Biology seniors post ‘incredible’ scores on test

By Dick Mason, The Observer July 19, 2013 10:34 am

EOU students Katherine Savee, right, and Mia Stoddard work in a biology research lab at Eastern on Wednesday. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
EOU students Katherine Savee, right, and Mia Stoddard work in a biology research lab at Eastern on Wednesday. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
 

2013 graduates of Eastern excel on national exam

The biology program at Eastern Oregon University is in top notch company — again.

The results of a prominent national exam have put the 2013 graduates of Eastern’s biology program in high national standing. Scores from the Educational Testing Services’ Major Field Test for biology indicate that EOU’s 2013 biology program graduates are among the top 40 percent in the nation. 

Eastern students fared best on the molecular biology and genetics portion of the test, scoring in the top 25th percentile.

“That’s incredible,’’ said EOU Biology Professor John
Rinehart. 

Students from close to 800 colleges and universities took the ETS Major Field Test for biology. About 18 Eastern students took the test this spring before graduating with degrees from the biology program. Eastern is among five Oregon universities at which the test was taken. 

“Our scores are as good as any in Oregon and maybe better,’’ Rinehart said.

Biology students have taken the exam each spring at EOU, a month or two before graduation, since 2007. 

Eastern has been in the top 30th to 40th percentile each year since its students starting taking the test.

The 150-question test covers all aspects of biology including population and ecology biology, microbiology and genetics, and cell biology.

The test has two sections, each of which takes about an hour to complete.The ETS Major Field Test for biology helps evaluate students’ ability to analyze and solve problems, understand relationships and interpret material.

Students who fare well on the Major Field Test benefit because they can list their scores on applications for admission into graduate school or professional schools, Rinehart said. 

The professor said the test helps faculty determine what areas they are doing well in and which they may need to focus more upon. 

Rinehart speaks like he has come to expect strong performances from Eastern biology students, which he believes are among the best in the nation. 

 “This doesn’t surprise me. We are maintaining an exceptional program despite budget cutbacks,’’ Rinehart said. “We have an exceptional faculty.’’ 

He said the high scores reflect not only the quality of work done by biology professors but also the entire science faculty.

 Mia Stoddard, an EOU undergraduate majoring in biology, echoes this sentiment.

“We have a bunch of good teachers. It is nice to see them get credit for what they do,’’ Stoddard said.

She noted that Eastern’s science professors provide students with a lot of individualized help because of EOU’s small classes. Stoddard said some professors provide students with their home phone numbers so they can call if they have questions. 

Kaitlin Chattin, an EOU undergraduate majoring in biochemistry, offers a similar sentiment.

“This is awesome. We have a great science staff,’’ Chattin said.