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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists
biology, mathematics, and physical sciences must work collaboratively to find ways of integrating mathematics and physical sciences into life science courses as well as providing avenues for incorporating life science examples that reflect the emerging nature of the discipline into courses taught in mathematics and physical sciences.
Suggestions are provided here for integrating physical science and mathematics more fully into a biology education. Each institution will need to evaluate these recommendations in light of its own particular circumstances. Decisions will be influenced by many factors, including the size and expertise of the faculty, number of life science majors, and number of students from other science majors enrolled in biology courses. Consideration will also need to be given to the available resources, cooperation from other departments and the administration, and the need for curricular change to keep up with the dynamic growth of the discipline of biology. Regardless of individual circumstances, all institutions are capable of beginning the process of change by adding interdisciplinary examples to existing courses in relevant disciplines to emphasize the integrative nature of the biological sciences with mathematics and physical science. Chapter 3 presents case studies and ideas for courses that promote interdisciplinary learning.
The courses required of a biology major today typically consist of one year of physics, with lab; 2.5 years of chemistry, some with labs; some calculus and possibly some statistics; and a variety of biology courses. The remainder of undergraduate courses would be in disciplines outside of the sciences. A study of the “core” or required biology courses for undergraduate biology majors was carried out by Dominick Marocco . He states that required courses reveal “the consensus of the faculty at an institution that the subject matter of the core is central to the education of a biologist.” He concludes that a consensus core based on the requirements at the 104 schools surveyed would include genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, microbiology, evolution/ecology, and a seminar. Another major impact on today’s curriculum are requirements for admission to medical school. This issue is discussed further in Recommendation #7, found in Chapter 6.
The physical sciences and mathematics background of biology majors can best be strengthened by integrated teaching rather than by the addition of courses taught in isolation of biology. Though all of the topics found on the concept lists are offered in most universities and colleges, it is difficult for life science students to master the essential ones without taking a larger