Aims of the Queen's Biology Undergraduate Program

Our mission is to produce engaged, independent, reflective, critically thinking graduates who will be inspired and able to actively contribute to the improvement of society.  The Biology undergraduate program provides a well-balanced, high quality education, aimed at fostering a commitment to the learning and application of biological principles throughout the experiences of life.  In essence, we want to train students how to ‘think as scientists’ (i.e. how to use evidence-based reasoning to understand phenomena and solve problems). This fundamental life skill is central to effective decision-making and therefore has benefitted not only those of our graduates who have gone on to develop biological science research careers, but also those who are now progressing in a wide range of other disciplines (e.g. teaching, health sciences, professional biologists/biotechnologists, as well as business, law, accounting, management etc.). Accordingly, we anticipate that this distinctively broad educational perspective, along with the specific goals outlined below, will produce graduates that are highly competitive for the best opportunities available in the workplace and in leading professional and graduate school programs. 

To achieve these goals, we teach in multiple ways that that are specifically designed to promote active, deep, engaged, learning.  Students in our program will have opportunities to apply for courses that incorporate concept-based lectures, Socratic question and answer approaches, student and professor-led seminars, peer instruction, conceptual and applied problem-solving, iterative writing/editing exercises, student debates, ‘hands-on’ lab practical experiences including state-of-the-art molecular biology and biochemistry techniques, use of our nearby top class biological field station (QUBS) as well as multiple opportunities for field courses across the world, small-sized 4th year seminar courses, and probably best of all, one-on-one student-professor honours thesis and independent research projects.
 

GOALS

At the end of a Queen’s biology undergraduate degree, our students will have directly experienced the joys of scientific thinking and discovery, and will have the following general and biology-specific skills.

General skills:

  1. Think critically, originally, and creatively, to develop innovative ideas and solutions to both fundamental and applied problems in our society.
  2. Discuss, evaluate and critique evidence and its interpretation, to reach an advanced understanding of phenomena, processes and perspectives that arise in modern living.
  3. Work individually, and as team-members, to produce high quality, synthetic, incisive written and oral project reports using effective time management.
  4. Learn independently (i.e. when presented with a question or problem to which the student does not already know the answer, he or she is capable of self-driven, independent learning by focussing and logically reflecting on the topic, and then finding, analysing and synthesising the relevant information to address that question or problem.

Biology-specific skills:

  1. Describe the diversity of animal, plant and microbial life, its origins and evolutionary history, and the fundamental principles underlying the functioning of living systems using a core knowledge base that spans all hierarchical levels in biology including molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, physiology, ecology, and evolutionary biology.
  2. Complete all stages of a full scientific investigation including research question formulation, hypothesis development and testing, experimental design, collecting data from lab, growth chamber and/or field studies, data management, quantitative and statistical analyses, critical interpretation of numerical and graphical data, and incorporation of ethical considerations.
  3. Communicate biological ideas and data effectively, including strategies for effective reviewing and synthesis of scientific literature, science writing, and oral and visual presentations.  
  4. Describe the historical development of biology as a science, its principal theories and concepts, and its most recent ideas and discoveries.
  5. Discuss, evaluate and reflect on the importance of the biological sciences to other disciplines, to human welfare, to effective conservation of other species and the environment, and to the sustainability of our civilisation.

 

Why pursue a Queen’s University Bachelor of Science in Biology Degree?  

One of our faculty who does environmental research (Prof. Smol) offers the following reasons: 

First, we hope to foster your development into an informed, free-thinking, and generous individual, who has the background and confidence to improve your community or even change the world.  Humans have created complex problems, and so they will require complex solutions.  This requires multi-dimensional thinking and innovative approaches by teams with diverse skills. We need to embrace creative solutions. 

Second, we aim to develop your understanding of the culture of science and other forms of scholarship – or stated more plainly: how science works and how it can be used within society.  We hope to show, by example, that good arguments must be supported by reproducible observations, not simply opinions or beliefs.  For example, the current environmental debates on issues such as global change are excellent platforms to explore, discuss, and learn from.  Science is not a democracy where all opinions have equal weight. In science, good ideas require the support of data and observations. Opinions and wishful thinking don’t mean very much in science – instead evidence matters.

Third, we hope to expand your appreciation for the importance of action – how individuals can effect change.  Other scientists deserve and need to know about your work, but so do politicians, policy makers, and the public. We hope to hone your skills (and provide the tools) for effectively communicating your findings and your ideas.  We hope to encourage you to make some noise and shake things up when needed, and contribute to positive changes in the world.

And yes, we also need to have the courage to, at times, “throw stones at giants”. Without courageous people, nothing will change. At Queen’s, we try to make a difference.

 

I've spent more time than many will believe [making microscopic observations], but I've done them with joy, and I've taken no notice those who have said why take so much trouble and what good is it?

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

It's a parts list... If I gave you the parts list for the Boeing 777 and it had 100,000 parts, I don't think you could screw it together and you certainly wouldn't understand why it flew

Eric Lander

What is true for E. coli is also true for the elephant

Jacques Monod

The world becomes full of organisms that have what it takes to become ancestors. That, in a sentence, is Darwinism

Richard Dawkins

Shall we conjecture that one and the same kind of living filaments is and has been the cause of all organic life?

Erasmus Darwin

Nature proceeds little by little from things lifeless to animal life in such a way that it's impossible to determine the line of demarcation

Aristotle

Cells let us walk, talk, think, make love, and realize the bath water is cold

Lorraine Lee Cudmore

In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history

Charles Darwin

It is my belief that the basic knowledge that we're providing to the world will have a profound impact on the human condition and the treatments for disease and our view of our place on the biological continuum

J. Craig Venter

Imagine a house coming together spontaneously from all the information contained in the bricks: that is how animal bodies are made

Neil Shubin

A grain in the balance will determine which individual shall live and which shall die - which variety or species shall increase in number, and which shall decrease, or finally become extinct

Charles Darwin

The stuff of life turned out to be not a quivering, glowing, wondrous gel but a contraption of tiny jigs, springs, hinges, rods, sheets, magnets, zippers, and trapdoors, assembled by a data tape whose information is copied, downloaded and scanned

Steven Pinker

We wish to discuss a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid. (D.N.A.). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biologic interest

Rosalind Franklin

We are biology. We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. In between we do what we can to forget

Mary Roach

The systems approach to biology will be the dominant theme in medicine

Leroy Hood

I've always been interested in animal behavior, and I keep reading about it because it's so surprising all the time - so many things are happening around us that we neglect to look at. Part of the passion I have for biology is based on this wonderment"

Isabella Rossellini

Because all of biology is connected, one can often make a breakthrough with an organism that exaggerates a particular phenomenon, and later explore the generality

Thomas Cech

Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of evolution

Theodosius Dobzhansky

Biology is now bigger than physics, as measured by the size of budgets, by the size of the workforce, or by the output of major discoveries; and biology is likely to remain the biggest part of science through the twenty-first century

- Freeman Dyson

Nothing can be more incorrect than the assumption one sometimes meets with, that physics has one method, chemistry another, and biology a third

- Thomas Huxley