Mission Statement

The division of Biology has a mission that includes excellence in scholarship, instruction, and service, with each faulty member assigned as effort distribution in these three areas depending upon the needs of the Division and the talents of the faculty member.

    1. Scholarship

      Scholarship in biology research and in biology education continues to be a successful enterprise in the Division of Biology. The Division receives intramural support for basic and applied activities from the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the K-State Vice Provost for Research, and the Division's own Biology Research and Instruction Enhancement Fund (BRIEF) Program.

      The successful research enterprise is also evident by a track record of strong extramural funding support. Over the past 10 years, investigator-initiated extramural funding in the Division has averaged of $6M per year, including two of those years with totals of $7M each. The support is from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, American Cancer Society, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and private companies and foundations.

      An excellent publication record documents the expertise of the faculty members in the Division with over 1,000 publications in peer reviewed journals in the decade of the 1990's/ Several faculty have, or have had, prominent positions in national funding panels (such as with USDA, NIH and NSF), national science societies, and national/regional research organizations. Six division faculty members have been recognized with a Distinguished Graduate Faculty Member Award by their colleagues in the University, and five have attained the rank of University Distinguished Professor. One faculty member received the Presidential Outstanding Department Head Award. Two faculty members have obtained prestigious monetary awards in recognition of their research contributions to their fields, and two others have had seminal publications recognized as Citation Classics.

      A strong and vigorous scholarly environment is critical for continued success in biology research and education. Faculty members maintain such an environment in part by an active seminar program that is an integral component of our graduate and postdoctoral training activities. Over 50 such seminar speakers were hosted in 1999.

      The Division of Biology administers resources which are utilized campus-wide for scholarly activities in research and instruction. These include:

      • Konza Prairie Biological Station. This 8,600 acre tallgrass prairie is owned by The Nature Conservancy and K-State, and is managed for biological/environmental research by the Division of Biology. It has been the site for a major NASA remote-sensing project as a part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, and is currently the focus of an NSF-sponsored Long Term Ecological Research Program multi-investigator award. Konza Prairie has obtained major funds to upgrade their research/outreach infrastructure, by combining private (and corporate) contributions, interest within the National Science Foundation, and a vigorous Friends of Konza Prairie community support organization. (http://kpbs.konza.ksu.edu/)

      • Biology Microscope and Image Processing Facility. This facility combines light and electron microscopy to visualize biological systems at the cellular and subcellular levels. It contains several light and fluorescence microscopes (purchased by an NSF equipment award), a Zeiss LSM Laser Scan Confocal Microscope, a Reichart Ultracut S ultramicrotome, an aging Philips 201 transmission electron microscope and a Philips MC-100 transmission electron microscope. Graduate courses in biological transmission electron microscopy and confocal microscopy train students from several colleges in these technologies. Associated with this faculty is a computer laboratory and imaging center.

      • Laboratory Animal Care Facility. Care for small animals is provided within Ackert and Burt Halls.

      • Federal Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Three federally-funded unit members coordinate research activities of interest to and sponsored by a variety of federal agencies. These include the Department of Interior and the Department of Defense. A strong linkage is maintained with the State of Kansas through interactions with the Department of Wildlife and Parks. (http://www.k-state.edu/kscfwru/)

      • Kansas NSF EPSCoR Program in Developmental Genetics. A multi-campus program seeks to provide young investigators with the collaborative and financial resources to make extensive progress early in their careers. K-State is linked with University of Kansas and Wichita State University in this endeavor.

      • Kansas NASA EPSCoR Program in Gravitational Biology. A multi-campus program seeks to understand gravity as an environmental constraint to animal and to plant model systems. The current focus of the program is an understanding defense responses of organisms in weightless environments using both a transgenic mouse model system and a gene-for-gene system in a crop plant. Strong ties have been built between the immunologists and plant biologists in the Division with their colleagues in the Department of Plant Pathology. (http://www.k-state.edu/epscor/)

      • Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer Facility. A consortium of investigators from across the K-State campus and including faculty members from Creighton and the University of Kansas provided the rationale for establishing a central facility for chemical analysis. An Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer forms the core of the facility, and is an is an innovative instrument that enhances the ability to address fundamental and applied biological, ecological and geological questions.

      • Herbarium. The herbarium is an essential tool for the research and teaching programs in the plant sciences, in rangeland ecology, and in related fields of agriculture. The herbarium at Kansas State University is one of the oldest entities in the KAES. Its collection includes approximately 200,000 plants and 2,000 seeds. It is an essential resource for current research for current research in plant systematics, vegetation ecology, and regional floristics. The specimen collection and computer databases maintained also serve as an important resource for studies of invasive and exotic species, and changes in the regional flora as an indicator of land management of climate change effects. The plant identification services provided by the herbarium are also important to both field researchers studying rangelands and croplands, and to agronomists and agents throughout the state interested in the monitoring and management of exotic species, noxious weeds, etc.

    2. Instruction

Instructional activities in the basic biological sciences, along with the curricular and advising activities that accompany instruction, are central to the Division of Biology mission. We share the College of Arts and Sciences mission to educate our students to use their career skills effectively in a World where critical thinking, tolerance, aesthetic judgment, and a capacity for lifelong learning are at a premium. Our mission-specific goals include (a) attracting students of high quality and diversity, with the potential to go on to graduate and professional school, as a result of our program and faculty reputation, quality of our courses, and opportunities for undergraduate research and scholarships, (b) providing our majors with good advising, challenging courses, and encouragement to participate in faculty research programs and, in general, to expand their horizons, and (c) giving all students who take our courses (both majors and non-majors, introductory or advanced classes) a combination of laboratory skills, information, and problem solving abilities that will help them keep abreast of the dynamic field of biology and make them competitive in the job market. Our success in meeting those goals is evidenced by the following facts.

      • For the past six years, the average ACT composite score of our approximately 100 entering freshman with declared biological science majors has averaged 26 (86th percentile nationally for students entering 4-year colleges). An average of 40 of those 100 have scores of 29 or better (95th percentile nationally). 

      • Over those same six years, we have averaged about 110 students graduating with our Bachelor's degrees per year. Forty percent have received their degree within 4 years 75 percent have had their degree within 5 years of high school graduation. 

      • Over the past eight years 860 students received bachelor's degrees from the Division of Biology. Of that total, 112 were accepted into medical school, 108 into graduate school, and 26 into other health programs (e.g., nursing, chiropractic, medical technology, physician's assistant, etc.). Another 30 or so continued their education in such areas as engineering, education, business and law schools. Thus, about 40% of our graduates immediately continue education beyond the Bachelor's degree. Of the 50% of our graduates that immediately seek employment, the majority obtain jobs that utilize their science education. 

      • K-State Division of Biology majors have done exceedingly well in national scholarship competition. Since 1992, our majors have won 13 Goldwater Scholarships, 3 Udall Scholarships, 2 Marshall Scholarships, 2 Fulbright Scholarships, 2 Rotary International Scholarships, 1 Truman Scholarship, 1 Brasenose Scholarship, and 1 Phi Kappa Phi Scholarship. 

      • The Division has received two Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Biological Sciences Education grants in the past decade, a five-year (1991-1996) $1.2M award and four-year (1998-2002) $1.8M award. These awards have provided new equipment for teaching laboratories, classroom renovation, faculty leave time for course development, and research and education awards to students. 

      • In 1997, after 2.5 years of planning and construction, the Division of Biology became one of the first biology departments in the U.S. to offer their introductory course in the studio format. In our Principles of Biology course, a studio offers mini lectures, laboratory experiments, computer programs and simulations, discussion and one-on-one staff-student interaction in a single common setting, the studio. A studio consists of a maximum of 80 students (at least 20 tables with 2 computers per table) taught by two faculty members and two teaching assistants (student-staff ratio of 20:1). Almost all (95%) of our regular faculty teach in one or more studio sections per year, a percentage involvement in the introductory course that is almost unheard of at the university level. In terms of room reconstruction (total, not simply renovation), equipment purchases (45 new computers, 80 new high power microscopes, 80 new dissecting microscopes), faculty leave time for planning, hiring a new faculty member, etc., the introduction of the studio approach cost approximately $2M. Funding came from the K-State central administration, the College of Arts & Sciences, the Division of Biology, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the National Science Foundation. 

      • In the fall of 2000, after two years of planning and organization (with faculty release time provided by the HHMI grant, the Division of Biology reorganized its genetics/molecular biology offering. A new course, Modern Genetics, was designed to be offered (both fall and spring semesters) with prerequisites (Principles of Biology, Chemistry I & II)such that students could be enrolled during their sophomore year. Follow-up courses (new or reorganized) include microbial genetics, eukaryotic genetics, cell biology, developmental biology, and molecular genetics laboratory.

The Division offers B.S. and B.A. degrees in three undergraduate majors: Biology, Microbiology, and Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. At present, and we have 600+ undergraduate majors in these programs. Academic advising for these majors is coordinated through the Biology Undergraduate Affairs Office. Undergraduate (100-600) level courses generated 19,312 student credit hours during FY 1995 and 19,733 student credit hours in FY 1999. Furthermore, Division instructional activities are fundamental requirements of other curricula, both in the College of Arts and Sciences and in other Colleges within the University. For example, our Principles of Biology introductory course is the foundation for a variety of curricula in the applied life sciences. A course in Bioethics is part of a number of pre-professional curricula. Likewise, Microbiology is critical for food science programs. Structure and Function of the Human Body is critical to Kinesiology, while General Botany and Introductory Plant Physiology are fundamental to the discipline of Horticulture.

The Division also offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Biology and in Microbiology. At present, we have approximately 50 graduate students in these programs, with nearly 50 masters and 25 doctorates awarded during the past 5 years. Our graduate programs are tightly linked integral components of our research and scholarship functions in the Division.

The receipt of a variety of awards illustrates the level of scholarship devoted to instruction within the Division. During the decade of the 1990s, Division members received 17 Stamey Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction. During the past decade, two faculty members received the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, and one received the University Presidential Teaching Excellence Award. Two faculty members are among the five total at K-State having appointments as University Distinguished Teaching Scholars.

Science education is not just in the teaching laboratory - the Division has an active program in placing its best young scholars into the laboratories of its research scientists. For example, Division faculty receive funding from NSF to support an REU in Grassland Ecology at the Konza Prairie Biological Station. This project trains 10 undergraduate students per summer in ecological research. The project utilizes Konza Prairie and brings in promising undergraduates from the top schools across the country. This concept - bringing the undergraduate into the scholarship of biology - is also a key feature of the Hughes award mentioned earlier, which brings 20 undergraduates per year into faculty-mentored research programs. The Division has sponsored a mentoring workshop for faculty members across campus who are engaged in similar activities, and hosts an undergraduate research forum, in which our undergraduates showcase their research. NSF also sponsors a project entitled Women on the Prairie: Bringing Girls into Science through Environmental Stewardship, with a Biology member as PI. The long-term goal of this project is to strengthen the network available to support women in science, math, and engineering and attract and retain more students in these areas. (http://www.k-state.edu/grow/)

The resources of the Division of Biology and University have been leveraged in a variety of ways to enhance the educational opportunities of our students. These include:

      • Ancillary membership in the biology training program. Graduate faculty members in other University departments and from other Regents Institutions may be nominated for membership in the Division training program. Such linkages have been formed with the Departments of Plant Pathology; ASI; VMS; Agronomy; Horticulture, Forestry & Recreational Management; and Biochemistry. Faculty members from Emporia State University are part of the Biology program. 

      • Participation of Biology faculty members in other training or outreach programs. Biology faculty members participate in training/outreach programs that are outside of the Division. Four of the 26 members of the interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biochemistry are faculty members of the Division of Biology. Four of the 32 members of the Genetics Program are Division faculty members. Division faculty members provide a large portion of the research and training activities that are the focus of the K-State College of Arts and Sciences Center for Basic Cancer Research outreach and fund raising efforts. 

      • Adjunct membership in the biology training program. Qualified indiividuals who are not in Regent institution faculty positions can be nominated for membership in the Biology training program. Such linkages have been formed with the USDA Grain Marketing Research Institute and the Kennedy Space Center. These individuals complement the budgeted resources for training in the Division. 

      • Research faculty as members for the biology program. Qualified individuals who are long-term members of the biology research community have been named in research faculty positions and have been nominated for membership on the Biology training faculty. Currently, six such individuals complement the budgeted resources for instructional activities in the Division.

      • Postdoctoral training in biology. An effective way to train undergraduate and graduate students in biology is to provide an environment conducive to scholarly research. Faculty can achieve this by training postdoctoral scholars concomitant with graduates and undergraduates. Postdoctoral fellows currently enhance this environment by mentoring graduate students in a very direct way. Graduate students, in turn, effectively mentor undergraduates in the laboratory. The Division has established a course, BIOL 997: Postdoctoral Research in Biology, to formalize this training/mentoring activity on the part of the faculty, and some of the postdoctoral scholars in the Division are enrolled in this course. Since extramural awards largely fund postdoctoral scholars, this represents a strong complement/leveraging of the budgeted resources for training by the research funding in the Division.

The Division has a rich history in obtaining funding for training programs and collaborative research activities that include an instructional or training component. These collaborative programs can supplement funds available from individual research grants. They include investigations of prairie ecology (NSF-sponsored Long Term Ecological Research Program on the Konza Prairie Biological Station), of cell biology (NH-sponsored Cancer Biology Training Grant), of gravitational biology (NASA-sponsored Center for Gravitational Studies of Cellular and Developmental Biology, and the NASA-sponsored EPSCoR project in gravitational biology), of developmental biology (NSF-sponsored EPSCoR project in developmental genetics of animal and plant systems), and of biology education (2 NSF-funded awards for Principles of Biology and biology curriculum redesign).

  1. Service

    As might be expected with a collection of talented and successful faculty members, the Division of Biology has an impact on the College, the University, the State of Kansas, and nationally/internationally by a tradition of service activities. Biology faculty members have taken leadership positions within their national scientific societies and within science funding agencies. Positions on the editorial boards of major peer-reviewed journals are demanding in terms of both time and talent, and faculty members are called upon to lend expertise in committee work at a variety of levels.