Should I switch my major to Molecular Genetics?

In summary, the individual is a freshman majoring in Biosystems Engineering. They chose this major due to their dislike for the emphasis on memorization in biology undergrad programs. They enjoy calculus and physics and believe programming would not be difficult for them to learn. They are not interested in engineering design seminars and prefer research as a potential career path. They are considering switching to Molecular Genetics but are unsure if it will require them to go to graduate school. They have concerns about their current major not providing the necessary skills for biomedical research. They are advised to get involved in research as an undergraduate to gain skills and determine if research is a good fit for them.
  • #1
Ashley1999
1
0
Hi, currently I am a freshman who is majoring in Biosystems Engineering. I selected this major because I did a lot of research into biology undergrads and I didn't like what I saw. I got the notion that these majors did not emphasize the technical skills necessary to do well in a science oriented career. They seemed more focused on memorization, but I may of been mistaken. I do really enjoy calculus and physics, and I feel that if I put effort forth programming probably won't be difficult to learn either. Biology majors didn't put a lot of focus on CS, calculus, and physics. I haven't found my core classes that hard.

However, I've gotten into a few engineering design seminars and they aren't really that exciting to me. I feel as if I've run into a lot of business and computer work so far along with learning about structures. A lot of alumni from my major seem to work on cost analysis, drafting, attend meetings, and oversee project management. The idea of getting out of school after my undergrad seemed really exciting, but I can't see myself working in a desk job like that. Research sounds more appealing to me and I know that you often times need to go to graduate school for that.

I take around 9 biology classes with this major. (7 of them I select myself..) I want to try to figure this out as soon as possible because I don't want to fall behind if I were to switch. I guess double majoring could be an option as well, but I'm not sure if that will help me. My school does not do minors in Bio/Chem/Physics.

If I stay in this major or switch to Molecular Genetics, then it seems like I'd have to go graduate school either way. Would there be any advantages to stay in BE or will I have some catching up to do?

The first year advisers at my university are pretty bad, so that's why I am going here for advice.
 
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  • #2
Modern biomedical research is interdisciplinary and requires people with a wide variety of skills. I have worked with people with training in fields encompassing medicine, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics, and computer science. My PhD advisor has a PhD in physics, is a professor in the department of chemistry, and basically does research in biology. So, there are many paths one can take towards a career in biomedical research.

I agree with you that traditional undergraduate programs in biology seem more focused on training future doctors and do not give great training in many of the skills required for modern biomedical research (in particular, skills in quantitative data analysis). Although I may be biased (as someone with a BS in biochemistry and a PhD in biophysics), I think that majoring in one of the physical sciences or engineering provides a very nice skill set for someone who wishes to enter into biomedical research. However, such training could also be available to one in a more traditional biology program with smart choice of elective courses.

While knowledge of the basics of cell and molecular biology is certainly useful in graduate school, a lot of advanced knowledge of biology is not strictly required. Knowledge and techniques in biology change quickly enough that some of what you would learn in undergrad may be obsolete by the time you finish graduate school. Biology is also quite specialized, so even biology majors will typically have a lot to learn about their specific research topic when they are just starting out in graduate school. Furthermore, there are many graduate programs aimed at integrating students with training in non-biology fields into biology research (e.g. graduate programs in biophysics, systems biology, biomedical engineering, chemical biology, etc.). Some of my classmates in my biophysics graduate program majored in physics and had limited knowledge of biology before going into graduate school. While they faced a steep learning curve in some of their introductory classes, they were all able to pick things up quickly.

If your eventual goal is to go to graduate school and pursue a career in research, you should definitely get involved in research as an undergraduate. Most universities should have opportunities for undergraduates to work in labs and help out on research projects. If these opportunities are limited at your school, there are many summer Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) programs to give students the opportunity to work in labs at major research universities. The research does not necessarily need to be related to the research you intend to pursue in graduate school. Participating in research gives one many skills that are generally applicable to research in any field and, more importantly, teaches one whether they actually like to do research and are willing to spend 4+ years of hard work to earn a PhD. As one thinks about applying to graduate schools, it can also be helpful to begin reading scientific journals to see what types of research people are doing and what types of research techniques and research questions interest you most.
 
  • #3
If you can fund it, the double major would be great background. I doubled majored in Chemistry and Biology; it was very useful in grad school and has been very
useful in industry.
 

Related to Should I switch my major to Molecular Genetics?

1. Should I switch my major to Molecular Genetics if I am interested in genetics but not sure if it's the right path for me?

Switching your major to Molecular Genetics is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. If you have a strong interest in genetics, it may be worth considering as a potential career path. However, it's important to thoroughly research the field and speak with academic advisors and professionals in the field to gain a better understanding of what a career in Molecular Genetics entails.

2. Will switching my major to Molecular Genetics require me to take additional courses or delay my graduation?

It is possible that switching your major to Molecular Genetics may require you to take additional courses or delay your graduation. This will depend on the specific requirements of your university and the courses you have already taken. It's important to speak with an academic advisor to determine the impact of switching your major on your graduation timeline.

3. What kind of job opportunities are available for someone with a degree in Molecular Genetics?

A degree in Molecular Genetics can lead to a variety of job opportunities in fields such as research, healthcare, and biotechnology. Some potential job titles include genetic counselor, laboratory technician, research scientist, and bioinformatics specialist. It's important to research the job market and speak with professionals in the field to gain a better understanding of the potential career paths available.

4. Are there any specific skills or qualities that are important for success in the field of Molecular Genetics?

Some important skills and qualities for success in the field of Molecular Genetics include strong analytical and problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and critical thinking abilities. Additionally, having a strong foundation in biology and chemistry is important, as well as being able to work well in a team and communicate effectively.

5. How can I determine if Molecular Genetics is the right major for me?

The best way to determine if Molecular Genetics is the right major for you is to research the field, speak with professionals and students currently studying Molecular Genetics, and consider your own interests and strengths. It's also helpful to take relevant courses or participate in internships or research opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the field. Ultimately, the decision should be based on your personal interests and goals for the future.

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