By Isobel Hawkins
Choosing the subject that you aim to spend the next 3-4 years of your life studying, and perhaps most of your life working in, can be a challenge. Some may have been certain of this choice for years, but being undecided about what subject you want to study is common for everyone at some stage. Personally, it wasn’t until I started doing A levels that I realised I even wanted to study a science, and it took me a little while yet to decide on biology.
When choosing your subject, I would suggest that one important thing to consider is which subject you really feel passionate about, rather than just which subject you’re best at. Even if you’re fantastic at a subject, if it doesn’t excite you, you might not want to spend the next few years focussing solely on it! Biology wasn’t always my best subject, but it was the one I found most interesting, and if you also enjoy learning about the amazing variety of life on earth, perhaps biology could be the subject for you too! 😊
So, how does a biology degree work? The first year of a biology degree will usually give you a broad background in the understanding of how different aspects of life operate, from the level of the gene right up to communities of species and ecosystems, with a chance to explore the variety of life on a multitude of scales. Specialisation in your preferred areas of biology will often happen later in the degree, and you’ll be able to focus on what you enjoy the most. Similarly to most science degrees, practical experience is a valuable part of the learning process, and a biology degree will give you the chance to develop your experimental and practical skills.
Studying biology is a wonderful opportunity to delve into the questions surrounding the diversity of life on earth, how it came to be, and what the future might hold. As biology is in essence the science of all living things, one of the best parts about studying it is that there is such a broad scope for you to find aspects that you’re passionate about. Whether you want to work in a cellular research lab, study animal behaviour, identify tropical plants, or tackle the climate and biodiversity crises; biology has it all! There is something for everyone within biology, and if you enjoy learning about the science and the natural world, even if you’re unsure of where your scientific interests lie, you can find your niche in biology.
Learning and working within biology is all about both furthering our understanding of the natural world, and the potential of science to benefit people and nature. Be it through developing lifesaving drugs, modelling climate change, finding solutions to ensure food security; biology is a subject with impact. If you’re looking for a subject where your work can help shape a positive vision of the future, there are of course many options- but biology is undoubtably a subject that can fulfil this.
If, then, you are keen to understand more about the complexity of life, and perhaps do some good for nature, people and the planet, biology might just be the subject for you! 😊
For any potential biologists who might want pre-uni reading recommendations, here’s a few I enjoyed!
• The Selfish Gene- Richard Dawkins (Evolution, Animal behaviour)
• Sensory Exotica: a world beyond human experience- Howard C Hughes (Neuroethology, Sensory ecology)
• In the Shadow of Man- Jane Goodall (Animal behaviour, Primatology)
• Any of the ‘Very Short Introductions’
• The Epigenetics Revolution- Nessa Carey (Epigenetics, Genetics)
• And a podcast for anyone interested in conservation: https://conservationoptimism.org/our-resources/conservation-optimism-podcast/