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Biology majors at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh clamored to sign up for rejuvenated spring semester courses built on faculty expertise and designed to teach students the latest skills for success in their professional careers or grad school studies.

“We are working to revise and refresh our courses and majors,” said Courtney Kurtz, professor and cochair of UW Oshkosh’s biology department. “Some course titles and descriptions were confusing. Some long-forgotten courses were resurrected to teach students valuable skills, and some new courses are being offered to benefit the students.”

The biology department—previously recognized with the UW Board of Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award—serves hundreds of undergraduate students across four majors: biology, environmental health, microbiology and radiologic science. The UWO graduate program offers master’s degrees in biology and microbiology.

Emma Smith

In her final semester before graduating in May, senior biology major Emma Smith, of Kenosha, is looking forward to taking UWO molecular biologist Jessica Lucas’ revamped Biology 372: Cancer Biology class.

“We’ll be learning from current research about all the different types of mechanisms behind cancer and what’s going on in the field,” Smith said.

As the second leading cause of death globally, the complex disease of cancer is an important topic for students to explore.

“Cancer Biology is an upper division class, and we’ll be going right into the scientific literature and reading first-hand about the science happening today,” Lucas said. “Biology is always changing, so our classes have to change, too.”

Smith is interested in gaining a better understanding of how cancer develops, especially since she has personally experienced the impact of the disease on her family.

“From taking previous classes from her, I know Dr. Lucas’s approach to making it safe to talk about hard things,” said Smith, who is planning to take some time off after commencement before heading to graduate school.

Lucas said having conversations about sensitive topics is especially good practice in learning how to manage emotions for students planning careers in healthcare.

Jessica Lucas

How biology is evolving at UWO

  • Biology 305 or Biology of Mammals will be offered for the first time in spring 20024 by UWO’s Morgan Churchill, a vertebrate paleontology with a passion for studying whales.
  • Biology 316 (formerly Developmental Biology) and Biology 372 (formerly Medical and Environmental Applications of Cell Biology and Genetics) will be offered in spring 2024 as Development and Stem Cells and Cancer Biology, respectively. The updates benefit pre-health students in the biomedical science major as well as general biology majors.
  • Biology 326 (formerly Introductory Limnology) will be offered in fall 2024 as Lakes, Rivers and Wetlands. This course will benefit biology and environmental studies majors.
  • Biology 390 (formerly Biotechnology Laboratory) is being resurrected in spring 2024 as Applied Molecular Biology Technique. This lab-only course will focus on marketable skills like pipetting for students interested in pursuing graduate school or a career in research and development technology.
  • Biology 420 (Medical Human Physiology) is a new course to be offered in spring 2025 for biomedical science majors. Previously, they had to take Animal Physiology (BIO 319) for the major, now they have a choice of either course. This is especially important for pre-physician assistant students.
  • A Quest 1 version of Biology 105 (Biological Concepts: Unity) will be offered for the first time in fall 2024. This will create a USP option for biology, pre-nursing and kinesiology majors who need to take BIO 105.

Kurtz said even more changes could be coming as the biology faculty seek additional input from students.

“We encourage our majors to reach out to their faculty adviser if they have any suggestions of courses they would like to see offered. We can’t guarantee we can offer everything, but we would like to get feedback from current students to help guide the process,” she said.

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