50 things every biologist should know

Des Higgins dazzhiggins at hotmail.com
Tue Apr 12 08:03:12 EST 2005

"Jeff Houlahan" <jeffhoul at unbsj.ca> wrote in message
news:d3e6tf$1a7$1 at mercury.rfcgr.mrc.ac.uk...
> Hi, MolEvol members.  Like many Biology departments in universities across
> =
> Canada, our university, the University of New Brunswick at Saint John, has
> =
> decided to phase out the comprehensive exam in favour of a proposal
> defense=
> /qualifying exam as part of the requirements for completion of a Ph. D.
> Th=
> e rationale for this, as we understand it, is that students should not be
> e=
> xpected to have a detailed understanding of the entire discipline of
> biolog=
> y.  A proposal defense/qualifying exam is only expected to test a student
> o=
> n areas relevant to their Ph. D. research.  This is a concept we support,
> b=
> ut it does raise the concern that students could graduate with a Ph. D. in
> =
> Biology without understanding some very basic biological concepts if those
> =
> concepts are not relevant to their project.

That is traditional and has always been the case.  Students of biochemistry
will not know anything about ecology and will not usually want to know and
vice versa.  Students of enzyme kinetics will know nothing about protein
evolution and vice versa.  Why stop at biology?  Why stop at science?
Why not add in music; art history; languages?
You have to draw the line somewhere;
as  a PhD supervisor, my "job" is to get the candidate through as best I
They have to then educate themselves.

What is the solution?
IMHO, there is none.
I applaud your attempt at reducing biology to 50 questions but this reminds
me of when I was a kid and we memorised (had beatn into us) about 50
questions and prewritten answers about (catholic) religion.
The first question was "Who made the world" and progessed ever upwards to
all kinds of details about "sanctifying grace" etc.  I memorised lots and
actually learned nothing.


> For example, students doing re=
> search that has no explicit evolutionary context could graduate without
> kno=
> wing the difference between evolution and natural selection.  Our
> discussio=
> n group has suggested that one way to deal with this is to develop a list
> o=
> f =E2=80=98The 50 things every biologist should know=E2=80=99 and make
> thos=
> e 50 topics fair game in a qualifying exam/proposal defence.  Thus, our
> goa=
> l is to put together such a list.  We have put together a preliminary list
> =
> of 60 different questions (maybe) every biologist should be able to answer
> =
> (see that list below), but we are looking 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 the questions that are already on the
> list=
> =2E  Ultimately, we will be putting together a survey to rank the
> suggestio=
> ns we get and identify the =E2=80=9950 things every biologist should know=
> =E2=80=99 as ranked by survey responses.  We will distribute that list to
> t=
> his group when the survey is complete.  Thanks for any comments you can
> pro=
> vide on this.
> The UNBSJ Ecology discussion group
> 1.=09What is an atom?
> 2.=09What is a molecule?
> 3.=09What causes water to be green?
> 4.=09What are the two laws of thermodynamics?
> 5.=09What are the four unique properties of water?
> 6.=09What three elements define organic compounds?
> 7.=09What is an element?
> 8.=09What is a protein
> 9.=09What is a carbohydrate?
> 10.=09What is a lipid?
> 11.=09What is DNA?
> 12.=09What is a gene?
> 13.=09What is natural selection?
>        13b. Are evolution and natural selection synonymous terms?
> 14.=09What is a chromosome?
> 15.=09What are the four principles of Mendelian genetics
> 16.=09What is a genome?
> 17.=09How is DNA replicated?
> 18.=09What is epistasis?
> 19.=09What are the sources of genetic variation?
> 20.=09What is epigenesis?
> 21.=09What does the Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium predict, and what is the
> imp=
> ortance of the model assumptions?
> 22.=09How have continents moved and how has that affected the formation
> and=
> distribution
> of species?
> 23.=09What is evolution?
> 24.=09What is the difference between micro and macro-evolution?
> 25.=09Can you read a phylogenetic tree?
> 26.=09What are the kingdoms of living organisms?
> 27.=09Finish the following Kingdom, Phylum=E2=80=A6
> 28.=09What is the =E2=80=9CEvolutionary Synthesis=E2=80=9D?
> 29.=09Is evolution progressive?
> 30.=09What comes first: the adaptation or the selective pressure?
> 31.=09What is meant by the =E2=80=9Cinheritance of acquired
> traits=E2=80=9D=
> , who made this claim, and why was he wrong?
> 32.=09What is the object of natural selection?
> 33.=09Are cladogenesis and anagenesis synonymous terms?
> 34.=09What is a phenotype?
> 35.=09What is osmosis?
> 36.=09What are the key differences between prokaryotes and eukaryotes
> 37.=09What is mitosis and what happens during mitosis?
> 38.=09What is meiosis and what happens during meiosis?
> 39.=09What are the ? cell organelles and what are their functions?
> 40.=09What are the key differences between plant and animal cells?
> 41.=09What is a cell?
> 42.=09What is photosynthesis?
> 43.=09What is glycolysis?
> 44.=09What is the Kreb=E2=80=99s cycle?
> 45.=09How does energy flow and matter cycle?
> 46.=09What is a trophic level?
> 47.=09How does water cycle?
> 48.=09Can you describe the cycles for key nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus,
> =
> carbon)
> 49.=09What is biomagnification?
> 50.=09What is the Theory of Island Biogeography?
> 51.=09What are r and K selected life histories?
> 52.=09What is an ecosystem?
> 53.=09What are Newton=E2=80=99s Laws?
> 54.=09What are the key organs in the human body and what are their
> function=
> s?
> 55.=09What are Theories, hypotheses and predictions and how do they
> differ?
> 56.=09What are the important plant structures and their functions?
> 57.=09What is homeostasis and why is it important?
> 58.=09What is the scientific method?
> 59.=09What is a confidence interval?
> 60.=09What is an ANOVA?
> Excuse the cross posting =E2=80=93 we are trying to get a diverse group of
> =
> opinions.
> ---

More information about the Mol-evol mailing list

Send comments to us at biosci-help [At] net.bio.net