Biology student Brad Boserup, now a USFSM alum, works with Dr. Edie Banner.

USF Sarasota-Manatee develops new ‘pathways’ for biology students

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: March 16, 2017

SARASOTA, Fla. (March 16, 2017)USF Sarasota-Manatee is unveiling new curriculum “pathways” in the College of Science & Mathematics to show the different career options and graduate programs available to biology students.

Dr. Paul Kirchman, dean of the College of Science & Mathematics, says students too often think of a biology degree as strictly a forerunner to medical school, and while the degree program remains a popular and essential path toward medical school, they may overlook how it can be beneficial in pursuing other science-and health-related careers as well.

“There are plenty of job opportunities for students, especially in medically related fields,” Dr. Kirchman said. “However, most require additional training beyond a bachelor’s degree. All graduate programs have certain prerequisites. We want, first, to help students be aware of all the possibilities and, second, to show them how to efficiently achieve their goals once they do decide on the path they want to pursue.”

USF Sarasota-Manatee to develop ‘pathways’ for biology students

College of Science & Mathematics Dean Dr. Paul Kirchman

That is why Dean Kirchman is devising a series of curriculum pathways to show students the flexible – and marketable – sides to their degree. In some cases, he said, by simply adding or substituting a handful of electives, students can open the door to a number of interesting careers and graduate-study options.

For instance, by choosing biochemistry and microbiology as electives within their biology degree, students can meet the entry coursework requirements for dental school.

Similarly, by taking another mix of electives students can qualify for pharmacy school, occupational or physical therapy training or nursing school, among other programs. If they add an education minor (18 credits), they can qualify for the certification exam to teach biology or chemistry in public schools.

“We have recently redesigned the biology major to make it more flexible,” Dr. Kirchman said. “Students with a biology degree from USFSM will be able to pursue any area of life science, from wildlife biologist to teacher to neurosurgeon.

“Those who only know that they want to study biology because they love science or ecology will be given the guidance to turn their interests into interesting careers,” he said. “That guidance is a big advantage for a small program.”

So far, the dean has identified seven career/graduate-study pathways in addition to the traditional medical school route: dental or pharmacy school, physical or occupational therapy, teaching, nursing and physician’s assistant training.

“We are currently focused on developing the pathways into programs that have very strict and defined requirements,” Dr. Kirchman said. “Many options, such as research, only require the desire and some research experience. Our program emphasizes critical thinking, and offers great laboratory and research experiences. The guidance provided in such a small program will allow us to help students who want to pursue the less well-defined paths also.”

The biology program was started in 2014 and remains one of USF Sarasota-Manatee’s most popular disciplines. Classes are held at the main campus and at USFSM’s teaching laboratories at Mote Marine Laboratory on City Island in Sarasota.

To learn more about the biology program, visit usfsm.edu/programs/biology/.

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