Forced courses: Biology majors can’t receive chemistry minor, despite required hour fulfillment

Georgia State senior biology student Joey Wright must take 19 hours of chemistry courses before graduating, and those credits won’t earn him a minor degree.

Biology students at Georgia State are required to complete enough credit hours to minor in chemistry, but they cannot receive the accreditation on their diploma due to class area restrictions.

“They should either limit the chemistry that we have to take and just leave it as an option or give us the minor,” he said.

Students minoring in chemistry are required to take a minimum of 15 hours in the subject, with at least nine hours at the 3000-level or above, according to the Georgia State Department of Chemistry.

However, the area designated for a minor maxes at 13 hours for biology students, according to the undergraduate catalog provided by the College of Arts and Sciences.

Wright will complete his biology credits by the end of this semester, leaving a string of chemistry courses behind. Since he commutes from Suwannee, he said he hasn’t found the time to complete those chemistry classes.

“I have to plan my schedule around rush hour,” he said. “It just never worked out.”

Georgia State’s Undergraduate Director of Biology Jessica Parilla said the minor constraint wasn’t always so.  

“In the past, the amount of chemistry required by a biology student would fulfill the requirements for a chemistry minor,” she said. “Somewhere along the line something changed.”

Despite the fact biology majors are not able to minor in chemistry, Parilla said the chemistry courses provide a deeper understanding of biology, an intended goal of the department.

“For a person to understand biology, they also need to understand some chemistry,” she said.

Parilla said the requirements to attain a biology degree are set up by Banner, an online administrative system used at Georgia State to manage students, grades, classes, instruction, faculty workload and registration from the administrative side.

The system has set up different areas that each need fulfillment to complete a major. Area H contains classes that go towards attaining a minor, Parilla said. For biology students, area H is filled with chemistry requirements.

“The ideal situation would be for biology majors to receive enough credits for a chemistry minor,” Parilla said.

The only classes offered in Area H by the Department of Biology, combining to a total of 13 hours, are Organic Chemistry I, Organic Chemistry II, and Biochemistry, accounting for nine hours at or above the 3000-level, according to the university catalog.

Parilla said the system set by Banner is “very restrictive.”

Additionally, biology students are required to take lower level principles of Chemistry I and II, each a four hour credit. However, these two classes are attributed to Area F and not towards the minor.

And since most medical schools require Organic Chemistry Lab I and Organic Chemistry Lab II, pre-med students aiming to attend medical school after graduation are recommended to take both two hour credits. These 3000-level chemistry credits are applied to Area I instead of going towards their minor, according to a course planner provided by the Department of Biology.

Scott Lewis, a senior biology student at Georgia State, admits while he is not a “chemistry person,” he can see the benefits of taking extensive chemistry when understanding science on a grand scale.

“It’s all like a jigsaw puzzle. You have to have this piece to understand this piece, and part of that is chemistry,” he said.

Wright said he believes regardless of Banner restrictions, the amount of chemistry required for biology students should garner a minor.

“If you’re going to take an equivalent of a minor, you should receive a minor,” he said. “I feel like we deserve it.”

Since the chemistry course requirement has created a misunderstanding among faculty hired before and after the biological science degree requirements were set, the Department of Biology is discussing the chemistry minor issue and aim to resolve it, Parilla said.

“We are working very hard to figure out a way to give the biology students an option of declaring a chemistry minor,” she said. “We are not working on a plan to make this a requirement.”

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