Written by Samantha Wong (PEACE Advisor)
However, during my sophomore year, I discovered other majors on campus that also focused on biology, but had specific emphases outside of those offered by MCB. For instance, Microbial Biology (MB) and Molecular Environmental Biology (MEB), offered by the College of Natural Resources, focused on biology but had emphases in bacteria/viruses and ecology/biodiversity, respectively; MB shares many lower-division prerequisite courses with MCB, but offers emphases in Host-Pathogen Interactions, Evolution/Computational Genomics, Ecology and Environmental Microbiology, and Microbial Biotechnology. Intrigued, I checked out the major requirements for MB and found that I had more interest in upper-division MB courses than MCB courses. Today, I am an MB major pursuing the Evolution/Computational Genomics emphasis.
When choosing a major and emphasis, it’s important to note that names do not matter as much as the classes offered by the major/emphasis. MEB offers a Microbiology emphasis, but the focus is on courses in organismal diversity and ecology rather than microbiology. In my opinion, the best way to select a biology major that fits your interests is to decide on a focus and a specialty. The focus is what you’re interested in studying generally, such as molecular processes in the body or interactions between organisms on the macroscopic level. The specialty is the subject/topic you want to explore deeper within your focus, such as molecular reactions that function in an immune response or interspecific competition. The focus and specialty translate to what major and emphasis you should be looking for, respectively. With your focus and specialty in mind, look at the course lists for each major and emphasis and see which courses interest you the most.
Another piece of advice: don’t be afraid to change your major! The worst thing you could do is stick with a major you have no interest in. One good thing about switching between biology majors is that they share many prerequisite courses, so you won’t fall too behind if you decide to switch majors. It also helps to meet with advisors in the major department you’re interested in to talk about what pursuing the major would entail; my appointment with the MB advisor was a big factor in my decision to switch majors. Switching between colleges is also a straightforward process that you could discuss with the advisor.
If you’re not sure which biology majors are out there, a few that I would recommend checking out are MCB, IB, MB, MEB, PH, Cog Sci, and NST. Good luck!