The University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Most courses sponsored by the Threshold Program begin for highly motivated, competitively selected students in the junior year. However, an introductory course is available every semester and open to all students. Inside the Biological Sciences (IBS) (BIOL 202-203) [more], a career-focus and horizon-expanding course is available to all prospective and beginning students majoring in biology or a biology-related discipline.

An average of 18 students register for IBS each semester. Presentations by a broad array of professionals that either conduct research or utilize the fruits of biological research are hosted by the Program Director and focused to stimulate interest in biological research as both intrinsically gratifying and socially valued. Section sizes are limited to foster open discussions with visiting faculty and with each other.

Advanced courses to instill research competence and confidence are at the heart of the pilot curriculum. Building community and enhancing morale and a sense of joint purpose was fostered by Threshold Colloquy on Biological Research (BIOL 307-308) [more]. Curricular support for research competence and preparation to help Threshold students to make the most of opportunities to interact and work with creative research scientists is provided by Seminar in Research Skills (BIOL 397) [more], and Practicum in Biological Research: Research Rotations (BIOL 398) [more]. Each course has its own website, richly hyperlinked with preparatory and supplementary information. Background information is provided in this way for all guests to colloquies and for all prospective mentors.

The Threshold Colloquy is a community-building experience for Threshold juniors, seniors, and minority Fellows. It is limited to Threshold Scholars but is frequently attended by freshman and sophomore Threshold Fellows and senior Threshold Scholars. This was in large part attributable to the unique course content and the “sense of place” provided by the conference room in the Threshold Commons, a suite of rooms including a computer lab in the biology building specifically for the use of Threshold students and faculty. The course is mediated by the Program Director to establish coherence and effectively enables Threshold students and faculty to openly and candidly express and discuss their views and concerns; topics ranged from on-going research to life-style of scientists and potential ethical, public relations, and political aspects of research. [recent syllabus].

The Seminar in Research Skills moved students through five 30 hour modules from basic computer skills, through advanced library and Internet skills, to technical science writing (proposal preparation), popular science writing (journalism) and public speaking. The imminent need to utilize these skills in the program contributed to student motivation. Two modules were particularly engaging: During the unit on speech communications, students are introduced to the value of videotaping and playback critiques of their verbal presentations; the module of popular writing guided students in the translation of the technical language of their research proposals (capability statements) into language that would capture the imagination and establish the intrinsic interest or value of a research program for the general public. [recent syllabus]

Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
865/974-3599, F241 Walters Life Science Bldg

the indicated instructor
or Program Director
Neil Greenberg 974-3599