Biology major to revamp, cut down on chemistry requirements

May 22, 2016, 6:38 p.m.

The biology department has announced a series of changes to come to the undergraduate biology major, including revamped chemistry and biology lab sequences, for the 2016-17 school year. As a result of the new courses, rising biology and premedical students will be required to take significantly fewer chemistry courses. The changes primarily affect current freshmen and other students who have not yet completed a track.

Beginning next year, biology students will be required to take organic chemistry through CHEM 35: “Synthetic and Physical Organic Chemistry,” after which they must choose between two tracks: biochemistry or extended organic chemistry.

The organic chemistry track consists of current courses CHEM 131: “Organic Polyfunctional Compounds” and CHEM 130: “Organic and Bio-organic Chemistry Laboratory,” which had previously been required for biology and premedical students and will now be geared towards chemistry and chemical engineering students.

The biochemistry track will introduce two new courses: CHEM 141 and 143: “The Chemical Principles of Life I” and “II,” respectively. According to associate professor of chemistry Chris Chidsey, the different tracks are important for students with different interests that still need chemistry.

“The new two-quarter biological chemistry sequence is for students interested in biological and medical applications but who won’t be majoring in chemistry or chemical engineering,” Chidsey said.

CHEM 141 is to be offered in the winter beginning in 2017, with CHEM 143 to follow in the spring. Both classes are four units and will entail three hours of lecture and discussion each week. The two courses will replace the previous sequence of CHEM 135: “Physical Biochemistry” and CHEM 181: “Biochemistry I,” which biology majors “have often taken in recent years to meet their need for exposure to biological chemistry,” Chidsey said.

Prerequisites for CHEM 141 and 143 include CHEM 35 and MATH 21: “Calculus” or equivalent single-variable calculus background. The two new courses will complete a six-quarter sequence of general, organic and biological chemistry for those not majoring in the chemical sciences. Students interested in the courses should complete the standard chemistry series before enrollment.

“It’s a move that aligns with the university’s mission to allow students to pursue different interests and passions,” said prospective premedical student Katiana Uyemura ’19.

Uyemura plans to explore new fields of interest instead of taking the previously required upper-division chemistry courses.

“I’m glad that we’re given more flexibility in choosing classes and opening up our schedules,” Uyemura said. “That makes sure that we are more well-rounded when we apply to [medical] school as well.”

In addition to the new chemistry sequence, the core biology laboratory courses will change names and unit counts. Starting next autumn, BIO 44X: “Core Molecular Biology Laboratory,” the five-unit first course in the current lab sequence, will now be offered as BIO 45: “Introduction to Laboratory Research in Cell and Molecular Biology.” BIO 45 will be taught in autumn and winter quarters for four units.

The second five-unit core lab course, BIO 44Y: “Core Plant Biology & Eco Evo Laboratory,” will now be called BIO 46 and BIO 47: “Introduction to Research in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology,” which will be offered in the winter and spring, respectively. Biology students are required to choose one course between the two. Both will include work at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and count for four units.

According to biology professor Michael Simon, the department carefully reads and considers student evaluations and makes constant modifications to the program in order to provide a solid foundation for its students.

“Biology has become very big, and teaching it requires some different organization than it has in the past,” Simon said.

Other changes to come include the discontinuation of BIO 123B: “Cell and Developmental Biology II,” the second course in a two-class series of cell and developmental biology, and shifted quarters of elective classes BIO 118: “Genetic Analysis of Biological Processes” and BIO 154: “Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology.” For a full list of changes to the major and their impacts on biology undergraduates, students should refer to the Stanford biology website.

The updates to the major for next year seem promising to many pre-medical and biology undergraduates bearing a heavy course load.

“I’m optimistic about these changes, and I think that this is a step forward for pre-med and biology students as a whole,” Uyemura said.


Contact Erin Perrine at eperrine ‘at’

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