Home > Opinion > What should I major in? Throughout this academic year, The Rider will explore the programs of study at UTRGV. This is the third in a series. The Rider interviewed Frederic Zaidan, Biology department chair .
Opinion

What should I major in? Throughout this academic year, The Rider will explore the programs of study at UTRGV. This is the third in a series. The Rider interviewed Frederic Zaidan, Biology department chair .

books-1012088_960_720Major: Biology

School: College of Sciences

Chair of the Department: Frederic Zaidan

Prerequisites: General Biology I and II, General Chemistry I and II, Organic Chemistry I and Statistics

Total credit hours needed to graduate: 120

What is biology? “Biology is the study of life, so anything that’s living falls under our jurisdiction. Within biology you can either take an organismal approach or a phenomenon approach. You have students and faculty that are primarily interested in the organisms. That’s typically where the interests start, but then there are the phenomenon areas of study. Ecology, physiology, genetics, evolution, behavior and cell and molecular work are all these various other disciplines within there. We really look at how all the organisms function. That’s really what biology is. It is how different levels and the environment are affecting how the individual organism functions, to wrap it up into a whole big package.”

Which classes should students expect to take? “Well, we are in an interesting phase because of the students we have, UTB legacy, UTPA legacy and the UTRGV students. We are working with three different degree plans. For the UTRGV students, ecology, evolution and genetics are required. Those are also usually used by the legacy students, so those are the three courses you can expect to take whether you’ve been here a while, or you are brand new. There’s also a biological communications class, where we teach them how to write and speak like a biologist; that’s required of the UTPA and UTRGV students. From there, we divide up biology into various groups so students get exposure to the main areas. Once you leave here with your degree, you will have a basic understanding of all the major areas.”

What are some possible careers with this degree? “There is a huge list of things you can do with a biology degree. Sort of the most popular ones are going on for more school. A lot of folks go the teaching route. Others go on to work with the local natural areas. [U.S.] Fish and Wildlife, Texas Parks and Wildlife, birding centers, things like that. There are always more lab-based positions out there. There aren’t many in the Valley currently, but I would expect with what we are doing with RGV, for that to grow.”

Which skills will students learn by the time they graduate? “We are very much pushing critical-thinking skills. You can learn the facts, but knowing how to use them is another thing. Our students will get those skills. Students will get experience with how science actually works with scientific method and techniques. Most classes have lab, so there’s going to be a lot of hands-on kind of work, and students will get skills in that. Because of the sometimes difficulty of the material, time management skills are going to be something that they will need to learn. They should get out of here with a greater appreciation for how living organisms and ecosystems work.”

What salary can a student expect to earn after graduation? “It is variable, but I would think in the $30,000 to 60,000 range. That’s a reasonable guess. There are some people who end up with really good jobs and make quite a bit of money.”

Student clubs related to the major: “There’s quite a few. There is Tri-Beta [Biological Honor Society], various medical, dental and optometry clubs and environmental clubs. There are many ways for people to get involved.”

For more information: contact Zaidan at frederic.zaidan@utrgv.edu or call 665-3537.

–Compiled by Sarah Carvajal

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