The BJU Biology Department has been a pioneer in developing innovative curriculum since the mid-1960s when we first created General Biology as the entry course to replace the then standard starting point of Zoology or Botany. We saw in the 1960s the need to develop a course that integrated all of biology into clearly articulated foundational ideas at the cellular level.
As biology has grown, our curriculum has kept pace. By the early 1980s the complexity of biological concepts required the creation of General Biology II. General Biology I and II are now the standard for biological science majors in most universities. More recently, an increased understanding of life at the cellular and molecular levels has caused a revolution in biological thought and produced what has been called the “New Biology.” We responded in 1986 with the creation of a senior-level course, Bio 506 Cell and Molecular Biology.
As the new biology shattered old paradigms, it necessitated an expansion of the conceptual base down to the freshman and sophomore years. We responded by creating a required sophomore-level course, Essentials of Cell Biology, in 1999. General Biology I and II and Essentials of Cell Biology now constitute the core curriculum of the biology and premed/predent majors.
Deep and (eventually) Wide
General Biology I and II courses offered by most universities are a rapid survey of all of biology in a manner that has been characterized as “a mile wide and an inch deep.” Dr. Bruce Alberts, past president of the National Academy of Sciences, lamented this problem in 1998: “Far too many of our introductory courses are tedious surveys of an entire field—as if, for example, one could hope to gain any real understanding of all of biology in a single year.” His solution was that students needed to “[gain] a detailed understanding of the inner workings of the cell’s many marvelous protein machines.”
Our core curriculum is specifically designed to produce in you an understanding of biology at the foundational molecular level. We are not content with mere factual recall. You learn at a depth that allows you to apply your understanding to solving real-world science problems. Only after this deep understanding of the conceptual foundation of biology is achieved do you broaden your understanding to include the immense diversity of the biological world.
Ultimately, biology is something you do. It is a way of thinking that you exercise in asking scientific questions in an experimental context. Once again, our curriculum leads the way.
During your very first semester in General Biology I, you learn how to design and conduct experiments. You do several small experimental studies and ultimately a semester project in which the findings are presented in written form as well as orally to the rest of the class, followed by a question and answer time. General Biology II continues this pattern at an even higher level, and Essentials of Cell Biology lab consists almost entirely of experimental modules.
During your sophomore year you take a course in Research Methods and Analysis, and nearly every biology course above that level includes a 3-hour lab focused on experimentation.
During both semesters of your senior year, biology majors in the Cell Biology track conduct independent research under the supervision of our full-time research director. This opportunity is also available to premed/predent majors.
The research director orchestrates an expansive program of undergraduate research which includes opportunities in cancer research in a new lab suite constructed expressly for this purpose. A summer-long research program in biology is also available.