Biochemistry May Take Majors in Honors Only
Field's Abundance of Elementary Courses Spurs Faculty Committee's Examination
The Faculty may abolish non-honors concentration in Biochemical Sciences at its Tuesday meeting. It will consider a recommendation framed by a special committee and approved by the Committee on Educational Policy.
The program would begin with the class of '59 and would mostly affect premedical students. About 90 per cent of the 50-odd concentrators in Biochemical Sciences are pre-meds, only about half of whom are candidates for honors.
The Student Council will consider the plan at its Monday meeting in order to probe the program's effects on pre-medical students. It is possible that the Council may ask the Faculty to postpone a decision until student opinion is determined.
The committee that investigated the field this fall found that because of the large number of elementary courses counted for non-honors concentration, the student "scarcely concentrates at all," the committee's chairman, Kenneth V. Thimann professor of Biology, said yesterday.
Praises Honors Work
Thimann explained that the honors work in the field was very valuable, especially praising the thesis work done by honors candidates. But he emphasized that because of the introductory nature of most of the courses in the field, the non-honors concentrator does "not get anywhere near the frontiers of knowledge," and therefore does not have the deep background in one subject that is a primary aim of Harvard education.
The expectation behind the proposal is that if students cannot take non-honors work in Biochemical Sciences, they will concentrate either in Biology or Chemistry, or possibly go out for honors in Biochemical Sciences.
About an equal number of premedical students now concentrate in Biochemical Sciences or Biology. Those concentrating in Biochemical Sciences contend that its discipline permits them to satisfy their basic premedical requirements in biology, chemistry, and physics so as to allow them the greatest latitude in choice of electives.
The present requirements for concentration without honors in Biochemical Sciences includes six full courses. Concentration with honors adds an extra course and a half at the advanced level, an honors thesis, and general examinations toward the end of the senior year.