UMN College of Biological Sciences to offer new major this fall

While the college already offers many cellular and organismal physiology classes, students haven’t been able to pursue a major in the subject at the University of Minnesota.

Katrina Pross

The University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences will offer a new major for students this fall, adding new classes and faculty to the college.

The new major, Cellular and Organismal Physiology, was approved by the Board of Regents in February, and will be open to current and transfer students this fall and to freshmen in fall 2019. Faculty say the major could aid student recruitment and help prepare students for graduate and professional schools.

“CBS has recognized for many years that a physiology major was missing for our students, so we are very excited to be able to offer this new major,” said John Ward, the CBS associate dean for undergraduate education.

The college has been planning the major for about two years, and during that time it has hired several physiologists to accommodate the growing field of physiology research and teaching, Ward said.

CBS is one of the smallest colleges at the University, with almost 2,200 students and seven majors. Cellular and Organismal Physiology will be its eighth major, Ward said. The College of Liberal Arts, by comparison, has more than 60 majors. 

Cellular and Organismal Physiology focuses on the biology of microbes, which is more specific than other majors that study plants or animals.

“Physiology is important because it’s the level of biology that is most relevant to people. It’s about how our bodies work and [it] impacts decisions that we make about our health,” said Sarah Malmquist, a professor from the college’s Biology Teaching and Learning department who will teach a class in the major.

Emily Yaklich, a member of the CBS Student Board studying genetics, said the major will enhance the breadth of biology studies at the University.

The major brings multiple disciplines together, like biochemistry and genetics, which she said no other existing major accomplishes. Adding more majors to the college would help recruit more students, she said. 

The major will consist of many courses the school already offers but have never grouped together in a major, and new classes will be added gradually, Ward said.

“We previously had the expertise in this subject, but not the major. Students couldn’t really focus their attention on physiology and get credit for taking physiology classes,” Ward said. 

The major will prepare students for graduate and professional schools, such as veterinary colleges, medical degrees and jobs in environmental science and natural resources, Malmquist said. 

“This major gives students more options and flexibility to study what they are truly passionate about,” said Jeffrey Gralnick, a professor in the college’s Plant and Microbial Biology department who will teach a class in the new major. 

CBS also wants to expand its enrollment, and faculty hope the new major will attract more students to the college, Ward said.

“I think it would be great to see the admissions in CBS increased. This college is a community that supports us and gives us knowledge that is applicable to careers of the future,” Yaklich said.