Broad Exposure to and Understanding of the Natural World
Denison’s Department of Biology gives students a broad exposure to and understanding of the natural world, and provides a solid preparation for graduate and professional schools. Our graduates pursue successful careers in education, research, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmaceutical and nutritional fields, forest and park services, and conservation, including those that require additional training through graduate or professional programs (e.g. DDS, DVM, MD, MPH, MS, PA, PhD).
Through our biology curriculum, we help students develop critical skills that will allow them to contribute to the scientific and world communities regardless of their academic or career path. In all biology courses, we teach students to make rigorous observations about the natural world, to construct testable hypotheses, to design experiments that test those hypotheses, to collect and analyze data from experiments (especially the appropriate use of statistical tests), and to critically evaluate their results and experimental design in the process of making conclusions supported by evidence. We instruct students on how to find, read, and evaluate papers from the scientific literature as well as information from non-scientific sources.
Through class discussions, written assignments, and oral presentations that are targeted for a range of audiences, we challenge students to communicate knowledge effectively. Our “diversity” course requirement ensures that our students can apply their knowledge and skills to a particular taxonomic group for a deep understanding of the biology and evolution of those organisms. Particularly for BS students, required science courses outside of the biology curriculum ensure that students experience different perspectives on the natural world and gain a stronger knowledge of how scientific disciplines are intertwined.
Small class sizes (with an average ≤ 24) throughout the biology curriculum foster active learning and facilitate close student-faculty relationships that lead to sustained advising and mentoring and in some cases, research collaborations. The department provides opportunities for students to engage in research with faculty members as a supplement to their coursework. These research experiences allow students to gain independence and hone their problem-solving abilities; in some cases, they even result in presentations at professional conferences and/or peer-reviewed publications. Research can be conducted in a laboratory setting, in the greenhouse, and/or in the field (in particular, the 350-acre Biological Reserve).
The department is currently composed of thirteen permanent and two visiting faculty members. The faculty are trained in a wide variety of biological specialties and all conduct active research in their fields.
Off-campus opportunities for study and research include semester and summer programs at the Duke University Marine Biology Laboratory, the Semester-at-Sea, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the School for Field Studies, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratories, among others.
Denison students can choose to major or minor biology. Students who major in biology can choose to earn either a B.A. or a B.S depending on the courses they select.
Students can also become further involved in the life of the department as members and officers of the Denison University Biological Society.
The Department of Biology at Denison seeks to develop students as informed, discerning lifelong learners of the natural world. We provide students with both a breadth and a depth of knowledge while providing a foundation of skills required of professional biologists and scientifically literate citizens in general. Our core curriculum emphasizes key concepts, at a variety of levels of biological organization, ranging from molecules to the Biosphere, in the context of evolution. We expand upon these key concepts in advanced courses where we challenge students to apply their knowledge to address real-world, scientific problems.
The Department of Biology endeavors to provide a comprehensive foundation in concepts and skills across the breadth of biology. This is achieved in part through an introductory core of three courses that prepare students for a deep exploration of sub-disciplines and research methods through subsequent advanced courses. The core covers the major concepts of biology, encompassing an exploration of the natural history of life on Earth, coupled with the basic skills of acquiring and processing information, solving problems, and analyzing data. Our program then allows students the flexibility to explore specific areas of biology in depth through a suite of advanced courses in which they can expand and apply their knowledge and skills.
The major prepares students for careers in science and related fields, as well as graduate and professional schools (including pre-medical, pre-dental and pre-veterinary studies), while allowing students the flexibility to design the program that best suits their specific interests and career goals. In addition, biology majors are offered the opportunity to collaborate with faculty in research and laboratory instruction, to present exceptional work at professional meetings, and to assist in the maintenance of the 350-acre Biological Reserve and other departmental facilities. Information on studies in Pre-Health is provided in the “Special Programs and Opportunities” section of the catalog.
Writing is an integral component of science, and as such, the Biology Department understands that the development of writing skills is essential for all students who pursue the study of biology. The goal for our students is that they emerge as strong writers, able to construct cohesive bodies of written work in which they express clear, concise and logical arguments, supported by empirical evidence and/or information from appropriate sources. A developmental model of writing skills is tightly woven into the biology curriculum to achieve this goal. Our major core curriculum establishes the foundation of good writing practices. Basic grammatical expression is addressed in BIOL 210 - Molecular Biology and Unicellular Life, while BIOL 220 - Multicellular Life focuses on understanding the format of biological literature, culminating in BIOL 230 - Ecology and Evolution, where students write multiple full-length papers. Taken sequentially, BIOL 220 - Multicellular Life and BIOL 230 - Ecology and Evolution serve as one of the W requirements for general education. In our advanced curriculum, students continue to explore more sophisticated levels of writing, including employing distinct disciplinary conventions and engaging with different genres applicable to biological writing. Students who undertake a senior research project write a comprehensive thesis of their work (counting as an additional W requirement), putting into practice the many writing skills that they have developed throughout the curriculum.