This course is offered through the Stanford Online High School.

This course occurs in academic year 2014–2015 and meets in real-time seminars. For more information about this course or about the application process to Stanford OHS, please contact or 650-721-9422. More information can be found at

Advanced Topics in Biological Research is a year-long seminar course that explores a variety of biological concepts in depth through discussion of scientific research. Topics are chosen from the breadth of the discipline and build on the foundation of knowledge acquired in AP Biology (OB010).

Students study molecular and cell biology, genetics, plant biology, medicine, evolution and ecology by reading both current and seminal research publications and discussing these works as a group. Not only do students gain an appreciation of relevant research topics in modern biology, but they also learn about valuable research tools and the skills necessary to understand the frontiers of the science.

Writing Option

Advanced Topics in Biological Research: Writing Option is a companion course to Advanced Topics in Biological Research. Students choosing the Writing Option will be engaged in the discussions of Advanced Topics in Biological Research and additionally discuss the forms and styles of science writing including primary research publications, reviews, and science journalism. Students will apply their knowledge of these forms by composing a review article significant research paper on the modern biological research topic of their choosing. Throughout the writing process, students will learn the skills necessary to independently and deeply explore scientific research literature and the process of writing, editing, and reviewing a lengthy written piece including peer-evaluation.


AP Biology (OB010) or consent of instructor.


This course will be taught by an instructor of the Science division of the OHS.

Kim Failor, Ph.D.

Dr. Failor earned her B.S. in Cell and Structural Biology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. While at UC Berkeley, she worked with Dr. Gary Firestone studying the steroid hormone regulation of cell signaling in mammary epithelium that controls the interaction between cells and the development of the mammary gland. Dr. Failor also had the opportunity to teach several biology courses during graduate school, including both lecture and laboratory classes. Her work leading discussions and her dedication to her students in the course entitled, “Cell Biology,” earned her the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor award in 2003. Kim also has experience preparing students for the Biological Sciences section of the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) for the The Princeton Review.  During her years in graduate school, Dr. Failor also took part in biology-related community outreach programs, judging local high school science fairs, providing lab tours to incoming freshman undergraduates, and mentoring several students in primary research. Dr. Failor joined EPGY OHS in 2007 as the Lead Biology Instructor and is currently the Division Head of Science. She has immensely enjoyed working with EPGY OHS students, developing the biology-related curriculum and seeing the expansion of the Laboratory Sciences department.

Jeffrey Halley, Ph.D.

Dr. Halley holds a Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology from UC Berkeley, where his research focused on the role that DNA-compacting proteins play in gene regulation and expression. As an undergraduate, he studied biochemistry and philosophy at the University of Georgia. As a student of biochemistry, Dr. Halley learned how basic chemistry works in complex systems like cells and the human body. As a student of philosophy, he learned two essential lessons: the importance of clearly explaining ideas and concepts, and the difference between knowing what a challenging concept says and understanding what it means. As a teacher, Dr. Halley draws on this diverse educational background to move students beyond the facts and procedures of chemistry and to help them develop a deep understanding of the scientific process of discovery, so that students appreciate the origin and relevance of the subject matter. When outside of the classroom, Dr. Halley likes to run and plays guitar in a band.

Raphey Holmes, M.S.

Mr. Raphey Holmes earned his B.S. in Physics at Stanford University and his M.S. in Educational Technology at Boise State University. He has been teaching physics and math at the SPCS summer institutes for eight years. Mr. Holmes' primary interests are in education, puzzles, games, and music.

Alex McKale, Ph.D.

Dr. McKale earned his B.A. in Physics from Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. in Experimental Solid State Physics from Northwestern University. While at Northwestern, his research included the application and improvement of EXAFS in fields including nuclear waste disposal, ceramics and high temperature superconductors. Dr. McKale subsequently was lured to Silicon Valley with promises of roads paved with gold. He has stayed here despite the reality of asphalt highways and has worked in the field of software development of tools, community, and middle school science curriculum. He most recently was an Advanced Technology Champion at Hewlett Packard. Recently Dr. McKale returned to the classroom, teaching Conceptual Physics at Independence High School in East San Jose. He joined OHS last year and is now teaching AP Physics B and C.

Gary Oas, Ph.D.

Dr. Oas graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in physics and later earned a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Davis. His original research was in the area of quantum chaos and random matrix theory, but HE now concentrates on foundations of quantum mechanics, models of brain function, and physics pedagogy. In 1995, just prior to earning his Ph.D., Gary joined EPGY, now Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies, as Head of Physics. He created the university level physics offerings and has taught relativity and quantum mechanics for the Summer Institutes since 2001. Gary has an interest in music, primarily blues, jazz, and gypsy jazz; he plays guitar, piano, and saxophone.

Kaleé Tock, M.S.

Ms. Kalee Tock earned her B.S. in Chemistry from Harvard University and an M.S. from the Stanford University Department of Chemistry. She then earned a second Master's degree in Learning, Design, and Technology from the Stanford School of Education. Her chemistry graduate work was focused in bioinorganic chemistry, where she worked on magnetic circular dichroism spectroscopy on Manganese complexes in the laboratory of Professor E.I. Solomon. She was Teaching Assistant and Head Teaching Assistant for several Stanford chemistry courses, in addition to a year-long Stanford core course titled, “Light in the Physical and Biological World.” She taught many years for The Princeton Review, preparing students for the Chemistry and Physics sections of the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) exam. In 2010-11, she was also an instructor for Wizbots, a middle school hands-on robotics course. Ms. Tock is passionate about teaching and delighted by the opportunity to work with OHS students. She especially loves designing science experiments, some of the best ideas for which have come straight out of the lab notebooks of OHS students. Kalee has also worked on the K7 Math curriculum data analysis and software development at EPGY, and is the mother of three children. When not teaching, she enjoys camping, biking, sailing, launching compressed-air rockets, and reading fiction of all genres.

Josh Wolf, Ph.D.

Josh Wolf first learned about molecular biology as a sophomore in high school, which inspired him to pursue a B.S. in Molecular Biology from UCLA and ultimately a Ph.D. in Biology from MIT. He has always been interested in science education, and particularly how to relate the discipline to people's everyday experiences. He explored a number of interdisciplinary opportunities between science and education, law, and public policy during his graduate education, and continued these efforts during his postdoctoral studies at Stanford. Teaching with Stanford OHSx offers a welcome opportunity to bring his interest to a new medium and to continue learning along with his students.