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The mission of the biology department is to provide students with a solid foundation in both theoretical and laboratory aspects of biology and to prepare students for graduate studies or for specific career opportunities in education, research, medicine, allied health, and other professional scientific areas demanded by our global environment.
The biology department at UCO is one of the largest departments on campus.Students seeking careers as field or laboratory biologists, secondary science educators, or those who want to prepare for health care professions, will find opportunities available at UCO for their intellectual growth and career success.
A core curriculum designed to expose students to knowledge of life’s diversity, cell biology, genetics, evolution, and ecology, ensures that students are prepared to face future challenges in biology and medicine.
Undergraduate and graduate research is facilitated by talented faculty members who hold terminal degrees in their areas of expertise. Faculty conduct laboratory and field research projects, many of which involve students. Students are encouraged to present their research to the scientific community.
The UCO biology department supports a biological field station, the Selman Living Laboratory (SLL), located in northwestern Oklahoma. The SLL provides educational and research opportunities for students and faculty in an array of natural environments, including bat caves.
Students graduating from the UCO biology program should be able to:
- Retain foundational knowledge from the core discipline areas and apply it to an understanding of the diversity and unity of life;
- Review and interpret scientific literature; develop well-reasoned, scientifically sound hypotheses; design experiments to test hypotheses; statistically analyze and interpret data, and communicate results in written and oral formats;
- Communicate biological information clearly, concisely, logically, and accurately to the general public, both orally and in writing; and,
- Function as knowledgeable citizens with an understanding of the role of scientists in society and offer ethical, well-reasoned arguments/solutions to societal concerns related to biology.
Science is the disciplined, logical search for knowledge about all aspects of the universe. It is based on the observation of natural phenomena and seeks to explain these natural phenomena through hypothesis testing and experimentation. A scientific hypothesis is a proposed explanation of a natural event. This hypothesis must be, above all else, testable and falsifiable. If an explanation does not meet these two requirements, it is not a scientific hypothesis. A scientific theory, in comparison to a hypothesis, is broader in scope and composed of a set of hypotheses that have been thoroughly tested. The term theory in the general public is synonymous with a guess. This is not so for a scientific theory. A scientific theory is supported by a large body of evidence and is continually tested and refined through the generation of new hypotheses. This is true for the theory of evolution.
Evolution is defined simply as the change in allele frequencies (genetic makeup) in a population through time. These changes can be small in scale, resulting for example in a population of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics, or large in scale, giving rise to a new species through a speciation event. The theory of evolution explains the mechanisms that lead to these changes. These mechanisms include non-random natural selection, random mutation events, random genetic drift, and gene flow. Each of these mechanisms has been and continues to be subjected to hypothesis testing. The theory is modified as new information is acquired through these tests; however, the overall theory of evolution continues to be upheld. Support for this theory comes from a variety of disciplines (e.g., paleontology, morphology, genetics, molecular biology, ecology, developmental biology, and biogeography). The theory of evolution is the unifying theory in biology and the fact of evolution is not controversial in the scientific community.