Biology department alters major requirements in order to simplify program

Geneseo’s biology department has announced changes to the major’s structure that will take effect in the fall 2018 semester. 

The partial reorganization of the program will only apply to incoming freshmen, while current students will be exempt from the new system.  

There are three major changes to the biology program at Geneseo, according to associate professor and chair of the biology department George Briggs. The department is switching one of the required courses from a class on cell biology to one on biochemistry, allowing pre-med majors to take biochemistry without taking cell biology first. 

Additionally, the math requirements will be more lenient, requiring majors to take Calculus I instead of both Calculus I and Calculus II, and the department has made all biology electives into 300-level courses instead of 200-level courses. 

Briggs explained that these new policies simplify the major. 

“We’ve been needing a change for a long time. It’s very hard to change things in a large department,” Briggs said. “There’s probably additional changes that we would benefit from making, but it’s hard to [make all the necessary changes].” 

While many biochemistry and biophysics majors take classes in the biology department, the changes would likely not affect those students significantly, according to Briggs. The elimination of the cell biology course as a prerequisite to biochemistry will only impact biology majors, but biochemistry students will still take cell biology due to their major’s structure, according to Briggs. 

Sophomore pre-biology major Aditya Chaudhri felt somewhat ambivalent about the effects of the major’s partial restructuring.

“Biochemistry before cell biology just sounds like a change in order, it really just depends on how well somebody does in biochemistry versus cell biology,” Chaudhri said. “I haven’t taken either of those courses at Geneseo yet, so I don’t exactly know how much that would affect them. I can’t really foresee how much will change from the things that they’re proposing,”

Freshman pre-biology major Kara Burke believes the changes may make the major easier for future biology students.

“It’s confusing because the biology department tries to push people out of the bio major,” Burke said. “It seems like they’re making it easier with this change.” 

Senior biology major Rita Curti similarly sensed that the modifications could make the program easier, in efforts to change the major’s reputation of being especially difficult. 

“I’ve heard that they’re making it easier for incoming freshmen and making it less competitive to combat the number of people who just drop the bio major,” Curti said. “It seems like there’s going to be more of a support system for people who want to be bio majors. So, it’ll be easier for people who think they want to study bio to continue with bio rather than just getting filtered out at the beginning.”

Although Curti understood the reasoning for grandfathering in students who are in the more advanced stages of the major, she felt that current freshmen could have benefited from the changes. 

The psychology department allowed underclassmen to choose whether to join the new program or the old when changes were made to the major requirements, Curti said, which she considers to be a better method. 

Chaudhri noted that the rigor of Geneseo’s biology program was part of the reason why he chose to transfer here. 

“Geneseo is kind of well-known for their sciences and they’re known for having a really good bio program,” Chaudhri said. “That’s part of the reason that I decided to come.”

 Students in SUNY Distinguished Teaching professor of biology Robert O’Donnell’s immunology lab work on their assignments (pictured above). Current biology students will not be affected by modifications to the major that were put in place. Instead, only incoming students will be impacted by this adjustment to the existing system. (Annalee Bainnson/Photo Editor)

Students in SUNY Distinguished Teaching professor of biology Robert O’Donnell’s immunology lab work on their assignments (pictured above). Current biology students will not be affected by modifications to the major that were put in place. Instead, only incoming students will be impacted by this adjustment to the existing system. (Annalee Bainnson/Photo Editor)