What do Biology majors study?
Biology is a scientific discipline that focuses on the study of life in all of its aspects. Biologists make use of many approaches ranging from molecular to populational, in their efforts to understand animals, plants, and microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses. They also make use of many techniques in the laboratory or field, which often draw on knowledge of other disciplines such as chemistry, mathematics, and physics.
The Department of Biological Sciences views five areas as central to the field of biology. These areas described below, shape our bachelor’s degree requirements.
Genetic information determines molecular structure, which directly influences function. Mutation of genetic material produces variation within populations. Natural selection, a process that acts on mutation, serves as the engine for evolution. As a result of iterations of mutation and natural selection, extant organisms, genes, and proteins represent modified descendants of common ancestors.
All energy enters the biosphere as light or geochemical energy and leaves the biosphere primarily as heat. Oxidation and reduction, the transfer of electrons between atoms, chemically move this energy around within the biosphere. All organisms use ATP as a universal, energy-transducing molecule. Carbon serves as food for all organisms, though some organisms are unable to reduce inorganic carbon themselves.
Nucleic acids provide information that enables cells to carry out fundamental functions. Regulation of common genetic information allows cells to differentiate their functions and to assume different fates. A cell’s ability to detect input from other cells or from the external environment allows a cell to respond to the world outside its membrane. The aggregation of this ability allows communication across a wide range of species. Transmission of hereditary information between generations permits the persistence of information beyond the life of a particular cell or organism.
Form and Function
All biological systems share similar organization, beginning at the atomic level. The arrangement of cells within an organism as well as interactions between cells and between organisms inextricably link form and function. Changes to form affect function and, therefore, can have cascading effects on these higher order interactions.
Biological components are organized at the level of molecules, cells, tissues, organs, organ systems, organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems, and the biosphere. Interactions between component parts can produce complex phenomena. Synergistic properties emerge through interactions within and between biological systems.
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