significant objectives. This could be accomplished by offering courses in database management systems, information systems, computer graphics, and computer simulation techniques.

At some schools, it will be optimal to offer majors in biophysics or computational biology; at others, select classes in those topics could be designed. Biochemistry is already a common major at many institutions, providing opportunities for students to explore the connections between those two fields.

Computational biology is not currently a common undergraduate major. Other schools that offer it include University of California at Santa Cruz; University of California at San Diego; Cornell University; University of Pennsylvania; Rensselaer Polytechnic University; Clark University; Towson University (Maryland); and Yale University.

Another undergraduate major that requires extensive use of quantitative skills is biophysics. The typical biophysics major takes three or four semesters each of mathematics and physics. The mathematics courses tend to cover the traditional subjects: calculus of one and more variables, linear algebra, and differential equations. In addition, students are generally required to take two upper-level biophysics courses. Some universities also have a physical chemistry requirement. Biophysics curricula should also have a broad biology component. The Biophysical Society provides a comprehensive listing of undergraduate biophysics programs at http://www.biophysics.org/products/programs.htm

Increasing the Ethnic, Cultural, and Gender Diversity of Life Science Majors

The retention and graduation of African American, Hispanic, and Native American students continues to be low. An NSF-sponsored project has shown that the most frequently cited reason for students of all backgrounds leaving science was the poor quality of the teaching they encountered in their science courses. They also state that poor K-12 preparation, difficulties with university courses, and the attraction of nonscientific disciplines diminish the number of minority students preparing for scientific careers (Seymour and Hewitt, 1997). A particularly serious problem is that such minority students often enter college with little exposure to the culture of science and find it difficult to see the relevance of their science courses to their future careers. The scientific establishment needs to find effective ways to gain access to this pool of potential scientific talent. Improving the



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