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Biology enrollment dips again

By Stephanie Byrne

The number of sophomores declaring majors in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has again risen while enrollment in the Department of Biology has continued to decline, according to statistics for the Class of 1993 recently compiled by the Registrar's Office.

After reaching a peak in enrollment in 1988, the biology department has suffered a dramatic decline in the number of students declaring majors in the field. In 1988, 91 sophomores chose to major in biology. This number dropped to 78 last year, and this year has fallen to 50 -- a 46-percent decrease since 1988.

Robert T. Sauer, associate head of the biology department, was surprised by this year's low figure. He expected a small drop due to normal fluctuation, but stated that a slightly larger decrease could be due to the fact that "the overall climate in the biomedical field is negative as far as funding is concerned."

In the School of Science, an increase in enrollment in the physics department has balanced out the decrease in biology. This year, 90 sophomores declared majors in physics, 22 more than last year. This figure, however, is only slightly higher than that from 1988.

Physics Professor Saul A. Rappaport '68 said it is possible that enrollment will increase again next year, as a result of this

year's Nobel Prize in physics being awarded to two professors in the department.

"People do get very excited about those things," he said. "However, excitement about good professors in the physics department has not seemed to have made a significant impact [on enrollment] in the past."

The 22-percent increase in EECS enrollment is part of a general elevation of enrollment in the School of Engineering as a whole. Enrollment in EECS has been steadily increasing since it hit its lowest point in over a decade in 1988. Two hundred forty-four sophomores declared majors in EECS in 1988, but this figure has risen to 325 in 1990 -- an increase of 33 percent.

There is some speculation that a large portion of this year's increase is due to transfer student enrollment. Paul L. Penfield '60, head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, was unsure about the reasons for the large increase, but believed that the high enrollment in the department is "a cause for concern."

Other departments which show a rise in enrollment include civil engineering, materials science and engineering, chemical engineering and aeronautics and astronautics. These combine for an overall 10-percent rise in engineering majors, despite a decline in the number of mechanical engineering majors.

Sophomore interest in Course 2 declined 15 percent from last year, for a total of 129 sophomores declaring a major in this field. According to the head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Neal Wormley, last year's enrollment of 151 students was exceptionally high and the current enrollment is about average.

Enrollment in the School of Humanities and Social Science has dropped by almost 20 percent since 1989. The only department in the school to have any rise in enrollment is economics. Seven more sophomores declared majors in Course 14 this year, for a current figure of 29.

There are more undesignated sophomores this year than in either 1988 or 1989. This year, 83 sophomores are undecided about a major, as compared to 70 in 1989 and 52 in 1988.