While areas like science and the arts might not often intersect, the opportunity to combine them into one path of study gives many UA students the means to pursue their passions.
Nathan Barker, a senior majoring in music performance, spends long days attending science labs, music classes and ensemble rehearsals before retreating to the Billingsley Music Building, where he spends late nights working to perfect his clarinet repertoire. Barker, who plans to use his musical background in the medical world, also makes time between classes to conduct research in the Music Cognition Lab, where he studies the relationship between music and the brain in depth.
Barker planned to focus on oncology research without incorporating music at all, he said. It was not until he took a class about the relationship between music and the brain his sophomore year that he realized how he could blend his two passions.
“I just started to fall back in love with music, and then I saw this pathway for myself where I could keep music in my everyday life even as an adult,” Barker said. “I just really latched onto the idea of being able to practice medicine while still keeping music as an integral part of my life.”
Barker, who has taken science classes in preparation for medical school, dreams of opening a private neurology clinic. He plans to incorporate music therapy into the rehabilitation process for stroke patients and those with Parkinson’s Disease or dementia.
Like Barker, many UA students choose to study seemingly unrelated fields or take advantage of minors in different colleges to better prepare themselves for a specific career. There are more than 200 fields of study available to UA students, according to UA Undergraduate Admissions.
Hannah Hughes, a senior majoring in biology and German, also plans to attend medical school after graduation. Hughes added her German major during her junior year to challenge herself and pursue a more well-rounded education, she said. She plans to study abroad in Germany this summer to complete her German degree after finishing her biology degree in the spring.
Hughes thinks completing both degrees will be beneficial because she will be able to use both areas of knowledge in her future career, she said. Once she is a doctor, Hughes expects that her German degree could help her communicate with any German patients she may encounter.
“I think having a broader education besides just science is always a good thing,” Hughes said. “Medicine is not just science, it’s (also) working with different kinds of people.”
Students in other departments, like Moses Montgomery, have also chosen to explore a wider variety of subjects. Montgomery, a senior majoring in art and minoring in philosophy, said they want to teach printmaking or art at a university and thinks that philosophy encourages artists to examine their art with greater depth.
“There’s a lot of expectation in contemporary art to have deeper meaning behind things, to make things that are thematically rich and that are impactful in some way or another,” Montgomery said. “I feel like the ground of philosophy is really good for what you’re trying to do conceptually in your art.”
Studying philosophy helps them get a better sense of the ideas that came before them and the ideas that are emerging now, Montgomery said. They also think philosophy will better equip them to explain their work to others in writing.
Montgomery became fascinated with philosophy after taking Honors Introduction to Philosophy their freshman year, which persuaded them to add it as a minor. They think art majors should be required to take more philosophy classes, and that the extra work will be worth it because it will benefit their art and their future career, Montgomery said.
However, the extra workload can be overwhelming for multi-specialized students at times. Hughes had to learn to prioritize her time as her classes became more difficult, she said. She also surrounds herself with friends who are equally focused on school to study with and lean on for support.
To keep himself from becoming overwhelmed, Barker said he carefully plans his days down to the minute, to find the right balance between studying for his science classes and practicing his clarinet, he said. Barker also tries to be open and communicative with his professors when he is stressed, he said.
Despite the additional challenges, Barker is grateful for the path his education has led him down, and thinks if he had not entered college as a music major, he would not be where he is now, he said.
“I am (involved) in such a niche area of study that I just think is so interesting, and I really think I can help the world,” Barker said. “I don’t see any other pathway that would have led me to this point.”