Published 03/04/14

Why study biology at Bryant? For the rapport, rigor, and relevance

Ryan Miller in lab Ryan Miller is a Bryant University biology major. A senior in the program, Miller has worked in a laboratory, presented his research findings at a half dozen scientific conferences, and is about to have his work published in a peer-reviewed science journal.

 “It’s been a great experience at Bryant,” Miller (at left) said. “The biology program has a lot of great professors and small class sizes, and that translates into a lot of one-on-one attention and a lot of opportunities for training.”

This rapport, rigor, and relevance define biology at Bryant. In fact, these traits give the undergraduate program the feel of graduate school – and that is the biology program’s secret weapon.

Defining features: intensive real-world experiences, extensive real-time mentoring

“Expectations are high and relationships are strong,” said Gaytha Langlois, chair of the Department of Science and Technology at Bryant. “We really get to know students, help them find their passions, and support what they do.”

Professor Langlois created and launched the undergraduate biology program at Bryant in fall 2009, along with Kirsten Hokeness, an associate professor. The program, which leads majors to a Bachelor of Science, builds on Bryant’s strengths – like most classes capped at 35 students and a built-in business minor – and adds two unique and defining features:

  • Intensive real-world experience: All Bryant biology majors take part in two semesters of laboratory research, including a capstone research experience where they work in the lab of a faculty member of their choice. In addition, they can take part in 10-week paid summer research fellowships.
  • Extensive real-time mentoring: Every biology major has not only a faculty mentor who advises on academic matters, but a “faculty friend” who is available to discuss course selection, career goals, and graduate school options. In addition, Bryant’s nationally acclaimed Amica Center for Career Education features an advisor dedicated to working with biology students.

Hokeness said students not only get a strong grounding in the concepts, tools, and current issues of biology and business, but also the habits of mind necessary to work as a scientist – in the laboratory, in a classroom, or in the corporate world.

“Independent, critical thinking and problem-solving are necessary for scientists, and those are the skills our biology students get,” Hokeness said. “Scientists question things, and when things don’t go right with an experiment, they need to know why and figure out the next steps.”

Hokeness said faculty are excited about Bryant’s plans for a new School of Health Sciences and said that the fledgling biology program is already showing signs of success. Most recently, Bryant faculty member Christopher Reid received a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation to support his research on enzymes that could be used to combat Clostridium difficile infection, and Hokeness reports that graduates are working in academic, hospital, and corporate labs, applying to medical schools, and attending graduate school at institutions that include Columbia University, Pace University, and University of Rhode Island.

After a long and strong research collaboration with Professor Reid, Ryan Miller settled on a career path. Miller plans to attend graduate school and teach science at the university level – work that will allow him to pursue his own research while training the next generation of scientists.

“With all the one-on-one attention, professors here at Bryant really help you understand the science and can even tailor their research to your interests,” he said. “You’re not a number here. Everyone knows my name.”