The third annual installment of my virology course at Columbia University, Biology W3310, has begun. This course, which I taught for the first time in 2009, is intended for advanced undergraduates and will be taught at the Morningside Campus.

Until I started this course, no instruction in virology had been offered at the Morningside Heights campus of Columbia University since the late 1980s. This is a serious omission for a first-class University. Sending graduates into the world without even a fundamental understanding of viruses and viral disease is inexcusable.

Course enrollment has steadily increased: 45 students in the 2009, 66 students in 2010, and an amazing 88 students this year. I am gratified that so many students want to learn about the world of viruses. From the photo you can see that the classroom is full, so if interest in the course continues to increase, we will need a larger room.

Most readers of virology blog will not be able to sit in on each lecture – but you can still watch every one of them. You will find a videocast of each lecture at the course website, at my page on Vimeo, and at iTunes University. An archive of the 2011 version of this course is available online or at iTunes University. I will announce when each lecture is posted on Twitter and Google+. Virology is a rapidly moving field, so rest assured that this year’s version of the course will be different.

The goal of Virology W3310 is to provide an understanding of how viruses are built, how they replicate and evolve, how they cause disease, and how to prevent infection. After taking the course, some of the students might want to become virologists. The course will also provide the knowledge required to make informed decisions about health issues such as immunization against viral infections.

Thanks to the internet, the information in my virology course is accessible to everyone.