DISP gets trimmed

Dalhousie’s faculty of science hopes to save $100,000 by cutting staff in the Dal Integrated Science Program (DISP), leaving students in the program to take regular first-year biology, chemistry and math classes.

The university is facing a $17.5 million operating budget gap. Some of the decisions regarding budget cuts are falling upon the faculties’ shoulders.

According to Chris Moore, the dean of science, current projections place the faculty of science’s deficit at $1.3 million. The faculty must present a balanced budget to the administration.

DISP, which admits approximately 70 students per year, covers a wide range of scientific disciplines in an integrated, small-group setting. It includes field research and an ethics course during students’ first term, setting them up for a research project during the second.

Cindy Staicer, director of DISP, says the program is expensive and requires a lot of work to run, but adds that professors benefit from it.

“You get to interact with some of the brightest science students coming to the university, and you learn a lot from your colleagues.”

The research project component of the program is unique to any integrated science programs in the country, says Staicer. It allows students to present their research in a formal scientific conference format, an opportunity most students will not get until their third or fourth year, if at all.

Staicer says the project might be a factor in a larger proportion of the program’s students going on to graduate studies than other students.

Nicole Marshall, a recent alumnus of DISP, has been a teaching assistant in the program for the past two years.

She is a fourth-year earth science and oceanography student who plans to pursue a master’s degree, and says the range of disciplines she studied in DISP helped her choose an undergrad field.

“It’s definitely a passion of mine I didn’t realize I had until I took DISP,” she says.

Marshall says doing a research project prepared her for the rest of her degree.

“Now that I’m doing my honours project I can see how that was like a mini honours project in first year, and I was really well-prepared for my honours thesis this year.”

George Kitching, a second-year biochemistry student, chose Dal because of DISP. He thinks one of the biggest reasons the program should be saved is the research project.

“That was critical to me. I got a summer job in a lab right after first year, and I was really lucky for that.”

Smaller class sizes and easier access to professors are other benefits of the program, he says.

Staicer says small class sizes make the program more versatile.

“Because they’re in a small group, you can do a lot of things that you can’t do in a big class. You can go on field trips, you can do more hands-on labs, you can interact with your profs more.”

She hopes that the trims to the program won’t be permanent.

“We would like to go back to the full version if we can find funding.”

1 Comment

  1. […] The Senate candidates are pretty excited to get a voice in the budget decisions, so, uh…  Listen, I’m supposed to be the cynical one, but it’s like telling a kid the Easter Bunny isn’t real.  Someone else can tell them.  This position appears to have attracted a few students irate at the DISP cuts. […]

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Joelline Girouard

Joelline was an Online Editor and the Copy Editor for Volume 146 of the Gazette. She was an Assistant Online Editor for Volume 145.

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