Dear Biology Student,
I’d like to pass on some advice that will hopefully make your time here at Drake the best experience both inside and outside the classroom.
Take an active role in your education
Ultimately, this is YOUR college experience; do your best to get everything you want out of it.
- Be open to taking more than the minimum.
- Be open to taking classes just because you want to.
- Take classes that will expose you to different subjects, cultures, different specialties within biology etc. Sometimes learning what you don’t like is as valuable as learning what you do like.
- Meet with your advisor. Your advisor is a resource available to you to make sure you are planning out everything so you are taking everything you need from a graduation standpoint, preparation for the future and to make sure you have the college experience you want.
- Utilize office hours. Faculty want you to succeed and want to help you achieve your goals. If you have questions, do not hesitate to go to office their hours for help. You will get more out of office hours if you come prepared with specific questions about particular concepts that you need help with. This will enable us to help you better and more efficiently.
Every instructor you have is different, in terms of teaching styles, expectations, and communication. You will need to determine the best way to study, communicate and interact for each class and instructor.
You are you
It is hard not to compare yourself to others. However, be careful with this, not everyone has the same background or situation. Differences in majors, outside activities, and previous scholastic experiences contribute to each student’s unique experience. Especially in your first year, it is easy to fall into a trap of wondering why things are harder or easier or just different for you compared to your peers.
For many of you, you have never known life without being in school. You can go on to further schooling (medical school, graduate school etc.) immediately after graduating, but you should not think of this as some kind of requirement. With a biology degree, you have a marketable degree that will allow you enter directly into the workforce. This could be a career or as a time to learn about yourself, what you really want (and finding out if that requires additional schooling) and time to explore. Many graduates take time after graduating to figure what it is that they exactly want to do. This is normal.
For the B.S., undergraduate research is required and you must work with your research mentor to write a thesis. For the B.A., undergraduate research is not required, but you are not excluded from the possibility of doing research. In the end, it is the experience that is going to be critical in your self-marketing. When looking for research opportunities:
- DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Look up faculty and talk to students already in the lab to learn about what types of research faculty do. You will get more out of the research experience if you are interested in the work and you will make a much better impression on faculty if you have an idea of what they are doing.
- How to find research? Every lab is different; most students find their research opportunities after having classes or other interactions with faculty. In general, but not always, this means most students will not start research until their junior year.
- Make time for research. Again every lab is different in terms of time requirements, but if you are going to do research, work with a possible mentor to see if you have the necessary time have a productive research experience. If you are trying to work in multiple labs that likely means you are not able to dedicate time to any one lab to be as productive as you could be. From a marketability standpoint, the amount you do and accomplish will mean more that the number of experiences.
- DO NOT send out a blanket email to all of the faculty asking about doing research.
- DO NOT bring your friend(s) with you to meet with faculty to talk about possible research opportunities.
You are not on this journey by yourself. Don’t let stubborn pride or other factors get in the way of your success. If you need help there are various resources available on campus http://www.drake.edu/life/resourcesservices, don’t be afraid or feel ashamed to utilize these resources.
- Academic Assistance—Offering workshops, peer assistance, and skills-building to help you achieve your best, turning that shaky B into a solid A.
- Campus Safety and Parking—Keeping everyone at Drake safe and secure.
- Career Services—Helping you bring together every learning experience, internship, service project, and campus activity into a solid preparation for the professional world or graduate school.
- Counseling Services—Providing professional support to assist you with any personal difficulties you face.
- Division of Student Life—Bringing together all the people and programs that help make the Drake community work so well, starting with one of your first Drake experiences, Summer Orientation.
- Disability Resources—Helping ensure both access and achievement for students with learning differences or physical disabilities.
- Health Center—Providing health information and resources, treatment for illnesses and injuries, and referrals to other providers whenever needed.
- Student Handbook—Containing all the information you need on Drake policies and guidelines.
- Title IX—Everything you need to know, including what constitutes sexual and interpersonal misconduct, steps for making a report, and who to contact.
- Student Records—Handling registration for classes, issuing official transcripts, processing grades, and maintaining all official academic information, including the academic calendar.
One Final Note: Hopefully these tips, as well as communications over the duration of your time here at Drake University will give you an experience you can look back on with great fondness and set you up to be successful in your life after Drake.
Marc Busch Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology
Biology Department Chair
212 Science Connector Building
2714 Forest Ave
Des Moines, IA 50031