Undergraduate Biology Degrees Centralized

Posted: May 29, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: May 28, 2009 at 3:22 pm

By Marjorie Musick

Larry Rockwood

Larry Rockwood

Mason’s undergraduate biology degree programs have found a new home. Previously housed in both the Molecular and Microbiology (MMB) and Environmental Science and Policy (ESP) Departments, the programs have been centralized under Director Larry Rockwood, a professor in the ESP Department.

“Until about 10 years ago, there was a Biology Department that was in charge of all undergraduate and graduate biology programs. Then ESP split off and became its own department, and some of the biology faculty left to join ESP. Subsequently, the biology department was dissolved and the Molecular and Microbiology Department was created,” says Rockwood.

“The biology faculty moved to one of the two departments, ESP or MMB. However, since most of the MMB faculty moved to the Prince William Campus, it became increasingly difficult for them to manage the 1,200 biology majors.”

To allow for more efficient management of the program, leadership from ESP and MMB signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2008 creating one biology program based on the Fairfax Campus. The transition became effective on January 30, 2009.

The undergraduate degrees in biology (BA, BS and BS in Medical Technology) remain in the College of Science. Rockwood reports directly to College of Science Dean Vikas Chandhoke. Cyndy Beck serves as the assistant biology program director and undergraduate coordinator.

The graduate programs are not affected by this change.

“The charge to the biology program from the dean is to establish a more systematic and modern set of course offerings with better diversity. I expect this change to benefit both faculty and students,” says Rockwood.

What’s coming down the road? Future plans include the formation of a seven-person curriculum committee headed by Rockwood. The committee will ease the process by which changes in the curriculum are made and give faculty members a stronger voice in the curriculum management process. The committee representatives will be selected from among MMB, ESP and biology term faculty.

For students currently enrolled in the program, the transition should go all but unnoticed. However, Rockwood is hopeful that the change in leadership will greatly enhance their learning experience.

“By 2014, we should be in a new building with cutting-edge labs, and we are working very hard right now with the faculty across the College to plan for these new facilities. We will also be designing some innovative spaces for students to gather and learn. I’m hoping that these changes will allow for a stronger and more diverse biology program,” says Rockwood.

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