CSUSB Advising Podcast

Ep. 65 - What is the Biology major?

September 11, 2023 Matt Markin Season 1 Episode 65
CSUSB Advising Podcast
Ep. 65 - What is the Biology major?
Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 65 of the CSUSB Advising Podcast, Matt Markin chats with Dr. Jeremy Dodsworth, professor and department chair of Biology. Dr. Dodsworth explains what the Biology major is, career options, what students learn in their classes, department resources, and misconceptions about the major. 

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All right, welcome to episode 65 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 more about the biology major. And for that, we have Dr. Jeremy Dodsworth, Professor and Department Chair of Biology. Dr. Dodsworth, welcome.

Hello, thank you. Thank you for having me.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in higher ed?

Well, I guess from my background, I didn't start off knowing that I wanted to be a professor or a scientist, or a teacher, even, I really first gotten involved or got on this track when I was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, so I may have a little bit of a Midwestern accent. And I got involved in undergraduate research during that time. And that really kind of sparked my interest in in science and in microbiology, in particular, because I got, I was doing work in a microbiology lab. And that then led me to get my PhD at the University of Washington in Seattle. And because of someone that I met there, that was graduating just as I started, they happen to have a postdoctoral position open when I was graduating, so I went to work with them at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. So that kind of emphasizes some of the sort of personal connections that you, you may can then take advantage of later in your career. And so at Las Vegas, I got, I got interested in, I'm working with thermophilic microbes that live in hot springs near boiling temperatures. And that's the research that I carried with me. And now I'm do here at CSUSB. So I've been here for about nine years. And I really enjoy the sort of a nice mix of teaching and research that that is offered here. And I especially like working with the undergraduate and graduate master's students doing research in my lab on microbiology. And so the I guess the path that I took here was a little bit I certainly didn't aim for it to begin with. And it's one thing kind of led to another, but it does kind of emphasize, I think the importance of kind of keeping your eyes open and taking advantage of professional connections that you have, and just kind of keeping an open mind towards what what some of the possibilities are.

Yeah, no, 100% agree. And thank you for sharing that. And so for undergraduate students, like how would you describe the biology major?

I guess in a way that's a little bit difficult. The Biology major is pretty broad. I think when were when I was an undergraduate where I want, there wasn't even a biology major, it didn't exist, there were just majors that were subfields of biology. And so it's, that doesn't mean that that there's something wrong with the biology major, but it is a very broad major, which I think can can be beneficial, but also can be sometimes kind of confusing for students. It gives us a lot of opportunities after graduation. And being a biology major. I'll probably mention later, some of the things that our students go on to do. Some of our students go on to get jobs right after graduation. But it also can be a really good stepping stone for going on to professional schools, like medical school or graduate studies as well. So it's, it offers a lot of opportunities. It's also because it's kind of broad, it's also pretty flexible. And we've been trying to change the requirements for our majors so that they offer more flexibility to students. And so you can sort of tailor the upper division biology classes that you take to your to your interest in biology, and also recognizing that those interests may may change just like mine did as you as you go through your academic career here.

Yeah, for sure. And, you know, we have the bachelor's degree, but then is there also a minor within biology and like, how would you define like the differences?

Yeah, so we have currently we just have a single bachelor's degree Bachelors of Science in Biology that was part of a few years ago when we switched from quarters to semesters to try to simplify the the biology major. But we do also offer a minor in biology for both. They provide a foundation in chemistry and there's also some for the for the biology major, there's also math and physics requirements. For the minor. There's, I think, 12, upper division units in biology that you have to take. And then for the major that's more extensive, but there is both a major and a minor here.

And generally speaking, you know, if a student is like, well, this is sounding interesting. What how would you describe in terms of like what students are learning in their classes within the biology major?

Yeah, so what are students learning? Again, that's kind of broad, just because there's a lot of options. And there's a lot of pretty much all of our upper division classes are taught by our faculty and their backgrounds and interests are really diverse. But at a basic level, it really is. One aspect of biology is just learning how life works. And so that's at the cellular and molecular level, at the organismal level, and also at the level of populations and ecosystems. And those are some of the sort of three areas of emphasis in our upper division, biology courses, there's also the biology, students study the diversity of life, and sort of how that is really remarkable, but also how it's changed over time over the course of the history of Earth, and how the how life has impacted the planet and how the planet, the environment impacts life moving forward. And there is also sort of press and practical aspects of getting hands on experience in, especially in the laboratory sections, or maybe doing research in faculty laboratories, getting hands on experience in molecular biology, or genetic or recombinant DNA techniques that can be really valuable in later on in jobs or in further education, experience in collecting data and interpreting and communicating the results of experiments and evaluating other scientific works. And also morphological and physiological analysis of plants and animals and other types of organisms. So there's a, it's, it's pretty broad, but like I said, not every student might, you know, is going to get the same experience. There's things that you can tailor here, specific interests.

Nice. And you were kind of alluding to this earlier, but can you talk about some of the career areas that you've seen your students go into after graduation?

Sure. So there's, as I'm keep on saying that the biology major is pretty broad, there's a lot of different places that our students can go afterwards. One option that a lot of our students come in, wanting to do and many apply for and some go off to do eventually as a medical school. So the biology major does a good job in preparation for the classes that are typically required for medical school. There's also a lot of other related health care professions, such as clinical laboratory science, and physician's assistant. And there's also other professional programs like dental school or pharmacy or veterinary medicine that our students sometimes go into as far as further education. There's also a graduate school, so a lot of our undergraduates go on to get master's degrees or PhDs. And we, in addition to our undergraduate degrees here, we also have a master's degree here at CSUSB in biology, but many of our students go on to other schools for their masters, or or PhD. And another thing that many of our students do is teaching. So science teaching in K through 12. So primary, middle school, high school, and also in higher education at community colleges, for example, or universities. There's a lot of our students go on to take biotechnology related jobs, including an agriculture certainly during the, for example, during the COVID pandemic, several of the students in my lab ended up working at companies that did analysis of COVID testing results. And so there's a lot of that sort of industry in the the sort of greater Southern California area so there's a lot of opportunities for that. Also un governmental agencies and fish and wildlife conservation jobs, and for the National Forest Service. So the Park Service that our students sometimes get jobs that after graduation, some things that you might not necessarily think of, but museums, and zoos that certainly have biology related jobs, water treatment plants in the area. And then also environmental impact assessment jobs for, for government, for example, one of our students went on to work for the California Department of Transportation doing environmental impacts. And so things that you might not necessarily think that biology would be related to there's a, there really is a quite a diversity of options out there.

Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of them that you just mentioned that. Yeah, I too was like, I had no idea. So I'm learning on this as well. And so let's say a student is interested in the biology major, but maybe they're on the fence of declaring it or still not sure. Do you have any suggestions for that? Student?

Yeah, if you're considering the biology major, I guess, either. If you're undeclared major here already, the first thing that I'd suggest doing is to talk to someone in the biology department, or all of our faculty have office hours. And I think seeking out that kind of advising is probably the best first thing that I would say in general, the biology major can be difficult, but I think at the same time, it offers a lot of opportunities. So there's a lot of challenge but opportunity there. And our classes, a lot of our upper division classes, and are the classes that are required in chemistry or physics, for example, have, most of them have laboratory sections. And so you'll get a lot of hands on experience in things rather than primarily classroom based experiences. And so I think that it can be it can be really suitable for people that are more active learners are hands on learners in that respect. And if you're considering it, but you're not sure, just keep in mind that the as I've said before, that the there's a lot of flexibility in the how you can tailor the major the classes that you take to fit your interests, even if you don't know what your interests really are yet. And so the if you're getting into the biology major, it'll it'll kind of lay a foundation of chemistry and math, leading up to biology. But later on, you can tailor the upper division classes that you take to things that you might be interested in, or just be able to explore different interests. So I think that it can be challenging, but it also offers a lot of opportunity. And even if you don't know exactly what you want to do yet.

Great advice. Are there any misconceptions that you think students might have about biology?

As far as misconceptions about the biology or about the major, I think there might be some in terms of what the what the options are. So I mentioned just a little bit ago about some of the different things that biology major to go on to do. And so I think that that's one thing that maybe people don't really realize, also, as I, as I said before, that the biology is really broad. So sometimes it's not really clear what, what you can go on to do. And so for, for both of those, it's good to talk to advisors, including the faculty advisors. I think one of the misconceptions that I've seen over time is that students think that in biology major, you just take biology classes other than the your general education and of biology in a way is, there can be a lot of things, but it's sort of applied chemistry or applied physics. And so those classes that are also required in our major, like math, and physics, and especially chemistry are really important and laying a foundation for biology. And so I think sometimes students think of those as sort of requirements that you just take and get out of the way. So you can get on with biology, but they really are an integral part of it. And a lot of biology classes will fall back on what you've learned in chemistry, for example. And so the I think that there is a misconception that sometimes that you know, there's a lot more to biology than just the biology courses. Another one is that the I think that the because the major is so broad, it can be really difficult to navigate, navigate in some ways because it's flexible, it also offers a lot of opportunities for decisions. And if you don't know what to do, it can be a little bit overwhelming. And so that I would hammer home the advice to go get advising from the various advising resources on campus, and especially talking to biology faculty, about what what the biology degree is, and the options that are available.

Yeah, and you know, you've mentioned a few times about Yeah, meeting with the faculty within the biology department. So a great resource there. Can you talk about some of the other resources that that your department offers to students?

Yeah, there's a variety of different resources. The, you probably tell students this anyway, but there's a lot of, of these listed on our various links on our biology webpage. So if you just Google CSUSB biology, it's the first hit. And so there's a lot of information there. One of the resources is our faculty. And we are pretty much every one of our faculty has an active research programs that we engage undergraduate and our master's students in. And so that's a really good resource for students that might be interested in doing research, which can be helpful for putting on applications for medical school or professional school or graduate school, but also give a lot of good hands on experience beyond just what you get in the classroom. So that's, I think, a really good resource that students may not think of right away. The we have a lot of student clubs that the biology students are involved in some of these links are on our website at the lambda sigma biology club. There's the AMSA, American Medical Student Association club, pre dental club, Student Society for stem cell research. Also the CSUSB SACNAS, which is the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. So there's a lot of different clubs that students can get involved in some of the other resources. For tutoring, there's in general, there's some tutoring offered through the CSUSB tutoring center. But also, if your students are involved in it, the STEM Center or the Science Success Center has a lot, a lot of tutoring resources that are available. There's also some scholarships that students can apply for. We have for specifically for biology, there's the Richard Fehn Endowment
 for upper division students that are involved in research that are also what we're just starting to offer. Now the Alexander Sokoloff award, both of those are after previous biology faculty. There's also currently the a couple of programs available to biology and other students from funded by the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine or CIRMs. There's our stem cell Scholars program that's a primarily for upper division master's students, and then also our newer compass program that involves recruit students from the introductory biology class 2010 and 2020. and gets them involved and funds them and gets them involved in research here and then eventually at another institution, as well. So there's, there's a lot of different resources, but again, I would check out the biology webpage and where you can, one of the buttons, you can click on us for advising hours that shows the where you can contact our faculty when our office hours are links to faculty research interests, so you can kind of see what the diversity of the biology that we have here at CSUSB.

Yeah, a wide variety of what you can do with the Biology major wide variety of different resources that your department offers, we'll make sure to include that link in our show notes as well. But Dr. Dodsworth, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

Oh, yeah. Thank you for the opportunity.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai