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Biology/Theology Major Prepares Catholic Scientists

Faith and ScienceFreshman Mélanie Guirette admits she was irked to discover she would be required to take several core theology classes while pursuing a pre-medical program at UST. 

“I just wasn’t very motivated or interested in those classes,” said Guirette, who plans a career in health sciences and prefers to spend long afternoons in the biology lab.

But her attitude quickly changed with her first theology course, a class on the teachings of the Catholic Church: in fact, Guirette will become the first UST student to declare a joint major in biology and theology, a new program of study the University will begin offering in fall 2014.

“I realized how little I knew about my own religion,” Guirette said. “The course taught me that there are different types of knowledge; that scientific knowledge is different from faith, but that they are compatible, and that one kind completes the other.”

“The Best of Both Worlds”

Theology chair Christopher Evans said the new joint major is a great option for Catholic undergraduates who are looking to synthesize faith and science in the classroom.

“The joint program can be tailored to meet all of the prerequisites of Texas medical schools,” he said, “and to allow students to develop and demonstrate other desirable qualities such as moral reasoning, intellectual capacity, broad educational experiences, writing skills, and so on—in other words, all the ingredients needed to prepare the next generation of Catholic scientists and professionals.”

Rosemarie Rosell, chair of the Biology Department, stated that the joint biology/theology major will be an interesting choice for students who want to enrich their knowledge of the Catholic faith but who are also very curious about the science of life.

Evans said the new combined program allows students to access the “best of both worlds” within 126 credit hours, the minimum number of credit hours to graduate. Each student of this program will be advised by both a theology and a biology professor versed in requirements for the professional programs, such as medical or dental school, graduate programs and the biomedical industry. 

Promoting Dialogue Between Faith and Reason

Guirette said the new joint program intends to promote dialogue between faith and reason, which is integral to the University’s mission.  Now, she said, her studies on physical health will be joined with the study of “moral health—the health of the soul.”

This synthesis, she said, has opened her to “a much broader way of thinking,” the possibility of a richer understanding of both science and faith that may interest other theology or biology majors. 

“For students who started out like me, thinking those [theology] classes are just a bother—I would encourage them to come to classes with an open mind,” she said, “because you’re going to learn about so many things you didn’t even know existed.”