Chemistry

RECOMMENDATION #1.2

The committee recommends that biology majors receive a thorough education in chemistry, including general chemistry and aspects of organic chemistry, physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, and biochemistry, incorporated into a new course or courses. They should master the chemistry concepts listed below. Biology faculty should work in concert with their chemistry colleagues to help design chemistry curricula that will not only foster growth of aspiring chemists, but also stimulate biology majors as well as students majoring in other disciplines. Furthermore, chemistry faculty must work with biologists to find ways to collaborate on the incorporation of chemistry concepts, and those of other scientific disciplines, into their teaching of biology. Learning biology should not be dependent upon chemistry but, rather, integrated with it. Biology students should begin their study of chemistry in the first year so that they will acquire a strong foundation in chemistry before starting their study of chemically based aspects of biology.

Chemistry has always been an important sister science to biology, especially to biochemistry and medicine. Today, modern molecular biology and cell biology focus on understanding the chemistry of genes and of cell structure. In the applied area, for example, chemistry is central to modern agriculture. Biomedical engineering draws on chemistry for new materials. It is evident that future research biologists will need to have a thorough grounding in chemistry to make their research possible and to understand the work of others. Such a grounding in general chemistry and organic chemistry has historically required at least three semesters of chemistry courses, but could require fewer following an integrated restructuring. There are many combinations of courses that would allow students to learn these chemical concepts. In the traditional program, a full year of general chemistry is followed by a full year of organic chemistry, and then by physical chemistry.

Regardless of when it is taught, organic chemistry should include material on the principal biomolecules, including heterocyclic chemistry and the chemistry of phosphate esters. The role of these biomolecules in biology is so important that they should not be omitted, as too frequently occurs. Furthermore, including a description of the biochemical versions of displacement reactions, aldol and Claisen condensations, and free radical reactions will add interest for all students, not just biologists.



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