MCB 150
The Molecular and Cellular Basis of Life
School of Molecular and Cellular Biology
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign |
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About MCB 150

FAQs About MCB 150

What are the goals of MCB 150?
MCB 150: The Molecular and Cellular Basis of Life is offered each semester to freshmen in the Biological Sciences Program as well as students from other colleges and disciplines. This course is unique in that while students are exposed to theories of molecular and cellular biology and modern biological techniques, they are also asked to read about, write about, and debate with their peers the scientific, social, political, and ethical aspects of these topics. Students are encouraged to think critically about issues and the sources of information they use when making personal decisions regarding these topics. Discussion classes in this course help students develop respect for and understanding of views that are different from their own. Whenever possible, students are exposed to ethical principles and well-defined standards which apply to research and other knowledge-building activities including learning and teaching.

What types of exams and assignments will comprise my grade in MCB 150?
There are a total of 1000 points in MCB 150. Sixty percent of these points will come from three lecture exams and a final exam. The exams in this course will be in the multiple-choice format, and will focus on the theory and techniques of molecular and cellular biology. Twenty-three percent of these points will come from MasteringBiology assignments, ten percent will come from in-class assignments, and the remaining 7% will come from discussion attendance/participation and assignments. Student scores are entered on the Gradebook for the course and are available at all times via(

Can I make an appointment with the instructor outside of office hours?
The rule for MCB 150 is that what we do for one student, we must be willing to do for every student. Therefore, it is not possible to schedule appointments outside of office hours to ask questions about lectures, or inquire about exam questions. In a course of more than 600 students, there simply are not enough hours in the week to accommodate every student's request. On the other hand, there may be times when you would like to speak to the instructor about a topic outside the realm of lecture material. Mr. Mehrtens is happy to schedule appointments with students under these circumstances, so please email him at

Can I earn honors credit in MCB 150?
MCB 150 is not an honors course in the traditional sense, but honors credit can be earned through enrollment in the honors section OR the use of Honors Credit Learning Agreements. The HCLA agreements are only available to James Scholars and are arranged with the lecturer in the course. See the HCLA information page on the College of LAS website for more details. Specific information regarding HCLA agreements in MCB 150 can be found here.

Is there a proficiency exam for MCB 150?
MCB 150 will offer a proficiency exam during fall and spring semesters. The exam will be comprehensive and will be offered during the first two weeks of the semester. No proficiency exam will be offered during summer sessions.

If I got a 5 on my AP Bio exam, should I try to skip MCB 150?
We are academic advisors as well as instructors, so we would like to offer a word of caution. Many students have historically assumed that a good score on an AP Bio exam means they are ready for MCB 250 or 252, and this is rarely the case. Even a great high school biology class is still a high school class, and the jump from MCB 150 to MCB 250 or 252 is an even larger step than from H.S. to MCB 150. AP biology courses cover many more topics than we will, in much less detail. You will be exposed to fewer topics in MCB 150, but in much greater detail. This is true for MCB 250 and 252 to an even greater extreme. So we would suggest that you use your performance on the proficiency exam as a better yardstick than the AP Bio test as to your preparedness for the advanced Core Courses in MCB. And if you're a freshman, you will learn more about just being a college student and how to excel in college courses this year than you probably realize, so a year to "prepare" for those very challenging courses might be a good idea.

Where do I go for help with MCB 150 lecture material and assignments?
Anytime a student feels lost or has questions that have not been answered during regular classmperiods, we urge you to do one or more of the following things:

  1. Visit Mr. Mehrtens during his office hours. These hours are posted on the MCB 150 Web site under the Instructor Information link. Melissa Reedy, Course Coordinator (415 Burrill Hall; 265-6379; is also available to answer questions.
  2. Visit an MCB 150 Teaching Assistant during MCB Help Sessions.
  3. See if your question has already been answered on the MCB 150 Previously Asked Questions forum, available via our Compass site. If it has not, post your question on the discussion forum that corresponds to the appropriate lecture topic and it will be answered within 24 hours.
  4. Make use of the materials available on the MCB 150 website, MasteringBiology, and the e-Book for the course, including detailed lecture notes, presentations from lecture, animations, tutorials, and practice exams.

How can I find the MCB Instructional Program Office?
127 Burrill Hall