Department of Biological Sciences

Overview

The Department of Biological Sciences offers several programs, including

B.S. Biology degree with concentrations in

A two-year nondegree program in pre-pharmacy

Minors in

Postbaccalaureate certificates in

M.S. Biology degree with options for

  • thesis research
  • literature research

All programs of study provide students with a liberal arts education emphasizing the sciences. Students get strong hands-on experience by taking at least 4-6 lab classes. Many students get enhanced practical experience through research positions,  independent research projects, internships, and fellowships in science labs at USM, area biotechnology firms, and research institutes.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Foundations: Graduates will have a basic understanding of the expansive field of modern biology and appreciate its breadth, from molecules to ecosystems. In addition, they will understand how basic principles of chemistry, physics, and mathematics inform the foundation on which all of biology rests. 
  1. Evolution: Graduates will understand the process of evolution by natural selection, because evolution is the broad integrating theme in all of biology. By explaining its unity and diversity and linking all aspects of past and future, we expect students to have both a deep and broad knowledge of its mechanisms and implications. 
  1. Genetics: Graduates will understand the mechanisms and history of genetics in detail. In addition, students will understand how modern genetics impacts many facets of society. 
  1. Specialization: Graduates will demonstrate specialized knowledge in areas of biology, where they will become acquainted with both classic and cutting edge research in the fields of modern biology. This goal dovetails with aspects of Goal 1 as it seeks to solidify the basic knowledge component that students acquire in earlier courses.
  1. Lab and field skills: Graduates will be able to employ common lab and field techniques used by biological scientists and therefore will be prepared for employment in government and private laboratories, hospitals, classrooms, nonprofits, and consulting firms.
  1. Scientific communication: Graduates will become adept at scientific communication, increasing their level of information literacy throughout our program. In addition, they will be able to competently communicate scientific findings to both peer and lay audiences. They will aspire to serve as ambassadors of science to educate and impact the public.
  1. Scientific worldview: Graduates will adopt a scientific worldview, leading them to be both curious and skeptical of new information. They will be concerned with the societal implications of science and the impacts of society on the natural world.

Undergraduate Programs

Students majoring in Biology (the "general biologill experimentgy" track) examine life from the molecular to the community level. Besides taking foundation courses that survey the full range of biology, plus genetics, ecology, and evolution, students also take courses in three major areas of biology: organismal biology, ecology, and cellular and functional biology. Students interested in veterinary medicine should pursue this track. Graduates from the program have gone on to work as lab technicians, research biologists, and state biologists. Other alumni have entered top graduate programs around the country.

 

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Students who pursue a concentration in Human Biology generally are interested in the health professions. They take human-oriented courses including anatomy & physiology and pathophysiology. Many of these graduates enter medical schools in Maine and New England.

Students who follow the Biotechnology track receive a solid foundation in both biology and chemistry. They take advanced courses in molecular biology, immunology, and biochemistry, including labs. Graduates are well situated to secure a position in a biotech company or to enter graduate programs in cell and molecular biology.

 

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Students following the Secondary Teacher Education concentration gain a strong background in the biological sciences while also fulfilling education requirements needed for certification to teach biology at the secondary level. This program is offered in partnership with the School of Education and Human Development.

The two-year Prepharmacy program is designed for students who wish to apply to a doctoral program in Pharmacy. Students complete the prerequisite biology, chemistry, and general education courses necessary to gain entry to pharmacy programs.

 

All undergraduates are encouraged to gain valuable experience in the field, whether through working with individual faculty on research projects or through internships with area companies and organizations.

Other biology courses may be elected to suit individual interests and needs. Required courses in chemistry, mathematics, and physics reflect the interdisciplinary status of the biological sciences.

Minors

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Students majoring in other disciplines may choose to pursue a minor in Biology, which includes foundational courses in either introductory biology or human anatomy and physiology, as well as upper level courses in their area of interest.

Students interested in Ecology can choose to minor in that field. This minor is jointly administered by the Department of Biology and the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. It includes core courses as well as electives in a variety of ecological subdisciplines.

 

Post Baccalaureate Options

For students who already hold a baccalaureate degree but who have decided to return to school and complete the requirements for admission to medical or veterinary school, we offer Certificates in Pre-Medical Studies and in Pre-Veterinary Studies. These students get the solid foundation of introductory biology courses, plus chemistry and physics, along with some upper level courses in biology, which prepares them for professional study.

Graduate Programs

Students may pursue the Master of Science students observingdegree in Biology, which offers breadth of coursework in Physiology, Ecology and Evolution, and Molecular Biology and Genetics. In addition, graduate students complete a thesis based on independent research or a literature review. Full time students frequently receive support through assistantships and tuition waivers.

We also participate in the multi-institutional doctoral program in the Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering, administered through the University of Maine.