Biology Redesigns its Curriculum

by Elizabeth Connor

The opening of the Integrated Science Building (ISB) heralds a new approach to teaching our Biology courses! Since adopting a set of Learning Goals for Biology majors, the Biology Department has been actively redesigning the curriculum with the goal of offering our students multiple opportunities to develop and hone the skills of practicing science. A $1.6M Undergraduate Science Award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute funded the development of four new courses that provide mentored opportunities for students to practice the skills of a scientist and include two upper level laboratory-based courses, Gene and Genome Analysis and Bio-imaging as well as a two-semester sequence of super deluxe introductory courses for 48 BioTap students, Quantitative Biology of the Cell and Quantitative Systems Biology. These courses, taught in the ISB, incorporate fundamentals of the research experience in the form of inquiry-based learning including experimental techniques, hypothesis testing, data analysis, teamwork, and communication skills. Our course assessment demonstrates that these course experiences prepare students for independent research; many of the students in these courses go on to join research labs, present their work at our annual Undergraduate Life Science Research Symposium, and pursue advanced degrees or careers in science! Following up on that success, other faculty have gotten in on the act … two new courses are being introduced this Fall 2011 that will allow students to explore questions, collect and analyze data, and further hone their research skills.