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A New Capstone Experience in the Biology Program

The Rocky Mountain College Biology Program has updated its capstone requirement to better represent the culmination of the biology degree. We believe our students acquire an excellent foundation of knowledge in the diverse discipline of biology, and we now integrate that wealth of information into an inquiry-based laboratory experience.

We are committed to student engagement in the laboratory as demonstrated by our making experimentation one of our four student learning outcomes in the major. We are excited about the way this capstone model emphasizes research and the interpretation of research results. Students can take ecology, molecular genetics, or virology to satisfy the capstone requirement. Each of those classes is built around a comprehensive laboratory component where students engage in novel research. We provide a diverse assortment of capstone courses to accommodate the interests of the individual students. For example, in ecology, students study the ecological impacts of Russian Olive as an invasive species. In contrast, students in molecular genetics mutagenize yeast cells with the intent of identifying genes that participate in metabolite biosynthesis. Finally, in virology, students study the effects of an uncharacterized viral protein in cell culture. Independent of the capstone course taken, students spend considerable time developing a research question, designing and conducting experiments, and finally presenting the results in a formal lab report that emulates a publication style paper.