The Sciences at Rhodes--Past, Present and Future

The study of the natural sciences at Rhodes is implied in a name: Dr. Peyton Nalle Rhodes, the physicist who taught at the college from 1926-49 and served as president from 1949-65. In 1984 the college, with a long reputation of excellence as a liberal arts and sciences institution, changed its name from Southwestern at Memphis to Rhodes College. It could be we’re the only top liberal arts college in America named for a physicist.

Rhodes students have always been required to study a laboratory science. Traditionally, nonscience majors have chosen intro Biology or Chemistry courses. These days, though, “Chemistry and Archaeology” and “Chemistry and Art,” taught by professor David Jeter, along with basic Astronomy offerings, appeal to nonscience majors, says Dr. John Olsen, Biology professor and associate dean of Academic Affairs.

Such courses reflect an increased interest in the sciences—Biology is the most popular major at Rhodes these days, followed by Business, then English. There is also a growing trend toward an interdisciplinary study of the sciences. Between 2005 and 2011, three such majors were established: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, and Environmental Sciences, bringing to six the number of natural science majors offered.

With them have come more students and increased opportunities for internships, research, work in clinical settings and volunteer endeavors at major health-care institutions throughout Memphis.

And in the student counseling area, there is Health Professions Advising (HPA), directed by associate professor of Biology Alan Jaslow. The program mentors and advises students interested in health professions, from medical to veterinary school, from their first through fourth years, and even postgraduation.

This issue of Rhodes is all about the natural sciences—past, present and future. Each section is a series of snapshots representative of so many valued faculty, students and alumni who are using, and will use, their knowledge and skills to improve our world.