Teaching the fundamentals of organismal biology while centering our values of growth, compassion, and equity.

BIO161 Organismal Biology Lab

Our goal is to provide genuine research experiences for undergraduates while nurturing a love for organismal biology, affirming their ability to succeed in the laboratory, and equalizing access to authentic research experiences.

This course is generously funded by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation

Learning Goals:

  1. Apply critical thinking to a scientific question
  2. Develop analytical skills to quantify and analyze phenotypic data
  3. Communicate the process of science and discoveries made
  4. Gain practical skills useful in the scientific workforce

Autumn 2023

publication coming soon!


"Amazing class! Really pushes you to think about scientific experimental design in a fun environment. Teaching team is fabulous and the community they build is really cool."

"This class is AMAZING & Dr. O'Connell is the best and actually cares about her students. As a senior, this is really the first teacher I have had that cares about your learning not just the grade. I think this class is a must and you will learn a ton about the true scientific process from start to finish (and all the little problems in between)!"

"This is one of the best courses I've taken at Stanford. Professor O'Connell is so friendly and an amazing teacher. The course is fun, you learn a ton, the workload is very manageable, and you get published at the end! /lit"

Autumn 2022

publication with tadpoles

Adebogun GT*, Bachmann AE*, Callan AA*, Khan U*, Lewis AR*, Pollock AC*, Alfonso SA, Arango Sumano D, Bhatt DA, Cullen AB, Hajian CM, Huang W, Jaeger EL, Li E, Maske AK, Offenberg EG, Ta V, Whiting WW, McKinney JE, Butler J, O’Connell LA. 2023. Albino Xenopus laevis tadpoles prefer dark environments compared to wild type. microPublication Biology. 10.17912/micropub.biology.000750.

publication with worms

Alfonso SA*, Arango Sumano D*, Bhatt DA*, Cullen AB*, Hajian CM*, Huang W, Jaeger EL, Li E, Maske AK, Offenberg EG, Ta V, Whiting WW, Adebogun GT, Bachmann AE, Callan AA, Khan U, Lewis AR, Pollock AC, Ramirez D, Bradon N, Fiocca K, Cote LE, Allee MD, McKinney JE, O’Connell LA. 2023. Argentine ant extract induces an osm-9 dependent chemotaxis response in C. elegans. micropublication Biology. 10.17912/micropub.biology.000745


"TAKE IT!! Professor O'Connell is incredible and the whole teaching team is so much fun. She genuinely cares about you and wants you to succeed in the world of research and beyond. Totally worth taking! Amazing experience."

"Such a great class; Professor O'Connell is very invested in student success and provides an immense amount of support to students. The class is a real research experience and provides you with many invaluable skills. I highly recommend."

"I had a pretty bad intro to wet lab research in Frosh year, which dissuaded me from finding labs to work with during my time at Stanford. Dr. O'Connell's class was a refreshing change. She is a wonderful instructor and mentor. If I had taken this class earlier, I may have been more involved in wet lab research. Regardless, I'm so happy I took this class and gained such useful insight into how to conduct experiments and analyze data."

Autumn 2019


Ellington CT*, Hayden AJ*, LaGrange ZB*, Luccioni MD*, Osman MAM*, Ramlan LIE*, Vogt MA*, Guha S, Goodman MB, O’Connell LA. 2020. The plant terpenoid carvone is a chemotaxis repellent for C. elegans. microPublication Biology. doi: 10.17912/micropub.biology.000231


"Amazing class. I have recommended it to any of my friends interested in working in wet lab. This class rivals the experience you get from actually working in a lab on campus, but also has some classroom elements to it, to ensure you learn well. Amazing class, amazing professor, and a really fantastic way to engage with personalized science on a higher level then many other classes."

"Definitely take it. It was a wonderful course that gives you real scientific experience and Professor O'Connell is a wonderful teacher who fosters a great community within the class. The final write up is a great learning experience as well."

"This class is truly unique, in that you'll learn skills that are actually useful for biological research and get to conduct open-ended investigations into some really interesting topics. It's a very reasonable amount of work. Professor O'Connell is super knowledgable, and she puts a lot of effort into mentoring the students in this class and making the modules worthwhile. Can't recommend it enough!"

BIO159 Herpetology

Our goal is to provide hands-on field and lab research experiences that centers student investment in the local community and gaining skills useful for scientific and conservation employment. Get ready to put down your computers, put on your field boots*, and go outside.

This course is co-taught by Dr. Esther Cole Adelsheim as part of a collaboration with the Stanford Conservation Program.

Learning Goals:

  1. Identify common local amphibians and reptiles by recognizing major anatomical features.
  2. Relate reptile and amphibian biology and role in ecosystems to the actions of individuals and communities to support conservation and management practices.
  3. Explain basic evolutionary and ecological concepts relating to amphibian and reptile diversity and natural history through a team-based final project.
  4. Gain skills required for field surveys and laboratory research using amphibians or reptiles.
  5. Invest in curiosity about the natural world and its relationship to people.

Winter 2023

As part of this course, students wrote a herpetological survey report for the local community (read it here). Students also started efforts to put up signage around the Stanford campus that informed community members about local reptile and amphibian wildlife.  


"This class is incredible and you should absolutely take it. The teaching team is passionate and nurtures student learning, which produces passionate students as well. This course is designed to make students succeed and was maybe my all time favorite class!"

"Take this class! It's such a great opportunity to learn about wildlife from many perspectives: conservation, natural history, experimental biology. You will survey local reptiles and amphibians around campus, study tropical species in lab, and acquire the tools and knowledge to explore herps on your own time!"

"This class is perfect for those interested in herps specifically, or even those interested in biology/ecology in general. The teaching staff are great, the assignments are light, and the learning is almost entirely experiential­­ in the field and in the lab. It was a blast, I learned a lot, and I got to encounter a bunch of cool salamanders, lizards, toads, and snakes!"

*Field biology can often be prohibitive due costs of supplies, which can limit access to these life-changing experiences. We are committed to making all supplies available to students, including books and field gear.

BIO84 Physiology

Physiology is one of the Foundations courses for the Biology. The goal of this course is to  provide an overview of animal and plant physiology, including how organisms maintain homeostasis, respond to environmental cues and coordinate behaviors across multiple tissues and organ systems.

This course is co-taught by Prof Lauren O'Connell (animal physiology), Prof José Dinneny (plant physiology) and Prof Robert Sapolsky (nervous systems).

Learning goals:

  1. Describe the structure and function of physiological systems in animals (reproductive, digestive, urinary, respiratory and cardiovascular) and how they are controlled and regulated.
  2. Understand the basis of neural and hormonal informational systems and the roles they play in responding to internal and external challenges to control and regulate the physiology and behavior of animals.
  3. Describe the mechanisms by which plants respond to environmental challenges, grow, reproduce, and how they obtain water, nutrients, and transport them to all parts of the plant body.
  4. Design and interpret physiological experiments that test hypotheses about how organisms function.