The mission of the VMI biology department is to broadly train students to understand how living organisms function and to appreciate the intricacies and interactions that govern all living systems. This mission supports the broader VMI mission of creating citizen soldiers, by equipping students to make informed decisions that will better society. We accomplish this by providing students with broad training and a fundamental background in the biological sciences, while providing the opportunity to specialize in the subdisciplines described under “Academic Concentrations in Biology .” In addition, attainment of teacher certification is possible. The degree programs are particularly good at preparing majors to pursue post-graduate education in the biological and health sciences and allow for specialization that matches student interests and career plans. Faculty members believe that interaction with cadets in the classroom, laboratory, and on an individual basis is critical in the development of the successful biology major. In keeping with this philosophy, class sizes are small, laboratories accompany most courses, advising is conducted on an individual basis, and undergraduate research is encouraged. The biology department also provides a summer research experience. The Dr. Fred C. Swope Summer Scholars Program is an intensive, ten-week program that introduces selected students to the scientific method, research design and data analysis, data presentation, use of sophisticated laboratory instruments, and independent research. Each student conducts a research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. This research is at the “cutting edge” of science, and student/faculty publications have resulted from these projects. Normally, cadets are selected to participate in this program between their second and first class years. Many additional opportunities for undergraduate research exist, allowing students to engage in a one-on-one interaction with a faculty mentor in their area of interest as early as the summer following the fourth class (freshman) year.
Capstone Experiences in Undergraduate Research Requirement (3 credits)
Recognizing that many of our students already engage in a comprehensive research experience that requires them to apply, integrate, and critically analyze information and data, the biology department requires that this experience be recognized as their Capstone Experience. Successful completion of the Capstone Experience is a graduation requirement, therefore any of the following course sequences will satisfy that requirement: BI 353W -BI 354W Summer Scholars Program, BI 390 , BI 391 , BI 392W , BI 393W , BI 490W , and BI 491W Independent Research Courses, BI 401W -BI 402W Senior Honors Thesis, and HN 400 -HN 401 Institute Honors. Students must complete two semesters or a full summer of research (SURI) under the guidance of a faculty mentor culminating with a research paper and oral presentation of the data. Those biology students who do not avail themselves of the opportunity to engage in undergraduate research or do so for only one semester will be required to complete BI 420W , Senior Seminar, in order to fulfill the capstone course requirement. Those receiving more than 3 credits for this experience can apply them as research hours credit.
Dr. Fred C. Swope Summer Scholars Program
The Fred C. Swope Summer Undergraduate Research 38 Virginia Military Institute 12-13 Catalogue Scholar’s Program in Biology at the Virginia Military Institute was established in 1991 and in is named after one of VMI’s most visionary Biology Department Chairmen, Dr. Fred C. Swope. This two-month program is designed to acquaint selected Biology undergraduate students with the philosophy, practices, and techniques of research. During the months of June through July the program engages the students in a research project with a faculty mentor. At the end of the summer students in the program organize a symposium that is presented to reflect the many facets of their undergraduate research training. Students in the program spend their mornings learning about the many skills and philosophies of the practice of science. Students also carry out research projects in the afternoons with a faculty mentor and acquire the ability to make scientific observations, collect and analyze data, and to synthesize this information in a meaningful context. Students are encouraged to continue their research interests into the following academic year and beyond in anticipation of completion of a Department or Institute Honors Thesis. Upon the completion of these undergraduate research experiences the student has acquired a meaningful and in depth knowledge of the research process and has a realistic idea of what is involved in pursuing post-graduate studies. The program is funded through a private endowment that provides funds for 5-6 student summer stipends plus room, board, six hours of academic credit, and spending money.
Honors in Biology
A cadet can earn departmental honors by completing a research project by their 1st class year and presenting the research to the department. Eligibility to apply for departmental honors requires 1st class standing, a minimum cumulative and biology GPA of 3.000. An application in the form of a research proposal is submitted to the department at the end of the 2nd class year or at the beginning of the 1st class year. If the department approves the proposal, then the cadet will enroll in BI 490 (independent research in the fall) and then BI 491 (independent research in the spring). By the middle of April, a formal research paper will be submitted to the department at least two weeks prior to the oral presentation (defense). The awarding of Honors in Biology will be made following successful completion of the research project and oral defense.