The objective of the biology major is to train students to think critically about biology. Emphasis is placed on experimental approaches to understanding biology and the importance of the scientific process to validate this understanding.
At the introductory level, the curriculum is designed to give students a solid background in fundamental concepts in biology. To this end students study the diversity of life generated by genetic, ecological, and evolutionary processes, and they examine the cell as a fundamental unit of life. Emphasis is placed on experimental biology through field work and laboratory exercises, data analysis using statistical approaches, and library research skills.
With this common background, students are free to choose from a variety of courses at the intermediate level, which specialize in subdisciplines of biology such as biochemistry, genetics, and plant physiology. Students continue to develop skills in experimental biology while focusing on specialized areas to increase their knowledge base. Requirements at the intermediate-level are structured to expose students to a range of subdisciplines and experimental approaches in biology.
At the advanced level, students must demonstrate integrative ability and in-depth knowledge of biology. They are required to analyze primary literature, critique experimental approaches, and evaluate data. Senior research may be one of their selections, which involves critical analysis through observation or experimentation of a research problem in biology. Students who select senior research are required to write a paper and present their findings to the department orally.