Never like today has Biology been so visible and important. Applications of the subject are numerous; some, such as the application of genetics to elucidate the genome of an entire organism, identification and extraction of plant extracts that help fight disease including cancer, new techniques in aquaculture, and the application of ecological assessment and monitoring to help protect and manage natural resources including species and habitats, have become crucial for helping mankind strive towards a sustainable environment, while achieving better health for the human population.
Biology - the study of life, is exciting and rewarding. Most of all it is very relevant to each of us, society in general and the environment. This is more so in the case of small island states like Malta, which have very limited resources, a very high population density, and where there are numerous biology-related issues on the national agenda that require successful and realistic application of theory to the real-life situation. The increased importance of applied biology is apparent in day-to-day applications in industry, environmental management and planning, and biomedical research, amongst others.
The course leading to the award of the BSc (Hons) degree in Biology has been tailored to equip students with the necessary knowledge and training in the various areas of the biological sciences, and ensures coverage of the latest and most essential knowledge of biology at tertiary level that are in line with international undergraduate degrees. Apart from core subjects such as biochemistry, cell biology, ecology, ethology and evolution, plant and animal biology, diversity of plants and animals, conservation biology, plant and animal biology, and animal form and function, the three year course also covers a broad diversity of other subject areas including field biology, research methods for the biological sciences, marine biology, microbiology, parasitology and immunology, bioinformatics and genomics, biotechnology, and aquaculture and fisheries biology.
Most study-units include a practical and/or field visit component, during which students will be given the opportunity to carry out lab experiments and field biological surveys; identify plant and animal specimens; collect and analyse data, and interpret results; and observe technological procedures and installations used in industry and in the field. The programme of studies is also designed to provide eventual graduates in biology with the opportunity to take up a research programme within one of these subject areas at M.Sc. level.
The course includes a variety of settings to enable knowledge transfer between the tutor and student, and understanding of the subject material by the latter. The methods and settings used include lectures, seminars, demonstrations, discussions and tutorials. The programme structure has been designed to ensure linkage between theoretical knowledge gained during pre-university years and that gained during the present course, as well as between knowledge delivered during the successive years of the proposed programme. The subject material covered includes both 'core' topics as well as ones based on the most recent advances and developments in the biological sciences. Transfer of practical skills and knowledge is achieved through practical sessions and field visits that are specifically designed in relation to the topics covered during any given study-unit. All biology study-units include a set of practical sessions and/or field visits. The settings used for knowledge transfer ensure that the student is engaged in discussion and stimulated to use his/her reasoning and critical thinking skills.
The course is aimed at training the student to understand key concepts in biology, but at the same time to acknowledge that the theories on which many concepts of biology are based are subject to change as a result of ongoing research. The student will appreciate the complexity of biological processes but will also be able to challenge and question theories which are not fully supported by scientific evidence. Throughout the programme, the student will be stimulated to think 'how' and 'why', be critical of biological concepts and principles, and trained to predict the potential outcomes of biological processes and scenarios resulting from natural factors and human intervention. The practical and field components are designed to train the student develop: a keen sense of observation; skills in setting up and executing laboratory experiments and field surveys, collection of rigorous data and appropriate treatment and appraisal of results; and application to 'real' situations.
On completing the programme of studies, students will be able to identify and explain the main concepts and principles underlying:
1) biological features and processes, at the organism and sub-organism (organ, tissue, cell, and molecular) levels;
2) the evolution and adaptations of species, and of their intra- and inter-specific interactions, and their interactions with the environment;
3) the exploitation, and management of biological resources;
4) techniques, procedures and tools used in biotechnology, as well as in other areas of applied biology;
5) biodiversity and its importance, as well as measures to conserve it;
6) techniques, procedures and tools used in the study of environmental biology;
7) the direct and indirect anthropogenic influences, and implications thereof, on living organisms, as well as on the environment on which species and ecosystems depend.
Students will also be able to:
1) apply knowledge of biology to understand scientific processes and problems, and to provide explanations and potential solutions;
2) plan and execute biological research studies to address specific questions and problems, and interpret the findings from such studies;
3) apply knowledge of biology to develop and design biotechnological processes, techniques and installations;
4) apply knowledge of biology to assess biological resources, and develop and implement management and conservation measures for same;
5) apply knowledge of biology to assess biodiversity, and to develop and implement management and conservation measures for same;
6) apply techniques, procedures and tools used in the study of environmental biology;
7) apply knowledge of biology to assess the direct and indirect influences, and implications thereof, of humans on life on earth, as well as on the environment on which species and ecosystems depend.
Since the student will acquire detailed knowledge of biology, he/she will be in a position to transfer such knowledge to other individuals requiring it, as well as applying it to address key questions and provide potential solutions to situations in research, in environmental assessment and management, and in industry and several other areas entailing applied biology. The student will be equipped with the necessary skills in proposing, designing and implementing experiments which may involve testing of hypotheses, and to carry out surveys and other studies in the biological sciences for research and industrial/professional applications. Students will be skilled in identifying and describing biological features and processes, and in transferring such skills and render advice to students, peers and other professionals working in different areas. Some components of the proposed course are specifically designed to help students acquire skills in keeping appropriate data records; use appropriate tools for data analysis; write reports, including scientific documents and articles for publications; and interpret findings and provide appropriate advice to professionals seeking it. Furthermore, some components of the proposed course are aimed at imparting skills that enhance the student's ability to work in a team, including multidisciplinary teams, to equip him/her with the necessary skills for submitting project proposals, and to embark on initiatives involving entrepreneurship.
Career opportunites and access to further studies
The course is intended for the student who wants to further his/her knowledge in the biological sciences and take up a career in a subject area that requires knowledge of biology at tertiary level. Holders of the proposed degree will be able to further their studies locally or abroad by reading for a postgraduate degree at M.Sc. and PhD level. In this respect, graduates will eventually also have the opportunity to further their studies at postgraduate (M.Sc. and PhD) level within the same department (Department of Biology at the University of Malta).
The opportunities for employment are numerous, given the availability of both long-standing careers such as ones involving teaching and laboratory work, as well as of new career opportunities such as those within the field of applied biotechnology in industry and research, and of environmental biology in research, planning, management and monitoring of living resources and the environment. Potential employers in Malta include industry (in particular, ones dealing with biotechnology and pharmacology), the aquaculture sector, private environmental consultancies, and governmental entities and authorities, such as the Malta Environment and Planning Authority and the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change.
Tuition & fees :