Last Updated on June 1, 2022
Biology is the scientific study of life. It is a natural science with a broad scope but has several unifying themes that tie it together as a single, coherent field. For instance, all organisms are made up of cells that process hereditary information encoded in genes, which can be transmitted to future generations.
Another major theme is evolution, which explains the unity and diversity of life. Energy processing is also important to life as it allows organisms to move, grow, and reproduce. Finally, all organisms are able to regulate their own internal environments.
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Biologists are able to study life at multiple levels of organization, from the molecular biology of a cell to the anatomy and physiology of plants and animals, and evolution of populations. Hence, there are multiple subdisciplines within biology, each defined by the nature of their research questions and the tools that they use. Like other scientists, biologists use the scientific method to make observations, pose questions, generate hypotheses, perform experiments, and form conclusions about the world around them.
Life on Earth, which emerged more than 3.7 billion years ago, is immensely diverse. Biologists have sought to study and classify the various forms of life, from prokaryotic organisms such as archaea and bacteria to eukaryotic organisms such as protists, fungi, plants, and animals. These various organisms contribute to the biodiversity of an ecosystem, where they play specialized roles in the cycling of nutrients and energy through their biophysical environment.
Study Strategies for Biology
Make learning a daily routine.
- Repeat study over several shorter periods over different days. Study the material weekly, not just before tests. Leave plenty of time between study and self-testing so you’re not just testing short-term memory and repeat until you know that you can always get them right. Well before an exam, take a subset of the material and study it as if the exam on that topic was tomorrow. Finally, don’t put it off until the night before the exam.
- If your professor provides materials ahead of class (e.g., lecture outline, PowerPoint) get them and use them to guide your note-taking.
Flesh out notes in 24-48 hour cycle. “Note Massage”
- After lecture add to, or rewrite, your notes while the scribbles still make sense. Do it regularly as a part of a formal schedule or you won’t do it at all. Use complete sentences; add labels and notes to diagrams even if you think they’re quite clear already; try to organize things into categories to show relationships.
- Get all the missing holes filled. Use other students, your text, and your professor.
- For topics which you do not fully understand, get explanations. Don’t wait until close to the exam to fill in this understanding. Get it now. Before the test you need to be studying with a higher level of understanding.
Study to understand, not just to memorize words.
- Don’t just read over your notes and PowerPoints. If all you do is read your notes, the text, and the PowerPoint, then you’ll gain only a passive familiarity with the material.
- When trying to learn the material, focus on the right stuff. The things that your professor considers most important to the subject and which are most likely to appear on quizzes and exams are the things that have been emphasized in lecture and in assigned readings. Learn these things first and best.
- You should practice explaining the material and applying it to new situations. Why should you this? Questions sometimes pose entirely new situations, which you need to analyze – even though you’ve never seen that situation before.
- EXAMPLE: Suppose, for instance, you’ve learned a lot about a certain forest ecosystem in class. And then on the exam, the professor doesn’t ask a thing about the forest, but instead puts you in the middle of the desert, acquaints you briefly with certain of its inhabitants, and asks you complicated questions about their relationships to one another. If you really know your way around the ecosystem you were given (the forest) – know about its energy and nutrient flow, its inhabitants’ adaptive strategies, etc. – then you will be better prepared to see familiar patterns in this strange new situation (the desert). You know in advance that there’s a food network of some sort – that it will be like that in the forest in some ways, etc. You end up understanding a bit about the desert ecosystem not because you memorized it (indeed you’ve never encountered it before at all), but rather because you know the forest ecosystem so well that you now can think beyond just that. But the only way to be sure in advance that you really know the given system well (the forest) is to practice explaining what you know.
Learn individual concepts before integrating it together.
- You need to have content learned and understood before you can go to the next level of understanding by integrating the information.
- This is one reason it is so important to turn around your notes quickly and answer any fact and detail questions right away.
Use active study methods.
- Map out all connected material. Try to see how disparate lecture topics are connected. How does a concept or process tie to a larger picture? How does new material build off of prior course content? How could it be built on later?
- When explaining causal connections, it’s important to build a logical and adequate chain of connection between the initial cause and the final effect.
- EXAMPLE: For instance, if you were asked to explain why carbon monoxide kills, you might answer, “Because it stops respiration.” That might be adequate in casual conversation, but it isn’t normally enough on an exam. There are too many questions left unanswered. “How does CO inhibit respiration?” “Why does the stopping of respiration lead to death?” Depending on the course and the level of detail normally employed in it, you might well be expected to offer an answer more along the lines of the following: “CO binds to hemoglobin, inhibiting its ability to carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. Oxygen is required as the terminal acceptor of electrons in the respiratory electron transport system, which then ceases because oxygen is absent. Without respiration, no ATP is generated. And since ATP is the form of energy needed by numerous energy-requiring processes essential to life, these processes cease, and death ensues.” Notice how many logical links between CO and death profitably can be employed. Some courses, depending on emphasis, may require fewer than these; some might require more. It’s up to you, of course, to gauge what’s appropriate for the course that you’re in. To form the habits and instincts of offering “complete” answers, become more like the pestiferous child who replies to every statement with the question, “Why?” It will help your thinking immensely.
- Practice coming up with questions that a professor could ask on course material as well as practicing and refining answers to those questions. Exams in college are not the place to get feedback for the first time.
You need to test yourself frequently to truly gauge how much you comprehend.
- When testing your understanding, make yourself give clear, accurate, brief, but complete explanations, entirely from memory.
- If working in a group, start by agreeing upon representative questions, then take turns answering them, while others point out what answers are especially good and what answers need improvement.
- If studying alone, write out what seem to be good answers, based upon your notes, and then put those answers aside for a while and see how well you can reproduce them from memory.
- Do the same thing with any diagrams or figures covered in class to make sure you can recreate them from memory with all the key parts and steps labeled, and their function and significance stated. Even if you don’t have to create a diagram or figure on a test, practicing it from scratch will help you to understand the material better.
Best schools in the northeast for biology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the finest schools in the United States for getting a degree in general biology. MIT is a large private not-for-profit school located in the city of Cambridge. A Best Schools rank of #2 out of 2,576 schools nationwide means MIT is a great school overall.
There were roughly 80 general biology students who graduated with this degree at MIT in the most recent year we have data available. Those general biology students who get their degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology make $12,704 more than the average biology student.
University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester
University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester is one of the best schools in the country for getting a degree in general biology. UMass Medical School is a small public university located in the medium-sized city of Worcester.
There were approximately 52 general biology students who graduated with this degree at UMass Medical School in the most recent data year.
Bowdoin College is one of the best schools in the United States for getting a degree in general biology. Located in the town of Brunswick, Bowdoin is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. A Best Schools rank of #27 out of 2,576 schools nationwide means Bowdoin is a great college overall.
There were about 29 general biology students who graduated with this degree at Bowdoin in the most recent year we have data available.
Dartmouth College is one of the best schools in the United States for getting a degree in general biology. Located in the town of Hanover, Dartmouth is a private not-for-profit college with a moderately-sized student population. A Best Schools rank of #6 out of 2,576 colleges nationwide means Dartmouth is a great college overall.
There were approximately 60 general biology students who graduated with this degree at Dartmouth in the most recent data year. Those general biology students who get their degree from Dartmouth College earn $9,004 more than the average biology graduate.
Located in the city of Cambridge, Harvard is a private not-for-profit university with a fairly large student population. A Best Schools rank of #10 out of 2,576 schools nationwide means Harvard is a great university overall.
There were about 86 general biology students who graduated with this degree at Harvard in the most recent data year.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Located in the city of Worcester, WPI is a private not-for-profit school with a medium-sized student population. This school ranks 11th out of 72 colleges for overall quality in the state of Massachusetts.
There were approximately 44 general biology students who graduated with this degree at WPI in the most recent data year. Those general biology students who get their degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute make $3,804 more than the average biology student.
Brown is a moderately-sized private not-for-profit university located in the medium-sized city of Providence. A Best Schools rank of #24 out of 2,576 colleges nationwide means Brown is a great university overall.
There were approximately 99 general biology students who graduated with this degree at Brown in the most recent data year. Graduates who receive their degree from the biology program earn about $30,500 for their early career.
Chestnut Hill, MA
Doctor’s DegreeHIGHEST DEGREE TYPE
Located in the small city of Chestnut Hill, Boston College is a private not-for-profit college with a large student population. A Best Schools rank of #45 out of 2,576 colleges nationwide means Boston College is a great college overall.
There were roughly 218 general biology students who graduated with this degree at Boston College in the most recent year we have data available. After graduating, biology degree recipients generally earn an average of $34,700 at the beginning of their careers.
College of the Holy Cross
Located in the midsize city of Worcester, Holy Cross is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. A Best Schools rank of #32 out of 2,576 schools nationwide means Holy Cross is a great college overall.
There were approximately 53 general biology students who graduated with this degree at Holy Cross in the most recent data year. General Biology degree recipients from College of the Holy Cross earn a boost of around $5,504 over the average income of general biology graduates.
Saint Anselm College
Bachelor’s DegreeHIGHEST DEGREE TYPE
6thMOST POPULAR IN NH
$27,000MEDIAN STUDENT DEBT
Located in the midsize suburb of Manchester, St. Anselm College is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. This college ranks 2nd out of 18 schools for overall quality in the state of New Hampshire.
There were about 17 general biology students who graduated with this degree at St. Anselm College in the most recent data year.
Located in the large city of Boston, Northeastern is a private not-for-profit university with a very large student population. This university ranks 10th out of 72 schools for overall quality in the state of Massachusetts.
There were roughly 111 general biology students who graduated with this degree at Northeastern in the most recent year we have data available. Degree recipients from the general biology degree program at Northeastern University get $4,504 above the typical college graduate in this field shortly after graduation.
Located in the large suburb of Medford, Tufts is a private not-for-profit university with a fairly large student population. A Best Schools rank of #41 out of 2,576 schools nationwide means Tufts is a great university overall.
There were approximately 285 general biology students who graduated with this degree at Tufts in the most recent year we have data available. General Biology degree recipients from Tufts University earn a boost of approximately $2,954 over the average income of general biology graduates.