Under the Microscope – Biology department considers whether to add genetics course to major requirements

Future Albion biology majors may find themselves studying genetics to a greater extent than before, as the biology department considers whether to add a genetics course to make the topic available to more students.

“The molecular aspects (of biology) have added to what we can do and what we can learn, and it’s really become pretty interesting,” said Dale Kennedy, professor of biology and department chair.  “Even if you’re a field biologist, there are just so many things that you can take and get DNA. I can say what sex birds are (by) taking two drops of blood. (Before), you had to cut open the birds and look inside.”

Currently estimated to begin with the class of 2015, the change would introduce a third introductory course to the list of classes currently required for biology majors, according to Kennedy. The two courses currently required are Biology 195: Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity and Biology 210: Cell and Molecular Biology.

Before becoming reality, the details of the change need to be developed further be approved by the curriculum and research committee, according to Kennedy.

“It turns out that a lot of graduate and professional programs are requiring genetics,” Kennedy said. “We’re trying to figure out a way for everybody to have it. One of the ideas of what we would require is that the lecture would be required and the lab would be a standalone.”

While the department currently offers Biology 317 Genetics every semester, a lab is required and the course is an elective with a limited number of openings.

Erin Goldman, West Bloomfield junior, applauded the idea of adding another genetics course; she is enrolled in the department’s current genetics course.

“I find genetics very interesting and am definitely interested in having a career centered around genetics,” Goldman said. “I love learning how different traits are passed down and also predicting probabilities of a child having the same characteristics as their parents.”

Goldman, who plans to attend medical school after graduation, also noted that many medical schools require students to have taken a genetics class.

“ I feel that as long as enough information is being taught to aid students on the MCAT or actual medical school, then the (change) would definitely be beneficial,” Goldman said.  “It is (currently) hard filling all of the pre-med requirements along with the Albion College modes and categories.”

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