The biology program provides a challenging, structured education emphasizing the development of research skills both in the field and the laboratory. Classes are taught by faculty members with expertise in genetics, botany, zoology, ecology, molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, neuroscience and environmental science. The program provides a strong foundation for graduate studies - in fact, 80 percent of program graduates go on to advanced schooling. Graduates often work in medicine, biomedical research, other health care fields and industry. The program is known for its exceptional success rates: in 2009, all seven graduating pre-med students with biology majors were accepted into medical school, some at multiple institutions.
Every biology major conducts a year-long original research project, the culmination of an intensive three-year research-training program. To prepare for the program, you’ll participate in short research projects your first semester. As a sophomore, you’ll begin conducting research with your fellow students in a group setting. By the end of your second year, you will have developed a hypothesis you will test over the next two years, culminating with the presentation of your results in a public forum like BVU Scholars Day, a meeting of the Iowa Academy of Sciences, or other regional and national conferences.
Each year, three students are selected for the URMED program, in which they intern at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center and three other area hospitals over the course of January term. Each participating student receives a $3,000 stipend to help defray expenses associated with applying to medical school. The program also offers academic and professional enrichment opportunities for pre-professional students interested in physical therapy, radiology, optometry and pharmacy careers in rural settings.
The URDI program is a January term internship during which participating students spend one week each at the clinics of three area dentists. The program offers a $3,000 stipend to help defray expenses associated with applying to dental school.
Studying anatomy from a book and seeing it in real life are vastly different experiences. Each year BVU receives four cadavers – and with them, four different life stories –from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Supervised by a biology professor, students work in teams of no more than six students per cadaver, dissecting the body over the course of a semester while labeling and identifying its anatomical structures. These experiences provide a hands-on introduction to work in which students will engage more frequently in professional school.
The city of Storm Lake is well-located geographically for the study of Midwestern fauna. "The mammals of Iowa are a mixture of arid southwest, boreal forest, and grassland species – 63 species total," says Dr. Rick Lampe, professor of biology, who is an expert on badgers. "If you look at states around us, many species reach the limits of their natural ranges in Iowa. We have a few animals from Minnesota and some from Nebraska. In some of my classes, I take students all over Northwest Iowa to wherever our animals of interest are living. When I taught Ecology, we were gone every Monday afternoon for four hours. With Mammalogy, we did mouse-trapping."
Recent field biology projects used radio telemetry to track crows and bats. In 2009, students in zoology classes assembled the 'Badger Explorer," a remote-controlled 1/24 scale model of an Abrams tank mounted with a camera that the students sent underground to observe the interiors of badger burrows.
BVU has labs fully-equipped to study DNA and RNA – the blueprints of life – as well as proteins, the working molecules of our cells. Students routinely purify proteins and nucleic acids, use thermal cyclers to amplify DNA via the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), use spectrophotometers to study enzyme kinetics and determine sample concentrations, run gel electrophoresis units to separate samples based on their chemical properties, and use powerful UV and chemiluminescent imaging equipment capable of visualizing picogram amounts of protein and nucleic acid samples.
It may sound impressive, but any five-year-old can clone a gene. It’s a lot of fun, really. You just take little drops of liquid and you mix them together under different temperature and conditions. The challenge is in how difficult it is to see what you’re doing.
A group of Buena Vista University students and faculty spent the night camping on the Great Wall during their Spring Break trip to China. Read more...