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A Comprehensive Course In Environmental Biology

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Curricula

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.31.1 - 11.31.8



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Paper Authors

author page

David Vaccari Stevens Institute of Technology

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


A new course was developed to introduce environmental engineers and scientists to biology. The primary novelty of this course was its division of the subject into three core areas of relevance to environmental professionals: microbiology, ecology, and toxicology.

This paper will further describe the need that exists for this course, and will introduce a textbook and other materials that were developed for the course. A somewhat novel approach to the use of computer presentation materials has also been developed for this course, and this is also described here.

The Need for the Course

The course was originally developed for an environmental engineering program. Those coming from a science background might be surprised to discover that engineers typically do not have a single biology course in their bachelor’s degree programs. Environmental engineering students often receive only a brief exposure to sanitary microbiology, completely neglecting a vast range of biological issues and concerns. However, the growth of the environmental sciences has greatly expanded the scope of biological disciplines with which engineers need to deal. With the possible exceptions of biomedical and biochemical engineering, environmental engineering is the engineering discipline that has the closest connection with biology. Certainly, it is the only engineering discipline that connects with such a wide range of biological fields.

Table 1 shows the results of a pre-test administered to a class of 9 graduate and undergraduate environmental engineering students. The results show a very low familiarity with basic ideas from general biology.

Table 1. Percent of students who showed familiarity with biological concepts Evolution 33% Eukaryotes 11% Carbohydrates 33% Lipids 67% Amino acids 56% Org chem structure 22% Enzymes 56% Bacterial cell walls 33% Mitosis vs. meiosis 0% Osmosis 44% ATP 33% 1st order reactions 11% Chemistry of genes 11% Cross-breeding 33% Transcription 22%

Vaccari, D. (2006, June), A Comprehensive Course In Environmental Biology Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--365

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