Handbook for Undergraduate Students
Handbook for the Pre-Professional Health and Science Student or
Differences Between the Two Options
||Cell Biology & Neuroscience
|Freshman year: M 161
(Survey of Calculus)
|Freshman year: M 171 and 172 (Calculus and Analytical Geometry I and II)|
|Sophomore year: CHMY 321 and 323
(Organic Chemistry I and II)
Sophomore year: Either CHMY 321 and 323
STAT 332 (Statistics for Scientists and Engineers)
|Junior year: BIOH 313 (Neurophysiology)|
|24 additional elective credits, at least 18 of wich must be upper division.
||18 additional upper division elective credits
2. "How do I decide which option is best for me today?"
The secret is that changing options is not difficult, so today pick the one that best seems to fulfill your goals. This will give your time during your first year to visit individually with an advisor and determine if you should stick with that choice or change your mind.
No, if you decide to switch options, you go to the Departmental Office in 513 Leon Johnson and fill out a Change of Majors card. It takes about 5 minutes. If you make the decision to choose a major in another department, you may pick up the card in our departmental office and then take it to the departmental office for the new major.
The typical freshman takes BIOH 185, Integrative Physiology;
CHMY 141, General Chemistry I; a course that satisfies
the Verbal Core requirement - we recommend that you take
CLS 101-University Seminar - and a math course. The two
options have different math requirements; the Cell Biology
and Neuroscience option requires that you take a year
of Calculus; this means starting with M 171; the Biomedical
Sciences option requires that you take Statistics 216
and M 161. You should take Stat 216 first since it is
a prerequisite for BIOL 256. Knowing statistics is a
very important skill, so if you take the year of calculus,
it would be good to also take some statistics.
"I have Advanced Placement (AP) credit for English (640 for the Verbal SAT and 28 for the equivalent ACT portion)."
You will not need to take any English to get a degree from MSU; however many medical schools do not accept AP credit and require one or two semesters of English.
"I am in the Honors Program." You may substitute UH 201-Text and Critics for the verbal core and UH 202 for a humanities course the following semester. However, you must apply to the Honors Program and be accepted to enroll in these courses.
Take the math placement exam while you are here for Orientation. That will tell you which math course you are prepared to take. DO NOT PUT THIS OFF!!! You must be able to do algebra to pass CHMY 141. Don't just register for CHMY 141 and hope for a miracle. Get started on algebra this first semester. The sooner you master the math, the faster you will be able to get to the interesting courses.
6. "Which math course should I take?"
Your math placement will depend on your ACT or SAT scores or your MPLEX (Math Placement EXam) score. More information is available from the Office of Admissions Placement Exams page.
7. "Do I need math to study biology?"
Cell and molecular biology are heavily dependent on chemistry; you MUST understand algebra to pass chemistry.
8. "If I can't take CHMY 141 this semester, what should I take?"
Start on your University Core requirements. Some core courses fulfill multiple core requirements. Taking one of them counts double and will help you satisfy your core requirements efficiently. Do not worry about Natural Sciences core; your chemistry and physics courses will fulfill that core.
9. "How will my schedule be altered if I can't take Chemistry
this first semester?"
If you are in the Cell Biology and Neurosciences option or are interested in molecular biology or biochemistry, you will have to take chemistry during the summer or take an extra semester to get the degree. The hang-up is that each chemistry course builds on the previous one; thus each is a prerequisite for the next one. The year long organic chemistry course must be taken with CHMY 321 in the fall and CHMY 323 in the spring unless you take them in the summer. This can be a good option but you must be forewarned that organic chemistry in the summer is a serious course, and a full semester will be crammed into 6 weeks! You should plan to focus all your efforts on the summer course during this period.
There are actually three sorts of advisors: departmental, pre-health profession, and crisis management types. Routine, university degree requirement advising can be taken care of through your departmental advisor.
11. "How do I find out who my departmental advisor is?"
Go to the main office for the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience at 510 Leon Johnson Hall to meet with Lisa Musgrave.
12. "Departmental Advisors (Advising Coordinators) are
great for signing official forms, checking on departmental
requirements, and sometimes, career advising; however,
they are scientists, not health professionals. So, whom
do I speak to if I want specific information on how to
best prepare myself for my chosen profession?"
First check out the prehealth web site. If you still have questions, contact the Health Professions
Advising Office (317 Leon Johnson Hall, 994-1670). It's
wise to do this early on in your academic career; you
do not want to find out as a senior that you should have
taken some different courses. The pre-health professions
advisor has all sorts of good advice. Also inquire on
how to become a member of AED, a pre-health honorary
organization. AED offers several helpful services to
better prepare you for your future. The pre-health advisor
can give you advice on how to volunteer at hospitals and other
health care settings.
There are also counselors who can help you get through rough times (994-4531). If these occur, you should also speak to your departmental advisor about how to handle university issues, e.g. when to drop courses, what to drop, etc.
First, you need something called a PDF, short for personal data form. There will be a notice in The Exponent when these are available. Go to the Departmental Office at 510 Leon Johnson to pick yours up, but remember THEY ARE NOT OPEN OVER THE LUNCH HOUR. You need the number in the upper right hand corner of the PDF. This is sometimes called your "advisor code." Keep this sheet because the advisor code and your PIN will allow you to access your records, allow you to register, and check your grades on the web.
14. "Wait a second, I also need to know what to take spring
If you are following one of the checklists at the end of this handbook and know which classes you intend to take, you can simply follow the directions in the Schedule of Classes to register either by phone or on the web (click on MyInfo from the MSU homepage), once you have picked up your PDF (Personal Data Form) from the department office. Web registration is usually much faster and easier than using paper. If you don't know which classes to take, make an appointment to see your advisor and talk about your options. Advisors have other responsibilities including 30 to 40 other advisees, so do not expect to be able to walk in at your convenience and be helped immediately.
Mastering College: Grades, resumes, entrance to medical and other professional and graduate schools.
You will be entering fields, by virtue of their attractive natures, where entrance is highly competitive. Most of you know that a high grade point average is a necessity, usually a 3.7 or above is sufficient. You will also be taking some sort of test to gauge your ability to think and apply the concepts you learned in your classes (e.g. GRE, MCAT). There is a common problem that you should address from day one: do not settle for merely getting an A; learn the material; you do not want to be relearning acid-base chemistry before the MCAT. Thus your attitude should be to focus on learning, and let the grades be secondary. Those who teach MCAT review courses, often hear too many times, "I wish I had learned that the first time." Also, to apply scientific concepts to novel questions, which is the manner in which you will be tested during entrance tests, it is useful to be absolutely fluent in scientific concepts. You will also find that being an A+ student is a far more enjoyable experience than any other; it means that there is never any anxiety associated with tests, and that you are understanding everything the professor says. Being lost is not a feeling enjoyed by anyone.
If your plan is to become a scientist, it is good to get started right away. Check out the department website and look for faculty members that are doing research that interests you. Before you visit a laboratory, check to see if you can get work-study funding. It is often easier for faculty to create spaces for students with work-study funds. Research stipends are also available through the MSU Undergraduate Scholars Program (USP).
Also check out research interests in related departments, e.g. microbiology, veterinary molecular biology, and chemistry and biochemistry. See http://www.montana.edu/level2/colleges.html
There are a lot of study techniques out there. The following are some that we highly recommend. Want phenomenal success? Do them all!!!
- Read ahead of lecture. This will make you think hard
about the material on your own, as well as familiarize
you with the language and some of the more difficult
topics which can be hard to understand during lecture.
Few of us are so smart that we can understand college
level material for the first time, and simultaneously
take notes on the material.
- While reading, at the end of each paragraph or page,
ask yourself if there was anything presented that was
worthwhile, something you need to remember, either
a concept or fact. If there was, write a question that
will test you on that item, and write the proper answer
to it. This can be done easily by drawing a line down
a regular sheet of paper and placing questions on the
left and answers on the right. You can then use this
as a study guide by covering up the answers and quizzing
yourself. You should do this before class, and several
times a week until you know the material solid. It
is important to put the question in your own language;
copying is useless.
- While reading try to convert ideas into sketches;
use sketches in your study guides.
- Do as many practice problems as possible, especially
in physics and chemistry. These usually reside at the
end of book chapters, and the answers are in the back
(if they are not, ask your professor for answers).
- Professors like to talk to students, if it is about
ideas and concepts. Professors do not like to talk
about grades, tests, etc. They dislike these things
even more than you do.
- Try to maintain a good attitude about the course and the ideas within it. If possible, think how some of them apply to your life. Also try to keep positive about yourself, especially when looking at silly mistakes made on tests. This happens to everyone, and is not serious within a certain range.
4. "Why do certain study methods work?"
How much you learn is directly related to the quality
and amount of hard thinking work that you put into your
preparation. The key is to incorporate thinking into every
aspect of your studying. Your brain is likely to make new
connections and retain information if you do this work; however, if your
efforts are more passive, then the depth of learning and
quantity of material remembered will not be sufficient.
It is the actual thinking that you do that fosters understanding
and memory; more passive efforts will not lead to deep
understanding of the material. This thinking goes on
when you discuss the material with study partners. It happens as you read -- if you
are critical of what is being said and if you make certain
that what you are reading makes sense. If you take the
author for granted, assume he or she knows what they
are talking about, there will be less learned. It will
also occur when you convert reading material into something
else, for instance, drawings or relationship maps. The
current belief amongst researchers is that memories are
made of a vast net of connections spreading across diverse
areas of the brain. Using and manipulating new pieces
of information will ensure that the memory nets you make
are strong, and more importantly, this knowledge is likely
to be accessible, to be used in creative ways when needed.
Since thinking about the material is the crucial step in learning, then it is possible to go to class, read the book, do the homework, and do poorly in a class if all these are done passively. However, if done with an alert and focused mind, one learns a lot and the class becomes easy. I have seen homework in which material is copied from the book; this is a waste of time. It is merely copying, and can be done in a semi-conscious state; you must convert things into your own words, and after some time away from the original source, so the words come out of your own ideas. As you reread them, do so critically; make sure your arguments are persuasive and make sense.
5. "How should I view lecture?"
Lecture classes are often large, and there is a huge amount of
material to cover; thus, the professor cannot create a dialogue
in lecture that forces everyone to think out each concept to be
learned. Lecture can be many things; it tells you where to
concentrate your efforts, it can make things interesting, it
is another explanation of the ideas that you can contrast to
your own view of the material. Here are two quotes from famous
education researchers on this matter:
"All genuine learning is active, not passive. It is a process of discovery in which the student is the main agent, not the teacher." (Adler, 1982).
"Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in class listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves." (Chickering and Gamson, 1987).
Thus, while the burden for your education rests on your shoulders, this view also rightly places all responsibility for successes onto those same shoulders. The B student is constantly in pain; class is rarely fun. In contrast, the A+ student enjoys class, he/she knows everything, there is no stress on tests, and his/her future is relatively secure. Being an A student is the far easier and more enjoyable way to go through college; and is highly recommended.
Learning is a very complicated process, and each of us learns better in some ways than others; so be sure to give yourself every advantage. You should definitely draw diagrams to show the relationship between things, and draw pictures of structures etc. Drawing and sketching require you to convert words into pictures which forces your brain to think in unique ways and also affords you with a visual image in case you are a visual learner, like many of us are.
There are a few more study aids often available. Professors will often post tests from previous years in the library, Cards and Copies, or on the D2L course site, if your course has one; use these resources well. You should also look at the chapter summaries and review questions at the end of each chapter of your textbook.
Prior to each test you should review all your study guides until you are certain that you know everything in them completely, and you should review any old tests. Homework or test questions that gave you problems the first time should be repeated.
Lastly, the night before the tests, professors often give a review session. You should come to this to see what questions fellow students want answered; see if the answer that develops in your mind matches that of the professor.
By learning effective study techniques, you will make your college career one of the most enjoyable times of your life. It allows you to succeed and enjoy very difficult courses, which will boost your self-esteem and make you a far more effective person, well on the way to success in your chosen profession. Excelling at each level of your schooling keeps your options open; it allows you to choose your own course through life.