Advice from Faculty

Should I do an A.B. or an Sc.B.?

Many students feel it is essential to obtain an Sc.B. (Bachelor of Science) -- that it is a more rigorous degree and that it is necessarily more valuable and desirable. But not so fast. What you may give up in tight disciplinary focus by pursuing the A.B., you are likely to gain in "schooling for life". As many are fond of saying today, "it's a zero-sum game" (8 semesters, 4 courses/semester = 32 courses). You may well wish to pursue a curriculum that will automatically lead to fulfilling the requirements of a Sc.B.; if so, fine. However, if fulfilling these requirements is to the detriment of your broader interests, an Sc.B. is not a wise option.

How do I start with planning a Biology Concentration?

Brown is unique in that it asks you to write and then sign a contract about your educational goals. That is what the Concentration forms and the process of filing a concentration are all about. These are not hurdles to cross to get on with your education -- they are the planning of your education. We take them very seriously and assume you do as well. What you declare on your concentration forms is not cast in stone. It will probably be reworked as you go along. However it is essential that your fist version is a well though out and solid plan.

The first step is to visit the undergraduate biology education web site. There you will find all the relevant information about various concentration options in biology as well as other useful links and advice. While you are browsing, have a look through the Dean of the College web site. There you will find useful information about academic requirements, programs that will support your education (e.g., the UTRA program for summer research) and access to the useful resources in the academic deans offices.

Any faculty member in EEB can help you get started. If you are a sophomore, you will eventually see Dean Thompson to get the official processing going and to be assigned a concentration advisor. Not all EEB faculty are concentration advisors, but we are all eager to work with you on your concentration and broader aspects of your educational plans at Brown and beyond. The official concentration advisor is partly for bookkeeping and not a restriction on who can and will give you advice.

Remember two things about concentrations at Brown. First, they are a key part but not the only part of your education here. Before you get too focused on what to do in biology, please read the following statement about liberal education and what that means for you at Brown.

Second, remember that in order to encourage exploration, liberal education goals and flexibility for your curricular design, concentration requirements are often "minimum" requirements for going on to graduate work in the subject. For example, you may find that you can develop a better sense of where you are going and preparation for it by taking more than the 10 required concentration courses. Also remember that many graduate programs in EEB still require the following: a year of calculus, a year of physics, and a year of organic chemistry. Talk to us about these "requirements" and explore graduate programs via their web pages to get a better feel for what they are looking for.

There is no conflict between the liberal education goals and the concentration "maximization" goals of your curriculum. It just takes some careful planning and thinking. We would be glad to act as sounding boards as you work through this.