A New Curriculum for Biology Majors
Published November 1, 2022
After more than five years of planning, this fall we launched the first new curriculum for Biology Majors in 40 years. As you know, the field of Biology has changed a lot over that time, as advances in DNA sequencing, microscopy, computation, and other technologies opened up new avenues of investigation. Our new curriculum thus seeks to eliminate outdated requirements and to open up new learning opportunities.
We envision a curriculum that 1) equips students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a wide variety of careers in the Biological and Heath Sciences, and 2) enables students to explore their chosen career path in sufficient depth that they are prepared to pursue that career when they graduate.
To achieve that vision, the new curriculum prioritizes a uniform experience, during the first year, that builds the skills needed for successful progression through the Biology degree and it prioritizes flexibility, during the remaining years, to choose among a diversity of intermediate and advanced courses that best match the particular career interests of individual students.
Launching a new curriculum is not easy! While some of our faculty continue to teach courses required for students who entered under the old curriculum, other faculty are hard at work developing brand new courses. The new courses are being designed to allow biology majors to build up skills and mastery of concepts gradually as they progress through their college career.
Three of the new courses comprise a new Introductory Series for Biology Majors and are being developed as they are taught this semester:
- How Cells Work: This 150-200 student lecture course teaches students the fundamental concepts in genetics, molecular & cellular biology. It is being developed and taught by Assistant Teaching Professors Alaina Garland and Laura Ott, and by Teaching Professor Kelly Hogan, who won a Tanner Award for Teaching Excellence in Spring 2022.
- Biodiversity: This 150-200 student lecture course teaches students the fundamental concepts in ecology, evolution, and whole-organism biology. It is being developed and taught by Assistant Teaching Professor Lillian Zwemer and Associate Teaching Professor Mara Evans, who won a Chapman Family Award for Teaching Excellence in Spring 2022.
- Biological Research Skills: This Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience is being developed and taught this semester by Assistant Teaching Professor Eric Hastie to 232 first-year Biology Majors.
Support our Teaching Mission
An important goal of our new curriculum is to provide every Biology Major with a genuine scientific research experience, whether in a Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience or as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in a UNC research lab. To accomplish this goal will require more resources than the state provides, specifically for extra lab supplies and graduate teaching assistantships.