The biological sciences are undergoing a revolution with the recognition that the microbial world is the basis of the health of all ecosystems, from tropical rainforests to the human body. This newfound knowledge demands efforts to reformulate research and education, as well as to design mechanisms by which to inform the public of the widespread ramifications of this new view.
The goal of this HHMI proposal is to transform the teaching of biology at the undergraduate level by promoting the integration of microbiology and macrobiology into a single, comprehensive ‘systems biology.’ The trajectory of historical development of these subdisciplines has been largely independent. As such, the current structuring of the field is so entrenched, the only way to make progress toward this goal is through education. Thus, I propose to develop an entirely new concept for a biology curriculum.
The ideal curriculum would engage leading researchers in the education of future biologists, as well as introduce those in other STEM disciplines to biology, with a presentation of the field in a way that reflects the true nature of the biological world, i.e., as a complex of nested hierarchical biosystems and ecosystems. The proposed HHMI effort focuses on the first steps of this process, the development of the introductory courses for US and international institutions of higher learning.