James Madison University

FAQ

What is ISAT all about?


ISAT is the acronym for the Integrated Science and Technology Department at James Madison University. ISAT provides a general science education, or in other words, a liberal arts education in technology.  Students study all the traditional areas of science (math, chemistry, physics, and biology), but they don’t take traditional science and math courses. ISAT courses integrate the sciences into technology fields or combine two or more traditional fields to teach students methods of analysis. The ISAT classes are titled “Issues,” “Analytical Methods,” “Connections,” and “Instrumentation and Measurement.”
ISAT deals with applying scientific principles to solving problems in the real world. ISAT students learn to work together to solve problems in a variety of fields.

Should I choose ISAT or a more traditional science or engineering curriculum?


Students ultimately have to answer this question for themselves. ISAT is a good choice if a student does not want to narrowly focus on a certain field. Science generalists are needed in our society and many companies are looking for students with that kind of training.
ISAT often appeals to students who are also thinking of studying engineering. Both programs have a decidedly practical bent because they are both applied science programs that deal with real-world solutions to problems. ISAT is broader than a traditional engineering program because it includes biology, chemistry, computer science, and some management and business topics.
ISAT is not an engineering program however. Students who want to study traditional engineering topics in mechanical, electrical, and civil fields for example, are probably better off in a traditional engineering program. ISAT is a general science program that includes some elements of an engineering curriculum and hence attracts many of the people who would also be candidates for engineering. Students have completed ISAT and gone on to get Masters degrees in engineering, but they take additional math and physics courses during their undergraduate careers that prepare them for the graduate schools.
That said however, ISAT grads have a lot of flexibility in getting jobs, probably more so than engineering students. The career fields don't overlap completely though.

What should I have studied in high school to prepare myself for ISAT?


In high school it is good to take as many upper level science and math courses as possible. Calculus is definitely beneficial as is some computer programming and anything in biology, chemistry, or physics. ISAT begins from the most basic concepts, but covers them faster and in college depth, so having seen the material before is a plus for most students.

If I am not sure whether or not ISAT is for me, should I try to major in ISAT when I enter JMU?


Students who declare ISAT as their major are guaranteed to get into ISAT classes that they need. The first two required ISAT classes, GISAT 151 and 112, also fulfill 2/3 of the science and math requirements in Gen Ed Cluster III (Science and Math). So if a student decides that ISAT is not the right program, they can just take GISAT 113 in the spring and thereby complete their Cluster III Gen Ed requirements.
Alternatively, if a student is thinking about ISAT, but wants to stay undeclared until they are sure, they can still take GISAT 151 and 112 and then change their major to ISAT if they like what they see. They are, however, not guaranteed a seat in those classes.

What kinds of internships are available in ISAT?


Many different kinds of companies look for internship students every year. In ISAT we email all declared ISAT students when we learn of an opportunity in a field related to ISAT. We also discuss internships in ISAT 491, the Senior Project Proposal Preparation class.

Can I study in a foreign country and still complete the ISAT major on time?


Yes, you can, but you need to plan this well in advance if you want to do it with the least impact on your progress toward the BS degree. See Paul Henriksen at least a semester in advance of when you want to study abroad (two semesters is even better). He will help you adjust your schedule so you can take the courses you need to graduate. Remember that not all ISAT classes are taught each semester, so if you are gone in the spring, you can’t just take the normal spring load in the fall.

How do I know who my advisor is?


In ISAT, students have several advisors.  Paul Henriksen is the Freshman Advisor for ISAT, so all incoming ISAT students meet with him in the summer to plan their fall schedules. ISAT students keep Mr. Henriksen as their advisor for as long as they like in the program. He is the person ISAT students see when they have questions about their graduation requirements, gpa,  and total credits, for example. ISAT students also have a separate advisor for their Concentration and possibly a different advisor for their Senior Project. This combination of advisors should be able to handle any questions the student might have.

What courses are included in the calculation of the major GPA?


Your grade point average in your major is determined by counting the quality points in all classes required for your ISAT major and all other ISAT classes and dividing the total by the number of credit hours accumulated in those courses. The fraction needs to be at 2.00 or greater for a student to graduate. Note that this total might include some non-ISAT courses if you take Telecom as a sector or concentration. Also note that it includes ISAT courses not required for the major: 480, 280 and extra sector or concentration courses. Your major gpa is available to you at the very end of the Degree Progress Report that is available on ecampus.

What is the University’s Degree Progress Report all about?


The Degree Progress Report is an attempt by the Registrar’s Office to provide JMU students with an up-to-date list of the courses they need to graduate. The reports are a bit complicated to read because students have a large number of options in the courses they may take to satisfy their major requirements and the Gen Ed requirements. If you have questions about interpreting the report, see your advisor or talk with the registrar’s office. We will be happy to help you.

Can I walk in graduation in May if I have not completed all my courses?


Yes, if you are registered for the courses you still need to finish in the summer then you can walk with your class in May. There is a limit on the number of courses you  can complete in the summer, so you want to be realistic about what can be done in a few months. One to three courses can probably be done with little anguish, but more than that, probably not.

How many courses are required for a dual concentration and how are they determined?


Doing a dual concentration in ISAT requires doing 7 classes rather than the 8 one might assume to be the case since 4 classes are required for a concentration. We are almost always able to find a class that will double count. Exactly which course this will be will be determined by your declaration of concentration form that you will fill out in ISAT 491 in the spring of your third year. You and the advisor(s) for your concentration(s) will come to agreement on this and it will be signed off on the form. Then you will have, in writing, the courses you need to take in your final year. When you apply for graduation, I will check your application against the courses listed on the dec. of conc. form. If they match you graduate, if they don't you can either take the correct courses or change the form in consultation with your concentration advisors. They have to match one way or the other.
Spreading the courses out over two years is often difficult unless you have completed the prereq courses early. Most often students take the sector courses in the third year and the concentration courses in the fourth year because the sector courses are prereqs for the concentration courses. If you are doing a dual concentration that usually means that you take a full course load in your final year and that gives you space to take all 7 courses.

What sectors can be taken early and is it a good idea to do so?


What is possible and what is recommended are two different things. Sector work is usually done in the third year but students who have completed the necessary course work can take the courses earlier if they want to. I would not recommend that a first year student take 350 right off the bat even if they have credit for GISAT 113. Students taking more advanced courses also benefit from the intellectual growth they get by taking courses in their first two years. So even if they have met the prereqs they should carefully consider whether or not they are really ready for a junior level course.

The sectors that could be started early could be any of them depending on the course credits that students bring into the program. If they bring in no other courses and just take courses here, the following sectors can be started early.

Environment can be taken in the second year because it only requires GISAT 112.


Biotech can be taken in the second year because it only requires GISAT 113. Engineering and Manufacturing can be started in the spring of the second year because 331 only requires 211 and not 330 (the fall sector course). IKM and Telecom could be started in the second year if the student takes 252 in the spring of the first year, which is possible but not normal.

The other sectors require courses that come in the second year in the ISAT program.

How many electives can I take here at JMU?


If you take one concentration and complete the gen ed program, that takes care of about 100 credits. That leaves 20 more if you only want to graduate with 120 total credits. You can take as many courses (elective) as you want, but that might mean being here more than four years, or taking more than 15 credits each semester.

How many semesters will it take to complete my ISAT degree if I transfer into the program?


It is determined individually for each student. Transferred courses and sectors/concentration a student wants to pursue will determine the number of semesters required to complete the program.  It is best to schedule a meeting with Paul Henriksen as soon as possible to determine a course of study.

 

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