With the addition of a storm chasing course to the physical science department, a fourth concentration, atmospheric sciences, is slated to be added to the program by next semester.
“The earth science faculty members have been discussing this for a hot minute,” said Paul Zunkel, earth science professor. “You can take an advising track which is great, but it’s not reflected on the transcript. We can now push you into one of four concentrations which are going to be professional geology, environmental geology, soil science and lastly atmospheric sciences.”
Zunkel said that a growing number of students have been wanting a more formalized approach to meteorology and atmospheric sciences. While his request for a weather station remains, Zunkel believes the budget deficit will hurt everyone.
“I might get it, but I might also win the lottery,” Zunkel said. “When I had this idea (for the course), I didn’t think there would be any interest in it. We currently have twelve people in the course. There is a large portion of that with students who have in the last few years come to me and told me they wanted to do the atmospheric tract.”
Given the danger of the course, Zunkel said he plans to keep the class limited to 10 or 12 students.
“I don’t want this to have more than ten,” Zunkel said. “We are bringing someone into an environment which is scary, you can see all kind of phenomena related to weather. So, my prime focus with this course is safety above all else…any student who wants to take the course has to sign a liability waiver.”
As the planet’s climate continues to change, science courses have had to adapt.
“I’ve learned that physics ideas have had a big impact on what’s going on in civilization,” said Jorge Balester, professor of physical science. “Because the general education physical science courses are required to take, and s o m e students take space science I have to bring up global warming somewhere.”
According to Balester, he would expand upon the required amount of science courses if he could.
“I think you’re asking the wrong person because I think every student have to take at least five physical science courses,” Balester said. “One of the reasons Venus is so unexpectedly hot is because of all the trapped methane gasses… some of this stuff is real and has real consequences for us. What I’m bothered a lot by is people who dismiss it like we really don’t know, and we’ve learned a lot over the past thirty years, and we continue to learn more about it. Sometimes its ignorant and sometimes its dishonest.”
With the addition of the atmospheric concentration, students will have a greater variety of specialties to pursue.
“I really enjoyed physics in high school and an earth science course as a freshman,” said Elizabeth Lane, freshman physics and vocal performance major. “I think the more the general population is educated the more likely we are to come up with a solution to the problems facing us, like sustainable ways to cut back on our consumption.”