Dr. Steve Jenkins is chair of the Department of Biology, and exudes energy for the discipline. In biology, he gets to “see creatures that God has put together and that spring from his mind.” He has been teaching at the College for years and clearly enjoys the post. Our discussion centered on three topics: new majors in the department, interesting research from two former professors, and why Grove City is an excellent choice for studying biology.
The new majors offered to freshmen for the first time this year are Biology/Health, Molecular Biology, and Conservation Biology. The majors allow students to explicitly focus their biological studies as preparation for a career in health, or to focus the scope in a “small bio” or “big bio” direction — either focusing on the chemistry of life in more detail or focusing on nature and the diversity of creatures. As students progress through the new majors and graduate, the department will continue to evaluate and improve the sequencing. This is an exciting time and place to study the science of life. Two courses being taught for the first time this year are Advanced Genetics and Cancer Biology.
Dr. Jenkins did not downplay the traditional biology major, however, and noted that all of the biology majors are essentially identical for the first two years of study. He also believes that studying biology is excellent preparation for many career paths.
When I asked why students would study biology at Grove City, Dr. Jenkins said, “I tell students that STEM Hall is a beautiful hall, but the physical building is not the most beautiful part. It’s what happens inside. In STEM, we have Christian faculty teaching from a Christian perspective of the created order, and students see that the Creator has his imprint on everything.”
Dr. Jenkins is an entomologist, and says he knows that the privilege of seeing and understanding so many wonders is undeserved, a gift from a gracious Creator. He also defended biology itself, as the study and not as the application: While we admire people who go into medicine and will help human society, learning and teaching are also ways to glorify God. As a Christian entomologist, he has a metaphorical “leg up” on fellow entomologists, because he knows that every insect he studies has been made by God and reveals something about the Maker.
Our Lord Jesus himself points us to biological metaphors and lessons rather often: Look at the birds of the air. Consider the lilies of the valley. See how your Father feeds and clothes these, with so much splendor? So do not be anxious. (Matthew 6:26-34) And do not forget that the Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed (Matthew 13:31); though it is foolishness to the world, the church will grow while nations rise and fall, and the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).
I have had a few classes in STEM Hall myself, and it is an amazing building. But Dr. Jenkins loves the quotes engraved in the stone most of all. His favorite is from Louis Pasteur: “The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.” Dr. Jenkins concurs with Pasteur, admitting he has had many mountaintop experiences studying even the smallest creatures within the course of his career.
From the discussion, I was reminded again of the privilege of studying under professors who are not only sharp but wise, men and women who love their discipline and, in loving it, grow in love for their God. Here are teachers who are also disciples, leaders who are also servants, intellectuals whose loves are fanned by their knowledge.
Whether studying biology or literature, philosophy or engineering, I suggest that the community of Christian teachers and students makes Grove City the gem that it is. Together we look, whether through the lens of a microscope or through the text of a Shakespearean sonnet, and see that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God,” as Gerard Hopkins put it. We are also gathered in his name, and he is surely here among us (Matthew 18:20).