Morgan Davis received her name-tag and waited excitedly in the LSU Student union for the start of BIOS, Biology Intensive Orientation for Students 2016. This is Davis’ first semester at LSU. She traveled from Houston, Texas with her parents to attend BIOS, a one-week intensive program specifically for incoming Biological Sciences majors and other freshmen whose majors require them to take Biology 1201.
Over 300 students attended BIOS this year. These students attended lectures and biology teaching labs geared toward giving them a jump-start on Biology 1201. They also met faculty, toured research labs and worked in groups to create fun Instagram videos about scientific concepts they learned during BIOS.
“From my first visit to LSU, I just loved the campus. I felt like I would fit in here,” Morgan Davis said. “People were so friendly and welcoming.” Davis gave up the last week of her summer break to come to BIOS because she wanted to get a jump-start on her classes and learn what to expect during her first year of college. She hopes to become an obstetrician and thought majoring in biology was the right choice in building toward that goal. “I’m looking forward to learning what to expect going into Biology 1201,” Davis said. “I also look forward to telling other students about this experience.”
“To me, biology is about life, how the body works, how the earth is structured… basically, it’s about everything,” Davis said.
Every year, students come in from all over Louisiana and across the U.S. to attend BIOS, often because they want to get a head start on the semester. It’s an opportunity for students to get a few biology lectures and labs under their belts, find their way around the LSU campus and meet friends and study partners before the official start of their fall courses.
“I’m from out of state, and not many other colleges do an event like this,” said Evan Sinnathamby, another BIOS student who was excited to get in and learn effective study skills before the start of the semester. LSU is a leader in terms of the biology boot camp orientation model. To date, 25 other universities across the U.S. have replicated the LSU BIOS program.
“Bill Wischusen and I started BIOS in 2005. We had no idea students would find it so helpful,” said Sheri Wischusen, director of undergraduate research at LSU. “To date, almost 3,000 incoming LSU students have participated in BIOS. We started the program because we saw a great need among our incoming science majors. They were the most successful students in their high schools, but they often weren’t challenged enough to have to learn effective study skills or time management or other key techniques vital to college success. BIOS gives them a chance to practice new competencies before they count.”
This program gives students a five-minute head start,” said Rosianna Gray, assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Alabama. Gray and Janice O’Donnell, chair of biological sciences at the University of Alabama, attended part of the BIOS 2016 program to learn from it as they plan to replicate the program at the University of Alabama next summer.
“We have a large number of biology majors and a high rate of D’s, F’s and W’s in the first semester,” O’Donnell said. “Many students drop courses and retake them with no improvement. These students need to be taught the tools to be successful and this is just what the BIOS program does. It’s not that they can’t do it, it’s just that they do not have the tools. The BIOS program makes up for this gap and the program can be replicated in all majors. We have most of the infrastructure in place [at the University of Alabama] and the university leadership is very receptive to the idea.”
“The success of the program has exceeded our initial hopes, in that students are not only more successful in Biology 1201, but in all their courses,” said Bill Wischusen, associate chair of biological sciences at LSU. “And this success continues such that they are more likely to graduate in four years.”
Aimee Landry Moran, a BIOS alumni and a third year medical student at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, was there to help her sister-in-law register for BIOS 2016. Moran graduated from LSU in 2014 with a degree in biochemistry. “BIOS really got me started on the right foot. I was able to get my homesickness out of the way and meet new people,” Moran said. “Lectures can be overwhelming, so knowing people really helped. It also helped me to learn the pace of the classes.”
When asked her advice for new or prospective BIOS students at LSU, Moran said she encourages students to challenge themselves. “Little challenges will help you be comfortable with big challenges. I also suggest you go to as many meetings as you can to meet new people. Get out of your comfort zone.”
We talked with a few BIOS students at the start and end of their time at BIOS. Their insightful responses are included below.
LSU College of Science: Why are you interested in science as college degree and/or career?
Brandy Quebodeaux: I'm interested in science as a career because I want to understand nature and be able to research and help others better understand why things happen the way they do.
Alexandra Amadeo: I am interested in my science degree because I find it so interesting learning about ourselves and how we function.
Morgan Davis: I've always dreamed of doing something in the medical field. Ever since grade school, science has been my favorite subject. I figured if I like something so much, I should make a career out of it!
Farrah Flattmann: I am interested in science for a very personal reason. I have kidney disease, the fifth generation in my family to suffer from it. Also, my brother has autism and my grandfather had ALS. I want to help fight diseases like these.
Ashton Knowles: I really want to be a radiation oncologist. I wanted to be away from home, so I came for a visit and liked the Honors College at LSU.
LSU College of Science: What do you think science is?
Brandy Quebodeaux: I think science is the study and research of all living things. It's a body of knowledge to help us better understand nature.
Alexandra Amadeo: Science is using different techniques and methods in order to test a hypothesis.
Morgan Davis: Science is the study of life and everything that goes on in the world. Everything that takes place in the world has science behind it.
Farrah Flattmann: Science is finding solutions to problems.
Ashton Knowles: The study of everything around us. It's anything you can question.
LSU College of Science: What do you think science communication is?
Brandy Quebodeaux: Science communication is how we communicate science to people using normal terms instead of big science words that people don't always understand.
Morgan Davis: Science communication is the networking of scientists and the formation of ideas and discoveries that lead to new innovations.
Farrah Flattmann: I think it involves a lot of writing and talking about science, and getting public opinion about science topics.
Ashton Knowles: Communications between science fields and communicating your research findings.
LSU College of Science: What's the best thing you learned at BIOS?
Brandy Quebodeaux: The best thing I learned at BIOS was about the mitochondrion and how it works to produce ATP.
Alexandra Amadeo: All the biology notes taught me so much. I learned what the best method for me to study is. Also, I liked learning where so many buildings are located. That knowledge will help me in my future classes.
Morgan Davis: The best thing I learned at BIOS was how to study and basically how to be successful, not only in biology but in all of my classes. I'm excited for the school year now that I have an idea what to expect.
Farrah Flattmann: I feel like BIOS will help me prepare for college and push me ahead.
Ashton Knowles: I have learned my way around campus and how to use Moodle.
What was your favorite moment of BIOS?
Brandy Quebodeaux: My favorite moment at BIOS was going out with my group to Area51 and making the best friends ever.
Alexandra Amadeo: All the amazing people I met.
Morgan Davis: My favorite moment of BIOS was using the ideas that we had learned in the lectures in order to create our Instagram video. It was nice to show that science can be fun and exciting while also educating.
Ashton Knowles: The realization that this is all actually happening. I am in college.