Environmental Science students study the complex interactions occurring within environmental systems and the role of humans within these systems. They look for practical solutions for environmental issues and harbor a passion for both science and nature. Environmental Science is a growing field that uses scientific knowledge to protect natural resources and the environment. Water preservation, alternative energy, air quality, land use, and waste disposal are just a few areas of research. This dynamic interdisciplinary program offered by Westminster College emphasizes science. The major provides a broad scientific background combined with Westminster’s solid liberal arts education to develop the understanding necessary to tackle the complex environmental issues facing the world today. The minor in Environmental Studies emphasizes a liberal arts approach, including the natural sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities, in studying the interface between humans and their environment. Over 110 acres of outdoor research space, state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation, and dedicated faculty make Westminster College an ideal setting for studying the environment.
Requirements for the Major
Environmental Science and Supporting Courses:
ES 160 Concepts of Environmental Science
ES 230 Chemical Analysis
ES 360 Ecology
ES 601 Environmental Science Capstone: Problem Analyses in Environmental Science
BIO 201 Cell Biology and Genetics
BIO 202 Evolution, Form and Function
CHE 117 Principles of Chemistry
CHE 180 Inorganic Chemistry OR CHE 261 Organic Chemistry I
MTH 135 Concepts of Statistics OR BIO 206 Biostatistics and Experimental Design
PHY 141 Foundations of Physics I OR PHY 151 Principles of Physics I
PHY 142 Foundations of Physics II OR PHY 152 Principles of Physics II
And four semester hours from the following: 590, 620, or 660:
ES 590-594 Internship
ES 620-624 Independent Study
ES 660, 670, 680, 690 Honors Research
And at least 12 semester hours from the following elective courses:
ES 250 Risk Assessment
ES 465 Introduction to GIS
ES 620-624 Independent Study
ES 664 Honors Research
BIO 301 Microbiology
BIO 361 Biological Diversity
BIO 363 Animal Behavior
BIO 461 Field Biology
BIO 463 Marine Biology
BIO 464 Freshwater Biology
BIO 520, 521 Biology Travel Course
CHE 180 Inorganic Chemistry OR CHE 261 Organic Chemistry I
CHE 262 Organic Chemistry II
CHE 340 Instrumental Analysis
CHE 375 Green Chemistry
CHE 380 Principles of Biochemistry
MTH 150 Calculus I
MTH 152 Calculus II
PHY 221 Electronics
Masters Program with Duquesne University
Westminster participates in a cooperative program with Duquesne University where students may be eligible to enter the two-year Duquesne program leading to the master of science degree in environmental science and management after three years of undergraduate study at Westminster. Upon successful completion of the requirements, a bachelor of science in environmental science is awarded from Westminster, and a master of science is awarded from Duquesne. Additional information on this program is available from Dr. Helen Boylan Funari, program coordinator, environmental programs.
Environmental Science Courses:
ES 160 Concepts of Environmental Science (4 SH). An investigation of the effect of humans on the Earth’s environment and on the other species that inhabit our planet. The course will look at the impact that an increasing human population has on the resource utilization, pollution production, habitat degradation, and the extinction of species. It will include a brief look at the policies and laws that specifically relate to environmental problems.
ES 230 Chemical Analysis (4 SH). A study of the theoretical foundation and skills necessary for the solution of problems encountered in the area of quantitative chemical analysis, including classical and modern methods. Emphasis is given to the evaluation and presentation of data, sampling, equilibrium dynamics of analytically important reactions, experimental design, volumetric techniques, absorption and emission spectroscopy, electrochemical methods, and analytical separations. Examples and laboratory exercises will include environmental air, soil and water systems. Prerequisites: CHE 117, and MTH 135 or MTH 150 or BIO 206 (may be co-requisite). (Also listed as CHE 230.)
ES 250 Risk Assessment (4 SH). This course provides an introduction to risk assessment, and includes the characterization of hazard, exposure assessment, the quantification of risk, and the application of risk analysis to environmental decision making. Specific topics will include human and environmental risk assessment, sources of potential hazards, transport and transfer processes, acute and chronic exposure to hazardous substances, and the effects of stressors on individuals, populations, and communities of organisms. Risk assessment will be considered within a regulatory framework, and the limitations of the current risk analysis paradigm will be addressed. Prerequisites: BIO 203 and CHE 117.
ES 360 Ecology (4 SH). A study of the structure of ecological populations, communities, and ecosystems, and the processes that affect them. Topics include population growth, regulation, and dynamics, population interactions, food webs, species diversity, succession, biogeography,and energy flow and nutrient cycling. Laboratories stress experimental design and data analysis. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 203. (Also listed as BIO 360.)
ES 465 Introduction to GIS (4 SH). This course is an introduction to the theory and use of Geographic Information Systems, including the fundamental concepts of GIS, capabilities of GIS, and applications for dealing with spatial data. Key issues for discussion will include data input, data models, database design and database queries, sources of information for spatial databases, spatial analysis, computational algorithms, and information presentation. Other issues such as the nature of geographic phenomena to be represented in a GIS, comparisons of different GIS representational schemes, and appropriate use of geographic information will also be covered. These topics will be discussed within an environmental context using ArcView, a PC-based GIS software package. (Also listed as BIO 465.)
ES 590-594 Internship (1-4 SH). Prerequisites: ES 160 and consent of the Environmental Science Committee for proposed internship.
ES 601 Environmental Science Capstone: Problem Analyses in Environmental Science (4 SH). Interdisciplinary senior research project designed to study an environmental problem from an integrated, multidisciplinary viewpoint. Students work collectively to develop testable hypotheses, design and implement experiments to test their hypotheses, and present their results in comprehensive written and oral reports. Prerequisite: successful completion of all required courses in the major.
ES 620-624 Independent Study (1-4 SH). Prerequisites: completion of an acceptable proposal of an original experimental or observational project dealing with an environmental topic; minimum GPA 2.750 in the major; completion of ES 160; and consent of the ES committee.
ES 660, 670, 680, 690 Honors Research (1-4 SH). (Additional requirements and due dates should be obtained from the program coordinator. Four additional semester hours of research may count as an elective.)
BIO 201 Cell Biology and Genetics (4 SH). This course serves as an introduction for students who have chosen biology or molecular biology as a major or minor. A combination of lectures, laboratory exercises, and assignments will introduce students to ways of observing and thinking about fundamental concepts and processes in the following areas of biology—biochemistry, cell structure and function, metabolism, genetics, and biotechnology. Various resources will be utilized to reinforce biological concepts, learn new laboratory skills, and improve critical thinking skills. Multiple sections offered every Fall Semester; one section offered every Spring Semester.
BIO 202 Evolution, Form and Function (4 SH). BIO 202 is the second in a series of three foundational courses in biology, designed to serve as an introduction for students who are taking a biology or molecular biology major or minor. Using explorative lectures coupled with investigative laboratories, BIO 202 will focus on evolution, the structure and physiology of plants and animals, and animal development. Concepts and practices of experimental design, data analysis, and interpretation of results will be reinforced and extended through integrated laboratory activities. Prerequisite: completion of BIO 201. Offered Spring Semester.
BIO 206 Biostatistics and Experimental Design (4 SH). An introductory course in experimental design and data analysis designed to encourage an understanding and appreciation of the role of experimentation, hypothesis testing, and data analysis in biology. The course will emphasize principles of experimental design, methods of data collection, exploratory data analysis, and the use of graphical and statistical tools commonly used by biologists to analyze data. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 201. Offered every semester.
BIO 301 Microbiology (4 SH). A study of the diversity in viruses, bacteria, fungi, and algae with an emphasis on the role of evolution in generating the diversity found in microorganisms. Consideration will be given to various energy metabolisms, genetic strategies, molecular systematics, and microbial adaptations that allow such diversity. Also considered will be the importance of microorganisms in medical, industrial, and environmental settings. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 201. Offered Spring Semester.
BIO 361 Biological Diversity (4 SH). An in-depth, cross-sectional study of the diversity of eukaryotic organisms. Pertinent to this course is the evolutionary process which is centered on adaptation, diversity, natural selection and speciation. Topics include paleontology, life histories, survival strategies in feeding and reproduction, biogeography and patterns of extinction. The social, ethical and political consequences of human activities will also be addressed. This course assumes reasonable knowledge of all major taxa and schemes of taxonomy. The laboratory component will consist primarily of field work. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 203. Offered every other Fall Semester.
BIO 363 Animal Behavior (4 SH). An introduction to the fascinating fields of animal behavior. This course focuses on the relationships between animals and their environments through adaptation, communication and social organization. It also explores other exciting issues such as, what animal behavior can teach us about ourselves, how economic game theory has been used to explain evolution of behavior, and how our understanding of animal behavior is changing the way we treat them. The lab component consists mainly of field work and bench work in the form of animal observations and a possible field trip to a wild animal facility. Prerequisites: C- or better in BIO 202 or PSY 201; willingness to spend significant amounts of time watching animals. (Also listed as PSY 315.)
BIO 461 Field Biology (4 SH). This course examines the local flora and fauna and is based upon field observation, natural history, and identification of local plants and animals. The lab component will involve extensive field work, including techniques for monitoring and assessment, and will be a major focus of this course. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 338, 360, or 361.
BIO 463 Marine Biology (4 SH). A detailed study of marine organisms and their interactions with physical, chemical, and biological factors in their environment. Adaptations of the most important groups of marine organisms will be examined from evolutionary, ecological, and physiological points of view. Major marine ecosystems will be described. In addition, the course will examine how marine organisms and ecosystems are affected by human activities and how those activities affect the future of ocean resources on Earth. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 338, 360, or 361. Offered Spring Semester, alternate years.
BIO 464 Freshwater Biology (4 SH). A study of inland water systems, including lakes, rivers, estuaries, and wetlands. The biological, physical, and chemical features of these systems are described, and the interaction between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems is discussed. A laboratory emphasizing field work is included. Prerequisite: C- or better in BIO 338, 360, or 361.
BIO 520, 521 Biology Travel Course (4 SH). A combination of on-campus study, with off-campus study in a natural setting to gain firsthand knowledge of biological concepts and principles that are particularly well illustrated in the region being studied. Experiential, problem-based learning is emphasized. The specific region, topics, and focus are likely to change with each offering.
CHE 117 Principles of Chemistry (4 SH). A course emphasizing stoichiometry, chemical equilibria, acids and bases, chemical kinetics, thermodynamics, electrochemistry, nuclear phenomena, and interactions of science and society. In the laboratory program students will investigate chemical systems, analyze observations and data, devise explanations, and communicate results. Prerequisites: High school chemistry and an acceptable score on a placement test or completion of CHE 111 or ES 160 with a grade of C- or better. Offered Fall and Spring semesters.
CHE 180 Inorganic Chemistry (4 SH). A study of the energetics of the bonding and reactions of inorganic compounds. Emphasis is given to the periodicity of the chemical and physical properties of the elements. Major themes of the course include effective nuclear charge, lattice energy, charge density, acid/base theories, and the descriptive chemistry of all of the elements. The laboratory includes the investigation of the energetics of reactions, the synthesis and analysis of coordination compounds, qualitative chemistry, and the communication of results. Prerequisite: CHE 117 with a grade of C- or better. Offered Fall and Spring semesters.
CHE 261 Organic Chemistry I (4 SH). An overview of organic chemistry. Organic molecules are compared by their functional group, focusing on nomenclature, physical properties, and the major chemical reactions used in synthesis and identification. Emphasis is also given to the areas of acidity, basicity, stereochemistry, aromaticity, and spectroscopy. Laboratory activities involve techniques for determination of physical and chemical properties, and methods of purification. Prerequisite: CHE 117 with a grade of C- or better. Offered Fall and Spring semesters.
CHE 262 Organic Chemistry II (4 SH). A study of organic reactivity. This course details organic molecules by reactivity and emphasizes the differences between organic reactions. Specifically, organic reactions will be surveyed by type of reaction keying on the movement of electrons, molecular orbitals, and energetics. Spectroscopy is employed to monitor structural changes. Laboratory activities also probe the reactivity of molecules and explore the relationship between structure and reactivity. Prerequisite: CHE 261 with a grade of C- or better. Offered Spring Semester.
CHE 340 Instrumental Analysis (4 SH). A study of modern instrumentation used in the investigation of chemical systems. The theory, design, and application of spectroscopic, electrochemical, and surface analysis techniques are discussed. Basic electronics and the relationship between signal and noise are also discussed. Prerequisites: CHE 230 and PHY 142 or 152. Offered Fall Semester, alternate years.
CHE 375 Green Chemistry (4 SH). A study of the principles, concepts, and applications of green chemistry. Particular attention will be given to industrial processes, catalysis, waste management, and renewable resources. Discussions will focus on the current literature on green chemistry. While the course does not include a laboratory, students will participate in a project that applies the principles of green chemistry to a laboratory experiment used in the chemistry curriculum. This project will serve as the culminating experience for the course. Prerequisites: CHE 230 and CHE 261.
CHE 380 Principles of Biochemistry (4 SH). A chemical study of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and nucleic acids in a biological context. Emphasis is placed on the structure to function of these biological molecules and their context within organisms. Energy transductions and concepts of metabolism are also introduced. Prerequisite: CHE 261. Offered Fall and Spring semesters.
MTH 135 Concepts of Statistics (4 SH). An introduction to the concepts of statistics. Topics include graphical and numerical summaries of data, confidence intervals and significance tests about hypotheses. Emphasis is placed on conceptual understanding and interpretation of data and statistics. Not available to students who have credit for BA/ECO 220, PSY 201, SSC 251, BIO 206.
MTH 150 Calculus I (4 SH). This course will focus on the fundamentals of differential calculus. Topics considered include functions, limits, continuous functions, differentiation and integration of functions with one real variable, applications of differentiation and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. Students will be introduced to some basic calculus proofs. This course is suggested for all students who expect to continue for any advanced degree including finance, law, and medicine.
MTH 152 Calculus II (4 SH). This course will focus on the fundamentals of integral calculus, including techniques and applications of integration. Other topics include infinite series and introductory topics from differential equations. Prerequisite: MTH 150.
MTH 250 Calculus III (4 SH). An introduction to the calculus of several variables. Topics include the geometry of three-dimensional space, partial derivatives, multiple integrals, and vector calculus. Prerequisite: MTH 152.
MTH 253 Differential Equations (4 SH). The study of differential equations and their applications in the natural sciences. Topics include linear differential equations, series solutions, Laplace transformations, systems of equations, an introduction to partial differential equations, boundary value problems and application of differential equations. Prerequisite: MTH 250.
MTH 261 Linear Algebra (4 SH). An introduction to matrix algebra and general vector spaces. Topics include systems of linear equations, matrix operations and properties, determinants, vector spaces and subspaces, linear transformations, linear independence and span, bases, coordinate systems, eigenvalues and eigenvectors, inner product spaces, and orthogonality. Prerequisite: MTH 250.
MTH 321 Numerical Analysis (4 SH). This course explores the development of methods to approximate the solutions to differential equations, zeros of functions, solutions to linear systems of equations, as well as analysis of errors involved in using these methods. Prerequisites: MTH 250 and CS 151.
PHY 141 Foundations of Physics I (4 SH). The first semester of an introductory study of physics (mechanics, heat, electricity, magnetism, waves, light and modern physics) without calculus. Basic principles used in both semesters are introduced in the first semester. Some emphasis will be given to applications of physics to biological systems. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: a good background in high school mathematics including algebra and trigonometry. Offered Fall Semester.
PHY 142 Foundations of Physics II (4 SH). The second semester of an introductory study of physics (mechanics, heat, electricity, magnetism, waves, light and modern physics) without calculus. Some emphasis will be given to applications of physics to biological systems. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: PHY 141 or PHY 151. Offered Spring Semester.
PHY 151 Principles of Physics I (4 SH). The first semester of an introductory study of physics (mechanics, heat, electricity, magnetism, waves, light and modern physics). Basic principles used in both semesters are introduced in the first semester. Some basic concepts of calculus may be introduced as needed. A laboratory is included. Co-requisite: MTH 150 or higher. Offered Fall Semester.
PHY 152 Principles of Physics II (4 SH). The second semester of an introductory study of physics (mechanics, heat, electricity, magnetism, waves, light and modern physics). Calculus methods will be used. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: PHY 151; Co-requisite: MTH 152 or higher. Offered Spring Semester.
PHY 221 Electronics (4 SH). An introductory course covering basic principles and applications of electrical engineering. Topics covered include steady-state and transient analysis of electrical networks, frequency response, op-amps, diodes, and transistors. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: PHY 152. Offered on a rotating basis.
Resources & Facilities
Westminster's rural location and outdoor lab facilities are ideal for studying environmental phenomena in their natural setting. More than 100 acres near the main campus are conserved for scientific education and research, including:
50+ acre Field Station
20 acre Brittain Lake
40 acre College Woods
2 miles of nature trails
Little Neshannock Creek
Arboretum & Nursery
Students enrolled in the Environmental Science program are required to complete an internship. Internships are an option for students in the Environmental Studies minor. Westminster environmental students have participated in internships with the following organizations:
At GBA, interns see far more action than fetching cups of coffee and making trips to the copier. Our interns receive a unique opportunity to work with leaders in the green building industry and to contribute to a variety of initiatives.
As an extension of the National Council for Science and the Environment's (NCSE's) Campus to Careers (C2C) program, NCSE has created an environmental internship clearinghouse with support from the UPS Foundation. The clearinghouse enables university students to search for internships in the environmental field and provides a forum for internship providers to tap into a solid community of quality applicants.
Thanks to the UPS Foundation, all services provided by the Environmental Internship Clearinghouse are 100% free.
Go with a DEP inspector! Come along with DEP inspectors as they review facility operations to make sure they comply with state environmental laws and permit conditions and learn the steps DEP inspectors take to make sure any problems are corrected.
DEP also offers both paid and unpaid internships. The majority of these positions are located in the DEP headquarters in Harrisburg, PA.
You may also contact Environmental Programs coordinator, Dr. Helen Boylan, for information about shadowing a local DEP agent.
Conservation reasearch through academic partnerships. Operation Wallacea is a network of academics from European and North American universities, who design and implement biodiversity and conservation management research programmes.
Apply for University of Washington's Environmental Health Research Experience Program, a summer research program for undergraduate students.
About the Outdoor Lab
The Westminster College campus includes approximately 100 acres outside of the main campus that are conserved for scientific education and research. The Outdoor Laboratory for Biological and Environmental Sciences includes three distinct areas that are used for education, research, and recreation. The 46-acre Field Station lies within walking distance of campus. It includes a Nature Center, nature trail, and various experimental and conservation areas. Brittain Lake, on the edge of the main campus, encompasses approximately 15 acres. In addition to enhancing the beauty of the campus, it is used by classes in biology and environmental science and for recreation. The College Woods is a mature 40-acre beech-maple forest south of campus. It provides excellent opportunities for ecological studies that require undisturbed ecosystems. A trail in the woods is used for recreational walking.
The mission of the Outdoor Laboratory takes its direction from the mission of Westminster College. The Outdoor Laboratory for Biological and Environmental Sciences comprises three facilities: the Field Station, Brittain Lake, and the College Woods. Together and separately they support and augment the philosophy and purposes of Westminster College. Westminster’s quest for excellence is a recognition that stewardship of life mandates the maximum possible development of each person’s capabilities. The Outdoor Laboratory thus realizes its mission in men and women who:
Imagine yourself an environmental consultant, environmental regulator, environmental lawyer, conservation scientist, or sustainability analyst.
Bachelor of Science
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