Monday, December 17, 2012

Anthropology and Biology Double-Major.

If you're the type of person who plans to enter college majoring in LolIHaveNoIdeaWhatI'mStudying-omics, you're not alone. I confidently began my academic career at SMC at least eleven different kinds of undecided, and since then have only decided on like, four of those indecisions.

Now, after that syntactically confusing and grammatically questionable introduction, I'd like to write frankly about my decision to double major, as well as my choice in majors. So this is a story all about how my major got flip-turned upside down, so I'd like to take a minute just sit right there, I'll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bell--

Wait, what was I talking about again? Right, majors. Back to that.


About me: As I've mentioned before, I did a year abroad in Poland after I graduated from high school in 2010. While I was abroad, I became aware of a new-found interest in language and culture, and may have watched too many seasons of Bones and began to think I was an Anthropologist. Because when I signed up for my first semester of classes at SMC, Intro to Cultural Anthropology was the first one I chose. And while in class, I realized I liked it a lot. And then I took another class, and still liked it. And this semester, I took another class, realized it was really hard, almost gave up, thought about dropping it, persevered, and then realized that I still liked Anthropology.

About the major: The classes I've taken so far are Intro to Cultural Anthropology, a topics course called Native Americans in Popular Culture, and an interdisciplinary course called Gender and International Development. The Anthro major I'm referring to is technically the Anthro tack of the Sociology/Anthropology major at SMC. What this means is that you take classes in both disciplines, and then choose a track. I've yet to take a Sociology class (three are required for the Anthro track), so I probably shouldn't say that I've already chosen the Anthro track. But I have, so I will.

Also required for the Anthro track is an international experience. This can mean study abroad, an extended service trip abroad, or otherwise. I've yet to complete my abroad experience, but I'm thinking I'll fulfill it with an extended service trip if I'm accepted next year. Until recently, I thought I would study abroad, but am now reconsidering. More on that later ;)

So all in all, for the Anthro track of the Sociology/Anthropology major, you need: 
1. Six anthro courses (including intro).
2. Three soc courses. 
3. An international experience. 

Thus far, I've had a great time in my courses, and really positive interactions with the faculty. If you're thinking about Anthro or Soc, definitely try out one of the intro courses! If you don't love it, it still counts for an LSR.

Cool things associated with the major: The faculty in the Soc/Anthro department are impressive. In the last year, Profs. Delaney and Kusserow have both taken sabbaticals in order to do field work, so they really bring the field into the class room, which is both a challenge and exciting.


I wrote a little about my bio class at the beginning of the semester, but I think this is a great opportunity to develop what it really means to be a bio major, as well as why I decided on it.

In the field.
About me: Freshman year, I decided I was done with science and math and other things that require labs and early classes. But as the year went on I thought more and more about what I might potentially do after undergrad, and climate change research entered my head as a possibility. Being the passionate and slightly impulsive individual that I am, I declared a Bio major within a week, and signed up for Bio and Chem courses for the fall (this past) semester.

Since then, it's been quite a challenge for me. Having not taken any labs or sciences since my senior year of high school (two years ago), I found myself lost and feeling behind for most of the semester. It was challenging, and I wont say that I handled the stress gracefully, but I made it through with support from friends and family, and am ready to attack my second semester of Biology.

About the major: There are several concentrations you can take in the bio major. A lot of my friends are doing a pre-med program, which means they'll leave with a bio major, but they'll also have taken all the courses necessary to be able to apply to medical school. I intend to follow the Environmental track, but there are also tracks for Cellular and Molecular, as well as Biology Education and "generalist". There are also joint programs for Physical Therapy with UVM, and for Pharmacy with Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. You can read all about the program requirements for the Biology major here, or if you read on I'll break it down for you as best I can.

For any bio major, the main requirements are as follows:

1. 10 bio courses, with two intro courses (Ecology and Evolution, and Cell and Genetic), as well as Communications in the Biological Sciences, and Senior Seminar all required.
2. For the remaining six courses, (five of which must include labs), at least one must be from each of the following areas: Molecular/Cellular, Organismal, and Population (so one could choose 1, 1, and 4, or 2, 2, and 2, or 3, 1, and 2, etc.). 
3. Three cognate courses in chemistry (Gen Chem I, Orgo I, and either Orgo II or Gen Chem II, although some people take all four because it's more attractive for graduate/medical school).
4. Two cognate courses in Math (from the following: Elements of Calc, Calc I, Calc II, or Stats).
5. OPTIONAL: College Physics I and II or General Physics I and II.

Cool things associated with the major: In my bio lab this semester, we did a semester long research project for which we collected our own data, did qualitative and quantitative analysis, and presented our findings at the end of the semester. We performed our research in the sandplain forest at Camp Johnson, on the effects of prescribed burns on the ecosystem. Basically, scientists have found that burning this forest (and others) helps regulate certain plant populations so that the whole ecosystem can thrive and not be run out by invasive species. So we examined data in areas that had already burned, and areas that hadn't burned, and assessed the impact of the burn. It was difficult at times, but overall rewarding, and I think it's cool that an intro course offers that opportunity to students.

So, there you have it! A quick glimpse at my chosen fields of study. And as I said, just follow the links if you'd like to read more about the Bio or Anthro majors. Or if you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email at

Thanks for reading!


  1. I completely empathize with your struggle with the bio major- but tackling bio on top of anthropology is really impressive! By my second year I was seriously considering dropping bio and pursuing a different major, then last semester I took a chemistry class where we utilized these advanced temperature measurement systems and fell in love with it all over again. It's definitely hard work, but the sense of accomplishment for sticking with it is it's own reward. Best of luck! xoxo

  2. This is exactly what I'm doing too! I loveeee bones but I also love hard science. I'm also needing to declare my major so I am planning to do anthro and bio also in UBC I'm just curious where it would get me to after completing this double major, I ultimately want to get a Master's degree in forensics but wouldn't be so upset just working with what these majors can offer me after.