UAS approves biochemistry major

Carly Simpson

More than 94 percent of American Chemical Society certified programs in the U.S. have a biochemistry major along with their chemistry major. Grand Valley State University is the only school in Michigan that doesn’t.

Science lovers no longer have to worry, though, as GVSU will soon be joining the ranks of the other state schools. A proposal for a new bachelor’s program in biochemistry was unanimously approved by the University Academic Senate during its meeting on Feb. 28.

The biochemistry bachelor’s program came with a motion to support from the Executive Committee of the Senate. The proposal will now be sent to the Board of Trustees for final approval.

“We are in the minority and it’s just because of history,” said Harvey Nikkel, a professor of chemistry at GVSU. “Twenty years ago (biochemistry) was brought in as an emphasis underneath chemistry. We’re also revising other parts of our curriculum, and this is part of our focus to make it more efficient for students.”

The new major will not require any course changes or additional instructors. There are six faculty members at GVSU in the current chemistry program who are already teaching biochemistry classes.

“We’re just giving it a different title and making it a little more exposed for people looking at Grand Valley from the outside,” Nikkel said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of biochemists is projected to grow 19 percent between 2012 and 2022. The average growth rate for all occupations is 11 percent.

The chemistry program at GVSU has also seen growth in recent years. In fall 2009, there were 147 students listed as chemistry majors. The number grew to 203 students by fall 2013.

Of those students with chemistry majors, about 37 percent have an emphasis in biochemistry and biotechnology. Other emphases include environmental chemistry, technical, professional, and secondary education. With 56 students, the professional emphasis comes in second with 28 percent of chemistry majors.

“There’s a couple of reasons for making this change,” Nikkel said. “Students coming to Grand Valley often ask for a biochemistry major because it’s hidden under the chemistry major and they don’t see it. Very often the people who are searching for this major are the ones headed for pre-med programs or graduate level research.”

The biochemistry and biotechnology emphasis has seen consistent growth since having 27 students in 2009. In the fall of 2013, there were 76 students with the emphasis, according to GVSU’s Institutional Analysis program summary.

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