Human Anatomy at Colby

Ivan Yang: My experience in A&P

February 24th, 2015 · Comments Off on Ivan Yang: My experience in A&P


Even though I am a molecular biology major, I had not taken any biology courses in the fall semester, so my advisor highly recommended me to take a biology course for JanPlan. After checking the course listings for January, I decided on a whim to sign up for the Intro to Human Anatomy and Physiology course. Later that week, I met someone who had taken the course last January. She informed me that if I was to take BI265, I would have to be prepared to learn a lot in a small amount of time. There was a wealth of interesting knowledge to be gained from the course, but, she warned, if I was expecting to cruise through JanPlan, I should drop the course. Not sure if I should take her seriously or not, I laughed it off and didn’t think about her words much after that.



After the first week, I definitely knew that this class was not to be taken lightly. The first week was especially rough because of the flipped lecture setting. Not only did we have to study for daily quizzes and lab exams, but also we had to listen to lecture and lab podcasts for the following day’s lecture and lab sessions. I was completely unprepared, and I was forced to adjust my mentality, my study schedule, and my lifestyle habits. However, while there was a seemingly surreal amount of work involved in the course, the amount of material that I absorbed during the four weeks of JanPlan truly astounded me. In addition, after putting in maximal effort just to learn the basics of human anatomy and physiology, I gained deep respect and admiration for the structure and workings of the human body. I truly came to enjoy the class and the subject, and soon enough I found myself embracing Dr. K’s recommended healthy lifestyle habits.

Beyond learning material through lectures and labs and finding a healthy lifestyle balance between working and resting, I also had many opportunities to do things that I had never done before. For example, for the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to perform a wet dissection of a pig heart. Although I was confused at first due to initial difficulties in matching the neatly-drawn heart schematics in my mind with the real deal in my hands, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of opening the heart with my own hands, placing my fingers through the valves and blood vessels to see where they connected, and seeing how the real tissues and membranes of the heart correlated with the models in our anatomy lab. In fact, I’m sure I would have enjoyed the experience even more if my partner and I had remembered that there were scalpels available for use in the dissection (we had to cut through a very thick ventricular wall with a very small pair of scissors – if you are taking the class and haven’t done the wet dissection yet, REMEMBER that there are scalpels available for use).


In sum, BI265 was a welcome and intellectually stimulating challenge. I absorbed a great deal of anatomy and physiology in the last four weeks, worked with wonderful classmates and a great professor, and learned about myself, my study and lifestyle habits, and stress management. I would recommend this class to anyone interested in thinking and in challenging his/her intellectual limits.


The blood vessel model – my best friend during the weekend before the second lab test.


Tags: Bi265j

Ariel Oppong: What is the Best Way to Study?

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Ariel Oppong: What is the Best Way to Study?

Ariel Oppong_237134_assignsubmission_file_colby id possible pic

For Intro Into Anatomy and Physiology we had to complete both lectures and a laboratory component. For the lab part we were provided with at least an hour and a half to review the components of various models and structures displayed around the microbiology laboratory. During the first week I was excited to see the models and to see how much I remembered from the Anatomy and Physiology class I took my junior year in high school (about four years ago). The first day I realized that what I had retained from my past Anatomy and Physiology class was more broad physiology than college- level anatomy details. We had our first lab exam on day four of the class. I was shocked to find out we would have an exam so early but I do not think that it really hit me until the first Tuesday night. That night I actually came to terms with the fact that I only had one more night before the exam. Panic definitely was a feeing that immediately surfaced. I had never taken a pervious class with Prof. Klepach and I did not know how he tested so I was really worried.


Nonetheless, I had to start studying something or I was going to feel defeated before I even started. My fried Jay and I really focused our studying on the various parts of the human skull. We spent about two hours in total on that skull and we were pretty good after numerous quizzes and checks with the professor. The only issue is that by spending so much time on the skull we really did not get to study the other models as in depth. Even in the moment, I knew I was taking a risk by focusing on that body part for so long. I was just hopping that at least five or so questions would come from that region so I could reap the benefits of my studying. Haha I guess I was hopeful. My Wednesday a lot of people were over the amount of work. I think we lost about 7 people in the first week. But I was intent on finishing the class.


But was I studying appropriately? I really was not sure. In addition, I finished the previous semester pretty late, December 22nd , so when JanPlan January 5th, I was only home for around 10 days and I was pretty tired of school already. Was I putting in the appropriate amount of time? On average I was studying for at least four hours a night if you included watching the videos or podcasts for the next class, still it felt like that was the bare minimum. My first practical was really supposed to show me where my study skills were improving, okay at or lacking.


Whoa was the first lab practical hard! I did not actually study even close to the amount I needed to study in order to do well. Slacking off would be an understatement. I did poorly on the exam and the answers I got right were mainly give –away or identifications that I probably could have made even as a high school student. Disappointment was my main feeling during and after the exam. I just felt like with an exam like the lab practical- your performance is in direct correlation with your study skills. All the answers are predetermined and you just have to recognize the anatomy and regurgitate the medical terminology.


Basically my first lab practical taught me a hard lesson about slacking off plus it motivated me to try new methods and lastly it gave me a starting place that was so low that for my second exam I had no where to go but up.


Tags: Bi265j · Lab

Allison O’Connor: Heart Dissection

February 22nd, 2015 · Comments Off on Allison O’Connor: Heart Dissection


Although I took a lot of science classes in high school, I never had the opportunity to do any dissections. Dissections were always something wanted to get to do because I feel like the best way to learn is through hands on experience. I first fell in love with anatomy in middle school when I visited the Body Worlds exhibit while it was in Philadelphia. My dad took me to this exhibit expecting that we would walk through quickly, but instead we were there for hours as I stopped and closely examined every part of the exhibit. This exhibit was the closest I ever got to dissecting anything before this JanPlan, but the exhibit definitely inspired me to want to learn more about anatomy.


In my various science classes and in my emergency medical technician training I had learned about the basic structure and function of the heart. Numerous times I have been asked to trace a drop of blood through the heart and it is something that I could recite in my sleep. When we started the cardiovascular unit in anatomy and physiology this JanPlan I thought I was going to hear the same spiel about the heart that I had heard so many times before. However, this JanPlan, I saw the heart in a whole new light. Though I had already learned the basic function before I learned about the anatomy in much more detail this month than I had in the past. I also learned more about the electric conductance system of the heart and some very basically how this presents itself on an EKG, which is particularly interesting to me since I see EKGs done by the paramedics on the ambulance all the time.


The heart and its function have always been interesting to me, however, I did not fully understand how truly amazing the heart and its structure are until I was holding the pig heart in my hands. While the heart was in my hands I was able to identify the structures that I have learned about so many times and really see for myself the relationship between the structure of the heart and its function. Being able to literally stick my fingers through the arteries and veins to feel where they went lead me to understand the structure of the heart on a whole other level. I was amazed at how muscular the walls of the heart actually are. You are always told that the heart is an incredibly strong muscle, and it is a fact that you just blindly accept as true, but holding the heart in my hands and trying to cut through the muscular walls really showed me the true strength of the heart muscle. I was also surprised at how strong the chordae tendonae were given the fact that they look no stronger than a strand of floss. I put their strength to the test by pulling on them with lots of force and was unable to break them. The heart dissection reminded me of the importance of hands on learning and learning through discovery as opposed to just blindly accepting things as fact. When you blindly accept things it is easy to lose sight of the intricacies and wonder involved in the systems around us. I was in awe during the entire heart dissection and it really changed the way I thought about the cardiovascular system and reminded me of the importance of being curious and full of wonder.


Tags: Bi265j · Lab

Rachel Bird: Heart Dissection

February 22nd, 2015 · Comments Off on Rachel Bird: Heart Dissection


I know, rationally, that the brightly colored red and blue heart diagrams in the spiral bound textbook on the lab table aren’t entirely accurate. However, I was surprised at how disappointed I was to open the box of shrink-wrapped pig hearts and discover that the entire heart is a homogenous beige color – somewhere in between tea with too much milk in it and the thick clay in the riverbeds near my house. Luckily, that disappointment didn’t last. As my lab partner, Rebecca, and I unsealed the plastic wrap, our first impression of the heart was the smell. Acidic, chemically, headache-inducing: the preservatives that kept our heart from smelling like rotting meat also made the entire lab smell like the inside of a formaldehyde bottle!



As our noses adjusted, we began our cursory inspection of the heart. Once I was able to get over the bland coloration, our pig heart actually looked remarkably like the textbook model. From the shriveled atria to the rubbery arteries, our pig heart just looked like a small-scale reproduction of the plastic hearts that had been on display on the lab tables all week. Once we oriented the heart with the apex pointing down, Rebecca made the first cut, deftly slicing the heart in half like a bagel. We both gasped. The interior of the large, muscular ventricles was covered in delicate, stringy chordae tendineae! The textbook photos and models mentioned these fibrous bands, but the lightly sketched lines in our reference image in no way prepared us for the network of elastic filaments that criss-crossed through the ventricles. Rebecca tugged at one of the strands, but instead of breaking, it snapped back into place as soon as she released it. Those things are a lot stronger than they look!

Our second surprise was the septum’s thickness. We had both memorized the fact that the left ventricle has stronger muscle walls than the right ventricle (because while the right ventricle only pumps blood back into the lungs to get oxygenated, the left ventricle has to distribute blood to the entire body). However, the difference was huge! The septum was thick and muscular and not at all thin like the cartilaginous septum that separates the nostrils. As we continued to hack away… or rather, “dissect,” our heart, we noticed that if you pulled the filmy visceral pericardium away from the outer walls of the heart, it revealed rougher, almost striated muscle tissue below. It was even possible to pull up small strands of muscle tissue with the tweezers and separate the layers of the heart muscle. The same was true of the interior of the ventricles – once we peeled back the smooth endothelium that protected the inner walls of the heart, the coarser muscle tissue was revealed.

Even more interesting than the layers of the heart muscle was the layered structure of the veins and arteries splaying out of the heart. After Rebecca and I had thoroughly examined all the entrances and exits to the heart (mostly by sticking our fingers in the tubes to figure out which chamber each one led to), we sliced off a section of the aorta and attempted to identify the layers of the tissue that compose an artery.

By the time we were finished, our pig heart lay in chunks all over the dissecting tray. Rebecca was poking one end of her tweezers through the coronary artery and I was still stubbornly trying to “de-fat” the right atrium. As class time ran out, we reluctantly cleaned up our heart and threw out our gloves, eager to get the scent of preservatives off our hands. As Rebecca and I threw out the last of our paper towels, I turned to her and said, “I hope they aren’t serving pork carnitas again at lunch. I don’t really think I can imagine eating pork after that…”



Tags: Lab

Mayra Arroyo: The Heart Dissection

February 22nd, 2015 · Comments Off on Mayra Arroyo: The Heart Dissection


The activity I enjoyed the most during this class was the pig’s heart dissection. As a student, I, sometimes forget that the diagrams and figures in textbooks are only a close resemblance to what things actually look like. This is especially true when dealing with the human body. Diagrams are usually different colors and are embellished to in order for students to learn them more easily. At first it was a challenge to find the parts of the heart I had only previously learned via diagrams. There were many times I could not find the correct anatomy for examples the pulmonary vein and the aorta looked very similar on the real heart, so it was hard to distinguish between them. Another thing I did not realize is the strength and thickness of the heart’s wall. At the start of the dissection I was extremely cautious of how deep I cut into, but I started to realize that the heart was very thick and strong. This activity showed me that the heart is truly amazing part of the body, which the diagrams did not do justice.

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One of my big triumphs during this activity was locating the coronary arteries on the pig heart. Although by just looking at the outside of the heart it is possible to see where they are, but we were able to see where they connected to the aorta and where they extend away. We were able to stick a probe and follow them. We removed some of the fatty tissue to see a clearer view of the arteries. It was amazing to see these arteries, because at that point I knew my presentation was going to be about coronary artery disease and its possible treatments.

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Dr. Klepach told that class that you do not really know and understand material until you teach it to another person. I had the great pleasure to put this idea to the test with the heart dissection. We showed high school students how to dissect the pig’s heart. This was a great learning experience for me, because I was able to solidify the anatomy I already knew, and it also taught me what I had missed the first time. This was by far the most useful part of this activity for me, and the most valuable. I became a full believer in this idea, and will continue to use this strategy in my future studies.

Before this unit I knew only very basic concepts of the heart’s function and its anatomy, but after this activity and lecture my knowledge increased greatly. I am biology major with a concentration of neurobiology and I thought I wanted to go into the neuroscience field, but after this unit I am seriously considering going into the field of cardiology. This is a very challenging topic, but it can potentially be a very rewarding subject for me. There is still a lot I do not know about the cardiovascular system, but I am eager to learn much more about the heart and it’s importance to the human body.


Tags: Bi265j · Lab

High School Students Visit in Conjunction with Maine Math and Science Alliance and Colby Goldfarb Center

January 22nd, 2015 · 1 Comment

We were very lucky to have visitors to our class on Monday the 19th, MLK day, from a number of High Schools in Maine. The high schools included Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft, and even a home schooled Junior. The visit was designed to help the ten visiting students get a better sense of human anatomy and physiology in the hope of developing science fair projects for the Maine State Science Fair being held on March 21st in Bangor. The day was organized in conjunction with the Maine Math and Science Alliance and the Colby Goldfarb Center. For my part I was hoping to drive the material further into the brains of my students by following the aphorism the person who comes to teach learns the keenest lesson, while inspiring the spirit of mentorship towards the visiting students. The day started for my students at 9am with a practical lab exam covering the anatomy of:

  • The central and peripheral nervous systems
  • The eye and ear
  • Sensory receptors
  • The cardiovascular system and blood

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The lab has been up in Arey 307, typically the turf of microbiology lab, but for a month transformed into a splendid anatomy lab.


Danielle Levine (’15, Biology) contemplating a synaptic bouton during the test.


Lauren Shirley (’17, Biology/Music) looking at a dissected pig heart and Ariel Oppong (’16, Biology) inspecting an eosinophil in a histologic blood smear.


Mayra Arroyo (’16, Biochemistry) peering through a stereoscope at the optic chiasm on the 3D plate of a dissected brain from the Edinburgh Stereoscopic Atlas of Anatomy published in 1911.

Following the lab test the high school visitors turned up. I had initially intended for the visitors to start with an Art & Anatomy scavenger hunt similar to the one that I had designed for my students last week in the Colby Museum of Art, except this one would be based on clues created by the Colby students themselves, however the timing didn’t workout with the visitors being able to visit on their day off from school and MLK day falling on a Monday, the day that the museum is typically closed.  Instead the students got to tour the lab and then participate in dissections of pig heart specimens. Rather than type out a description of the day I am simply going to reproduce the official event summary drafted by Stefany Burrell from MMSA, punctuated by annotated photos from the day taken by myself, Amanda Cooley of the Goldfarb Center and Stefany Burrell and Lynn Farrin of MMSA.

Notes from Colby J-Term Anatomy & Physiology Mentoring Session 1/19/2015

10:15    High school students from Lincoln Academy, Foxcroft Academy and a homeschool met Dr. Klepach’s class outside of the science buildings. It was a mild 40 degrees and sunny. Everyone headed into a lab in the Arey Building for an introduction.

10:30    Dr. Klepach welcomed the visitors and described his philosophy on science and teaching. The students were struck by his enthusiasm and knowledge. Many were inspired by his belief that teaching is learning.


Introduction by Stefany Burrell and Dr. Klepach.


Lynn Farrin (left) and Stefany Burrell (right) of the Maine Math and Science Alliance.

10:45    The students introduced themselves and the formed five groups, each with two high school students and three Colby students. Prior to this meeting, the class completed a lab exam. The exam consisted of approximately 30 questions in which students needed to identify various parts of human anatomy. The exam was broken into four sections: eyes, ears, nervous system and vascular system. As an icebreaker, the college students walked their charges through the exam, explaining what the physical models represent. The exam also included microscope slides, diagrams and a real pig hearts.


The Colby Human Anatomy and Physiology class started escorting their visitors around the test that they had finished less than an hour earlier. 


Lauren Shirley is discussing the chambers of the heart with her fellow Colby students, Allison O’Connor (’17) and Cal Robbins (’17, Cellular/Molecular Biology) to the left and Dover-Foxcroft HS sophomores Bonnie (second from right) and Erika (far right).


Mayra, flanked by her Colby group members Ivan Yang (’17, Cellular/Molecular Biology, left) and Chris Lee (’17, Cellular/Molecular Biology, right) points to structures on a model of the heart to help Lincoln Academy seniors Abby (second from right) and Andrea (far right) understand what they are seeing on the dissected pig heart in front of them.


Erika getting a chance to look at the Edinburgh stereoscope slides.


Ivan discussing a cross sectional model of the spinal cord.


Can (John), a Lincoln Academy freshman (center), inspects a left coronary artery dissection as Colby students Yvette Qu (’18, left) and Alex Lucas (’17, Neuroscience & Sociology) look on.

11:10    The group moved to another lab where they put on gloves and aprons to dissect pig hearts. Each dissection station included a computer with loads of diagrams to assist in dissections. Under the Colby students’ guidance, the high schoolers dissected the hearts. Dr. Klepach moved around the room, answering questions as they came up. He took a few minutes to explain how blood moves into and out of the heart before and after birth.


Enormous cow heart ready for dissection.


Students preparing to dissect a pig heart try to orient themselves based upon surface anatomy. 


Danielle discussing the surface anatomy of the heart with Cierra, a  Dover-Foxcroft sophomore, and Shea-Lynn, a home schooled junior, as her classmates Ari Thomas (’16, Neuroscience, far left) and Laurel Edington (’15, Biology, second from left) look on.IMG_0344IMG_0312IMG_5945IMG_0315

Ashley (left) and Norma (center), seniors from Lincoln Academy, make the first cut into a pig heart as their Colby mentor, Rebecca Gray (’18, Biology / History), looks on.


Thilee, a senior from Lincoln Academy explores the left ventricle.


The aortic and mitral valves revealed!


Dr. K goes to the board to explain the flow of blood through the chambers of the heart.


12:00    Everyone got cleaned up and walked across campus to the Foss dining hall for lunch. Many people were drawn to the location as there was a noontime speaker in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The crowd was thick and the supply of dishes and cups was low, but the food was delicious. Dr. Klepach had reserved a room for the group to eat lunch together. Many of the high school students were a bit overwhelmed trying to get their food amid such a crowd.


12:45    The next stop was the Olin Building, to a lecture hall below the science library. The students returned to their groups and Dr. Klepach introduced the final activity of the day: developing testable questions for science fair projects. Using a SMART Questions document produced by MMSA, the students came up with questions related to anatomy or physiology. They honed their questions and discussed how they might go about answering the questions.
One group had a good discussion about parameters that students can easily measure such as blood pressure, pulse, body mass index and body fat percentage.
Two other groups were curious about the physiological effects of various emotional states such as fear or amusement. They considered the use of video clips to trigger different emotions.
Another group, spurred by one student’s interest in livestock, was stumped by how they might measure parameters in a cow.
One pair of high school students, knowing that they would not be doing a science fair project, took the time to ask their mentor about college life.
The final group wanted to explore body image, comparing how people view their weight to reality. They came up with a good research plan that involved anonymous surveys asking people to describe if they think they are underweight, overweight or at a healthy weight. The subjects would guess at their weight and then use a scale to determine their actual weight.
Dr. Klepach asked each group to report out and asked thought-provoking questions such as how students would isolate variables. He also asked the students about the limitations of common measurements such as body mass index.


1:45    To wrap up the day, all participants filled out surveys. High school students and college students took separate surveys that asked about their motivations for participating, what skills they honed and what they considered to be the day’s highlights.

I thoroughly enjoyed having the visitors in the class and look forward to having them back in the future for this and other activities.

~Dr. K

Tags: Lab · Special Activities · Uncategorized

Michaela Swiatek: Pig Heart Dissection

February 25th, 2013 · Comments Off on Michaela Swiatek: Pig Heart Dissection

During our dissection of a pig’s heart in lab, our class learned a great deal while doing this hands-on activity.  Most students were able to dissect their own heart, and several students shared a heart.  The first incision we made was  along the right side of the heart.  The right ventricle we identified by squeezing the heart.  We were able to do this because  the myocardium on the right side is much less rigid than that of the left ventricle.  This incision allowed us to see the tricuspid valve and the right ventricular outflow tract which includes the pulmonary valve.

Our second incision was into the right ventricle, which had to be cut open from the apex of the heart towards the top.

The next incision was into the tricuspid valve, which allows blood to flow from the right atrium into the right ventricle when the heart is relaxed during diastole.  I learned that when the heart begins to contract the heart centers a phase called systole, and the atrium pushes blood into the ventricle.  Then, the ventricle begins to contract and blood pressure exceeds the pressure in the atrium, the tricuspid valve snaps shut.

I was surprised to learn that a pig’s heart is very similar to the human heart in anatomy, size and function.  In fact, its excellent availability in most areas of the world, along with the similarities to the human heart, make porcine heart tissue ideal for transplant into receipt’s body, in the same way that a human’s donated organ would be rejected.  To prevent this, porcine heart valves are treated with glutaraldehyde to reduce their immunogenicity.

•I already knew that the muscle of your muscle is called the myocardium.  Most of the myocardium is located in the ventricles which are roughly the size of your fist.  The porcine heart, like a human heart, has four chambers and four valves.  Blood flows through the pig heart in the same manner as through a human’s.  This picture show’s the pig heart from the front, with the portion on the right of the picture being the left side of the heart vice versa. The aorta is clearly visible at the top, with the atrium on either side, while the ventricles are in the bottom left.
•Last, when the heart is contracting during systole, the pulmonary valve is open because the blood pushes the cusps out of the way.  Furthermore, at the end of the systole, the ventricles begin to relax and intra-ventricular pressure drops.  When the ventricular pressure drops to below the pulmonary artery pressure, the pulmonary valve closes and prevent back-flow of blood into the ventricle.
•I was surprised to learn that a pig’s heart is very similar to the human heart in anatomy, size and function.  In fact, its excellent availability in most areas of the world, along with the similarities to the human heart, make porcine heart tissue ideal for transplant into body’s receipt body, in the same way that a human’s donated organ would be rejected.  To prevent this, porcine valves are treated with glutaraldehyde to reduce their immunogenicity.
•I already knew that the muscle of your heart is called the myocardium.  Most of the myocardium is locate in the ventricles which are roughly the size of your  fist.  The porcine heart, like a human heart, has four chambers and four valves.  Blood flows through the pig heart in the same manner as through a human’s.

Tags: Lab