BY HALEY LUCIAN '17
Beginning this semester, biology majors will find an adjusted curriculum. For incoming first-year students considering a major in biology, the new class on the roster, Biology-230, will seem like any other class that is part of the major requirements. To the sophomores and upperclassmen, this 230 course, Cell and Molecular Biology, is entirely new. In the past, instead of this combined curriculum of Cell and Molecular Biology, two separate courses, Genetics and Molecular Biology 210 and Cell Biology 220, were offered. But with the retirement of beloved Professor Jeff Knight in the spring of 2016, who taught the genetics portion of Biology 210, the department began to reconfigure the courses and, adjust the curriculum.
Although the addition of the 230 course is the major change to the biological sciences curriculum, there are also other notable changes. For example, as a consequence of combining two core courses into one, the biology major now includes a requirement for students to enroll in one additional elective course in order to reach the total 32 departmental credits. The additional course can be taken at any level and need not be a lab course. Therefore, condensing of the core course actually allows students to begin taking electives earlier and adds some flexibility to student schedules as well. Allowing room for an additional elective course also offers students an opportunity to enroll in specialized courses, since electives tend to be on a more focused subject. The required number of courses that must include a lab remains the same as last year. Five courses at the 200 and 300 levels with a lab remain a biology major requirement.
One concern students may have with the consolidation of the two classes is that not all of the same material will be covered as in previous years, especially the genetics component of the original course. Biology department chair Craig Woodard acknowledges that he and Professor Amy Camp “won’t be able to cover all the topics in one course that were previously covered in two,” but have worked to design the new course to include all the essential subject material. For those wondering about missing out on a thorough genetics aspect, Professor Woodard says he will still be teaching transmission genetics in the course, although the material, like the molecular and cell material, will likewise be thoughtfully condensed.
With the rollout of these new requirements, the biology department acknowledges there will be an adjustment period. One challenge in particular to address regards the students who were abroad last spring prior to the curriculum change. To account for this type of circumstance, Professor Woodard explains, “[for] students who took 210, but never got a chance to take 220 because they were abroad, we’re offering Cell Biology one last time this spring .” The spring semester Cell Biology course will be taught by Professor Katherine Schreiber. Given an adjustment period and a resolve to mitigate issues as they arise, the department is optimistic about the success of these changes.