What to Expect
Anatomy students draw on many different parts of science to explore the
body structures of living things.
"I've always enjoyed teaching at the organismal, system, organ and tissue
level," says Kurt Gilliland. He has a PhD in cell and biological development
from the University of North Carolina. He also teaches in the field. "I enjoy
research of cell structure, and I enjoy research that is at least indirectly
related to a human disease. Anatomy programs typically tie all these interests
Gilliland says the program at UNC allows students to take the classic courses
in anatomy: gross anatomy, histology, embryology and neurobiology.
"The fact that our department is within the medical school allows us to
take and teach medical student courses," Gilliland says.
One advantage to the program at UNC is the variety, says Gilliland. "Research
in our department is diverse, including those who use molecular biology
to study normal cell function in animal models and those who use microscopy
to study cell structure in diseased human tissues."
Thierry Horner also took graduate studies in cell and developmental biology
at UNC. "Students in this program take two years of coursework with
research rotations and the following three-plus years are devoted strictly
to research, with some teaching experience," he says.
Students may choose to take gross anatomy, but many choose to focus
instead on biochemistry, molecular or cellular biology coursework.
How to Prepare
Horner says that after the first year, most courses do not use textbooks.
Instead, graduate students learn from reading mainly specialized magazines.
"High school students will be well prepared by taking biology courses,"
Horner says. During their undergraduate studies, majoring in biology would
also prepare them, he adds.
"I'd recommend that, before getting wrapped up in counting bones and learning
about muscle attachments, that a young student get a good base in cell
and molecular biology with additional experience using a microscope,"
A good foundation for those areas of study can be built in high school
biology, chemistry and physics classes.