BIO 542L: Graphic Publication for Biologists

General Information

Important References:


Scientists are often depicted as lone eccentrics working in hidden laboratories, but science is a collective activity, and even eccentrics base their lonely work on the studies of others. It is often said that “If it isn’t published, it’s not science.” While this isn’t always technically true, it points up the absolute importance of scientists communicating their work.

—Curtis Clark,
Introduction to the literature of biology

In this course, you will learn many of the techniques you will need as scientists when you communicate your work. Even as an undergraduate you had to make graphs; as a scientist, you have to make them conform to the dictates of good design and traditional appearance, two sets of criteria which are themselves often at odds. As an undergrad, you may also have given presentations in front of a class, but as a scientist you will present to meetings of your peers. You may also present your research in the form of a poster.

Eventually you will produce a thesis, which must follow precise rules for format as well as content, and you will be asked to prepare an on-line version as well as the traditional paper. I hope you will go on to turn your thesis into a publication in a journal: another set of rules for format and content.

An increasing number of modern biologists hold all this together with a web page, which serves as a public guide to their research and other professional activities. Here at Cal Poly Pomona, you’ll need to know some of the basics of the Intranet in order to set up your web page.

Grading and Evaluation - The value of this class is not in the grade but in the skills you learn. I ordinarily give an “A” to everyone who satisfactorily completes the assignments. More important than the grade, though, is the feedback you get on your work.

To enhance this feedback, each of you will serve as an evaluator of many of the assignments of other class members. Think of this as a sort of “peer review”. This evaluation will be formalized—evaluators will be assigned evaluatees in a rotation—and the written evaluations will play an important role in my decisions about satisfactory progress.

I’m hoping this process of peer evaluation will continue among you through the rest of your graduate career. Sometimes graduate students end up working in relative isolation, and this encourages uncorrected errors. The best environments for working scientists involve interaction, “give-and-take”, collaboration. This can be fostered by your professors, but it is ultimately up to you.


You'll need to do some preparation in order to complete your assignments for this course:

  1. You will need an account on the Cal Poly Pomona Intranet. All students are supposed to get one automatically. If you had an Intranet account before this quarter, you are set. If you had a “Vax” email account prior to July 12, 2000, it was converted to an Intranet account at that time. If your are a new student, and preregistered for classes, the account information will appear on your first day study list (the default password should be your birth date in YYMMDD format). If you have never used a Cal Poly email account, or if you have forgotten your password, take your Cal Poly photo ID card, or your driver’s license and a printed copy of your study list from the Registrar’s Office (not the self-generated one from the web) to the Helpdesk, Building 1, Room 100. You will not be able to carry out the assignments in the course without an Intranet account.
  2. Your Intranet account comes with electronic mail, but you may have email through AOL or another commercial internet service provider. You may use any email account you have, but all email for this course will be sent to your Cal Poly account. You must set your Cal Poly mail to be forwarded to the mail account you use, so you will receive any messages sent to it (click here, enter your username and password, scroll down to “mail forwarding”, select “forward to”, fill in the address of the email account you use, and hit the submit button). Here are some useful links:
  3. There are no paper handouts for this course. You’ll need to be able to make basic use of Mozilla, Netscape, Internet Explorer or some other web browser in order to obtain the information you need to complete the assignments.