Biology and Marine Biology

(Axel Boer) #1

objectives, and it has also led to modifications that have enhanced our student’s performance as described
Since our last review we have not made significant changes to the curricula of any of our graduate
programs. We did change the description of our required introductory course for M.Sc. students (BIO
501) to stress scientific communication, in response to an identified need to better prepare them” for their
oral exams (see section 10b below). In 2013, the course description for this class was changed from
BIO 501 - Methods in Scientific Research
Credits: (2)
Scientific manuscript preparation and communication techniques: manuscript format, graphics,
design of experiments, library use, oral presentation, and writing techniques. Two lecture hours
each week.

BIO 501 – Introduction to Science as a Profession
Credits: (2)
Survey of educational trajectories and employment prospects for graduate students in the sciences,
focusing on Biology and Marine Biology. Practical treatment of performance and communication
in the scientific profession, with particular coverage of responsible conduct of research, laboratory
and field safety, analyses of data, and the writing and reviewing of journal articles and grant
proposals. Two lecture hours each week.

We also made a change to the format of the candidacy exam for the Ph.D. program. Prior to 2013,
we had required each student to pass a Candidacy Exam that included (1) a written exam consisting of
essay questions submitted by the student’s Dissertation Committee that are based upon the graduate
curriculum and the student’s area of research, and (2) an oral examination based on the student’s
dissertation prospectus. The written exam should be administered no more than 30 days prior to the public
presentation and defense of the dissertation prospectus. Many of our faculty felt that the written component
of the exam was a large time commitment for both students and committee members, without adding a lot
of benefit in terms of revealing the student’s knowledge base. In addition, it was felt that the dissertation
proposal (prospectus) document provided a good opportunity to evaluate the writing capabilities of the
student, and that the written candidacy exam was not necessarily required for such evaluation. Thus, the
faculty agreed to make the oral component the only required exam.


Our graduate program underwent a review in 2007. The invited external reviewers made several
recommendations for enhancing our programs. In that review three fundamental problems facing the
Department were emphasized. In the opinion of these reviewers the Department, first, lacks sufficient
space for research and teaching purposes. Second, faculty workload was judged too high. Third, they
suggested that new staff and faculty lines were needed to support continued excellence in scholarly
activities. Fourth, the M.S. stipends needed to be raised.

The Department’s responses to these and other recommendations and others are summarized below.

Suggestion 1: Explore mechanisms for reducing teaching loads for research active faculty.
Faculty teaching loads in the Department have remained static or have increased since the 2007 review.
Increased teaching loads for faculty are principally due to (a) increases in University enrollment and a near
doubling of departmental majors coupled with the fact that (b) no new faculty lines have been awarded to

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