Just to add in my experiences at a small, liberal arts college.
I did my BA at St. John's College in Santa Fe (the original campus is
in Annapolis). SJC is not a research institution. We read the
great books, only original works (mostly in translation), for all
subjects studied, including math and physics. My only regret is that
there wasn't much breadth in the life sciences, but I more than
supplemented that by working at Los Alamos Labs during the summer
between my Junior and Senior years and then for 2 1/2 years after
graduating. I received nothing but admiration for the program there,
when I came on to graduate school and even now from colleagues. Well,
there was one guy who questioned whether anyone coming out of that
education was fit for a technical field of study, this was over dinner
at a NATO ASI on Neural Networks. I just looked at him and said, "then
what am I doing here?"
So, although I didn't do research during my undergraduate education
and most of what I studied was "dated", this education prepared me to
take on very difficult subjects and learn how to understand them.
Everyone is required to write a Senior Thesis, which is examined by
a committee in a public oral exam. If I had it to do over, I'd do
it exactly the same way.
lmk2 at garnet.berkeley.edu