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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists
biological concepts in their other science courses. All biology students should study some of the concepts in depth as undergraduates. The specific concepts studied in detail by any individual student will depend on their interests, career goals, and the course offerings and course content available at their own school. Beyond the specific content of what they learn, students need hands-on experience with experimental inquiry and research starting early in their undergraduate careers. Their undergraduate experience should give them a sense of the power and beauty of science that takes full advantage of the richness of ideas and tools provided by a broad range of disciplines.
The concepts are presented at the beginning of this chapter and potential curricula at the end. The concepts are presented first so that faculty can consider how they might be incorporated into the courses offered. An evolutionary biologist teaching introductory biology will select different concepts from these lists than a developmental biologist teaching the same course. Either set of choices can improve interdisciplinary training of students and contribute to the creation of graduates who think more broadly. Ideally the changes will also help students see the connections between their different science courses and relate the topics to their own lives. Most biology students will not take such intensive schedules as presented in the sample curricula, and it is certainly possible to become a biomedical researcher without all of this background. However, the committee feels that future biomedical researchers, and possibly many other types of researchers, would be better prepared to contribute to interdisciplinary breakthroughs with such a background.
Because of the striking advances in contemporary biology, those who plan to carry out biological research will need to access a broader range of concepts and skills than did past generations. The modern biologist uses a wide array of advanced techniques, ranging from special measuring instruments, novel imaging systems, computer methods, and quantitative analytical tools and models. Understanding and effectively applying these techniques requires knowledge from outside of the biological sciences. Furthermore, the analysis of biological systems, with their web of complex interactions, will require the design of new theoretical approaches. To meet the challenges of the new biology, the committee believes that all future biological researchers will need concepts and skills drawn from a range of scientific disciplines that must be broader than what has been expected up to now. Because of biology’s great diversity, specific requirements will differ among the various subareas of biological research, and no one individual is