By LauraAnn Schmiderger
Starting in the Fall 2015 semester, changes will be made to the Denison biology curriculum. Dr. Jeff Thompson, biology department chair, sent an e-mail on March 10 to current majors and minors outlining the coming changes.
When asked about the rationale behind these changes, Dr. Thompson responded that the new core is a “radical re-evaluation” of the biology curriculum. He explained that the material covered in the classes will follow a more logical progression, following life from its “murkiest beginnings” onwards. This will make it easier for students to see the connections in the material.
Replacing the current structure of classes, composed of BIOL150 (Intro Science of Biology), BIOL201 (Cell & Molecular Biology) and BIOL202 (Ecology & Evolution), there will be three new classes: BIOL210 (Molecular Biology and Unicellular Life), followed by BIOL220 (Multicellular Life) and then BIOL230 (Ecology and Evolution).
In the old structure, 201 and 202 could be taken in any order, but in the new structure, the classes must be taken sequentially.
Each class will be offered every semester. The CHEM131 requirement has been removed from the core biology courses, though both CHEM131 and CHEM132 are still required for any 300-level courses. In addition to this change, the number of 300-level classes required for both the B.A. and B.S. is now five. Finally, the number of science “cognate” courses for the B.S. degree has been reduced to four.
Dr. Thompson explained that the most important thing to know about the curriculum change is this: if you have already started the existing biology core, you should continue with it, and if you have not, you should start the new core.
As the e-mail states, “BIOL201 will be offered next year (both terms), but will cease to exist after Spring ‘16,” and “BIOL202 will continue to exist, but will now be numbered BIOL230,” so if a student has taken BIOL150, they can continue to finish the existing biology core. The changes in the core classes only really apply to students who have not yet begun working towards their biology major or minor.
The new structure will also make it easier for teachers to teach that material. In the existing curriculum, students come into BIOL201 and BIOL202 with varying types of experience and knowledge, since those classes can be taken in either order, and since BIOL150 is taught from different perspectives by different teachers. The new core will be focused on gradually building skills and concepts in a clearer and more coherent manner than before.
Students’ feelings on these changes are, for the most part, positive. Many students have expressed that the changes in requirements will make scheduling less stressful, and will make it easier to earn the B.S. than it was before.
One such student is Erin Stevens ‘16, a biology and philosophy double major. She said that, “Originally I was going to get a B.A. in Biology because with my Philosophy major, fulfilling all of the requirements for the B.S. simply wasn’t feasible. But now that there are 2 fewer requirements for the B.S. I can pursue it.”
In terms of the other changes, some students are, as Lauren Thompson ‘18 put it, “upset that the core class changes missed our class year so we didn’t get the improved classes.” Overall, the changes do seem like they will be an improvement, which will have positive effects for both current and incoming students.