New Chemistry Major Approved


With an increased interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors, as well as growing enrollment in MCLA's chemistry minor and a need for STEM professionals, the College has developed and implemented a new chemistry major.

Last week, the Massachusetts State Board of Education officially approved a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry at MCLA.

Previously discontinued in 1997, "The return of the chemistry major will serve as a link with and continue to foster the growth and support of the STEM initiatives in Berkshire County by increasing the number of students who participate in programs that support STEM careers," said Monica Joslin, dean of academic affairs. "This new major also will increase the number of qualified STEM teachers in Berkshire County and beyond."

MCLA students who major in chemistry will be prepared to begin a career in industry, education or even public service, as the new degree articulates two tracks - preparation for careers as chemists and preparation for graduate school.

In addition, the chemistry major curriculum was designed so that students who wish to major in chemistry and education can accomplish both goals in four years and be prepared for licensure through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

According to Dr. Robert Harris (pictured above, with students), associate professor of chemistry, the return of this major allowed the MCLA faculty and administration to look at the courses offered for ways to improve them and to create new electives.

This, he said, is beneficial not only to the chemistry major, but to students who major in other areas that require chemistry courses. This includes biology, physics, environmental studies and athletic training. In addition, MCLA will develop a non-majors laboratory course in chemistry.

Harris said that the major is different in the sense that MCLA will offer two tracks. 

"The entire senior year of the major is electives," he explained. "Those wanting to go onto grad school or industry will take upper-level elective in chemistry. Those wishing to become high school teachers will use the senior year to take education courses as well and student-teach."

The job outlook for chemistry majors is good, Harris said. "Most chemists can find jobs in industry or government right after graduation. It will also prepare them for professional schools such as medical, dental, veterinary medicine or graduate school in chemistry.

"With the construction of the new science center and the new major we will try get students involved in research early," he continued. "We hope to get a seminar series as well, where speakers come from other institutions and give lectures to our students about research going on at other colleges and universities."

With the state implementation of the STEM pipeline initiative and creation of the Governor's STEM Council to prepare students for the STEM workforce, MCLA is the home to and serves as the lead partner for the Berkshire STEM Network and the Berkshire Compact for Education.