Learning Goals

Learning Goals

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.

Fundamental Concepts

Integrative 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)

Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology

  1. Environmental determinants of organismal structure and function
  2. Energy flow through ecosystems
  3. The regulation of populations
  4. Population interactions
  5. Structure, assembly, and dynamics of communities
  6. Micro-evolutionary processes—from molecules to phenotypic traits
  7. Macro-evolutionary processes—history of life, role of extinction, phylogenetic relationships
  8. The relationship between genotype and phenotype
  9. Applying ecological and evolutionary concepts to contemporary environmental and social issues

Molecular and Cellular Biology

  1. Bioenergetics
  2. Structure and function (cellular compartmentalization, the chemical basis of life, emergent properties in biological systems)
  3. The manner in which information is stored in the genome and retrieved
  4. Balance of forces and trade-offs
  5. Homeostasis and regulation
  6. Evolution (phylogenetics, heredity, mechanisms of evolutionary change)
  7. Bioethics and social issues

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

Options for Majoring or Minoring in the Department

Students may elect to major in biology or to coordinate a major in biology with digital and computational studies, education, or environmental studies. Students pursuing a coordinate major may not normally elect a second major. Non-majors may elect to minor in biology, with the exception of biochemistry and neuroscience majors. 

Department Website

This is an excerpt from the official Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook. View the Catalogue