search. The trend will continue, as more and more biological phenomena are explained in fundamental chemical terms. Many biology departments recognize this reality and trend and require significant numbers of chemistry courses for their majors. The panel recommended that all future biological research students have an effective working knowledge of concepts and skills in chemistry (as listed in Chapter 2 of the committee report). In order to achieve such knowledge, formal courses are needed. Students who are planning on careers in biological research should take at least two years of chemistry courses taught in chemistry departments. Furthermore, even those biology students whose career goals are unsure should take such a program. It will be important and is normally required for medical students; those in allied fields such as nursing, or in biology-based fields such as agriculture, will be well served by having a basic understanding of chemistry. Their education is preparing them for careers in which, over the next 40 years, those without a basic grounding in chemistry will be increasingly lost. Some biology teachers may feel uncomfortable requiring students to learn more chemistry than they themselves understand or use, but this attitude is a disservice to the students. The future is different from the present, and students just undertaking scientific careers need a basic education different from that of 20 years ago, when the sciences were not all so integrated.

Students need their chemistry background as soon as possible, so that their biology courses containing biochemistry and other chemistry-based material can be taught on a sophisticated level. In particular, the attempts in some biology departments to teach biochemistry without requiring students to have a knowledge of organic chemistry turns the course into a baffling exercise in acronyms, not chemical structures. The panel felt that whenever possible biology students should take the needed chemistry course sequence continuously starting in their freshman year. Currently, many chemistry departments teach a full year of general chemistry and then follow it with a full year of organic chemistry. However, there are alternatives. In some institutions, the first-year course is organic chemistry, followed by a general chemistry course in the second year. One of the most interesting plans is at Barnard College. There, the first semester is a general chemistry course, and the organic chemistry sequence starts in the second semester. The second semester of organic chemistry comes in the fall of the second year, and that spring the students can take a course in physical chemistry.

The revised sequence has a number of advantages. Students who are taking only one year of chemistry can be exposed to both the concepts and

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement