PPEM 120 Course Syllabus

Fall 2016 PPEM 120 The Fungal Jungle: A Mycological Safari from Truffles to Slime Molds Course Syllabus

Course Logistics

Mondays/Wednesdays | 1:25-2:15 p.m.
Fridays | 1:25-2:15 p.m.

Mondays/Wednesdays | 213 Buckhout Lab
Fridays | 103 Buckhout Lab


Dr. María del Mar Jiménez-Gasco
Associate Professor
Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology
309 Buckhout Laboratory
(but please, contact me through CANVAS)
Office hours: Mondays | 2:15–3:30 p.m. or by appointment

Dr. Gretchen Kuldau
Associate Professor
Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology
308 Buckhout Laboratory
(but please, contact me through CANVAS)
Office hours: Tuesdays | 2:30-4:00 p.m. or by appointment

The course instructors reserve the right to make adjustments to the syllabus, assignments, and schedule as necessary and will announce such changes in class.

Course Description

Fungi represent one of five or one of sixteen Kingdoms of biological organisms depending on the system used. Either way the fungi are an integral and essential component of the biological world worthy of study by scientists and non-scientists alike. However, despite their importance to the ecosystem and to human affairs, fungi are among the least-studied groups of biological organisms. This is unfortunate since fungi are often quite beautiful and impact everyone’s life. The goal of this course is to provide a framework and context for non-science majors to become familiar with the fungi and their importance to other life forms including humans. Topics to be covered include the structure and classification of fungi, the ways in which fungi interact with other organisms as pathogens or beneficial partners, the contributions fungi make to ecosystem functioning, and the ways in which humans use fungi and products derived from them.

Credits: 3 credits

Course Objectives

  • At the end of the course students should be familiar with the major groups of fungi, understand the relationships amongst them and be able to describe the extent of biodiversity within the Kingdom Fungi.
  • At the end of the semester students should be able to accurately describe the characteristics of fungi that differentiate them from other organisms.
  • Students should be able to describe how biological organisms are classified and the methods that scientists use in classification and the importance of biological classification.
  • At the end of the semester students should have a good understanding of the myriad ways that fungi impact and interface with human affairs both in a current and historical context.
  • At the end of the semester, students should be able to describe the various roles of fungi in the global ecosystem.
  • Students should be able to articulate the concept of the symbiotic continuum and the different types of symbiotic relationships in which fungi participate.
  • At the end of the semester students should have developed an appreciation for the natural beauty of Fungi.
  • At the end of the semester, students should be adept at locating fungi in natural and manmade environments.
  • Appreciate the importance of fungi for humans in particular and for the earth in general.
  • At the end of the semester students should be more interested in and curious about fungi than they were at the beginning of the semester.

Course Textbook

The Kingdom of Fungi
Jens H. Peterson, 2012
Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

Grading Policy

ActivityAvailable Points
Class attendance and participation 50
Fungus fairs attendance and participation 100
Fungus journal assignment (3 entries, 25 pts ea.) 75
About Me assignment 25
Birthday Pages assignment 25
Fungi in the News assignment 50
Fungal Essay Questions 25
Favorite Fungus assignment 50
Four quizzes: 50 pts ea. (lowest score dropped) 150
Final comprehensive exam 100
Available Points TOTAL
Grade% Total Available Points
A 93-100%
A- 90-92%
B+ 87-89%
B 83-86%
B- 80-82%
C+ 77-79%
C 73-77%
D 60-72%
F 59% or less
Students receiving a grade of F may repeat the course with the permission of the course instructor.

Class Attendance

Students are expected to attend all class sessions. Class participation points will be awarded, in part, based on attendance. Attendance during the drop/add period will not be considered. Regular class attendance is one of the most important ways that students learn and understand course materials. It is a critical element of student success. Accordingly, it is the policy of the University and this course that class attendance is expected. A student should attend every scheduled class and will be held responsible for all work covered in this course.

Instructors will provide, within reason, the opportunity to make up work for students who miss class for regularly scheduled, university-approved curricular and extracurricular activities (such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, field trips, debate trips, choir trips, and athletic contests). In addition, instructors will provide, within reason, the opportunity to make up work for students who miss class for post-graduate, career-related interviews when there is no opportunity for students to reschedule these opportunities (such as employment and graduate school final interviews.) In both cases, students should inform instructors in advance and discuss the implications of any absence. Missing class, even for a legitimate purpose, may mean that there is work that cannot be made up, hurting the student’s grade in the class. Likewise, students should be prepared to provide documentation for participation in university-approved activities, as well as for career-related interviews, when requested by the instructor.

Instructors also will provide, within reason, the opportunity to make up work for students who miss classes for other legitimate but unavoidable reasons. Legitimate, unavoidable reasons are those such as illness, injury, military service, family emergency, or religious observance. Again, it should be recognized that not all work can be “made-up” and that absences can affect student performance in a class.

If an evaluative event will be missed due to an unavoidable absence, the student should contact the instructor as soon as the unavoidable absence is known to discuss ways to make up the work. An instructor might not consider an unavoidable absence legitimate if the student does not contact the instructor before the evaluative event. Students will be held responsible for using only legitimate, unavoidable reasons for requesting a make-up in the event of a missed class or evaluative event. (See 44-35 Conflict of Non-Final Examinations policy.) Requests for missing class or an evaluative event due to reasons that are based on false claims may be considered violations of the 49-20 Academic Integrity policy. (See Faculty Senate Policy 42-27 on Class Attendance).

Exam Policy

Exams are scheduled at the beginning of the semester. Make-up exams will be allowed only if the student has a valid excuse, and they need to be approved in advance by the instructor. Make-up exams must be arranged before the exam period. Students missing an exam without a valid excuse will receive a grade of zero for that exam. Unusual circumstances affecting exams must be discussed with the instructors prior to the scheduled exam.

Late Work Policy

Deadlines will be provided for all written assignments, and all assignments will be submitted in CANVAS. There will be a 24-hour grace period for late submissions during which no points will be deducted. Assignments submitted after the 24-hour grace period but before one week from the original due date will receive a maximum of 50 percent of the available points. Assignments submitted more than one week late will receive a zero. Exceptions to this policy may be granted on a case-by-case basis for unavoidable circumstances such as those described above.

Academic Integrity

All work submitted for this course must be the student’s own or properly cited as the words of another. Any deviation from this is academic dishonesty. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to cheating on quizzes and examinations, plagiarism, taking a test for someone else, and copying in-class assignments. Cases of academic dishonesty will be addressed to the fullest extent by course instructors and other university academic personnel as appropriate.

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the university community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the university community and compromise the worth of work completed by others (see Faculty Senate Policy 49‐20 and G‐9: Academic Integrity).

Academic Integrity Guidelines for the College of Agricultural Sciences

A lack of knowledge or understanding of the university’s Academic Integrity policy and the types of actions it prohibits and/or requires does not excuse one from complying with the policy. Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences take violations of academic integrity very seriously. Faculty, alumni, staff, and fellow students expect each student to uphold the university’s standards of academic integrity both in and outside of the classroom.

If you feel unsure about anything relating to academic integrity, talk with the course instructor for clarification.

Flu Policy

In compliance with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control recommendation, students should NOT attend class or any public gatherings while ill with influenza. Students with flu symptoms will be asked to leave campus if possible and to return home during recovery. The illness and self-isolation period will usually be about a week. It is very important that individuals avoid spreading the flu to others. Students with the flu do not need to provide a physician's certification of illness. However, ill students should inform their teachers (but not through personal contact in which there is a risk of exposing others to the virus) as soon as possible that they are absent because of the flu. Likewise, students should contact their instructors as quickly as possible to arrange to make up missed assignments or exams.

Disability Statement

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University’s educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.