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LSU Biology Boot Camp Gets Students in Shape for College

LSU researchers have put theory into practice with BIOS, the Biology Intensive Orientation for Students, now entering its fourth year of existence. Better known as “biology boot camp,” the program has an overwhelming success rate and is now serving as a model for other nationally-prominent universities, such as the University of Washington, and several other LSU departments.

Students who participate in BIOS, a week-long intensive biology camp held the week before LSU’s fall classes begin, not only consistently score better grades in their introductory classes, but also end up with a significantly higher GPA after four semesters than other LSU students, according to a university study.

“It’s really about developing a learning community for the students to thrive in,” said Sheri Wischusen, assistant director of the LSU/HHMI Program in LSU’s College of Basic Sciences. The program facilitates this, grouping students by the section of introductory biology they are enrolled in for the fall semester.

“That way,” Bill Wischusen, associate chair of biological sciences at LSU, explained, “the following week when they go to their first class, they have a few friends already instead of facing a sea of strangers. They also have built-in study partners.” According to students who report back, these friendships and study groups often last throughout their college careers.

Students are required to attend nine content lectures and take three exams during the boot camp – but it doesn’t stop there. In order to simulate the time constraints of a real college schedule, the Wischusens make sure to load the students’ time with meetings and additional lectures from biology professors, deans, even presentations from bankers and health care officials. The end result is a well-rounded program that allows students a “sneak preview” of college life and course work.

So, what’s the secret that makes BIOS so successful? The trick is that the actual biology content is not nearly as important to the process as the in-depth introduction to university-level study skills.

“The program’s value really increases over time,” said Bill Wischusen. “At first, students think that the lectures and exams are what really helped them. It generally takes them a few semesters to realize that the important part of BIOS is the study skills they learned.”

LSU’s chemistry, engineering, computer science and physics departments all offer similar boot camps for incoming freshmen.

BIOS is open to incoming freshman majoring in biological sciences or related fields who are scheduled to take Biology 1201 at LSU. This year’s session will be held Aug. 10 – 15. Registration is available at http://bios.lsu.edu, with a deadline of July 13.

For more information about BIOS, contact:

Sheri Wischusen 225-578-0405 sheri@lsu.edu
Bill Wischusen 225-578-8239 ewischu@lsu.edu

For information about science and research stories at LSU, please contact Ashley Berthelot, 225-578-3870 or aberth4@lsu.edu.

Ashley Berthelot | LSU Office of Public Affairs
Summer 2008

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