searchers, the committee recognizes that students with many other career goals will take the same courses and believes that many of the ideas for increasing the interdisciplinary nature of coursework would be equally beneficial for all students. Colleges and universities should reexamine current curricula in light of changing practices in biological research. In addition, faculty should attempt to utilize teaching approaches that are most likely to help students learn these skills. For example, independent or group projects (both library- and laboratory-based) are likely to help foster a sense of ownership by students, which may in turn encourage them to take the initiative to investigate a topic in detail. Presenting examples of current research to show that science consists of unanswered questions will also intrigue and inspire more students to probe problems in depth. It is important for these efforts to start at the very beginning of a student’s education in the K-12 years, and for them to be continued and enhanced in the first year of college. (Some ideas for providing this exposure to high school students can be found in a recent NRC report on advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses [NRC, 2002] and in an earlier NRC report, Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology [NRC, 1999b].) Offering exciting introductory courses will help attract more students to enroll in biology courses, increasing the number who might consider biomedical research as a career. Increasing the number of students who consider biology as a major may increase the quality of future biomedical researchers.
Many science and mathematics courses are taught as sets of facts, rather than by explaining how the material was discovered or developed over time. Covering the history of the field, demonstrating the process of discovery, or presenting other stories as examples of how scientists work—while clearly illustrating why the knowledge that has been gained is relevant to the lives and surroundings of the students—is an excellent way to engage undergraduates. The committee believes that success of a future biomedical researcher requires not just expertise in the specific biological system under study, but a conceptual understanding of the science of life and where a specific research topic fits into the overall picture. Teaching undergraduates about the many different ways in which biologists approach research, including lab work, fieldwork, and computer modeling, will help them to understand the unifying themes that tie together the diverse kinds of life on