September 2011

Undergraduate BMB programs

What makes them distinct? What makes them complete?


A campus tour


An enthusiastic young undergraduate is leading a group of high school students and their parents on a tour of Generic State University.

As they walk across the quadrangle, the undergraduate confidently points out building after building as his audience inquires: Where is the psychology department located? Is that the biology building? Where's English? Where's biology? Where's engineering? Where is the department of molecular biology? 

"I don't think we have one," the undergraduate replies.

"Where do students go if they are interested in studying enzymes, lipid metabolism or gene regulation?"

"I'm not sure. Some major in biology. You can major in biochemistry through the chemistry department, but you still have to take P-Chem…"

A heterogeneous array of program models

For the bulk of the 20th century, colleges and universities were organized on modular principles. Every subject area taught was the responsibility of an autonomous academic department possessing its own faculty, staff, unit leader and space. Large departments often merited their own buildings, with the collateral benefit of enshrining their disciplines in brick and mortar for generations to come.

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