Biology degrees just aren't what they used to be, you know. They're even more diverse than just a few years back and increasingly relevant to the cutting edge issues of the 21st century. These are issues of scientific, political, ethical and philosophical significance.
At the last count, there were more than 4,600 courses at British universities with a bioscientific slant - courses that take you down many more paths than two decades ago. If you come out of university in three or four years with a degree that has a strong biological element, then a vital part of the world of work will be your oyster - and you might just learn a few things about oysters along the way.
Scan the newspapers these days and it is impossible not to detect a strong biological theme - SARS, genetically modified crops, cloning and gene therapy to tackle diseases to name a few. If you want to understand these matters in any depth - and maybe even influence the debate - you'll need to start with an undergraduate grounding in a relevant academic discipline.
That's what the best-selling science writer Matt Ridley did when he went to Oxford as a zoology undergraduate a couple of decades ago. Referring to the newly advanced understanding of the human species that came with the unravelling of the human genome, he says there could never be a better time to study a biology-related subject. "For the first time in four billion years, a creature on this planet is reading its own recipe. Who would not like to have a ringside seat?"
Britain's universities have been rejigging their departments to reflect the expanding role of "bioscience" - the latest buzzword - in the real and academic worlds. Leeds University, for example, created a new Faculty of Biological Sciences in 1998, pulling together three schools: the School of Biology, the School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the School of Biomedical Sciences. Most other institutions have undertaken similar exercises.
If you glance down the lists of degree courses on university websites, you'll see how study programmes are changing to match the new reality. A random sample would include zoology, genetics, microbiology, tropical disease biology and evolutionary psychology.
It's worth remembering what is at the heart of a single honours biology degree. All biology degrees will cover key aspects of the structure, function, evolution, behaviour and ecology of animals and plants. "It's not just looking down microscopes," says Georgina Day, education officer at the Institute of Biology. "Just as important is the IT component, being able to use software to model biological systems and to analyse data. Communicating findings is also important, so making presentations will be part of any biology course."
A biology teacher friend of mine described the attraction of biology thus: "It's real life. Guts and gore. It's wanting to know how we work."
So, given the plethora of biology-related degrees to choose from, how do you decide what to do? To start this process, think about what you have enjoyed most so far in your school studies. Has it been looking down a microscope, working out the function of a structure, or just being outdoors among plants or animals? …