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ISSUE 116 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/18/2002

St. Olaf ranks 17th as a top producer of undergraduate study

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 18, 2002

The most popular majors that St. Olaf offers are within the natural sciences and mathematics. This includes biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and mathematics. Statistical data shows the popularity of the sciences and the commitment the college has made to reinforce new information that prepares students for graduate and professional programs. Forty percent of St. Olaf students will graduate in one of these five departments. According to the Research Corporation, a study showed that out of 1,115 predominately undergraduate schools, St. Olaf ranked second in chemistry, 20th in physics, 35th in biology and 17th overall. The professors are trained in diverse research topics. Teaching comes first and research is the means of teaching, said biology and biomedical studies major Dan Grossman 03. Competition comes to mind when thinking of the strength and seriousness of the science departments. While the exceptional performance of students speaks to the schools ability to prepare them for graduate and professional careers, that competition is not felt among students. Biology major Niloo Ratnayake 03 said Its not a competitive atmosphere, but more complimentary. I have learned best by teaching others. Were not competing against each other, were only competing against the system, adds Grossman. Professors receive much recognition for the commitment made in the education of others. They really care about students success and failure, said Ratnayake. Esther Lee 03 and Anne Kent 03 suggest that there are competent and informed professors who try hard to get ideas across. They are making a strong program by advancing others education, said Grossman. From the perspective of a fellow faculty member, Professor Johnson adds, Im excited for the new professors who are coming in with enthusiasm. The science department is a community that thrives on working together to maintain the interest of students. Both in and out of class, various communities are shaped to keep students motivated and exited about their aspirations. I have developed a group of friends as partners who have some of the same experiences, said Grossman. This community also comes through in the various conferences, symposiums, and consortiums that the students have become involved in. Of course, with the help of the professors, students have the ability to create connections, seize opportunities, and most importantly, learn in the process. These incentives also create a sense of community within the department that brings students and professors together in a productive and collaborative learning environment. Some examples include the Science Symposiums held on campus every May, departmental newsletters, departmental seminars and national meetings that students participate in at schools like Washington University and the University of Chicago. There is a good variety of opportunities considering the size of the college that always generates new ideas, said Kent. The future of science at St. Olaf faces challenges that will help to improve its programs. We are challenged to reach those who are not science majors, Johnson said. This is really important in carrying out the mission of the college as a liberal arts school, Van Wylen said. The future is not as five separate departments, but a unit of interdisciplinary sciences, biology major Erin Huppert 04 said Strong programs are illustrated as disciplines cross. As technology infleuences science more and more, we must also make sure that scientists engage in ethical issues that prevent dilemmas, says Johnson. The overall experience of science at St. Olaf for both professors and students is keeping up with new technology and information, helping to advance the students experience.

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