Junior Victor Gonzalez said he remembers feeling as though he wouldn’t stand out while taking his first physics course in a large lecture hall filled with students. A political science major at that time, Gonzalez said he was inspired by his professor, James Dolan and received an A in the course.
“I said, ‘You know what? I’m just going to do physics, I’m going to drop this political science major and do what I’m really passionate about,’” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is one of 489 students at Southern majoring in a scientific field, helping to raise the number of science majors in the Connecticut State University System, also known as CSUS.
According to a recent press release from the CSUS, the number of students majoring in scientific fields has increased by 32 percent within the system in the past five years. The number of CSUS students majoring in science jumped from 1,372 in 2005 to 1,818 in 2009, across the four universities.
Southern’s science programs have seen a 10 percent increase from 446 students in 2005 to 489 students in 2009. The School of Arts and Sciences offer programs in biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, science education and environmental studies.
Southern teaches introductory physics to more students than any other university in the state, according to
the CSUS release.
Gonzalez is the associate zone counselor in the Society of Physics Students with zone counselor and professor, Christine Broadbridge. He held an internship with the Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena, known as CRISP, a research program in conjunction with Yale University for the past two
years. He was secretary and president of the Physics club on campus.
“My experience at Southern so far has been fun, I’ve been trying to take advantage of every opportunity that they have laid out,” said Gonzalez, who wants to become a nuclear engineer.
“That’s like my dream, to actually work at a nuclear power plant and push buttons like Homer Simpson
from ‘The Simpsons,’” said Gonzalez.
The rise in science majors could be attributed to the growing interest in new technological developments.
“With the increase of technology people are just wanting to know more, and enhance their intelligence, trying to understand what actually makes these iPods and other instruments work,” said Gonzalez.
Christine Broadbridge, professor and chairperson of the Physics Department, said there is an increased
interest in scientific disciplines in general and the word is getting out about the CSUS programs.
Broadbridge said Southern is offering new programs in engineering, nanotechnology, and forensics.
According to the CSUS release, the two universities that have seen the highest increase are Eastern and
Western, which have opened new science buildings within the last five years.
She said a new proposed science building, set to be constructed in front of Jennings Hall and in the planning stages, will build on the strength of faculty research at Southern.
“It’ll give students the opportunity for research and research training, which really gives them an advantage when they go out to get a job,” said Broadbridge. “That building is really going to allow students to work very closely with faculty in research projects.”
Broadbridge said she has visited similar building at Eastern and Western State Universities, but is excited about the work being done to make a building unique to Southern.
Broadbridge said the physics department has always had a strong program for teachers, as well as degrees, which lead to engineering careers. Now, said Broadbridge, there is a concentration in engineering track.
Jackie Ajello, a junior biology major with a concentration in secondary education, said she wants to teach science to students in middle school.
“I had to pick a focus and I’ve always been most interested in biology,” said Ajello.
She said she chose Southern because of its “phenomenal” education program and plans to receive her
masters from the university in two years. In the biology program, she said there are some classes she wishes
she didn’t have to take, but still thinks it’s a good program.
Ajello noted a couple of possible reasons for the increase.
She said she has noticed an increase in research in the science department, and especially in biology.
Also, many students are majoring in science at Southern as a step toward more advanced degrees or other careers, for example, someone pursuing a career as a pharmacist will start off with a chemistry degree.