Chemistry finds a home again

By Megan Drummond

After more than a decade, Fitchburg State University has finally reinstated the chemistry major.  The state Board of Higher Education has given Fitchburg State permission to offer a bachelor of science degree in chemistry for future semesters.

During the 1990s, colleges such Fitchburg State, Westfield State, and the Mass College of Liberal Arts all lost the chemistry major.  Meanwhile other state schools such as Bridgewater, Framingham, Salem, and Worcester all fought to keep their programs.  Fitchburg State chose to have chemistry only as a minor option- until recently.

Why did we lose the bachelor’s degree in chemistry in the first place? According to the Board of Higher Education, the major was considered “not productive.” An FSU chemistry professor, Meledath Govindan, has been actively working to get the major back.  Govindan explains that the Board’s explanation – “not productive” – really meant that there were not enough graduates to fill the chemistry programs in the past.  But approximately 50 students from FSU have graduated with a minor in chemistry over the past five years, according to the Fitchburg Sentinel.

Fitchburg State now seems to recognize that chemistry is a continuously developing program and a vital aspect of the science career track.  It is one of the fields that utilizes modern technology, and plays a crucial role in solving global issues.  The research and work of chemists relates to all aspects of life.  They focus on treatments of diseases, the creation and research of new drugs, food production, and the discovery of new energy sources.

Other colleges that had lost their chemistry programs regained them about two years ago.  Govindan explained that Fitchburg State was the last school to regain the major because of construction on campus. “We waited for the new science center before submitting the proposal,” he said. The Science Center allows students to use high-tech instruments and state-of-the-art facilities and labs.  Within the 55,000-square-foot laboratory wing, four teaching labs and two research labs were installed for chemistry use.

Govindan expressed his excitement for the return of the chemistry career track, both for himself and for the students.  He believes the major will give science majors a competitive edge when it comes findings jobs after graduation.  Fitchburg State President Robert V. Antonucci states, “The new major will allow us to prepare students for a growing and vital sector of the state’s economy.”

The bachelor of science degree in chemistry will be available for students who are enrolled in graduate studies, secondary-school teaching, or a professional career in the chemical, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, or science-related industry.  Additional professors will also be joining the FSU community as a result of the expansion.  Some of courses being added are: Advanced Inorganic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, and a Chemistry Seminar or Capstone Course.  The new courses will be available for the fall semester of 2015, meaning that in the near future chemists will also be among the graduates of Fitchburg State University.