Georgetown recently expanded its biology department this fall by adding a second major – environmental biology.

atthew Hamilton, an associate professor in the biology department, has been at the forefront of establishing this new major for two years. Alongside associate professor Martha Weiss, the major’s co-director, Hamilton headed the effort for the major, which was approved by the College Curriculum Committee and then by the university’s Board of Directors in September.

Hamilton emphasized that the major will look at the natural sciences through a newly broad and multidisciplinary standpoint.

“We would like to have people view the sciences as an important lens through which we understand ourselves, the human experience and the natural world,” he said.

Students enrolled in environmental biology will initially follow the traditional curriculum of the biology major, Hamilton said.

This major is available only for students from the class of 2012 and beyond. In addition to introductory classes in biology, chemistry and calculus, students will take four core classes: environmental science, evolutionary processes, introductory ecology and ecological analysis.

The major classes for juniors and seniors are even more varied, drawing on many different disciplines outside the sciences, including ecology and behavior, environmental, earth, and quantitative sciences and populations, genes and genomes.

“We had a liberal science goal that was broad in terms of changing the role of the sciences in the College,” Hamilton said. “We think it offers more opportunities for students to engage in and enjoy the natural sciences in a lot of different ways.”

The new course of study was introduced to prospective biology majors during the first weeks of classes. Andrew Marinelli (COL ’12), who is currently a biology major, thinks that many students will be receptive to the broadening of the biology department.

“It gives people an option to not just have to go pre-med or become a doctor,” he said.

Danielle Japhet (COL ’12), a biochemistry major, believes many incoming freshmen will be impressed by the opportunities available at Georgetown.

“It is good that we are making it easier for students to expand their studies,” she said. “I know a lot of students who were interested in environmental sciences but were having difficulties in finding a reputable school that offered the major.”

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