Mission

Books with Mission and Goals on the Spine

The mission of the Program in Biological Sciences at Northwestern University is to provide:

  • A modern curriculum for students wishing to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biological Sciences
  • State-of-the art training for students interested in research and other science-based careers

We accomplish this mission through:

  • A rigorous, broad-based curriculum combined with specialization in sub-fields of biology
  • Attentive individualized advising
  • Excellence in classroom teaching 
  • Extensive independent research opportunities for undergraduates, including long-term mentoring
  • Research grant program to encourage immersion in summer research experiences

The overall goals of the Program in Biological Sciences are to provide a comprehensive education in biology for all of our majors and to offer an outstanding training ground for students wishing to pursue post-graduate degrees or go on to professional schools.

In attaining these goals students achieve:

1. A broad-based understanding of foundational areas of biology.

  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Physiology

2. Expertise in specific areas of modern sub-fields of biology.

During the junior and senior years, students take coursework dedicated to specific Areas of Concentration including:

3. A thorough understanding of how science is done. 

Fundamental to any modern education in biology is a thorough understanding of the intellectual and technical basis of how experiments are performed.  To achieve this, Northwestern students enroll for a full year (three courses) in our new inquiry-based introductory laboratory courses.

These courses eschew the standard cookbook style labs and instead place the students at the forefront of experimental science.  To provide students with experiences that are more exciting and training that is more realistic, our introductory laboratory courses engage students in open-ended experiments designed to yield important new knowledge. 

These include experiments to:

  • Discover the effects of novel combinations of genetic alleles on protein aggregation models of Huntington’s disease and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
  • Determine the effects of novel compounds on the ability of macrophages to engulf bacteria
  • Determine the effects of novel compounds on the ability of macrophages to engulf apoptotic cells (efferocytosis).
  • Measure reaction time as a way to examine multisensory integration in the human brain. 
  • Investigate Drosophila as a model for Parkinson’s disease. 

Students have the opportunity to take advanced laboratory courses in their chosen areas of concentration as well.  The Program in Biological Sciences currently offers advanced laboratory courses in Neurobiology, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Plant Evolution and Diversity, and Developmental Genetics.  We also offer courses taught on-site at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Field Museum.

4. A sophisticated appreciation for why science is done.

In addition to building knowledge and skill sets, our inquiry-based curriculum encourages students to explore how science is done, by whom, and to what end.  By ensuring that recent exciting discoveries in numerous areas of biology are thoroughly integrated into both the classroom and the laboratory, the Program in Biological Sciences allows students to develop a more complete understanding of what biologists know, what is not known, and why science is done. Through our independent research program, students can also develop their own projects under the mentorship of research faculty, giving them further insight into how and why scientists generate new knowledge.

5. Enhanced critical thinking skills. 

Through the broad-based study of biology, specialization in a chosen area of concentration, extensive laboratory experience and independent research, the Program in Biological Sciences helps students engage in and evaluate the world around them.  By studying how hypotheses are developed, their predictive capabilities and limitations, the value of experimental repeatability, the power of statistical measures, and many other aspects of the scientific process, our students develop and hone the ability to think critically about science.   This ability is applicable to any field that the student ultimately pursues, and is a primary objective of our program and curriculum.