Students come to Lawrence with varied interests in the life sciences. A student with strong interests in molecules and cells will wish to learn different techniques and approaches than will a student who is passionate about terrestrial or aquatic ecology.
A student who is thinking about a career in health care may want different experiences than a student who wishes to become a naturalist. One individual may wish to be specialized, another to be a generalist with a broader background. To accommodate this heterogeneity, the biology department has designed its program to provide as much flexibility as possible.
Philosophically, the department encourages an open-ended, original, experimental approach to life science. Beyond the introductory sequences in biology and chemistry, there is no prescribed program for students. This approach begins in Biology 130: Integrative Biology: Cells to Organisms, in which all department faculty members participate. Students design, conduct, and interpret their own projects and present their results at a professional-style symposium at the end of the term.
Experimental work becomes progressively more sophisticated and creative in advanced courses. All courses are designed to develop students’ insights and capacity to synthesize information and they include discussions, readings, field trips, lab work, and interactive class work in those areas most closely related to the competence of the faculty. Most courses feature intensive laboratory or field instruction where students use advanced research equipment and computer facilities to explore modern biological concepts.
All biology faculty members conduct active research programs and employ students during the summer as assistants.
Many students culminate their work in biology with significant original research. In recent years, several papers with students and faculty as co-authors have been published in professional journals. Topics have included aquatic food chain energetics, physiology of aging, cellular metabolism, and molecular mechanics of vertebrate development. Recent advances in biological research are presented in a series of talks by faculty and by scientists from other universities. All students complete a project of their own design as part of our Senior Experience program.
Students who have strong secondary interests in chemistry, geology, or physics may construct majors involving biology and one of the other three natural sciences, using the interdisciplinary major in the natural sciences.