"We reexamined our major to see if it appealed to the students we want to serve, and we found that we would be much more successful in attracting students if we offered a biochemistry track instead of just microbiology," said
The three tracks in the revamped new major in cell and molecular biology share a core in the molecular basis of biological processes, while each has a different emphasis. Sun said that microbiology focuses primarily on "the world of microbes," like bacteria and viruses. Biochemistry, on the other hand, examines all organisms, with an emphasis on higher organisms, such as humans. Biotechnology focuses on the applications of biological tools and knowledge.
"Biochemists study the molecular processes that are the basis of life," Sun said. "So it appeals to students who are interested in the biochemical changes that turn normal cells into cancer cells, for instance, or the biochemical processes that lead to obesity. The photosynthesis of plants is biochemistry, too."
The expansion of the program was approved by the
"Most high school students interested in biology don't know about the various areas within biology, so we tend to get more students transferring into the department after they take a couple of our courses and decide they like it," said Sun.
According to the URI professor, students in his department typically follow one of three career paths: they go to medical school to become a doctor, continue on to graduate school to become a researcher in academia, industry or hospitals, or they enter the workforce after completing a bachelor's degree to work in the pharmaceutical industry, government agencies, or environmental protection.
"Those who want to go to med school have to take the MCAT entry exam, and much of the content of that exam is covered in the courses in our major - immunology, biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology," Sun said.
The program's graduates have had great success in recent years in being accepted to prominent medical schools. All four from the department who applied to medical school last year were admitted, including Sun's son Kevin and sophomore
"Just as cell and molecular biology grew out of biochemistry and microbiology, our field continues to evolve," added
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