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Bio & Society Alum Reflects on Program Benefits

The Center for Biology and Society spoke recently with 2002 alum, Caitlin Schaninger, MD. Caitlin is an emergency physician with The Permanente Medical Group in California after earning a B.S. in Biology and Society from Arizona State University. 

How did your degree in Biology & Society impact your career?
My Biology and Society degree provided me with a strong foundation in science, but perhaps most importantly, provided me with valuable critical thinking skills to be able to apply what I learned to the broader context of its application in society. Not only was I able to take classes in "lab" classes such as biology and chemistry, but was able to take classes such as the History of Medicine, and Bioethics, Policy, and Law that put what I learned in those "lab" classes into the broader context of how we apply that science toward bettering the world. This helped to teach me that the application of science is so much more than just carrying out a successful experiment and that how one implements and communicates those findings is just as much, if not more, important.

What do you consider to be the benefits of a degree in Biology & Society?
The benefits to a Biology and Society degree is not just the breadth of knowledge one obtains about both the biophysical and social sciences, but also the invaluable communication skills that the degree fosters. Students are challenged to support and clearly communicate their argument in favor of a new environmental policy just as well as communicate their research about a gene, for example. This ability to have a dialogue with others and communicate ideas clearly is valuable in any scientific career. Curiosity is also encouraged by the Biology and Society Program, as is evident by the diverse thesis projects explored by graduates. In the real world, you may not be given an assignment to complete or a deadline by which to get it done, and it is inherent curiosity that propels one forward to discover and continue to learn new things. In medicine, we are on a path of lifelong learning, not just about the latest medical advancement, but also about people and how they interact with each other and the world. The Biology and Society Program helps to cultivate this curiosity and drive.

What advice do you have for someone seeking a degree in Biology and Society?
I would suggest to take classes both in subjects that interest you (you'll be happier and more engaged that way) and that with which you are unfamiliar (you will learn something new and perhaps discover something new about yourself). Don't just take what you think might look good on a transcript - use your time thoughtfully and draw upon the expertise of your teachers to help you grow and develop yourself. Become engaged in whatever excites and motivates you and share that with others.

More Informaton: Caitlin Schaninger (