[Bioforum] Re: 50 things every biologist should know

Nick Theodorakis nick_theodorakis at hotmail.com
Sun Jun 12 15:40:10 EST 2005

On 7 Apr 2005 12:58:31 +0100, jeffhoul at unbsj.ca ("Jeff Houlahan")

>Hi,Bioforum members.  Like many Biology departments in universities across =
>Canada, our university, the University of New Brunswick at Saint John, ha=
>s decided to phase out the comprehensive exam in favour of a proposal def=
>ense/qualifying exam as part of the requirements for completion of a Ph. =
>D.  The rationale for this, as we understand it, is that students should =
>not be expected to have a detailed understanding of the entire discipline=
> of biology.  A proposal defense/qualifying exam is only expected to test=
> a student on areas relevant to their Ph. D. research.  This is a concept=
> we support, but it does raise the concern that students could graduate w=
>ith a Ph. D. in Biology without understanding some very basic biological =
>concepts if those concepts are not relevant to their project.  For exampl=
>e, students doing research that has no explicit evolutionary context coul=
>d graduate without knowing the difference between evolution and natural s=
>election.  Our discussion group has suggested that one way to deal with t=
>his is to develop a list of =E2=80=98The 50 things every biologist should=
> know=E2=80=99 and make those 50 topics fair game in a qualifying exam/pr=
>oposal defence.  Thus, our goal is to put together such a list.  We have =
>put together a preliminary list of 60 different questions (maybe) every b=
>iologist should be able to answer (see that list below), but we are looki=
>ng for broader input.  We would love to hear from anybody who would like =
>to add a question or questions to the list, or make some comment about th=
>e questions that are already on the list.  Ultimately, we will be putting=
> together a survey to rank the suggestions we get and identify the =E2=80=
>=9950 things every biologist should know=E2=80=99 as ranked by survey respo=
>nses.  We will distribute that list to this group when the survey is comp=
>lete.  Thanks for any comments you can provide on this.


>3.=09What causes water to be green?

Umm..  algae?
When is it green?

>4.=09What are the two laws of thermodynamics?

Only two?


>6.=09What three elements define organic compounds?

Three?  Aren't hydrocarbons organic (e.g. benzene, C6H6)?  What about
fullerenes (e.g. C60)? Are they organic?


>31.=09What is meant by the =E2=80=9Cinheritance of acquired traits=E2=80=9D=
>, who made this claim, and why was he wrong?

You might be thinking of Lamarck, but he was only describing what was
a common (mis)belief at the time. He certainly wasn't unique in this

Or maybe you were thinking about Lysenko, which would make for an even
better cautionary tale?

>33.=09Are cladogenesis and anagenesis synonymous terms?

I suppose it would be nice to know these terms if you are in "E and E"
type department, but since you want things that "every biologist
should know" I have to say that with my background in molecular
biology and biochemistry, even though I like to think I am more widely
read than many of my peers (perhaps incorecly, but allow me this one
conceit for the sake of thisd iscussion), I don't know the definitions
for these terms


>35.=09What is osmosis?

Should probably go under "chemistry."


>Excuse the cross posting =E2=80=93 we are trying to get a diverse group of =

You didn't cross-post; you multiposted, which was worse.

How can I post a message to more than one Usenet newsgroup?

Why and how to crosspost

What is the accepted way to share a message across multiple

Nick Theodorakis
nick_theodorakis at hotmail.com
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