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The number of students in the biology department has doubled “since everyone in the undergraduate school was exposed to 7.01X,” according to Professor of Biology Robert A. Weinberg ’64, who will be co-lecturing Introductory Biology (7.012) this fall with Professor of Biology Eric Lander.

The biology requirement was added to the core curriculum in 1992 and first affected the class of 1997. Students who don’t pass out of the biology requirement by receiving a score of five on the Biology Advanced Placement exam, or who don’t score well on the MIT Biology Advanced Standing examination, must take one of three classes -- 7.012, 7.013, or 7.014 -- to satisfy the requirement. However, only 7.012 is offered during the fall term.

All three courses are taught “for the same constituency,” and all share the similar end goals, “which is to impart understanding of basic biology as understood through molecular biology and genetics,” Weinberg said. Each course has a slightly different flavor to it, however; 7.012 examines current research in immunology, neurobiology, and human physiology; 7.013 applies fundamental principles to impart an understanding of human genetics and diseases, cancer, evolution, and other things; and 7.014 emphasizes comprehension of the biosphere and the role microorganisms play in that and human health and diseases.


According to the Department of Biology homepage, 7.012 tends to have more of an emphasis on immunology, neurobiology, and human physiology.

Both Weinberg and Lander have taught some flavor of 7.01 multiple times, although this is the first time they have taught the course together.

Weinberg, who has two college-aged children, did his undergraduate and graduate work in biology at MIT. Originally, he was going to take a pre-medical course, “and then I discovered that doctors had to stay up all night to take care of patients, and I like to sleep,” he said.

“Some people plan; I just happened to fall into my career trajectory,” he added. “I just put one step in front of the next,” and ended up moving from undergraduate to graduate student to post-doc to professor at MIT. Weinberg currently conducts research, exploring the origins of cancer and how genes convert normal cells into cancer cells. When he isn’t researching or teaching, he enjoys gardening and geneology.

Lander’s background is quite different. His undergraduate years were spent doing mathematics at Princeton University, and he continued to pursue mathematics for a doctoral degree at Oxford University. Now, he works on research into human genetics, although his mathematic training included algebraic combinatorics.

He hopes that his unusual background “lets me relate to the vast majority of MIT students who aren’t Biology majors who will be taking 7.012.”

He recommends that freshmen “don’t forget to enjoy [MIT]. Bumping into the unexpected” and finding unexpected treasures is the most wonderful part of the experience. “Don’t spend too much time doing the expected or the demanded,” he said.

His non-MIT interests include woordworking and hiking, as well as a family including three children who are “all Harry Potter fans.”