Teaching and Outreach

Dr. Dus was nominated for the Golden Apple Award, the only teaching award given by UM undergraduates on campus, for the Winter ’16 MCDB 421 Neuroepigenetics course:

Nomination“She has taught me more in this class than any other and has engrained a better work ethic and has not just taught knowledge but skills in dissecting and creating knowledge in the neuroscience realm. She provides an engaging lecture that is not only informative but distills the most important aspects, uses her skills and educational background to convey pertinent background that engages a new level of interest and her activites and assignments require students to be engaged and thinking critically of difficult scientific research papers. She is always available to meet and demonstrates in class how much she cares about our understanding of neuroscience as a whole. She considers our age, generation and fits her teaching style to best fit her students. She is a role model of what teaching is about and inspires me and other students.”

Check out the podcast series we made for this class @ Neuroepic podcast!


MCDB 421 Neuroepigenetics, from Environment to Genes to Behavior  

Winter 2016*, Winter 2018  *nominated for the Golden Apple Award

Have you ever wondered how life experiences are translated into changes in the DNA and how these in turn affect behavior? While genomes are hidden inside cells, they are also influenced by the “experience” of cells and organisms. These experiences, which come in the many forms, from diet to pollutants to stress, alter the chemical nature of the genome, and in turn, its function. This is particularly crucial in the brain, as its function is linked to behavior.

This class will cross the lines between neuroscience, molecular biology and epigenetics to uncover the effect of the environment and life experience on brain function and behavior. We will examine how genes determine complex behaviors, and analyze in depth how maternal care, stress, drugs of addiction and more contribute to brain function and dysfunction. This course involves critical reading and class discussion of recently published research articles in the field of neuroepigenetics. Assessment will include class interactions, quizzes and a final project where you will write an article and record a podcast for the public on one of the topics covered in class. This will be published for scientific outreach.

Learning Goals

  • Critically read the primary literature in this field and put it in the context of what you have learnt in other neuroscience and genetic classes.
  • Understand the basics of epigenetic processes in the brain and how they contribute to mental health and disease
  • Understand the technical approaches to study neuroepigenetics
  • Communicate new findings in this field to the public via social media and a website.

Students evaluations for Winter 2016

“Probably one of the best science classes I have taken at this university. Never had an instructor that actually cared about her students as much as prof. Dus. You can also feel that she’s genuinely VERY passionate about science, which makes the class that much more exciting. You would think that a new professor could only improve from his/her starting point, which would be logical, given the limited amount of experience. I can hardly imagine just how epi(c) prof.Dus’s courses will be in 20 years.
In any case, on a more specific note, the readings were very specifically/carefully chosen, such that the learning trajectory felt like an investigative journey in which you come out the other side with specialty knowledge. This was something I have never experienced in another class before. Prof. Dus is also super willing to go out of her way to help students who are struggling, meaning beyond office hours. Additionally, after the CRLT people came to assess the class, she really took our comments to heart and shaped the course continuously based on what works for us. Basically, she took the students’ input seriously and actively made revisions based on it. This is something that I highly appreciate, as I understand the tremendous amount of time it takes to prepare lesson plans in a new course, let alone revise it on a continuing basis. The final project was also a very nice way to wrap everything up. To go from reading very specialized articles to presenting our newly acquired knowledge in a form that’s understandable by the general public is a perfect way to actually synthesize and fully understand what we have learned. All in all, this was an EXCELLENT course.”

“I really enjoyed learning about the various topics that we covered and discussing the information in class. I absolutely loved the professor- she is fantastic- willing to work work with students, always answers any questions that we may have, and wants to give us as much of her knowledge as she can. She really care about her students and their learning as scientists. Dr. Dus is very relaxed yet also expects you to think.”

“In summary: the subject matter is awesome, and Prof. Dus is awesome. I thought most of the readings were well selected. As far as biology goes, neuroepigenetics is the most mind-blowing subject I’ve studied in college. Reading and discussing the neuroepigenetics papers changed the way I think about human nature. I also really liked the podcast project. It was cool to be working both (a) on reading papers from scientific journals, as I’ve done in several 400-level MCDB courses, and (b) figuring out how to explain the science in these papers to laypersons. Prof. Dus is extremely passionate about science — and about learning in general. Her enthusiasm is part of what made the course so fun. Watch for her to become one of the intellectual leaders of the biology community.”

BIO 305 Genetics

Fall 2016, Fall 2017 (co-taught with EEB)

Biology 305 will introduce you to genetic principles and analyses ranging from classical Mendelian transmission genetics to state-of-the-art molecular genetics and genomics. You will be provided with the factual information needed to understand genetic analyses as well as given opportunities to develop your ability to apply genetic principles to solve problems in new settings. You will learn the genetic principles needed to succeed in future biology courses and in biology-related graduate programs. But, even if you never take another biology course, the knowledge you will gain in this course will help you to evaluate and interpret genetics research reported in the mainstream media and to make informed decisions about political issues such as stem-cell research. Dr. Dus’ half of the class covers molecular genetics topics, with special focus on eukaryotic gene expression, chromatin/RNA biology, and epigenetics.


Fall 2014, Fall 2015
MCDB 614 Model Organisms: Genes, Circuits and Behavior module
   How do genes determine complex behaviors and how do behaviors in turn affect genes? We will explore the concept of switch genes by reading landmark studies on the Vasopressin receptor, the Drosophila fruitless gene, and finish with studies on epigenetic behavioral reprogramming pioneered by Szyf&Meaney.