Friday, November 7, 2014

URSP Student Silva Achmar Researches Student Retention of George Mason's Biology Major

This semester I was given an opportunity to research a very relevant topic: why students at George Mason University are opting out of their Biology major. My mentor, Dr. Schwebach, is a Cellular Biology (BIOL 213) professor at Mason and this course is the first Biology course that is needed to advance further into the major of Biology. He was particularly interested in this research question because since his class is the first class that Biology majors need to take, we wanted to know if this class is a factor leading up to the decision of students opting out of their Biology majors. I was particularly interested in this study because I am a Biology major as well and I witnessed that my fellow peers were switching out of the Biology major to another area of study. I am passionate about the subject of Biology so I was wondering if it was the content itself is what was causing students to switch out of the major.

Although my research project does not involve any lab work, gloves, or test tubes, it can lead to some very interesting results. In the beginning of every semester of Cell Biology, Dr. Schwebach hands out notecards to his students and they are to write their names, current major, reason for choosing that major, and other details. After the semester is over, I am to code these notecards, organize the data in an Excel file, and determine whether or not those students who declared themselves as a Biology major, are still Biology majors. If they have opted out of the Biology major, that is where we need to find out why. Those students are e-mailed, asked to be interviewed, and then asked a set of questions during the interview, which will ultimately answer our questions of why they have switched out of the major. During the past week, I have been organizing all of the data in the notecards of several semesters and trying to pinpoint students who have switched out. Although this is a tedious process, I strongly believe that we can greatly improve the Biology department at George Mason University at the end of our study.