Program in Integrated Science & Mathematics (PRISM)
PRISM is a year-long program that integrates biology, psychology, mathematics, and physics. This program is intended for students who are interested in science and/or pre-health tracks and need to take Pre-calculus.
Courses included in PRISM
PRISM spans the entire freshman year (Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters), and includes the first course in Biology, Psychology, Pre-Calculus, Statistics, and Physics, as well as the First-Year Student Experience that is required of all freshmen. Because these courses are spread-out throughout the year, receiving full credit for each course requires students to complete the entire year-long program. Students who successfully complete each semester of the program will receive 10 credit hours per semester (BIO 211, MAT 133, and UNV 101 in the Fall; STA 126, PSY 101, and PHY 141 in the Spring). In addition, to satisfy the other freshman year requirements, students will take one writing class per semester along with PRISM.
Authentic research in PRISM
One of the unique opportunities PRISM provides is that you can begin doing research during your freshman year. In our first year of PRISM (2015–2016), our research has focused on the behavior and ecology of squirrels. In the fall, students collected data on how various aspects of campus (such as tree cover, human presence, time of day, temperature) affected squirrel behavior. We are expanding the research projects this spring to further investigate some of these variables. This is novel research that no one has done before! We plan for some students to present their findings at Mercer’s annual research day and regional conferences.
We believe that learning has to be fun to be effective. We have incorporated several outings throughout the year that help promote learning/group bonding. For example, this year we went kayaking on the Ocmulgee River after discussing plant diversity, went to the Bodies Exhibit in Atlanta to review anatomy and physiology, and went to the Georgia Aquarium to review animal diversity and physics of fluids. We also plan to go to a Braves game in the spring when we talk about social psychology as well as the physics of baseball.
Other advantages of PRISM
You get to be part of a fun and engaging learning community for an entire year! The class will include a small class size of around 24 selected students and 4 faculty members. You will learn to explore and research the world around you with dedicated faculty from the Biology, Psychology, Mathematics, and Physics departments. You will learn how different disciplines of science and mathematics are integrated and intertwined with each other. You will get to know your fellow PRISM students and faculty very well during this journey. What a fun way to start your undergraduate career! Integrative thinking: You will learn to explore the world through interconnections between different disciplines by understanding that biology, psychology, mathematics, and physics are not a collection of facts to be memorized but a connected whole.
Learning science and mathematics as a cohesive unit will better prepare you to tackle upper-division coursework, as well as standardized tests such as the MCAT.
You get ‘ahead’ in your coursework. Students who are not ready for Calculus cannot usually take Introductory Biology during their freshman year at Mercer. This will be allowed in PRISM.
At the end of PRISM, you will have satisfied four general education requirements (Human and Behavioral Sciences, The Natural World, Mathematical Reasoning, and First-Year Student Requirement).
There are two requirements to be eligible for PRISM: 1) you will be a freshman at Mercer in the 2016-2017 academic year and 2) you need to take Pre-Calculus.
Calculus eligibility is calculated by Mercer’s Office of Admissions based on several aspects of your high school record and standardized test scores. Even if you have taken Pre-Calculus or some Calculus in high school, you may still be placed into the “non-Calculus ready” category. You can contact your admissions counselor for more information. You also have the option of taking a math placement test during summer orientation sessions that can override the original calculation and place you into Calculus. However, if you place into Calculus, you are no longer eligible for PRISM.
This program will particularly benefit you if you are considering a Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, or Psychology major, and/or plan to be on a pre-health track (Pre-Medicine, Pre-Pharmacy, Pre-Dental, Pre-Physician Assistant, Pre-Optometry, Pre-Physical Therapy, Pre-Veterinary, Pre-Anesthesiologist Assistant, or Pre-Occupational Therapy). This program is not a good option for Pre-Nursing students.
Comments From Our Current PRISM Cohort
"I would encourage many seniors to apply for the program, not only because it gives you an advantage in your first year of college, but our professors are awesome and they are actually invested in us."
"The fact that we have been able to do research is valuable to me. I also appreciate the relationship that I have with my professors and I know that they will do what it takes to make sure that my classmates and I succeed."
"I’m learning how to apply the information to solve problems rather than just memorizing the information."
"Yes, I think [integrating disciplines is contributing to my understanding of the natural world] because now looking at squirrels I think, huh, that squirrel is sitting near a bunch of other squirrels; does that mean that squirrels have clustered distribution? Is that squirrel not afraid of me because it has been conditioned to think I’m harmless? Do you think they have habituated to us or have urban squirrels evolved smaller amygdalas? I’m integrating my thinking and the way I see things, which I think is I great and helps me understand things in a more realistic and not two dimensional way."
"I enjoy being part of an authentic research project] because it helps strengthen me as a student and as a future doctor. It has made me become more patient and understanding of others that are conducting research. It has been helpful having the professors’ guidance through this especially since this is my first time.”
- Dr. Chamaree de Silva, Assistant Professor of Physics
- Dr. Jarred Jenkins, Assistant Professor of Psychology
- Dr. Katie Northcutt, Assistant Professor of Biology
- Dr. Jeff Pullen, Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Once you have paid your deposit, the Office of Admissions will be sending you information on how to apply for the program if you fall into the “needs Pre-Calculus” category. Please contact your admissions counselor if you don’t receive one. Applications are due by May 15, 2016.