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Required Bio Called a Success

By Ifung Lu
Associate News Editor

Students and professors consider the new institute requirement in biology a success.

The new policy requires students, beginning with the class of 1997, to pass an introductory biology class. There are three variations of Introductory Biology: 7.012, 7.013, and 7.014. The focus of each class differs slightly.

Students who received a 4 or 5 on the advanced placement biology exam automatically pass the requirement and receive credit.

According to Brian T. White, technical instructor in biology, most students who took 7.012 last term enjoyed taking a general biology class.

White, who is currently teaching 7.014, said he sensed a "positive feeling from students." In addition, "we even made a few converts" to biology, he said.

Douglas S. Decouto '97, who took 7.012 last term, agreed. "It's not the same type of biology you take in high school. ... It taught you so that you could look at a fruit fly and a human and say that they were basically the same in terms of development and processes," he said.

"I think it's pretty good. It expands your knowledge," said August W. Chang '97.

Requirement broadens education

Most students agree that the biology requirement is a step in the right direction, giving students a broader education. The requirement adds to the core curriculum that all undergraduate students must complete. The General Institute Requirements include subjects in physics, chemistry, and calculus, as well as the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

The biology requirement is "a really good idea because it gives you more balance in the core requirements," said Kelly M. Hetherington '97. "You get a better picture of the sciences ... [and] biology is a field that has grown a lot," she said.

"It helps us get more of a background and a different perspective by taking a different science," said Victor M. Aguilar '97.

Stephanie A. Jenrette '97 added that a requirement forces students to experience subjects that they do not like. "Physics is required, and I hate physics, but I still learned things," she said.

Variations differ in content

All three introductory biology courses cover the common core material of biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, and cell biology, White said. The differences between the courses are in the focus and direction each takes.

One variation, 7.012, focuses on areas of current research in cell biology, immunology, neurobiology, developmental biology, and evolution. On the other hand, 7.013 stresses the application of fundamental principles towards understanding human genetics and diseases, infectious agents, cancer, and the immune system. The emphasis of 7.014 is the understanding of evolution, the renewal of the biosphere, and the mechanics of maintaining an ecosystem.

White said that "7.012 and 7.013 focus on integrating cells into organisms [while] 7.014 focuses on integrating organisms into ecosystems -- the next level of integration."

Having three choices allows students to focus on what appeals to them. "They're aimed for different people with different interests," White said.

However, he emphasized that all three courses are equivalent and completely interchangeable. They are not geared toward students in any particular field, White said.

The three classes also give students more options when fitting Introductory Biology into their schedules, White said. Last term, there were 11 recitation sections for 7.012. There are 13 sections for 7.013, and five for 7.014 this term.

White believes that the current topics and the variations on class content could explain the appeal of the introductory biology courses. "We talk about subjects that relate to your everyday experience," he said.

"It's a fun course to teach," he said.