PZ Myers [Oh, dear] picked up on a tweet from Jeffrey Ros-Ibarra [Tell me botany doesn’t have a recruitment problem]. He posted the result of a survey of 800 first year students.
This shouldn't come as a big surprise to any Sandwalk readers. The question is, what should we do about it?
A minority (that includes me) look upon this data as a challenge. Our goal is to convince students that they should broaden their interests and learn about other species. People like me will emphasize broad principles and concepts that apply to ALL living organisms. We teach comparative biochemistry and talk a lot about evolution. These guys are the "challengers." (They're also the ones with the low student evaluations.)
The easiest way to tell the difference between the two types of professor in introductory biochemistry courses is to see whether they teach photosynthesis or the glyoxylate shunt, and whether they spend as much time on gluconeogenesis (the most ancient pathway) as they do on glycolysis (the derived pathway). It's also informative to observe whether they cover the biosynthesis of amino acids or whether they treat amino acids as food.
It's a really bad sign if they spend any time at all on the difference between "essential" and "nonessential" amino acids.