What Does Your Major Say About You?


One of the most common questions asked on any college campus is the simple, conversational “What’s your major?” It’s so standard, it’s nearly like asking “How are you?” and expecting a generic “Good, and you?” in response. But does your response actually affect how you are perceived? Or is it like the insincere “good” that we so often throw around in awkward acquaintance conversation?

      For many people, your major is an immediate indicator of what type of person you are. And while there are many majors across campus, what do we, as College of Natural Sciences students, think about what each other’s major indicates? To find out, I asked seven CNS students from different departments what they thought about a few specific majors.
1.       Biology:
The School of Biological Sciences is the largest department within the College of Natural Sciences, so when non-Biology students were asked about their peers, they had no problem identifying them.
The general consensus seemed to be that all Biology students were also Pre-Med. In fact, out of the 7 people I interviewed from different CNS majors, all immediately associated Biology students with pre-med (even the Biology major). For example, Chemistry major, Jamie Lee, hopped on the sweeping generalization train and solely said "Biology? Pre-med.”
To be fair to Biology majors though, Biology is probably the most closely correlated science to the medicinal field, so we should cut them some slack, especially since several of them might wind up behind the scalpel with one of us on the operating table.
2.       Computer Science:
                   With 1,762 undergraduates, Computer Science majors are also very populous on campus. Consensus has it that Computer Science majors are generally somewhat nerdy, but very helpful when it comes to computer problems. Biology major Kate Dembny admitted she likes "having friends who are CS majors," as they can "fix [her] computer for free!"
                   Some people seem rather put off by Computer Science majors, who, as described by Maya Rao "are kind of like a cult." Mathematics major Sean Wagner affirmed this sentiment, believing that "Comp. Sci majors are the types of people who aren't social enough to answer these interviews. 
                  Coincidentally, it was very difficult for me to find a computer science major to interview.
3.       Biochemistry:
                   Interestingly, there are about as many Biochemistry majors as Chemistry majors (around 700 each). But what do students who picked out a path between Biology and Chemistry think of their brethren?
                  Biology major Kate Dembny tuned in again with a less friendly opinion this time, chiding Biochemistry majors as "they can't make up their mind between Biology and Chemistry." Chemistry major Jamie Lee had a similar impression, but adding that "they'll eventually pick between Bio and Chem. Probably Chem."
                 For an outside perspective of the Biology-Chemistry spectrum, I also asked Math major Sean Wagner what he associated Biochem majors with. He had an interestingly contrasting opinion to the previous two, labeling Biochemistry majors as "The freshman who think that they have everything figured out,” though he agreed that “They pick one... Usually Chemistry."
4.      Mathematics:
Believe it or not, Mathematics majors do exist, and there are a fair number of them: 847. Their peers generally believe them to be either remarkably brave or insane.
Nutrition major Maya Rao simply asked "Why?" when asked what she usually thinks when she considers her mathematical friends' choice. Judging especially from the hordes of freshman who suffer in Calculus classes, her question probably is asked very frequently around Q-drop time. 
There are some positive perceptions, however. Both Jamie Lee and Kate Dembny (Chemistry and Biology majors, respectively) thought that math would be a fun double major. In addition, Biochemistry Sam Etkind believed that Mathematics majors "seem pretty cool."   
Unfortunately, I am unsure if this statement had sarcastic implications or not.
5.      Human Ecology:
Human Ecology also has a large presence on campus, with 1443 undergraduates. This encompasses majors such as Nutrition, Human and Developmental Science, as well as Textiles and Apparel.
When asked what she thought of Human Ecology majors, Neuroscience major Pooja Tanna excitedly praised them for being "so cool! It's not like a traditional science." True enough, the question I was often asked when explaining this department is “Why is Fashion in the College of Natural Sciences?”
This is beyond my expertise, but I am positive there is a solid reason somewhere that a Google search could easily turn up.
6.       Chemistry:
Finally, I concluded my surveying of common perceptions with perceptions of my own major: Chemistry. Pooja Tanna associated Chemistry with “Smart people? Organic Chemistry is hard.” Indeed, Organic Chemistry is the most infamous of Chemistry classes, crushing the dreams of unsuspecting pre-health professions students.
Fellow Catalyst writer and Computer Science major Liz Furlan responded: “Well, they vaguely remind me of Walter White from Breaking Bad, so I try to stay on their good side.” Her reference to Breaking Bad was not too unexpected. I’ve been asked frequently if I intend on cooking meth when I graduate. I don’t, of course, in case any readers are wondering.
If your major wasn't included here, instead of grabbing the torches and pitchforks, I implore you to go out and learn about the stereotypes associated with your major. And whether or not your major was included here, you can always try to dispel the preconceived notions people associate with you. Unless of course, you are comfortable with such stereotypes as your identity. If so, more power to you.
In all seriousness though, I would encourage everyone to practice well-mannered, inter-major interactions, and get to know some other majors in the College of Natural Sciences. You may be surprised at the unique individuals you stumble upon.
As Tom Clancy said, “Stereotyping is only for those without the imagination to see people as they are instead of being like someone else they understand.”

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