CSUSB Advising Podcast

Ep. 60 - What is the Natural Science major?

July 17, 2023 Matt Markin Season 1 Episode 60
CSUSB Advising Podcast
Ep. 60 - What is the Natural Science major?
Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 60 of the CSUSB Advising Podcast, Matt Markin chats with Dr. Guillermo Escalante about the new Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Science! What are students learning in this major? What students might be interested in pursuing this major? What types of careers are connected to this major? Find out in this episode!

Check out B.S. in Natural Science degree requirements!

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Welcome to another episode of the CSUSB advising podcast. My name is Matt Markin, an academic advisor here at Cal State San Bernardino. And on today's episode, we're learning all about the natural science bachelor's degree. And we welcome today's guest, Dr. Guillermo Escalante, professor and assistant dean in the College of Natural Sciences. Dr. Escalante, welcome.

Hi, Matt, thank you so much for having me and inviting me, I think it's great that you're doing this podcast and just getting the information out to students and everybody else to understand a little bit more about the different majors and options that are available for them. 

Yeah, and before we jump into this particular major, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background in higher ed?

Yeah, absolutely. So as you stated, I'm currently the Assistant Dean for the College of Natural Sciences. I also act as the Chair for the College of Natural Sciences, for the department, natural sciences, rather. And I will, I'm a Professor of Kinesiology. So I started my career here in 2012, as a lecturer, and then in 2014, I took a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and then I worked my way up from assistant to associate and full professor. I took a position as a dean fellow for the College of Natural Sciences back in 2020. And then I became the assistant dean in at the end of 2022. Here, so actually, for the first time in, in many years is my first time not not teaching and doing a full time administrative load, but I love the students and, you know, I'm able to help the students in a different capacity now as an administrator.

Within the College of Natural Sciences, there's a new major, the Bachelor of Science or BS and natural science, how would you describe that major?

Yes, so this major is something that has been in the works for the last couple of years. What we wanted to do is basically help students find other pathways and have other options so that they could graduate in a in a timely manner. So there's a lot of students that maybe begin in, in the, in the general stem tracks, particularly like in the physics, or maybe in chemistry, biochemistry, or biology. And, you know, they may be realized somewhere midway through that, they don't necessarily see themselves getting a PhD in that particular field. Or maybe doing you know that the hardcore research in that field. And maybe they don't need those, those other I'm going to say, very rigorous, other upper division classes in the chemistry, the biochemistry, the biologies, depending on on their track. So this degree prepares students in a very broad field of, of sciences. So a lot of these students take some of the basic same courses. So they're going to take, you know, very similar courses in the mathematics, they're going to take very similar courses in the in the chemistry is in the general physics. So it kind of sets the foundation. So as students are progressing through the program, they don't necessarily feel like all these courses are not going anywhere, they're actually going to receive credit for a lot of these courses. And it really allows them to transition nicely into into this particular major, which again, it's really this particular major is not designed specifically to prepare students for graduate programs in biology, or chemistry, or physics, it's really geared more for students that maybe see themselves being a research assistant, maybe a laboratory technician, may be an environmental scientific consultant, maybe a science writer, or a communicator, maybe a science educator or a science teacher, like at the junior high or the high school level, or maybe in biotechnology or pharmaceutical fields. So it's still a science degree, but it has a lot more breadth in that. So over the last few years, we actually worked with different faculty members from biology, from chemistry, from physics, different department chairs, and we collaborated on coming up with this new degree, which would allow students an opportunity to again, maybe shift majors, maybe their sophomore year or their freshman year after the first year. And they realize maybe that they that that traditional stem biology, chemistry or physics degree is not necessarily the best route for them.

So you might have a student that starts out in one science major, but they do want to change, but they're still interested in doing something within the sciences, this could be a good option for them.

Yeah, that's exactly what this is made up for. It's really for those particular students who, you know, make like, like I said, they're their starters of biology or chemistry, and then they realize, oh, you know what, I really liked the science and I want to do something in science. But I don't see myself getting a PhD in chemistry or in biology. So this is a great option for them to to move into this particular anchor track, I should say. 

Yeah, and so you might have students that might be asking, you know, this sounds interesting. Can you tell me little bit more about what I might be learning within this major? So you kind of talked about some of the different science areas, there's anything else that that you can add to that?

Yeah, so what's really cool about the curriculum is the core curriculum is very similar. It gives students a very, very broad understanding of the general sciences. So we have courses in like statistics, we also have like an introduction to the natural sciences, which is kind of like a beginning project type class. And students can have a lot of different options in how they can meet the statistics classes, they can take statistics, either in the kinesiology department or in the mathematics department or in the health sciences department. So we just really want you to have a foundation in in basic statistics, then they have to have a course in either calculus or modeling with calculus. So we do want some sort of rigor and then mathematics. And what's nice again, if you're, if you're in a lot of these majors, you probably already took these courses already, as part of your, your natural pathway to get there, then we basically require a one year type of overview of the biology and there's a lot of different options that you can take in biology, ranging from anatomy and physiology to a general biology class. So there's a lot of ways which students can meet that one year requirements similar with the chemistry, we want them to have a nice year survey of the chemical sciences as well to be able to do that. And then same thing with the physics we'd like to have a nice year curriculum of the physics courses, which is really nice in that regard. So then we have a couple of other upper division requirements within there. So again, we have the natural science, program assessment, and a capstone project. So these are more more to kind of keep students in track. And, you know, this is where they see themselves, when they start kind of midway through the program, and then giving them a capstone project to kind of put everything together, they do have to take a course in the geological sciences as well to again, round out those natural sciences all in one. And then they have some other upper division requirements that they can actually meet. And there's a lot of a lot of options that the students can choose to, to meet this, this particular requirement. And then once they meet these, these requirements in the core, then they basically have four options in which to go. So they have, they could do a biology concentration, they could do a chemistry concentration, they could do a physics concentration, or they could do a science and society concentration. And of course, for those particular courses, if you're going to do the biology concentration, now you're going to take some more of the upper division, biological sciences, and then those will be electives that you choose from chemistry, you're going to take some of the upper division chemistry requirements. And then of course, depending for some of those classes, they have particular prerequisites. So if you're going to take if you're going to be in the biology concentration, then you're going to need to have had the general biology 2010 and 2020 course to be able to open access to those upper division biology courses. And there'll be some chemistry requirements as well. And same thing with the chemistry, physics, same thing, there's a very specific pathway, the one that offers the most flexibility is that science and society course which again, is going to give you give you more of a even a more general overview of the natural sciences. And now you can choose from electives, not just in biology, chemistry, or physics. But you can also choose from electives in from Kinesiology from Health Science from geology. So there's there's other classes which you can actually choose from to meet those particular requirements.

Now, of course, you know, when students and staff might be hearing about this major, do you feel there might be some misconceptions that that might arise? 

Yeah, I think one of the misconceptions that we want to make sure students understand is that you know, if you if you really want to be, you know, if you want to have a PhD in, in, in chemistry, biology or physics, the traditional chemistry, biology, physics major is the best way to go. This is this is not particularly for those students that are seeking to get a master's program in those particular major. So this is going to be for that student that again, is maybe looking into, maybe they could see themselves being a a high school or a junior high school science teacher, this would be perfect for them to go into that particular field or again, maybe just going into pharmaceutical sales or biotechnology. This is a great way to go about it in the natural sciences because it offers a lot of breadth in all of the sciences. And then you have the ability to kind of mix and match some of these courses.

And you know, let's say a student is interested in this particular bachelor's degree program, but maybe they're on the fence of declaring you have any advice for that student or like an intro class, a student might be able to take?

Yeah, absolutely. So the the intro class that they could take is actually, this, this initial course, which is the the introduction to the natural science course. So that would be a good one to kind of get your feet wet, it's a one unit course, kind of understand what what the major is about and what the curriculum is about. And then I'm going to also recommend that you speak to your advisor, your faculty advisor, you know, and your and your professional advisor as well to get some information to see if it's kind of a good idea for them to pursue this. So rather than just jumping in, I would definitely make sure that you speak to, you know, so if you're a biology major or chemistry major, talk to your department chair, talk to your faculty advisor, or talk to your professional advisor. And that way, you can get more information because we want to make sure that students can meet their long term goals for employment in graduate programs, and we want to make sure that this degree is suitable for them. And it's going to be suitable for a lot of students, but it's not going to be suitable for every student.

And are there any resources that your department offers for students?

Well, I think the main resources that we have is, we always again, we work we work in conjunction with our with our professional advisors, and then with our faculty advisors, this program just got approved by the Chancellor's Office. So it will be posted on the website. And then we will be utilizing that as a resource to give students more information. And so students can see what the curriculum is like and what the classes are for there. But that is not up yet. That's a works in progress. Because this was just approved by the Chancellor's office just recently. And then lastly, we are going to be actually sending out a an email discussing this particular program, giving students more information about it with hey, what can I do with this degree and then given them a little bit more information on the on the Natural Sciences Bachelor's program.

Sounds good. And as we end the podcast interview for this, anything else you want to add about the department or about the major that we might not have covered?

Yeah, no, I think I think we covered just about everything, you know, I just, I encourage students to keep an open mind and, you know, explore what's going to work best for them and really try to identify, you know, as they're moving through the program, whether that particular degree is going to be what's gonna be most suited for them, to be able to reach their goals. And also, I think with a lot of it, you know, in in advising a lot of students myself, you know, some students have, you know, particular goals to go into maybe a professional healthcare field, or it'd be a medical school physician, assistant school, and those are great. But obviously, if you're, if you're going in and you have a 2.8, and that's in your aspire to do that, you know, you have to be realistic with yourself and realize, okay, well, maybe I need to either A, choose a different career, because it's not going to be, I'm not gonna be able to get into those roles just because it's so competitive, or maybe I have to pivot and maybe kind of reprove myself. And how do I do that, that might mean a postback program, where you go in and you maybe you struggle the first couple of years, and then you kind of show that yes, you are, you have the capability of handling these higher courses, maybe you just struggled the first year two, you had stress, you were working too much, you had a family member you were taking care of, he couldn't really focus 100% on your, on your, on your studies, or maybe he just didn't have the maturity level to really realize how much work it takes to really get A's in your, in your harder science classes. So we all have a different pathway to get there. I don't like to sell students that they can't do X, Y, or Z because they can, but the path may look a little bit different. And sometimes it takes time to strategize. And this is why it's so important to speak with the advisors and with faculty members that have experience and, and we may be able to show you ways that you can maybe still reach that ultimate goal, you may have to pivot and go a different route to get there. But then it will ultimately help you explore that or maybe just maybe steer you a different direction where you realize, hey, I have another I have a great passion for doing something else. And that's maybe not being that that one thing that you were so set on and then all of a sudden you find a very rewarding path for your career going forward and then you find a more direct path to get there instead of spending six or seven years here. You know, our goal is to get you out of here you know and in four years if not, if not five, and definitely by six right. So he wanted to finish it with with get you to finish with a degree and not just come here with with with loans and no degree we want you to finish here successfully so you can move on to the next phase of your life.

Absolutely. And colleges that time to explore and explore early and now they know about another major that that's offered at our university. So Dr. Escalante, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate you.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai