The undergraduate program “Frontiers in Life Science” was created in 2011 as interdisciplinary life science program, based on innovative pedagogical methods and learning through research. It received the MCE Awards for “innovative pedagogy”
Bachelors in Molecular Sciences in Ile-de-France in France. A new bachelor program at Paris Descartes
The bachelor program Frontiers in Life Science at the University Paris Descartes welcomed its first class of students in September 2011, to learn in a unique and exceptional environment, with interdisciplinary approaches to science and innovative pedagogy.
Quoted by the newspaper Le Monde, Research and The Ministry of higher education and research (video) the FDV bachelor is having a successful growth and will increase its number of students to meet the demands.”
An interdisciplinary scientific bachelor program
The “Frontiers in Life Science” program offers a general interdisciplinary science training. Its first aim is to provide students with a strong science culture in several disciplines (mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, philosophy of science) with balanced workload between all of these diverse disciplines. In addition to a vast scientific background, the students develop their individual profiles through career counseling and choices of projects and internships, and prepare themselves for future studies.
Learning through research
The “Frontiers in Life Science” program leaves plenty of room for project-based learning and exploration of various professional backgrounds (laboratories, private companies, associations …) Over the period of three years, students are expected to take more and more responsibilities and autonomy in their projects. Learning through research methodology allows students to gain skills such as :
Creativity and development of new tools
Organizing and analyzing information
Teamwork and leadership
Visual and verbal communication ( text, web page, videos …)
Our goal is to dedicate as much time and energy to development of skills, as to the acquisition of knowledge. Each year, several weeks are devoted to immersion in the world of research (laboratory training), a reflection on science communities and study of interdisciplinary approaches. Through several intensive courses, students have the opportunity to experience a different learning environment and focus on emerging perspectives.
During their first year, students will have completed :
One week of initiation to research with many group activities and collaboration, discovering the steps of scientific inquiry and experimental approaches.
A short internship within the course « Professional development and career planning »
One week intensive interdisciplinary course, focused on hands-on activities (experiments and modeling), and ending with a one-day research project.
An optional longer internship at the end of second semester
During their second year, students will have completed :
Two weeks of project-based learning where each student conducts its own research project, from the initial development of the idea, over experimental design and data acquisition, to data analysis and presentation of results.
A group research project during the second semester, where students develop their teamwork and leadership skills, learn to manage time and expenses, critically analyze their data and present their results in a scientific manner
Students from the “Frontiers in Life Science” program benefit from the advantage to study in a small group (20-30 students per class) and a personalized support. In addition to teachers, students are supervised by tutors. These tutors are Master or PhD students, but also professionals with a scientific training, which help the students in choosing their future careers and advise them on emerging opportunities or alert them if specific skills need to be developed.
Support and perspectives
The Fondation Bettencourt Schueller supports the “Frontiers in Life Science” program and its innovative educational activities. The generous support allows us to host the students, their supervisors and visiting professors in the heart of Paris, at the Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI). Physical space of the CRI is dedicated and organized in a way to maximize the exchanges between disciplines and students and researchers of all levels.
The “Frontiers in Life Science” program is a pilot project of the University Paris Descartes, an original program within the Center for Research and Higher Education (PRES) Sorbonne Paris Cité. We hope this pilot project will serve as a model for future university programs wishing to implement innovative approaches.
Bachelor program “Frontiers in Life Science” should not be seen as a degree program in biology, but as an interdisciplinary training for students who are curious about science in general. Even though the living world is at the heart of the studied systems, the teaching is balanced between biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and computer science.
ORGANIZATION OF SEMESTERS
In the first year, the two weeks of immersion enable the students to familiarize themselves with the program, to get to know the teaching staff and other students. The choice of learning topics is fixed, so that all students obtain the basic knowledge from the main core, including the basics of mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, biology and science methodology and philosophy. In the second year, students have more flexibility in choosing the subjects according to their interests, and project-based learning becomes more important. Just as in the first year, learning is organized around themes and approached in an interdisciplinary manner.
The last year of studies is not a classical specialization year: we offer the students a possibility to explore new interests or deepen their existing interests through a semester of studies in a French or foreign partner institution, and through a semester-long internship. To prepare their third year, the students are offered help with career choice options, their scientific interests, and guided through the admission process in our partner institutions. During the third year, students have regular progress reports, where they discuss their projects with their peers, in person and via teleconferencing if they are abroad. The third year ends with a final get-together, where each student presents their experience in front of their peers and teachers.
Semester 1/ Observing and describing life, matter, motion
Semester 2/ Stability and change in living systems
Semester 3/ Living world and bio-inspired systems
Semester 4/ Interactions and communication
Semester 5/ Specialization (in a partner institution)
Semester 6/ Practice ( pre-placement orientation, internship, restitution)