BCSC 245: Syllabus

Fall 2023

Time: Mon/Wed 3:25-4:40
Location: Meliora 221


Instructor: Dr. Greg DeAngelis
Office: 321 Meliora Hall
TEL: 275-8677
Office Hours: Please contact me for an appointment any time.

TA: Yanya Ding, Yanya_Ding@URMC.Rochester.edu
Yanya is a Neuroscience graduate student with considerable knowledge in the neuroscience. The TA will be organizing and running a series of workshops during the course, and will also hold office hours. Workshops are not mandatory but are strongly recommended, and are a great way to improve your understanding of the material and get experience with exam-type questions. Further details regarding the workshops will follow.

Course Organization

The course will consist of a series of lectures, along with discussion sessions in which the class will critically evaluate primary literature relevant to the topics of the course. Background readings will be assigned for most lectures. Students will get much more out of the lectures if they have done the background readings before class. There will also be a considerable amount of lecture content that will not be found in the readings; thus, class attendance is very important.

Course Philosophy

Much of the course material does not come from the textbook because I want to expose you to some of the really important issues in systems neuroscience, and I have not found a textbook that contains the right material and operates at the right level. The emphasis is on understanding core principles and ideas about how neural systems work and how we can start to understand how neural activity gives rise to behavior. We focus on a smaller number of topics but go into them in greater depth. As a result, simply memorizing facts will generally not yield good performance in this course; students should focus on obtaining an in-depth understanding of the concepts discussed in class sessions. Exam questions will emphasize concepts more than facts.


The course textbook is the 6th edition of “Neuroscience” by Purves, Augustine, Fitzpatrick, Hall, LaMantia, McNamara, and White, but the 5th or 4th editions may also be used and corresponding page #s are provided below where needed. Chapters will be assigned as background reading for a number of lectures; however, many class sessions draw on material that is not in the textbook. The relevant textbook chapters will be made available on Blackboard. Additional required readings will be drawn from reviews, journal articles, and book chapters and will be available electronically on Blackboard as well.


EEach student’s grade will be determined by a combination of performance on exams, quizzes, and class participation. These components will be weighted as follows:

  • Midterm exam I: 15%
  • Midterm exam II: 15%
  • Final exam: 20%
  • Quizzes: 40% (5% each for 4 lecture quizzes and 4 discussion quizzes)
  • Class participation: 10%


Midterm exam I, the Final exam, and quizzes will be administered through Blackboard at designated times (to be specified). Midterm exam II will have two portions: an online portion through Blackboard and a take-home portion. The exams and quizzes administered through Blackboard will be mainly multiple-choice and short answer questions, and are to be taken without the use of any books, notes, or other materials of any sort. The take-home portion of Midterm II will be open-book and will involve more intricate problem-solving and essay-type questions that will require students to synthesize material and apply key concepts to hypothetical problems. You will be given approximately one week to complete the take-home portion of the exam, and you MUST WORK ALONE.

The final exam will be partially cumulative in the sense that it may draw on some of the concepts and material presented in the first half of the course. However, the final exam will focus on material presented after the second midterm. Exams will focus heavily on the material that we discuss in class, thus understanding deeply the material covered in lectures and discussions is the key to success. Discussion of the material outside of class will also be greatly beneficial. You should discuss the material on a regular basis in your workgroups (see below), so that you obtain sufficient depth of understanding.

Except for the take-home exam, exams and quizzes will be administered online through Blackboard. Exams/quizzes will be timed via Blackboard and will be available during a defined period of time. To reduce opportunities for cheating, only one question will be visible at a time and questions will be presented in random order. While I appreciate that this may make test-taking somewhat more difficult, I have substantially increased the number and frequency of the assessments in the course to compensate for this and have also substantially reduced the weight on individual assessments.


Each of the five Discussion classes will be followed by a brief quiz. If you have read the assigned papers ahead of time and have followed the discussion in class, you should not find the quizzes too difficult. The best way to prepare for participation in Discussion classes is to write down questions as you read the papers. The lowest Discussion quiz grade will be dropped.

There will also be five quizzes on lecture material, to provide some additional assessments and feedback on performance. These quizzes will be administered online through Blackboard and will be similar in format to the online midterm exams. The lowest lecture quiz grade will be dropped.


The class participation portion of the grade will be mainly based on how you participate in Discussion sessions and during lectures. Students will be expected to be active participants in discussion sections, and will be called on as necessary. Papers for Discussion will be primary journal articles which are often not very easy to read. So plan ahead and allow enough time to digest these discussion materials.

Special Arrangements

Students needing special arrangements should contact Dr. DeAngelis and arrange an office visit.

Academic Honesty

All assignments and activities associated with this course must be performed in accordance with the University of Rochester's Academic Honesty Policy. For all online assessments, this precludes sharing of information of any sort about the exam with other people, both during and after taking the exam. All suspected cases of cheating will be reported promptly to the Academic Honesty Board, as required. Should you become aware or suspicious of anyone cheating in this class, you are obligated to contact me. More information is available online.

Library Resources

Andrea Kingston is the librarian for BCS and Neuroscience. You can make an appointment with her online (select her name from the list), or email her at

Course Credit Hour Policy

This course follows the College credit hour policy for four-credit courses. This course meets twice weekly for a total of 150 minutes per week. To be consistent with the credit hour policy, students are required to engage in additional “instructional” activities for an additional 50 minutes per week, at minimum. For this course, this requirement will be met by each student joining a workgroup, and that workgroup meeting for a minimum of 50 minutes per week to discuss lecture material, papers for discussion, workshop materials, etc. All students MUST sign up for a workgroup using the online spreadsheet.

Each workgroup MUST designate a leader who will be responsible for documenting in the spreadsheet the dates and times that the group meets. This documentation needs to be done every week.


The TA will be offering a series of workshops to supplement regular in-class learning. There will be 6 workshops scattered throughout the semester, and they will be held outside of normal class hours (to be scheduled). For each workshop, a set of questions will be provided ahead of time. Each workgroup should use some of their weekly meeting time to discuss solutions to the workshop questions. Workshops are a great way to improve your understanding of the material and get experience with exam-type questions. Further details regarding workshop scheduling will follow.