Georgetown Introduces New “Green Biology Major”

In light of the growing interest in environmentalism recently, Georgetown College has introduced an environment-related major with a biology focus. Members of the class of 2012 will be the first to declare the new Environmental Biology major and can start doing so next year, as sophomores.

The new major will require foundational courses in ecology, environmental processes, an introduction to environmental science and ecological analysis.

It will be one of the many environmental resources on campus, which include the Center for the Environment, a minor in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Environmental Studies offered by the School of Foreign Service as a part of its Science, Technology and International Affairs major, which covers the political and economic factors that influence environmental policies.

Associate Professors Matthew Hamilton and Martha Weiss have been trying to introduce the major for two years, hoping to broaden the opportunities available for those interested in the sciences at Georgetown.

“Just like liberal arts students, `liberal science’ students desire a diverse program of study that exposes them to a wide range of ideas and methods of viewing and analyzing the world around them,” Hamilton told the Blue & Gray.

Hamilton and Weiss will co-direct the program.

Some students are already responding positively to this new major option.

“[This major will] expand our choices in biology courses, and better equip us to solve the problems of tomorrow’s generation,” said Mike Barclay (COL’ 12) a biology major and pre-med student.

-Shuo Yan Tan

New Biology Class Sparks Controversy

Students who anticipated a very hands-on experience in Professor Janet Russell’s Biology of Drugs course are in for a slight disappointment. Russell has clarified that participants in her course do not actually experiment with the drugs they study, which she said had been suggested in an online HoyaTalk thread.

The controversy over whether the students enrolled in the class would actually use the drugs stemmed from the wording used in the course description.

“We will use pharmaceutical, over-the-counter and street drugs to explore how drugs come to be and how they work,” the course description states.

According to Russell, she intended to describe simply that students study those various types of drugs in the context of the concepts that they learn in class.

“I’m not sure that [Georgetown] science classes are accused of putative scandal too often, and maybe the press is a good thing,” she said. “Alas, there is no scandal here and not even a misstep in the words that describe the class.”

The class is intended to have a real-world application, though, according to Russell. Russell credits her inspiration for the course to a desire to relay the importance of “responsible patienthood” to her students. Her hope is that by acquiring expanded knowledge on the world of drugs, both legal and illegal, students in her class will realize the importance of increased awareness in drug-related decisions.

“Everybody in this class has or will face decisions about drugs ranging from whether to enter a clinical trial to selecting an over-the-counter remedy to deciding whether their antidepressant has stopped working to deciding whether to risk taking a street drug,” Russell said. “I really like to think that the class is helpful to all of us in terms of making informed decisions – especially on biological bases.”

Past students have responded positively to the course.

“As a non-science major, I was looking for a relatively easy yet interesting class that simply fulfilled the requirement, but this class proved to be a lot more. It ranks right up there as one of the best classes I’ve taken here at Georgetown,” Benjamin Slingerland (COL ’11) said.

-Carolyn Shanahan

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