Keck Science Department

The Keck Science Department serves students from Pitzer, Claremont McKenna, and Scripps Colleges. This intercollegiate arrangement allows each college to provide far greater opportunities in science than it could offer alone.

Keck Science offers over a dozen majors, many of which build upon the multidisciplinary nature of the department and of The Claremont Colleges.

The Curriculum

Keck-2068PIT-6077The Keck Science Department offers full and rigorous major programs in a wide variety of areas, many of which take advantage of the multidisciplinary nature of the department. An appreciation for modern issues in science and technology requires not only knowledge of biology, chemistry, and physics, but also an understanding of many areas outside of the sciences including history, economics, ethics, psychology, and public policy. Students develop a broad appreciation of modern issues because the department’s programs are embedded in a liberal arts curriculum.

Laboratory and field investigations in courses and independent research are an important part of the curriculum. Discussion of original research papers often launches a short experiment as part of introductory or advanced courses, and Senior Thesis Research serves as a capstone on a science major’s education. Most senior science majors work closely with their faculty advisers to complete year-long laboratory, field, or theoretical investigations. Endowed funds from a variety of sources provide Summer Research Fellowships to students who want to conduct research during the summer months.

W.M. Keck Science Center

The Keck Science Department is housed in the W.M. Keck Science Center which provides students with a spacious, modern facility for study and research in the sciences. The center includes classrooms, laboratories, and student-faculty research areas and is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments that are available for students to use. The science center also houses the Roberts Environmental Center where students work in teams on applied problems in environmental science and policy.

Field Stations

The Robert J. Bernard Biological Field Station adjoins the campus and provides an outstanding locale for field studies. Two other field stations are associated with the Keck Science Program, one located on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains above Mono Lake and another, the Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology, on the west coast of Costa Rica. Students may conduct research projects at either one. Research in astronomy can be undertaken at an observatory within an hour’s drive from campus.

A Faculty Committed to Undergraduate Education

All Keck Science faculty hold doctoral degrees from leading universities and remain active researchers in their fields. Faculty members and students work side-by-side in the department’s many research laboratories and in the field. Together, faculty and students regularly co-author research publications and present their work at scientific conferences. In addition to teaching courses and mentoring students in research, Keck Science faculty members serve as close advisers for students both in terms of shaping their college careers and in preparation for life after graduation from college.

Keck Science Majors include:

This is a combined major at the interface of biology and chemistry which partially overlaps the requirements for those two individual majors. It is particularly appropriate for those going on to graduate work and also provides a strong background for those entering medical, dental and veterinary school.

Biology entails the study of the entire process of life from its beginning, through its development, reproduction and to its cessation and decay. Many of the new developments and discoveries in this dynamic field are the result of interdisciplinary cooperation between biologists, chemists, physicists and computer scientists. These researchers have added considerably to our understanding of the basic principles and mechanisms of living systems at cellular, molecular, organismic, population and ecological levels. Career opportunities for those who major in biology are numerous. Besides being one of the traditional preparatory fields for those pursuing careers as health care professionals, biology is an excellent choice of major for those interested in secondary education, ecology, or the burgeoning genetic engineering industry. And, of course, the areas of academic and industrial research are open to those who pursue a PhD in the discipline.

The student of chemistry examines, describes and explores the composition, structure and properties of substances and the changes they undergo. This curriculum provides a firm foundation in the principles of chemistry as well as sufficient experience to prepare the student for basic research, secondary school teaching, the pursuit of a career in medicine, or graduate study in the field.

Human Biology
Many fields, including those in the health professions and medical social sciences, increasingly require training in both the biological sciences and the social sciences. The human biology major is designed to fill this need. Biology courses in such areas as genetics, evolution, animal behavior, neurobiology, anatomy and physiology are most appropriate, while courses in the social sciences will depend more heavily on the student’s career goals. For instance, students interested in ethnobotany might select courses in plant systematics and cultural anthropology; those interested in physical therapy would find neurophysiology appropriate; students interested in medicine and cross-cultural health and healing would take such courses as science, politics and alternative medicine; sociology of health and medicine; healers, doctors and the brain, etc. It is expected that the students will formulate a coherent program.

Management Engineering is a five-year program, offered in conjunction with other institutions, that allows students to receive both a bachelor of arts degree in management engineering from Pitzer and a bachelor of science degree in engineering from the second institution. The first three years of study are undertaken on the Pitzer campus. After this, students enroll in the engineering programs at other institutions. Upon completion of the two-year engineering program, graduates simultaneously receive an engineering degree from the second institution and a bachelor of arts degree from Pitzer.

Molecular Biology
This interdisciplinary major is focused on biology and the physical sciences and incorporates a significant amount of mathematics. The major is research oriented and is designed to prepare students for graduate studies or medical school, as well as careers in biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry.

The major in Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary program of 16 courses (maximum) designed to provide students with an appreciation of diverse approaches to understanding the function of nervous systems, as well as the ability to conduct investigations within a particular subfield of interest. Students majoring in Neuroscience complete:

  1. A common core program,
  2. A sequence of four electives determined in consultation with an adviser in Neuroscience, and
  3. A one- or two-semester thesis on a topic related to the four course sequence. The major provides good preparation for graduate work in biology, neuroscience, and a variety of other programs including medical school or other graduate health professions programs. Admission to particular advanced degree programs may require additional course work.

Organismal Biology
This major provides a research-and-field-oriented background for students interested in research careers in either physiology or ecology/ evolution and their allied fields. For further information, consult with the organismal biology/ ecology faculty,

The physics major places a strong emphasis on computation and numerical techniques while still retaining the core material common to all physics majors. Many problems which are not readily solvable using traditional analytic methods will be incorporated into the program and solutions will involve numerical integration, computer modeling and other numerical techniques introduced in the classroom and laboratory.

Science Management
This program is designed to provide students with a solid background in science as well as a grounding in managerial skills.