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Learning Objectives

Majors in the Division of Biological Sciences have the opportunity to receive either a bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree or a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree in biological sciences. The Division also offers a minor in biological sciences.

Biology is a broad field centered on the study of living organisms and processes. Undergraduates majoring in biological sciences go on to careers in a wide range of fields, including medicine and other health professions, biotechnology, conservation and ecology, and secondary and higher education. Although the Division does not designate emphasis areas, students can specialize through their course selections. The Division’s curriculum emphasizes the excitement of discovery and the development of creativity and critical reasoning skills.

The Division has outlined specific learning objectives that all biological science majors are expected to know by graduation. These are detailed below.

All graduates are expected to know

  • basic sciences (i.e., mathematics, statistics, physics, general and organic chemistry) necessary for upper-level biological science coursework.
  • terminology and principles of evolution, ecology, genetics, cell biology, and organismal biology.
  • fundamental methods, procedures, and techniques for conducting experimental and empirical research.
  • standards for evaluating biological research and assessing the validity of research results.
  • history of key biological discoveries.
  • how biologists use mathematical modeling and simulation to describe living systems.
  • arguments employed by scientists and others in key ethical controversies, for example stem cell research, in biological science and research.

Furthermore, all graduates are expected to

  • conduct basic laboratory experiments and employ standard observational strategies.
  • explain research hypotheses, problem-solving strategies, and experimental and other research designs.
  • critique biological research, evidence, and the validity of results.
  • interpret quantitative analyses of living systems, including those employing mathematical modeling and simulation tools;
  • apply concepts from other sciences, such as physics and chemistry, to explain biological processes.
  • communicate biological concepts, explanations, and research results to scientists and lay audiences.
  • understand the ethical implications of the practice of biology.

The Division is currently in the process of systematically assessing the undergraduate curriculum against these learning objectives and will revise and adapt the curriculum as needed. In addition, faculty will

  • apply active and experiential learning throughout the curricula;
  • develop facilities and resource laboratories, as well as access to software and equipment;
  • provide co-curricular experiences to complement and extend coursework (e.g., undergraduate research, research forums and conference presentation, field trips, study abroad, community projects, guest speakers, student associations).

Edward Buckler, Ph.D.

Research Geneticist, Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health

Portrait of Edward Buckler

“The PhD program in biological sciences did a tremendous job of giving me the flexibility to put together a program that combined evolution, archaeology, and corn genetics. This broad training by experts in the world in each of these topics has allowed me to develop a unique perspective that has been invaluable to my current success.”

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Above average graduation rate for Ph.D. students

The graduation rate for Ph.D. students in the Division of Biological Sciences is 85%, well above the 62.9% for other comparable schools in the life sciences.

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