The biology department is splitting up. After this year, the biology major will split into two separate majors: the Organisms, Ecology, and Evolution (OEE) major and the Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) major.
The present biology major requires students to pick between the OEE and the MCB track, but they still graduate as Biology majors. Now, undeclared students must select one for a major since the comprehensive “biology major” will no longer exist.
The Biology Department Chair, Professor Joseph Koke, explained that this sort of split is not uncommon for biology departments, but is causing some disagreement in the department at CC. Some professors are in favor of the distinction, while others think the department should remain as is.
Discussions about splitting up the department began earlier this year, and Dean Mike Siddoway spent some time talking to the staff and faculty in the department.
He and President Tiefenthaler ultimately concluded that dividing the major according to the tracks would be best. This decision was made in January, and the administration is still in the process of working out funding details. In the meantime,
the current faculty members must decide which direction they would like to go in terms of teaching. They may also need to seek additional space.
Logistical concerns aside, there are certain considerations regarding the budget that need to be addressed to ensure that the division is equal. The current MCB courses are much more expensive than the field biology courses, with more than half of the biology department’s budget going directly towards these MCB courses.
With two majors, much of the equipment will have to be duplicated in order to ensure both departments have access to it. “To do this correctly will cost more money from the college,” Koke said.
Additionally, the Biology department is in the process of hiring a new professor for next year. Koke is retiring from his position as Chair after two years, and someone new will be hired to replace him and teach in the MCB field. He expects another staff member to be hired the following year to bring the total number of MCB professors up from four to six.
Furthermore, the directors of the OEE and MCB majors will be professors from other departments at CC. Mario Montano from the anthropology department will be the director of MCB for two or three years. Former dean and current geology professor, Jeff Noblett, will be the director for OEE for two years, and then someone new will take over that role.
Amongst declared biology majors, opinions of the split are mixed. Some feel that it will allow students to be more concentrated in their studies, but others feel as though they are not getting a well-rounded education in biology.
“I’m a fan of the split,” senior feline expert Bobby Meller said. “Biology is too broad of a subject to learn in four years. The split makes it so students can focus their attention on the areas of biology they are interested in without worrying about required courses in subjects they don’t care about as much.”
“I think it’s a good thing, mostly for people that are focused on the pre-med track because the MCB track is much more suited for that, while OEE can cover other things,” said sophomore Emilia Troyano. “I just wish there were more classes focused on just the human body. I think it is kind of ignored.”
Koke explained the difference between MCB and OEE as the difference between indoor biologists and outdoor biologists. MCB students tend to focus more on laboratory work inside while the OEE students spend more time in the field.
“I think it’s a good idea for the purposes of department funding,” senior pogonotrophist Nathan Hahn said. “If they can find a way to offer more classes and topics for each individual major, then I think it’s a great idea.”
Although Koke is not in favor of the split, he supports the greater desires of the department. “If it makes the faculty happy,” said Koke, “it will enhance learning.”