as natural catastrophes, water quality, HIV disease, the Human Genome Project, energy alternatives, and nuclear disarmament,” according to its Web site (

Many students enter college more interested in interdisciplinary courses or seminars than in the traditional introductory science courses. Others have not decided on their major when they enroll. Interdisciplinary courses are a useful way to provide students with exposure to science without limiting their potential choice of majors. Interdisciplinary courses are also prime spots to convey the spirit of science and examples of unsolved problems that are ripe for attack. They are appropriate for students of all levels, but can be used specifically for first-year students to excite their interest.

Physics, chemistry, and mathematics underlie much of biology and it is therefore advantageous for students to take courses in those fields early in a scientific career. This means that some potential biology majors do not take a biology course until their sophomore year. The appropriate inclusion of biological topics in chemistry, mathematics, and physics somewhat alleviates this difficulty, but they are not a totally adequate substitute for a true biology course. One way to address that problem is to design an interdisciplinary course linking the various scientific disciplines. For example the Science One program at the University of British Columbia is designed for first-year students as an integrated sequence that melds the topics together, giving students a sense of interconnections right from the start of their collegiate career (Case Study #10). For students taking more traditional science courses, a seminar of this type described can be appealing. Another seminar designed for first-year students is described in Case Study #11. This course could be modified for more advanced students, or another seminar centered around an exciting biological theme like infectious diseases could be designed.


To increase the number of qualified students considering a career in biological research, the committee discussed diversifying the applicant pool through two ways: increasing the number of students who are majoring in other sciences and making the life sciences more accessible to students of both sexes and from all populations.

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