Studying biology – the science of life – can result in a varied career scope, including microbiologist, marine biologist, or academic researcher. Are you studying biology, but want more than what your school currently offers? Perhaps your course isn’t in-depth enough, overly complex, or simply doesn’t cover your favorite topics. Fortunately, teaching yourself is an option, and it’s possible to make the process as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
Consider where you to start
Before you start self-studying, it’s useful to determine your preferred learning style – are you a visual learner who learns best by seeing, or an auditory learner who learns best by hearing? Once you know which style plays to your individual strengths, you’ll be better able to understand and retain information. You’ll also need to hone in on the specific topic(s) you want to study. Proteins, DNA, and RNA, for example, are basic, foundational topics, but your interests may lie elsewhere. Start with something you’re truly fascinated by and sustains your interest. For example, maybe you want to dive into epigenetics: “the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work”. When sourcing books on epigenetics, check out some of the most popular titles. For instance, Epigenetics: How Environment Shapes our Genes by Ricahrd C. Francis is a great book for anyone new to the subject. It clearly explains relevant terms, and even includes key definitions at the beginning of the book.
Take an online course
Top ivy league universities offer excellent online courses in a variety of subjects. Not only can anyone take these courses, but they’re also usually free. Stanford biology professor, Robert Sapolsky, for example, offers a course on Human Behavioral Biology. It features 25 lectures (running for 36 hours in total), and covers areas like “how to approach complex normal and abnormal behaviors through biology; how to integrate disciplines including sociobiology, ethology, neuroscience, and endocrinology, to examine behaviors such as aggression, sexual behavior, language use, and mental illness”. Alternatively, Harvard EdX (a branch of Harvard University) provides an open course on the Fundamentals of Neuroscience – a topic which links biology with physiology. The course focuses on the brain, neurons, nervous system, and hormones.
Read as much as possible
In addition to textbooks, you’ll find a plethora of valuable resources available on the internet. PubMed, for example, is a free internet archive of over 35 million citations for biomedical and life sciences literatures. Additionally, the Bio-Web offers essential resources for molecular and cell biologists. It lists sites relevant to life sciences, along with a description of what to expect. You can also check out the Natural History Collections of the University of Edinburgh – a free public online museum that documents natural history specimens, as well as explains topics like evolutionary origins and anatomy.
Biology is a lively and fascinating area of study. By considering where to start, taking an online course, and reading, you can successfully teach yourself biology.