The biological chemistry program will now operate under the chair of the chemistry department, reverting back to a former model.
After a departmental review, an external committee of chemists suggested the switch, according to Biological Chemistry professor Paula Schlax.
National trends show that most biochemistry departments are housed within the chemistry department.
Psychology professor and Associate Dean of Faculty Kathy Low told The Student that the change will “simplify the administrative function of the program”—there will be no impact on a student’s ability to major in biochemistry, nor will there be a detrimental impact on offerings and advising.
“The primary simplification in administration is that there will be a single chair of Chemistry and Biochemistry,” Schlax said. “The chair meets with students as they declare their major and make plans for study abroad. The chair assigns major advisors, oversees the budget of the program, and plays a role in ensuring that course offerings in chemistry and biology support the major.”
The recent gift of $19 million to the college specified funds for an endowed professorship in biochemistry. Despite this departmental change, a new chemistry professor with a preference for biological chemistry will still be brought to the program.
“We are very excited that the recent donations to Bates include funds to hire a new faculty member in chemistry with expertise in areas that will support the biological chemistry major,” Schlax said. “We expect that this additional position will increase the number of courses available to our students.”
Long-term consolidation of programs under one chair could also allow for more courses or smaller courses because of course releases associated with the chair’s work. According to Schlax, changes in the curriculum will take place more efficiently due to a streamlined administration.
Caroline Holme, a senior biochem major, sees little problem with the change. She pointed out that the program already feels interdisciplinary, allowing students to take courses in biology, chemistry, math, and physics.
“I do not know how great of a change this will cause for students assuming they can still get a biochem degree,” Holme said. “However, it could help biochem majors feel more part of a specific department. It could also help them feel more connected to chem majors.”
This model is seen in other Bates academic programs like the Asian Studies department, which oversees majors in Chinese, Japanese, and East Asian Studies.