Former Biology Department Makes a Name for Itself

"After decades of selfless service to the Moravian College community, the Biology Department ceased to exist."

--Moravian biology department website

In a move that reflects new academic initiatives at Moravian, as well as the changing nature of scientific research, the College’s Department of Biology has been renamed the Department of Biological Sciences. "The field of biology has evolved and we’re evolving with it," says Diane Husic, department chair. "Of course we still value our past and recognize the importance of teaching the fundamentals of our discipline," she adds. "But this is a better way to articulate what we do."

Diane notes that the idea for a name change was sparked by the recent addition of three new bio-related programs to the Moravian curriculum: neuroscience, environmental studies and biochemistry. "People were joking, 'Are you going to be changing your name now?' " But soon the lighthearted suggestion led to more thoughtful discussions about how well the term "biology" describes the wide range of research that can be done with a life sciences expertise. "Bioscience can mean work done at the molecular level, or looking at an entire ecosystem, or at any level in between," says Diane. The new name also encompasses biochemistry, biophysics, and other cross-disciplinary approaches that go beyond the usual meaning of biology. "Some of the most exciting unanswered questions these days are at the edges between the sciences, at the interface between traditional boundaries," Diane notes. For these reasons, she said, the department was quick to conclude that a name change would be a good move.

Similar conversations are undoubtedly taking place in biology departments across the country, but Moravian College seems to be ahead of the curve on this, at least among liberal arts colleges. "This kind of change seems to happen more at large research institutions than at small schools," says Diane. And yet the name is a good fit for liberal arts schools like Moravian, where interdisciplinary work and the connections between different sciences are an important aspect of the educational mission. "We think the name is a good reflection of who we are, and will help us better serve the students for today’s world," says Diane. "And we’re excited to be doing something a little different."