Science classes geared to different degree plans

Elizabeth Robinson

UT’s College of Natural Sciences tailors many of its classes to suit the needs of both CNS majors and nonscience students who are required to take introductory courses for their degree plan.

In organic chemistry, there is a generalized first-semester course and three specialized second-semester courses. The second-semester classes are separated for life science majors, chemistry majors planning on attending graduate school and chemical engineering majors, said chemistry lecturer Shagufta Shabbir, who teaches the life sciences O-chem section. 

The sections differ slightly in their subject material, but not their intensity or testing format, Shabbir said. 

“(In the life sciences section,) we talk about different kinds of drugs,” Shabbir said. “(The engineering section) gets into more techniques like mass spectroscopy (and) they are introduced toward the end into polymer chemistry.”

The chemistry major O-chem course tends to have smaller class sizes because fewer students plan to attend graduate school, said chemistry lecturer John Colapret, who teaches the engineering O-chem. Any difference in difficulty between the three groups is due to individual professors, he said. 

“It’s O-chem,” Colapret said. “It’s all hard.”

Omar Vayani, a biochemistry junior who took the life sciences O-chem, said he noticed no difference between the types of test questions between the first and second semester of O-chem.

“Just because (the life sciences version) wasn’t necessarily catered toward chemistry majors, I still felt like that difficulty was there and I was getting the full experience,” Vayani said.

The biology department also divides their courses between those for science and nonscience majors. 

“The (biology class) for science majors is a lot more technical and the one for nonmajors is more real-world based,” said Vayani, who also works as a teaching assistant for the course. 

Prachi Khanna, a neuroscience sophomore, said her intro biology course that was tailored to pre-med students was more application-based, whereas her second intro biology course was more memorization-based. 

“I think it makes sense to have different levels of difficulty based on what you’re pursuing,” Khanna said. “But I think every science major thinks their classes are extremely hard compared to others.”

Biology professor James Bull, who teaches introductory biology for business, law and liberal arts students, said he takes a different approach to his nonscience majors class.

“I’m not trying to teach them biology — I’m trying to teach them life skills,” Bull said. “It’s a course to teach people how to make decisions using evidence that’s based on the scientific method.”

Marketing junior Zayda Lopez took Bull’s class and said it later helped her with her business analytics minor.

“You don’t learn about the cells,” Lopez said. “It’s more about the scientific method, how we create a hypothesis, and how we evaluate data.” 

Ricarsha Mobley, a public relations and African and African diaspora studies senior, took introductory chemistry classes for both science and nonscience majors. She said the chemistry class for science majors involved more math and application while the nonmajor version was memorization-based.

“It is a good thing to have students diversify their learning,” Mobley said. “Everyone isn’t a math person.”