The hot majors

What are your fellow students focusing on?

Photo By David Robert

Psychology, biology and computer science are the three most popular majors at the University of Nevada, Reno, according to institutional research analyst Arthur Chenin.

Psychology is on the top of the list. Some 532 undergraduate students were enrolled last semester as psychology majors.

Blake Novoa, 21-year-old psych major, said many students chose psychology because they want to learn about human beings and how they think.

“Psychology helps you think critically about personal and social issues,” he said. “More students want to learn something that’s interesting to them, not just because it’s something they can [do to] make money.”

Lisa Black said an advantage of psychology is its accessibility.

“It applies to everyday life; it’s easy for everyone to relate to,” the 21-year-old psychology major said. She also said she likes the teachers and the curriculum, which offers lots of choices inside the major.

Kara DeSouza, psychology graduate student, said psychology helps understand the emotional problems in everyday life.

Photo By David Robert

“We [psychology students] might be able to identify problems,” she said.

Biology is the second hot major at UNR.

Assistant chairman of biology department Guy Hoelzer said biology is becoming more profitable as a science. He said biology is starting to change from softer science to a quantifiable, solid science like chemistry.

As chemistry went through the same process hundreds of years ago, biology is starting to become more applicable and useful, he said.

The situation was different 10 years ago. “It felt like we were maturing slowly,” he said.

Hoelzer believes there is a big demand for biology majors in genomic, pharmaceutical and bioinformatics industries.

Hoelzer said the popularity of the major at the school might also be linked to the fact that there are many students who consider themselves pre-med.

“Biology seems like a natural way to med,” he said, but he also pointed out that not many of those pre-med students actually get into medical school after graduation.

Photo By David Robert

Biology major Angela Balen said lack of minors and foreign language requirements are other possible contributing factors for the major’s popularity.

Computer science ranked third as the major students are heading toward, but it is first in growth. Enrollment grew 226 percent in the past five years.

Yaakov Varol, professor and chairman of the computer science department, said even after the economic collapse of the high-tech industry, scientists and engineers are high in demand.

“The field of computing is still highly marketable,” he said. “If you are good at it, you are very much in demand.”

He said computer science is popular because the industry has a positive image.

“For the general public, the field of computing has a special aura and attractiveness,” he said. “It is modern, hip and smart.”

Mike Smiths, a 20-year-old computer science major, wants to work as a game creator. For him, computer science is a cutting-edge pursuit that combines some of the best aspects of art and science.

“They always showcase the latest things,” he said. “Doing it perfectly can be a form of art.”

But programming can be a pain. He once spent six hours only to find a simple mistake in a program he wrote.

“You need to be able to manage human errors, and you have to have tolerance,” Smiths said.