students do the lab. Labs nearly always encourage or require work with other students and tend to be pretty good times for all involved. Labs typically end with a quiz over the lab. If the lab is part of an integrated lab/lecture course, I make every effort to keep the lab and lecture as close to covering the same topics as possible.

For all courses and all formats, my goal is always to remove the intimidation factor from science and to help students feel comfortable with this "foreign" language.

Resource Use

Textbooks: The extent to which the textbook is used varies tremendously with the course.

In laboratory courses, the student is generally expected to have read through the introductory material before arriving for lab that day. During the lab, students typically use the manual constantly.

In lecture courses, the text is generally a very useful supplement. The student will have assigned reading in the text and will benefit from completing the reading before attending lecture. In some courses, shorter, more student-friendly texts are being tested. I anticipate making these texts a larger part of the course.

Online Homework and quizzes: Occasionally, homework or quizzes will be placed on the course website. Students will be notified in class and/or by email of the assignment and are generally given about one to two weeks to complete the assignment.

Calculator: A basic calculator is occasionally required.

Computer: Convenient access to a computer is required for all courses since lectures, some labs, announcements and other forms of critical information are posted on the course website. Students are expected to check email on the course website or other location provided by the student at least once a week (or more frequently in some courses).


This too, varies a great deal with the course. In lectures, most assessment is in the form of exams. These exams are mainly multiple choice, matching and short answer. Some exams have a short essay component.

Assessment in labs may consist primarily of practical exams (for example, BIOL 121) or a combination of practical exams and laboratory reports and worksheets (for example, BIOL 131).

All courses have quizzes, which make up 5-15% of the grade. In all cases, more quizzes are given than will be counted toward the student's quiz grade. This allows each student to drop his or her lowest quizzes and is one of the reasons students sometimes ask for quizzes - each quiz is an opportunity to raise the quiz grade.

Homework Policy

Most classes have little or no homework other than regular review of material covered and reading to prepare for the lecture or the lab. In courses with significant homework (for example BIOL 131), lab worksheets, although often largely finished during lab, are usually due the following class period. Longer assignments are sometimes given and more time is allowed for completion. Late worksheets are accepted the following class period, but for reduced credit. Assignments may be turned in online if the student prefers.

Attendance Policy

In most classes, I don't bother taking attendance after the first week or two of class. However, I have never seen students do well in class without regular attendance. That said, physical presence does little more than warm a seat; a student must be mentally present (no texting, etc.) if he or she wishes to succeed. (Sorry, the research says there is no such thing as true multitasking). Any quizzes given during class cannot be made up. Missed lecture exams may be made up under certain circumstances outlined in the syllabus. These exams are generally somewhat more challenging due to fairness considerations. Missed laboratory practicals are impossible to make up in whole or in part due to the complexity of setting them up.

In some classes (for example, BIOL 131), attendance (participation) is a very important part of the student's grade. These labs generally consist of collecting data as a group and the class data is used to complete the assignment. The data collection component, therefore, is 30% or more of nearly every lab assignment. Students may not expect to pass this course without regular attendance.


Although I do not maintain specific office hours, I am on campus an average of about 45-50 hours per week and will generally be happy to meet with students at a time that will be convenient for them. I am most easily reached by email and strongly encourage students who are having any difficulties understanding the material to make an appointment to see me as soon as possible – before they become overwhelmed.

Additional Information

  1. There is a fairly good chance that I am the most absent-minded person you will ever meet. So if you think I've forgotten to hand something out that I promised to, or that I missed entering a grade you earned, just ask – I won't be offended!
  2. I really like students to ask questions. I get tired of just listening to myself talk.
  3. Sometimes I bring brownies to the final exam, so I may need to know about any chocolate allergies.