Biology is No. 1 major for freshmen at Hampton U.

By Ranelle Grayton

Hampton University School of Science is one of the campuses’ most prestigious programs. The school received a grant from the National Science Foundation in September. The $300,000 grant was awarded to establish the new Bachelor of Science Biochemistry degree program. Hampton is among four HBCUs to offer such a program.

The School of Science has 10 departments: Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences, Biological Science, Chemistry, Communicative Science and Disorders, Computer Science, Marine & Environmental Sciences, Mathematics, Naval Science, Physical Therapy, Physics, and Pre-health.

According to an Aug. 27 Daily Press article, Hampton U.’s School of Science has become the No. 1 choice for incoming freshman this year. Of the 1,032 new and 140 transfer students that Hampton enrolled for fall, biology was the most popular major.

Biology is the foundation for many students who aspire to be doctors. It is the gateway for lucrative environmental business opportunities after college. According to the School of Science website, it has approximately about 700 undergraduate students and 170 graduate students.

Biology majors must take four years of biology classes that include lectures and labs varying in length from 1½ to four hours, two to three times a week. Students must also take two years of chemistry classes, and one year of physics.

The curriculum is heavily math-oriented and requires rigorous courses such as pre-calculus, applied calculus and statistics. Biology majors must even balance intense major classes along with general education courses for the first two years.

After freshman year, biology divides into two sequences: Cellular and Molecular Biology, or Organisms, Ecology and Biodiversity.

“The School of Science biology program is very rigorous.” said Professor Abiodun Adibi, who teaches Microbiology, Parasitology, and Medical Histology. “There are many prerequisites. It is important for students to have a good foundation, they must have good understanding of the subject and they must study.”

Adibi taught in Nigeria and at University of Maryland Eastern Shore before coming to Hampton.

He explained that, “The biology department is very advanced in working with genomics, which is the study of looking at genes on a molecular level. Students are very interested with that. As you get higher in the biology sequence if you have a good foundation, I like to think it only becomes more interesting, not more difficult.”

Portia Nicholson, a junior biology major from Washington, D.C., gave this advice to freshman, “If you are not willing to put in the time to study, if you cannot prioritize, and if you don’t have the drive to do what’s necessary for great grades then you won’t last long as biology major.

“It does require a lot. It is probably as intense the five-year MBA sequence.”

“It’s important to create good study habits early,” said Alexis Alexander, a junior biology major from Dumfries, Va. “Don’t memorize material, learn it because everything you are taught builds.

“I’ve sacrificed plenty of weekends out with friends or going to parties because of studying. But most of my close friends are bio majors so we all end up studying together.” Alexander said.

Nicholson plans to become a family physician and own a private clinic after obtaining her Bachelors of Science from Hampton and attending medical school. She wants to practice both gynecology and pediatrics.

Alexander, who has interned with both the Department of Energy and D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, plans to work with and study environmental health.

For Hampton University freshmen starting the biology sequence, there are a variety of issues that they face. Freshmen are dealing with becoming acclimated to campus life, being away from home, and learning the responsibility of being independent.

“It’s a good program, and you have to be an extremely dedicated student.” said Morgan Naylor, a 19-year-old freshman biology major from Indiana who aspires to own a sports medicine practice.  “At first it wasn’t what I expected but I’ve come to learn that it’s about the relationships I develop with my professors and the friendships I experience.

“The School of Science is very hands-on; labs are interesting and for an extra credit assignment we participated in a campus clean up.”

“I came to Hampton on partial scholarship, and with my degree I want to be a medical illustrator,” said Kelly Mitchell, freshman biology major from Chicago. “I don’t think it’s challenging, I already have good study habits and so far, it’s not that hard for me.”

Said Abidi, “Biology can be very challenging, but it does depend on the student. You have to apply yourself, remain dedicated and spend a lot of time studying.”

The writer is a junior at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications