Chemistry majors up 130 percent, enrollment figures say


The departments of chemistry and biochemistry may need more test tubes.

Since 2000, both departments have witnessed an increase of more than 130 percent in majors, according to NIU 10th-day enrollment figures. Back then, the department had 87 majors. Today, 201 students call chemistry their major.

For Jon Carnahan, chair of the department, it’s a testament to the improvements being made.

“We’ve streamlined the program to better fit the students in terms of the sequence of courses,” Carnahan said. “It is still rigorous, but it is easier for students to get in and get through because of the changes.”

Carnahan also mentioned how the poor economy may be playing a role.

“The job market for science is very good and has been for quite some time. Students these days are looking for majors where the employment opportunities are good,” Carnahan said.

David Ballantine, professor and chemistry club adviser, believes it’s more than just a lucrative career that is attracting students.

“While chemistry does offer lucrative careers, you also have to have an interest. Students are choosing chemistry because they have a deep interest in it.”

While the positives are evident, there are some downsides to the 130 percent increase according Ballantine.

“The increase reflects well on the department. It looks good. It means we are doing our jobs,” Ballantine said. “But that also means there is more pressure on [the faculty]. Lab space becomes more limited so we have to more flexible.”

Students like Michael Topinka choose to pursue chemistry at NIU because of what the program offers. Topinka, a sophomore graduate chemistry major, chose NIU because of his interest in renewable resources.

“I chose NIU because it was close to home and I liked their involvement in renewable resources chemistry, which is something I am very interested in,” Topinka said.

Adam Mitton, a senior chemistry major, credits the faculty for his fascination in chemistry.

“I really like the faculty,” Mitton said. “They have been extremely helpful during my time here.”