School of Biological Sciences – Education Vision

The faculty of the School of Biological Sciences represent an unusually broad range of scientific interests, and this breadth is reflected in our undergraduate curriculum, which offers courses in biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, genetics, evolution, physiology, ecology and the global environment. In keeping with our wide-angle view of the discipline, we attempt to offer our students an integrated biological education that will prepare them to contribute to a rapidly changing world, both as citizens and as professionals.


Biology is complex in part because its wildly diverse phenomena have evolved over billions of years. In addition, some fields are growing explosively through the application of informatic, robotic and other high-tech approaches. We believe that our central undergraduate education mission is to help students use their biological literacy to address some of Life’s interesting questions and pressing problems. We aim to guide students to develop their own intellectual framework that enables them to think critically and creatively when they encounter new information and ideas. In constructing this framework, students should come to appreciate the intellectual traditions that make up modern biology and, more generally, should develop an understanding of how scientific knowledge is continually rebuilt through the integration of natural-history observations, experimental data and theoretical models. Our most important goal for our students is that they graduate as independent thinkers, with a deep understanding of biology and the ability to use, adapt and expand their knowledge as they pursue their lives and careers.

Click on the boxes below for an overview of the school, education initiatives, and goals & priorities. (Note: For this 2018-2019 cluster hire, no appointments will be made to the School of Biological Sciences. However, the School is participating on the Executive Committee for the search.)

School Overview

The faculty of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Utah are deeply committed to excellence in research and teaching.  Access to a first-rate education in biology underpins the training of the next generation of biologists and promotes a society capable of making informed decisions on scientific issues.  This educational endeavor is built upon a foundation of outstanding research that both provides access to in-depth understanding of current knowledge and holds the possibility for new advances.  The faculty of the School of Biological Sciences view education and research as intimately entwined facets of our mission, which is to:

  • Prepare undergraduate biology majors, graduate students, and postdoctoral scientists for successful careers in academia, biotechnology, medicine, environmental management and related fields by providing them with an understanding of biological systems and levels of organization and the opportunity to employ the concepts and experimental approaches of modern biology in classroom and research settings;
  • Advance scientific knowledge through research of the highest quality and rigor;
  • Provide undergraduates majoring in other fields with an introduction to modern biology as a scientific discipline;
  • Promote and provide for the advancement and awareness of biological sciences and general scientific literacy of society at large.

In 2017-2018, the School of Biological Sciences awarded:

  • 226 Bachelor’s degrees in Biology
  • 1 BS/MS degree in Biology
  • 1 Biology-Teaching degree
  • 2 Master’s degrees in Biology
  • 11 PhD degrees
Current Education Initiatives

Undergraduate Curriculum reform: The School is updating its undergraduate curriculum to both more fully provide a modern outlook on biology and provide flexibility to allow students to explore areas of interest.  We are doing this by 1) developing a new introductory biology course sequence that uses modern pedagogy to meet the department’s core learning objectives; 2) introducing new introductory biology laboratory courses that incorporate inquiry driven research projects; and 3) increasing course requirement flexibility by providing a range of emphasis areas with specialized course offerings.

Learning Assistants Program: The School of Biology is participating in a college-wide learning assistant (LA) pilot program led by the Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CSME) with representatives from all four College of Science departments.  We are excited about the potential positive impact of the program on our students and on the curriculum amendments currently underway.

Utah Pathways to STEM (UPSTEM): The School of Biology is also participating in an HHMI Inclusive Excellence Initiative between the University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College to support transfer students in STEM disciplines. This project is led by faculty members in CSME, Salt Lake Community College and University of Utah using facilitators from all four College of Science departments.

Undergraduate Research Education Opportunities:  A variety of programs have been adopted or implemented to promote undergraduate participation in biology research including: 1) Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR); 2) ACCESS program for women in science that provides women undergraduates a supported path into the sciences; 3) Internship and community engaged learning opportunities with partner institutions and communities all across the state; and 4) Bio Science Undergraduate Research Club (BSURC) that serves to generate a community of undergraduate researchers.

Goals & Priorities in Education
  • Promote collaboration between biology faculty, faculty throughout the College of Science, and with the Center for Science and Mathematics Education to support and expand existing education projects.
  • Strengthen and expand training and mentorship opportunities for graduate students.
  • Promote and support Biology Education Research efforts in the department.
  • Encourage development and implementation of effective and inclusive teaching practices.