When I first started Biology 1010: Introduction to Biology in the beginning of this semester, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. On the one hand, all of my friends were telling me how awful the class was. All the work felt like busy work and the amount of effort they put into the class didn’t feel proportional to the amount of satisfaction they got out of it. On the other hand, I had also been hearing that the biology department was trying to fix its introductory course. Now that the class is basically completed (all that is left is the final exam), I feel that I can finally give a well formed opinion on the class as a non-biology major at RPI.
The material covered in lab and in lecture was basically what I was expecting from an introductory biology course: ecology, evolution, basic topics on cells, and so on. It’s basic stuff that was a complete rehash of what I had learned back in high school. But even though almost all the material were things that I had previously learned, I wasn’t as bored in lecture as you might expect. My professor managed to teach and present the material in a way that was both entertaining and informative, while still keeping up with the expected schedule. Not only that, but he tied in a lot of topics that were relevant to today’s society with the rest of the topics. The fact that he was constantly making relevant puns and jokes in class also kept drawing me back to the class, instead of wanting to skip lecture every week.
And then there are the labs. The labs are held every week and vary between wet labs (i.e., hands on labs) and simulation labs. The labs are meant to complement and reinforce the material that is taught in lecture by showing actual examples of the theories. Did they do this? Yes, they did. The wet labs were mildly interesting (albeit a little creepy for some) and having a good group kept the labs bearable for the three-hour duration. The simulation labs weren’t as interesting and usually involved using some form of software while completing some worksheet on the topic. A lot of the simulation labs were mind numbingly boring and usually involved making predictions that anybody with even the slightest sense of logic could make. These predictions were then confirmed by clicking some buttons and watching some numbers. For three hours. Were these simulation labs easy? Yes. Did they help reinforce some of the concepts? Sort of. But honestly, they felt more like busy work than anything else.
While I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in the beginning of the semester, I was fairly certain that I was going to hate the course. Instead, I can’t say I hate the course because there were some interesting things we did in lab, and while the lectures weren’t the best in the world, they at least kept me coming back. All this being said, the course still feels like a lot of the work is just busy work and not worth my time. The current state of the course isn’t terrible, but it could definitely still be improved. I encourage the biology department to try and make the course more interesting to those who are not biologists and make the course one that people want to take instead of avoid.