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Computer science, neuroscience see large growth in number of concentrators

By Claire Lee, Staff Writer, Daily Princetonian

The computer science department will have new 41 AB concentrators in addition to 121 BSE concentrators from the Class of 2018, compared to 28 AB concentrators and 102 BSE concentrators the previous year.

Chair of the Computer Science Department Jennifer Rexford said that this massive increase in AB COS majors is because computer science is universal, transforming our economy and  rapidly becoming a crucial skill on the job market, far beyond information technology companies.

“The students see all this — the intellectual excitement, the opportunity to effect change in the world and the great professional opportunities — and are voting with their feet,” Rexford said.  “The increase in computer science majors and computer science course enrollments, is a national trend, not unique to Princeton,” she added.

Rexford also stated that the curriculum in the computer science department is flexible, with a range of upper-level departmental courses and relatively few prerequisites. She said the department also has a vibrant student culture, with various student groups, informal meetings and hackathons.

Neuroscience departmental representative Asif Ghazanfar said that 33 students declared neuroscience as their concentration. Last year, which marked the first year of the program, saw 19 students declare neuroscience.

The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology experienced a decline in the number of concentrators. 45 students from the Class of 2018 declared a major in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, compared to 50 from the Class of 2017 and 61 from the Class of 2016.

Meredith Mihalopoulos ’18 recently declared a major in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

She said that she came to Princeton knowing she wanted to pursue the premedical track, so she wanted to choose a major that would allow her flexibility in her schedule so she could fulfill her pre-med requirements and also pursue other classes that were of interest to her.

“I took EEB 211 this fall and I thought it was a really nice way to be introduced to the department,” Mihalopoulos said. “It [the class] definitely solidified my interest that this was the major that I wanted to pursue,” she said.

The exact number of students who declared a major in the Department of Chemistry is still unavailable according to Tom Muir, the department chair. Muir indicated that there have typically been around 35 students in the department each year. According to an unofficial number obtained from the University College Facebook, 14 students declared chemistry as of now.

Eric Fung ’18 said that he declared a concentration in chemistry because he has always loved the subject. “There really isn’t a better reason [to declare] than that,” he noted.

Departmental Representative of Astrophysical Sciences Neta Bahcall said that around 10 students will be majoring in astrophysics, compared to nine last year . He said this continues the trend of the larger classes of eight to 10 students per year in recent years.

“We and our students are proud and delighted by the excellent astro major program and the increased enrollment in recent years,” Bahcall said.

According to estimates obtained from University College Facebook, mathematics has 33 concentrators so far compared to 31 last year; geoscience has 7 from the Class of 2018 compared to 18 last year; 17 students are concentrating in physics compared to 23 last year; and 54 students are concentrating in molecular biology, compared to 50 last year.

“I chose mol because I’ve always liked how biology and chemistry fit together on the molecular level,” Jack Finlay ’18 explained. “When things go wrong, they can almost always be attributed to mol bio concepts, which emphasizes the field’s importance in health and medicine,” he said, noting that molecular biology is the foundation for most living systems.

For Maddie Huber ’18, choosing to concentrate in molecular biology was a hard decision. She explained that, though she isn’t pre-med, she is extremely interested in the entrepreneurial aspect of biotech and health care companies. “I still think mol is the most applicable [concentration to these fields],” she explained.

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