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The Study of Living Organisms

Dr J Pritchard University of Birmingham  

Developments in Biology have provided insights into problems as diverse as medicine, conservation and space travel. The biology programmes available at British Universities provide an unsurpassed basis for your future career. 

You could use your degree to teach others, use your scientific skills in the community, in industry, alternatively you could push back the frontiers of biological knowledge by your own efforts. Whatever aspect of the subject you choose, studying Biology at a British university will be challenging, rewarding and exciting. 

Biology touches all areas of our life whether we are looking outwards into  the depths of space or inwards to the workings of our cells. The recent discovery of water on the Moon and the possibility of exploitation of this new environment will require biological input at all levels, ranging from the production of the necessary food and oxygen and hydrophonic plants through to managing the delicate lunar environment. 

The pace of biology is unrelenting, it is now only a matter of months before every letter in the human genetic code is known. The same information will shortly be available in plants. The ability to rewrite this genetic code presents huge opportunities and responsibilities for future biologists. 

Biology and Development 

Biology has played a major role in developing our society both philosophically and practically.. Ever since people wondered about their origins and how the world around them worked, biology has been the mechanism to find the answers. The publication of Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution coupled with the genetic discoveries of Mendel, provided a new and powerful way of looking at the world.. These ideas have changed the way our societies have operated and subsequently provided a sound base for the modern developments in biology. It is fortunate that the foundations are solid for the challenges are huge. 

The Consequences 

Over the last couple of centuries, human influence of the environment has been massive and usually for the worst. Problems such as acid rain and global warming have far reaching and as yet unquantifiable consequences. The protection and restoration of natural habitats requires the understanding of the delicate balance of the interaction between organisms and environment. In an agricultural context, attempts to pro- duce more food through the green revolution proved a false dawn; increase in food production was achieved at the expense of huge quantities of fertiliser, pesticides and herbicides. The ecological and economic consequences were severe. However, linking molecular biology and the broader ecosystems approach is now providing exciting pew approaches to such fundamental problems. Crop production can  be increased by modifying plant genes to provide resistance to pests without chemical sprays. These genetically modified organisms may well prove able to satisfy the food requirement of , the burgeoning world population. The release of such genetically modified organisms into natural environments has many exciting possibilities, for example, the recently developed tomatoes which do not degrade so quickly, and transgenic animals which will produce drugs for human use in their milk. But biologists are required not only to develop these resources, but also to monitor and regulate, helping to prevent future imbalances in the  delicate ecosystem in which we live. 

Biologists are Important 

Biologists are important, so how do you become one? Taking a degree in biology at a British university such as the University of Birmingham is an ideal way to make a career out of biology. Most British universities, offer a modular degree structure allowing you to pick and choose the areas you study. Generally, in the first year of a three year course you will receive training in all aspects, allowing you to sample everything biology has to offer, from genes to ecosystems. In the following two years you may design your own degree, choosing options which interest you or seem useful for your career development. Alternatively you can choose options from all special- ties so obtaining a more general, all en- compassing degree. In your final year, you will probably have the option of an extended practical project, giving experience of work in a science laboratory and so obtain experience of research prized by many areas of industry. 

Solving Problems 

With the goal of solving the important problems outlined above, research is per- haps the most exciting of all biological study. With the appropriate undergraduate qualifications you can take taught masters courses which can include original research as well as providing vocational training. However, nothing can match the excitement of undertaking a . Ph.D. where, under the supervision of a research scientist, you develop your own program of investigation, becoming a world expert in your chosen area. 

Exciting Prospects To be a biologist is exciting and important contributions can be made at all levels from education to medicine and from single cells to ecosystems. An under- graduate degree in biology can provide an excellent springboard to a career in biology, while satisfying a personal interest in the subject. But after gaining your biology degree, a future career does not need to be in biology at all; during their degree students are taught a wide range of generic skills. Your career prospects will be enhanced by the acquisition of self study skills, experience of working in teams, visual and oral presentations in addition to a logical approach to problem  solving. The teaching of biology is exploiting the growing medium of computers, including word processing, information technology  computer assisted learning (CAL) and use of the world wide web (WWW). Once you have received your biology degree from a British university you will be more than a biologist; you will have skills prized by employers as diverse as management, law and finance. 

The future importance of biology to us all cannot be understated; you can be part of it by taking a degree at a British university. ...  

Dr J Pritchard University of Birmingham

Postal Address

The University of Birmingham
B15 2TT
New Zealand

0121 414 3344






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