Building a Rigorous Foundation in Biology @ Bucknell University

14 Sep

About our Curriculum

Starting with four core courses, the Biology Program at Bucknell aims to build a broad and rigorous foundation in our students, while providing a wide variety of advanced courses for students to foster their interests and learning in specific fields of biology. In addition, many students conduct independent research with the faculty members and it is becoming more common for students to become engaged in the same research labs for two or more years. As teachers-scholars, the biology faculty members not only provide invaluable learning experiences through research but also strive to bring such independent research projects to the level of scientific contribution as a form of publications in international peer-reviewed journals.

Biology Core Courses

The first major course that biology students take is BIOL 205 (Introduction to Molecules and Cells) which many find “highly challenging”. Then, students generally take BIOL 206 (Organismal Biology), BIOL 207 (Genetics), and BIOL 208 (Principles of Ecology and Evolution). BIOL 205, 206, and 208 are equipped with laboratory sections in which students are introduced to hands-on scientific methods and techniques, scientific writing, and collaborative learning. The essence of these core courses is to develop competency among students in applying diverse biological concepts and using scientific methods. Thus, students are required to complete one or more of the core courses in order to be enrolled in the advanced 300 level courses.

Upper-level (300 level) Courses

Our upper-level courses are organized by three areas: Area I = Molecules/Cells, Area II = Organismal, and Area III = Ecological & Evolutionary. Biology majors have to take at least four 300 level courses with at least one course from each area. In addition, two of those four courses have to have laboratory sections in different areas.

The 300-level courses are more research-oriented and many incorporate independent research or research proposal into the course work. For example, I teach Amphibian Biology in which students conduct projects on detection of frog-killing chytrid fungus through molecular methods. At the end of the semester, students submit the final manuscripts to me and give formal oral presentations to the class. A few students from this course also gave presentations at a campus-wide Kalman Research Symposium.

AREA I – Molecules/Cells

BIOL302  Microbiology (L), BIOL304  Cancer Biology, BIOL322  Physiological Mechs., BIOL 323  Mammalian Histology (L), BIOL324  Neurophysiology, BIOL326  Cytogenetics (L), BIOL327  Molecular Biology (L), BIOL331  Functional Genomics, BIOL340  Biochemical Methods (L), BIOL343  Neural Plasticity, BIOL347  Virology, BIOL348  Immunology (L), BIOL352  Cell Biology (L), BIOL365  Intro. to Microscopy (L)

AREA II – Organismal

BIOL303  Behav. Neuroendocrin., BIOL312  Vertebrate Anatomy (L), BIOL313  Mammalogy (L), BIOL314  Amphibian Biology (L), BIOL316  Plant Growth & Development (L), BIOL318  Principles, Physiol. (L), BIOL328  Endocrinology, BIOL337  Biology of Aging, BIOL339  Developmental Biol. (L), BIOL342  Neuroethology, BIOL346  Environ. Physiology, BIOL357  Ornithology (L), BIOL 358  Invertebrate Zoology (L), BIOL 359  General Entomology (L)

AREA III – Ecological/Evolutionary

BIOL320 Conservation Genetics, BIOL321  Behavioral Ecology, BIOL330  Plant Systematics (L), BIOL334  Limnology (L), BIOL341  Organic Evolution, BIOL353  Ecosystem Ecology, BIOL354  Tropical Ecology, BIOL355  Social Insects (L), BIOL356  Plant/Animal Interactions (L), BIOL361  Systematic Biology, BIOL370  Primate Behav. & Ecology (L)

Independent Research – BIOL 399

In addition to the regular 300-level courses, all students are encouraged to conduct independent research with faculty members for course credit. Students are expected to spend ~12 hr per week throughout the semester to gain one research credit. We also welcome non-credited students. My research group currently consists of four credited students and one non-credited student. I provide a syllabus and we as a research group meet weekly to go over research progress, present proposals and reports, and discuss related papers.

Summer Research Program

Summer research grants are available for students who wish to stay on campus and conduct research with faculty mentors during the summer time. Stipend is $3,500 for 10 weeks plus free on-campus housing. While campus is quite, research can be productive and exciting.

FinallyI would like to emphasize that our curriculum is underpinned by the strong departmental support and active collegial communications. Biology is one of the largest departments with ~75 majors per cohort and 19 full-time faculty members. Despite the size, I am impressed by how well the faculty members communicate and help with each other in teaching and research. For example, one of my research students had to learn microscopic techniques. I talked to one of the faculty members and he spent a significant portion of his research time training my student. The director of the imaging center was also helpful in teaching us how to use a cryostat and microscopes.

My students and I look forward to updating you on how our new research group will develop!

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