In addition to traditional classroom and laboratory work, we encourage Biology students to participate in a number of different opportunities that strengthen their academic preparation. These include work study, internships, independent study, and research. We will begin with the one that is most exciting: research.
Students may assist faculty in extramurally funded research and/or pursue projects of their own choosing. Research is the application of biological knowledge and techniques to answer questions about our world, and no science program is complete without it. Research provides the foundation for modern biological theory, drives the discipline of biology, and provides a basis for our modern technological society and economy (e.g., medicine, agriculture, biotechnology, natural resource management, energy).
Undergraduate research has become an important part of biology programs nationwide and many Waldorf biology students have conducted research in our program (it is a requirement for students pursuing a B.S. in Biology). Some projects have been developed by students themselves while others have participated in faculty-led research (Waldorf's Biology Faculty maintain active research projects and regularly include students to assist in the collection and analysis of data). Some students have given presentations of their work at scientific conferences (e.g., Iowa Academy of Science) and others have published their work in peer-reviewed journals (e.g., Herpetological Review).
We encourage sophomore and advanced freshmen biology students to complete an Independent Study. Independent Study is similar to research in requiring students to apply what they have learned in class and labs, in requiring students to think critically and independently, and in teaching students how to ask good questions. But, it does not require the depth of planning, thinking, or analysis as research.
Students identify a question then work with a faculty member to design an effective way to answer it. It may be a question or project that was completed and published years ago, or the question may be one of the student’s own choosing. Students then work independently to run the experiments and gather the data that will provide the answers. Either way, this experience helps student to learn the process of science and to apply knowledge they have gained in class.
Experience in the “real world” can be invaluable to students for understanding how professional biologists perform their tasks. It also can help students later in finding a job: One needs a job to gain experience, but experience is needed to obtain a job. Internships provide students opportunities to gain work experience while still a student. In this way, students gain professional knowledge and contacts. Internships are required of students pursuing a B.A. in Biology. Students have completed internships with local natural areas (e.g., Pilot Knob State Park, Rice Lake Wildlife Management Unit), federal agencies (e.g., USDA Forest Service, USDI Geological Survey - Biological Resources Division), and medical schools (e.g., University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine).
Preparing equipment and materials for laboratories requires much more time than faculty have available. In addition, special projects often require additional help. Students are an invaluable resource for these jobs and Work Study provides a venue for student assistance. Students who demonstrate an interest in learning more about the preparation of labs, the operation of biological equipment, and have financial need are encouraged to apply for these positions.
"The method of science as stodgy and grumpy as it may seem, is far more important than the findings of science"
-Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World
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