Chemistry program experiences explosive growth

Something is growing in the chemistry department‚ but it cannot be measured by hydrometers‚ units of power or degrees of Celsius.

Georgia (Sep 18, 2006) — Something is growing in the chemistry department‚ but it cannot be measured by hydrometers‚ units of power or degrees of Celsius. It’s the number of undergraduate majors‚ which has increased nearly 700 percent in less than a decade.

Kennesaw State now has the largest undergraduate chemistry program in Georgia‚ including both private and public universities‚ with nearly 500 students majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. Georgia State University has the next largest program in the state with less than 300 students‚ according to Dan Williams‚ interim chair of KSU’s chemistry department.

He believes there are several catalysts responsible for the increased interest in chemistry among college students‚ one of them being the popularity of forensic television shows such as the “CSI” franchise. In fact‚ the department offers a forensic chemistry track. The hands−on training available to chemistry and biochemistry majors is also a draw for students who prefer to learn by doing.
“The sciences are blossoming‚” said Williams. “Anything that has ‘bio’ or ‘nano’ attached to it is a hot career these days.”

But the chemistry department has not always had such high enrollment numbers. Only a decade ago‚ the chemistry program‚ with just 75 majors‚ was in danger of being eliminated‚ but its explosive growth has brought new energy to the department.

“We have had phenomenal growth‚” Williams said. “Ten years ago we were a targeted program to be eliminated‚ and now we are the largest chemistry program in the state.”

The department’s reaction to the rapid growth has been to focus more energy on hiring new faculty to maintain small class sizes. For many years‚ there were 9−10 faculty members in the department‚ but that number has more than doubled to include 22 full−time faculty members and several part−time professors.

With that boost in numbers‚ the department is able to increase the number of classes offered‚ while decreasing the overall number of students in each class. Construction on a new Health Sciences Building‚ which will provide additional classroom and lab space‚ is scheduled to begin the end of next summer.

Williams said he often receives unsolicited positive feedback from graduate schools‚professional schools and local industries about the quality of KSU’s chemistry graduates.

“My personal opinion‚ and I have been teaching for 33 years‚ is that Kennesaw State University has the absolute best chemistry program in the state of Georgia‚” Williams said. “It is not only the biggest‚ but it is the best.”

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.

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