Undergraduate Program Mission & Goals
The mission of the Biology Department at Duke University is to support scholarly endeavors in the traditional disciplines of biology, to train students for careers in research and related professional fields, and to communicate the impact and significance of biology to a wide range of students.
The Biology Department is committed to a broad range of learning opportunities, including traditional classroom experiences, non-classroom experiences in the field and the laboratory, independent study, and full student engagement in research. The research and teaching focus of the department includes, but is not limited to, a range of disciplines that traditionally fall under the purview of biology at many levels, including genetics, cell and molecular biology, organismal biology, ecology, and evolution.
The Biology Department strives to be at the forefront of our field, encouraging faculty to attain excellence both within their specific sub-disciplines and to integrate research and teaching activities across our department and beyond the traditional boundaries of the discipline. We recognize the importance of collaborative research and teaching with other departments in Trinity College, as well as the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, the basic sciences departments of the Duke University Medical Center, and the Organization for Tropical Studies. We participate in and support the efforts of Trinity College in promoting undergraduate research experiences.
Undergraduate Program Goals
The overall goal of the Biology Department at Duke University is to expand and strengthen training opportunities for undergraduates at the cutting edge of our discipline. We seek to foster undergraduate education that produces young scientists and citizens who understand the scope and perspective of modern biology. Our graduates receive excellent preparation for advanced work in the sciences, for professional careers in health, law, and policy, and for good citizenship in a society increasingly affected by and dependent on modern science and technology.
The specific learning outcomes of the undergraduate program include the following:
1. The ability to think like a biologist: Biology is a broad discipline that deals with complex systems ranging in scale from molecules to ecosystems. We expect students to develop a sophisticated appreciation of the nature of living organisms and biological processes, and to be able to describe how biologists approach research questions within our field. They can accomplish this goal through two gateway courses, Biology through the Lens of Molecular Biology (Biology 201L) and Biology Through the Lenses of Genetics and Evolution (Biology 202L).
2. The ability to describe the breadth of the discipline: Biology is a broad discipline, and therefore we expect students to acquire a foundation across the levels and subdisciplines within our field. To this end, biology majors will complete at least one course within each of three core areas. Within the Organismal Diversity area, we expect students to be able to explain how diversity evolved; within the Structure/Function area, we expect students to be able to explain the relationship between the structure and the function of cells and organisms; and within the Ecology area, we expect students to be able to explain how biological organisms interact with their environments.
3. The ability to use the tools and methods of modern biological research: Biology is both an empirical and theoretical science and we seek to engage students directly in biological research. Thus, biology majors are expected to be able to use the tools and methods of modern research. To achieve this goal, our majors will take two laboratory-based gateway courses plus at least two laboratory-based courses at the advanced level. They will also be encouraged to engage in independent study in a biological science research laboratory.
4. The ability to synthesize a range of biological concepts and ideas. Biological research has made enormous progress in our understanding of the natural world, but is still confronted with major challenges. Therefore, we want our majors to engage in in-depth exploration of specific fields, current ways of thinking, new discoveries, and methodologies of the discipline. All biology majors will take at least one ‘capstone’ course that builds on the core curriculum and requires undergraduates to explore disciplinary scholarship at the graduate level.
5. The ability to develop critical thinking skills: Because biology is not just a collection of facts but rather a way of knowing, we expect students to develop analytical and critical thinking skills, including hypothesis generation and testing. To this end, biology students will be expected to write essays and critical analyses for their course examinations. They will participate in open-ended project courses as well as research experiences. A signific
6. The ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing: Biology is a highly collaborative field, and therefore we expect our majors to develop high-level writing and oral communication skills. Biology students will have the opportunity to take special ‘writing-intensive’ and thesis preparation courses focused on the art and craft of scientific writing. They will present research findings in poster symposia and in small seminar courses.
Duke Biology Box 90338 Durham, NC 27708 Phone: 919-660-7372 Fax: 919-660-7293