Department Learning Goals

I. General Competencies and Goals

The mission of Bowdoin College's Biology Department is to offer an educational program that informs, challenges and stimulates undergraduates in a broad range of biological inquiry at many levels of organization, from biochemistry and molecular biology through population and ecosystem ecology. In addition to covering current and historical concepts and controversies in biology, the curriculum is designed to give students critical analytical, problem-solving, quantitative and writing skills, thereby preparing them for further study in biology and related fields at the graduate level, in the health professions, in scientific education, or in other areas, depending upon the students' interests. Courses in the Biology Department also meet the needs of non-majors and contribute to general scientific literacy.

The goals of our curriculum are for students to acquire the ability to (1) interpret biological knowledge; (2) undertake self-designed research through courses or independent research; (3) communicate outcomes of research; (4) apply biological concepts to novel situations; (5) apply knowledge from multiple fields to biological questions and vice versa.


II. Fundamental Concepts in Biology

1. Bioenergetics (from the level of molecules and cells to ecosystems)

2. Structure and Function (compartmentalization, chemical basis of life, central dogma, emergent properties)

3. Balance of Forces and Trade-offs

4. Homeostasis and Regulation (from signaling pathways to population regulation)

5. Evolution (phylogenetics, heredity, mechanisms of evolutionary change)

6. Ecology (species interactions, population biology, ecosystem processes, natural history)

7. Influence of Biology on Social Issues (conservation, research practices, bioethics)


III. Core Skills

1.    Understanding and using the primary literature in support of research
2.    Asking questions and generating testable hypotheses
3.    Hypothesis testing and experimental design
4.    Laboratory and field data collection
5.    Data analysis, including statistical and quantitative analyses
6.    Data interpretation
7.     Written and oral communication and presentations



IV. Location in the Curriculum

Introductory sequence (1101/1102; 1109):  The introductory courses are designed to introduce students to core concepts and competencies.  The courses expose students to the ways of thinking, concepts and contemporary problems at the different levels of biology.  Core skills are introduced and modeled as preparation for more advanced study.

Core sequence (2000-2499):  The three-part core sequence is designed to instruct students in all the conceptual learning goals and core competencies.  Core classes are structured to allow for a deeper exploration of the fundamental concepts within a sub-discipline.  The labs train students in contemporary methods and allow students opportunities for student-designed research.  

Non-seminar upper level courses (2500-2999): In these courses, students apply core concepts and gain selected competencies at greater depth within an area of specialization.   

Seminar courses (>3000):  Seminar courses focus on interpretation and integration of data and ideas from the primary literature.  The focus is also on practice in oral presentations, discussion and written interpretations of primary literature.  Leadership in organizing and running discussions is emphasized.

Independent research (>4000): Independent research immerses students in the research process at all levels.

V. Curriculum Map of Fundamental Concepts in Biology

Core Concept Biology Courses
Bioenergetics mostly Group 1 and 2 but also Group 3 courses such as Biodiversity & Conservation Science
Structure and Function Groups 1, 2 and 3
Balance of Forces and Trade-offs Groups 1, 2 and 3
Homeostasis and Regulation mostly Group 1 and 2 but also Group 3 courses such as Behavioral Ecology & Population Biology
Evolution mostly Group 3 but also Group 2 courses such as Genetics and Development
Ecology Group 3
Influence of Biology on Social Issues Groups 1, 2 and 3

VI. Biology Courses by Group   

Group 1 Genetics and Molecular Biology
Bio 2135: Neurobiology
Bio 2175: Developmental Biology
Bio 2118: Microbiology
Bio 2124: Biochemistry and Cell Biolog
Group 2 Bio 2210: Plant Ecophysiology
Bio 2135: Neurobiology
Bio 2214: Comparative Physiology
Bio 2175: Developmental Biology
Group 3 Bio 2316: Evolution
Bio 2319: Biology of Marine Organisms
Bio 2325: Biodiversity and Conservation Science
Bio 2330: Marine Molecular Ecology and Evolution