The Biology of Sex and Death

About this course

The Biology of Sex and Death is intended for non-science majors who would like to earn their lab requirement by learning a little about biology and the scientific method. Beginning in Summer 2020, the course and this textbook include some basic coronavirus biology content. The course fulfills a lab science (Core Area D) requirement for students at Georgia Tech. 

About this book

The Biology of Sex and Death is an online, open education resource written and curated by faculty in Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License


Chrissy Spencer, PhD, Georgia Institute of Technology

Brian Hammer, PhD, Georgia Institute of Technology

Shana Kerr, PhD, Georgia Institute of Technology

What’s the blue text?

This textbook is editorially agile to keep pace with the course as it develops. We craft content for readers carefully, and then seek reader feedback. If you see blue text while you read, that reflects text (or images) changed  in real time during the semester to help you better work with and learn the course material. Please feel free to log in to leave a comment below a reading in this textbook.

Course Overview

The Biology of Sex and Death (BIOL 1220) is a Biology lab science course at Georgia Tech. This online textbook contains all the course readings and videos. Consult the course syllabus for assigned readings, due before class and available in the drop down menus above. After you read, complete the IKE in Learning Catalytics, then come to class.

After completing the Biology of Sex and Death, students will be able to obtain, analyze, interpret, and criticize qualitative observations and quantitative measurements to explain natural phenomena and to test hypotheses. Lecture time will allow students to discuss, clarify, and apply new ideas through a variety of team-based activities. These will include answering questions, drawing diagrams, analyzing science news articles and figures from the primary literature, and explaining phenomena in the context of biological principles.

The Biology of Sex and Death course is designed to teach biology through the lens of the formation and collapse of biological systems, organized around questions pertaining to life, sex, and death. Sex and death are two constants of living organisms and are a consequence of how organisms interact with each other and the environment. We’ll explore questions such as why sex exists, how sexual reproduction differs between organisms, and what is gene expression and gene editing. We will also consider the adaptive role of cancer and infectious disease in causing death, and how climate change and land use decisions by humans cause extinction – the death of an entire species.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Acquire, explain, apply, and evaluate basic biological information surrounding life, sex, and death. (Biology Content Knowledge)
  2. Know and apply the scientific methodology, including a recognition of scientific uncertainty. (Scientific Methodology)
  3. Work effectively on teams to present, explain, and critique your results and the results of others. (Teamwork & Scientific Methodology)
  4. Interpret evidence and reflect upon how scientific thinking about biological topics can inform personal and societal decisions in the context of the environment, bioethics, medicine, and politics. (Authenticity & Reflection)