Incoming students planning to pursue biology coursework may need to rethink their future schedules.
Of the three core introductory biology courses, one will only be offered in the fall in future years.
Biology students can either take Biology 101 and Biology 102, spanning two semesters, or Biology 121, which spans one semester. Biology 121 was recommended for students with the strongest high school biology background — AP or Honors. Until recently, Biology 101 was only offered in the fall semester, Biology 102 in the spring and Biology 121 was offered both semesters. Last Tuesday, a wrench was thrown in the works when the department announced that from now on 101 and 102 would both be taught in the fall and in the spring, but 121 would be limited to only the fall.
“My 121 class was pretty small in the spring, and I think that’s why they’re getting rid of it,” College sophomore Maddy Overmoyer said.
Biology professor Eric Weinberg confirmed that low demand factored into the decision. “Spring enrollment for 121 is low,” he said. “It didn’t seem like it was filling that much of a need.”
But Biology 101 was consistently oversubscribed. “We were having a very hard time accommodating all of the students who wanted to take Bio 101, and we were finding that some of the students who were probably better suited for 121 were also taking 101,” Biology Department Chair Brenda Casper said.
Casper stressed that pure numbers weren’t at the root of the change, though. “More importantly, we were having students start 102 before they took 101. We had two categories of students in 102 — some that had had 101, and some that hadn’t, so the instructors of 102 were finding it difficult to present the material in a way that met all the students’ needs," she said. "This way we’ll have 101 both semesters, and they can start that sequence whenever they want, and we’ll only be offering 121 in the fall.”
More reasoning for limiting 121 to the fall alone, Casper explained, is that the Biology Department simply doesn’t have the manpower to teach so many introductory classes at once.
This change is also coming at a time when the whole curriculum of introductory biology classes is being restructured.
“We’re probably going to be seeing 101 looking more like 121 in terms of subject matter,” Casper said.
The department plans to rearrange the topics covered in introductory biology classes: Biology 101 will cover molecular, cell biology and genetics, and Biology 102 will include evolution, ecology, physiology and organismal biology. Plant biology, historically taught in 101, will also be moved to 102.
“Instead of dividing things into plants and animals as much, we want to ask how cells and organisms function,” Weinberg said.
Casper is also excited for a new lab that will become part of the curriculum for both Biology 101 and Biology 121. “As far as we know we’re alone in offering a very exciting new metagenomics lab that will be taught in both 101 and 121,” she said. “This lab will enable students to characterize and describe the composition of bacterial communities around them. They’ll be able to sample these bacterial communities, use this technique to get the composition of the community and then we’ll be comparing across communities to get information about the structure.”
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