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About the Department

The Department of Biological Sciences is comprised of faculty, staff, and students dedicated to the teaching of biology and discovering new biological truths for society. Biology, as a scientific discipline, functions through the integrated use of a knowledge base (i.e. fundamentals and unifying concepts) with process (i.e., scientific method). The department endeavors to provide an academic program that supports this integration. The academic curriculum should reflect this approach through teaching of fundamental and unifying concepts integrated with the practice of analysis and discovery. In this way, students learn to think like scientists, using concept-based knowledge in biology, rather than to only focus on mastering facts that have become increasingly unwieldy as the knowledge base grows.

Essential to the success of the department is faculty-driven original research programs that provide valuable research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, and that keep the department abreast of current innovations in biological sciences. An academic program infused with research provides students with the tools necessary for effective, analytical scientific thinking. Research-active faculty integrate the latest trends and discoveries of their field into the curriculum. Quality faculty research creates a positive academic reputation and associated opportunities for the department.

Mission Statement

The mission of the faculty and staff of the Department of Biological Sciences is given by the goals outlined below. Our service to undergraduate and graduate students in biology, non-science majors, students preparing for careers in teaching, the greater university, and the community at large is guided by these goals.

  1. To provide high quality instruction that develops, in an integrative manner, conceptual understanding, analytical skills, and enthusiasm for learning and inquiry in the biological sciences.
    1. Teach fundamental principles and unifying concepts in the biological sciences through a curriculum requiring exposure to multiple sub-disciplines of biology and designed in a multi-tier framework that begins with general classes that introduce biological concepts and ends with upper division electives in specific areas of interest.
    2. Teach students to function as a scientist, through exposure to the scientific process used in biology (hypothesis, experimentation, observation and analysis), including coursework and teaching laboratories incorporating experimental or discovery-based approaches, as well as reading and analysis of scientific research literature.
    3. Teach "scientific literacy", which we define as the ability to communicate science effectively in both written and oral formats, to think critically and logically, and to appreciate the linkage between biological science and society.
    4. Provide research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to promote integrated learning, and to promote the formulation of new ideas and the acquisition of knowledge by students and faculty.
    5. Provide a visible and easily accessible resource in the biological sciences to the community at large, through lectures and appropriate volunteer activities. Playing a role in the education of the general public is critical if we wish to live in a society governed by informed policy decisions.
  2. To provide an atmosphere of research excellence that advances the department's contribution to new knowledge in the biological sciences.
    1. Provide faculty sufficient release time from traditional teaching for research, grant proposal writing, and effective laboratory based mentoring of students.
    2. Provide modern, functional infrastructure to faculty.
    3. Maintain successful research programs that attract high quality graduate students to our department.
    4. Provide financial support to graduate students in the form of departmental TA-ships and GA-ships as well as stipends from the University, grants, and other funded programs that will cover tuition and fees.
    5. Maintain undergraduate grants that provide stipends to undergraduate research students.
  3. To hire, retain, and support tenure-track faculty of quality.
    1. Hire tenure-track faculty with excellent research credentials and the potential to become excellent teachers.
    2. Retain faculty who have demonstrated productivity in scientific research and quality in teaching.
    3. Tenure and promote faculty who have been and will continue to be productive scientists and excellent teachers.

Student Learning Outcomes

By obtaining a degree from the Department of Biological Sciences, students will:

  • articulate and analyze the fundamental principles and unifying concepts of biology.
  • be able to integrate information from various sub-disciplines of biology and related fields to achieve competency in the life sciences.
  • demonstrate their knowledge on scientific process obtained by reading and analyzing the scientific literature.
  • communicate science effectively in both oral and written formats, demonstrating scientific literacy through explanation of the linkage between biological science and society.
  • identify and ask focused biological questions, evaluate what information is needed to answer those questions, and acquire information and knowledge through research by direct participation and/or through listening to scientific experts discuss their research.