Catalogue PDF Version

Catalogue - PDF Version


Department Faculty

Meghan Brown, Professor
Sigrid Carle, Professor
Bradley Cosentino, Associate Professor, Department Chair
Susan Cushman, Associate Professor of Practice
Mark Deutschlander, Professor
Brielle Fischman, Assistant Professor of Practice
Kristy Kenyon, Professor
Patricia Mowery, Professor
James Ryan, Professor
Shannon Straub, Associate Professor

The Biology Department offers students a foundation in modern biology, providing breadth in biological study through an array of course topics and the opportunity for advanced coursework and independent investigation within the context of a liberal arts curriculum. The curriculum includes a required introductory course (BIOL 167 Introductory Topics), allowing students to explore biological principles through a contemporary topic. Students take required courses in genetics (BIOL 220), ecology (BIOL 225), and evolution (BIOL 300), learning a common framework to understand how biological traits are inherited, develop, and change over time in response to environmental conditions. Students gain skills in quantitative decision making in BIOL 230 Biostatistics, and they complete a capstone course focused on discussion of the primary literature (BIOL 460 Senior Seminar). Students in the program also take elective courses in subdisciplines of biology, as well as supporting courses in quantitative reasoning and the natural sciences.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Biology Department is to provide students with the conceptual foundation and skills necessary to understand the complexity and interconnectedness of the biological world. Biological science requires a multifaceted approach to answering questions, from elucidating biological mechanisms to explicating the ontogenetic, ecological, and the evolutionary processes that shaped them. Beyond teaching students to interpret biological knowledge, we emphasize the skills necessary to acquire new knowledge through hands-on laboratory and field-based coursework and research collaborations with department faculty.


Biology offers two disciplinary majors, a B.A. and a B.S., and a disciplinary minor. Only courses completed with a grade of C- or better, both departmental and cognate, may count toward the major. One course with a grade of CR may count toward the minor, with all other courses completed with a grade of C- or better. Bidisciplinary courses do not typically count toward a biology major.

Biology Major (B.A.)

disciplinary, 12 courses
Learning Objectives:

  • Describe core concepts of biology and explain how these concepts are interconnected, including evolution; information flow, exchange, and storage; the relationship between structure and function; and pathways of energy and matter.
  • Recognize that a complete understanding of a biological trait requires integrating four complementary approaches, including understanding the trait’s structure and function, development, adaptive significance, and phylogenetic history.
  • Engage in scientific inquiry by asking biological questions, designing experimental and observational studies, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions.
  • Effectively communicate about science and biology in oral and written formats.
  • Describe how biology can inform current societal issues, such as environmental issues and conservation, human health, disease transmission, or social diversity.

Nine biology courses are taken and must include BIOL 167, BIOL 220, BIOL 225, BIOL 230, BIOL 300, and BIOL 460. The remaining three courses are electives, which must be completed at the 300-level. BIOL 450 Independent Study or BIOL 495 Honors may substitute for a maximum of one 300-level biology course. Completion of BIOL 496 Honors may substitute for BIOL 460. Other required courses include CHEM 110 and two electives in the natural sciences (that can include additional biology electives).

At least six courses must be unique to the major. All courses for the major must be completed with a grade of C- or better. Of the nine biology courses for the B.A., seven must be completed at HWS or as part of HWS-sponsored abroad programs (applies only to non-transfer students). At least five biology courses must have a laboratory. Credit/no credit courses cannot be counted toward the major. Bidisciplinary courses do not typically count towards the major. 

Biology Major (B.S.)

disciplinary, 16 courses
Learning Objectives:

  • Describe core concepts of biology and explain how these concepts are interconnected, including evolution; information flow, exchange, and storage; the relationship between structure and function; and pathways of energy and matter.
  • Recognize that a complete understanding of a biological trait requires integrating four complementary approaches, including understanding the trait’s structure and function, development, adaptive significance, and phylogenetic history.
  • Engage in scientific inquiry by asking biological questions, designing experimental and observational studies, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions.
  • Effectively communicate about science and biology in oral and written formats.
  • Describe how biology can inform current societal issues, such as environmental issues and conservation, human health, disease transmission, or social diversity.

All of the requirements for the B.A. major apply, plus one additional 300-level course from biology, one additional quantitative reasoning course, and two more natural science electives. BIOL 450 Independent Study or BIOL495 Honors may substitute for a maximum of one 300-level biology course. Completion of BIOL 496 Honors may substitute for BIOL 460.

At least six courses must be unique to the major. All courses for the major must be completed with a grade of C- or better. Of the 10 biology courses for the B.S., seven must be completed at HWS or as part of HWS-sponsored abroad programs (applies only to non-transfer students). At least five biology courses must have a laboratory. Credit/no credit courses cannot be counted towards the major. Bidisciplinary courses do not typically count towards the major. 

Elective Courses in Quantitative Reasoning and the Natural Sciences. Quantitative reasoning electives include mathematics (MATH 130 or greater), computer science, or data science (greater than DATA 101). Natural science electives include biology, chemistry, computer science, data science (greater than DATA 101), geoscience, mathematics (greater than MATH 130), physics, or psychology. Additional options for the natural science elective include ENV 200, ENV 203, ENV 216, ENV 281, and ENV 310. 

Progressing through the Major. During the first year, students are advised to complete BIOL 167 and either BIOL 220 or BIOL 225. BIOL 230 Biostatistics should be completed after BIOL 167 and at least one additional biology course, ideally by the end of the sophomore year. BIOL 300 should be taken during the junior year. Students should complete CHEM 110 during the first or second year, and an elective in quantitative reasoning by the end of the junior year. BIOL 460 Senior Seminar is intended as a capstone course, integrating information presented in the first three years, and is completed during the spring semester of the senior year.

Biology Minor

disciplinary, 6 courses
BIOL 167 and five additional biology courses. Students minoring in biology should work with a biology adviser to select courses that best complement their major and their career goals. One course may be taken for a CR grade, and all other courses must be passed with a grade of C- or higher.

General Policies

Policies on C/NC and course repeats. For the major, all BIOL courses must be taken for a grade (CR/NC courses will not count). For the minor, a maximum of 1 course taken for a CR grade may be counted toward the minor. Any biology course repeated for a better grade must be repeated in full (both laboratory and lecture components need to be repeated).

Advanced Placement. Students who earn an Advanced Placement (AP) score of 4 or 5 for AP Biology will earn credit toward the biology major as an equivalency with BIOL 167 Introductory Biology. 

College Courses Taught in High School. College courses taught in high school for which a student earns high school and college credit may contribute to the biology major if the course has been taken for an entire year and the student earned an A. Incoming students may request equivalencies in biology from these courses by submitting a petition to the Department Chair.

BIOL 230 substitution. Students may substitute other statistics courses on campus (ECON 202, GEO 207, PSY 210, or both PSY 201 and PSY 202) in place of BIOL 230 for the major or minor. Statistics courses from off campus must be petitioned for approval using the petition form.

Taking biology courses in HWS abroad programs. Courses in biology in abroad programs may contribute to the biology major with equivalencies as core required courses or contributing as electives. Courses not previously approved by the department must be petitioned for approval using the petition form. Students should work with their adviser to determine how potential abroad courses will count towards the major or minor. 

Taking biology courses at other institutions. Courses taken at other institutions, which are not affiliated with HWS-sponsored abroad programs, are considered on a case-by-case basis. Students must petition the department for these courses to count toward their Biology degree. Petition forms can be downloaded here.

Course Descriptions

BIOL 150 Topics in Biology  This introductory course provides a conceptual framework for non-majors to learn biology through contemporary topics such as human diseases, climate change, food systems, conservation, or human reproductive technologies. Each section of this course introduces key biological principles including the process of evolution through natural selection; the central role of DNA, RNA, and proteins in living organisms; and the inheritance of genetic information. Through course readings, discussions and assignments, students will develop skills of scientific thinking and literacy. Typical readings: Campbell Biology: Concepts & Connections or equivalent biology texts, scientific articles and media content. Prerequisites: none. Enrollment not allowed for students who have completed BIOL167 with a C- or better. (offered occasionally)

BIOL 160 Nutrition  This is an introductory course on nutrition. We will explore key nutritional molecules (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins, trace minerals), how nutrients are metabolized to provide energy, the relationship between nutrition and disease, and how nutritional studies are conducted and assessed. In addition, we will cover concepts such as diets, nutritional myths versus facts, government guidelines, and food deserts. May not receive credit for both CHEM 148 and BIOL 160. Prerequisites: none. (Mowery, offered annually)

BIOL 167 Introductory Topics  These courses, while focused on a range of topics, are designed to help students (1) distinguish between scientific inquiry and other modes of inquiry; (2) articulate in general terms the central concepts of biology, including the process of evolution through natural selection; the central role of DNA, RNA, and proteins in living organisms; and the inheritance of genetic information; (3) ask relevant biological questions, develop scientific hypotheses, and design experiments to test hypotheses; and (4) explain the relevance of biological knowledge to society. Lab is required, but which lab section you register for is independent of the lecture section. Prerequisites: none. (offered every semester)

Topics offered:

  • A Biotech World: Origins and Implications of Recombinant DNA Technology: With increasing knowledge of DNA structure and function, scientists have acquired powerful tools for tinkering with the genetic makeup of living organisms. To date, our ability to manipulate DNA has had a significant impact in areas such as agriculture, human health, and the environment. This course introduces the basic scientific principles behind recombinant DNA technology and its potential applications. Students also address the environmental, ethical, and social issues that surround the use of this technology in our changing world. (Kenyon)
  • Biology of Environmental Change: An organism’s ability to persist on this earth is challenged by many threats. Changing environmental conditions produce dynamic and unpredictable responses in wildlife. This course examines important biological concepts such as evolution, genetics, physiology, and ecology from an environmental perspective. Using these foundations, we will explore how threats to biodiversity such as climate change, pollution, and habitat loss intersect with and impact disease, epigenetics, metabolism, and food web structure in a series of case studies. While the course introduces many examples, students will learn about the eastern coyote as an excellent example of an animal that has adapted to environmental change alongside humans. (Cushman)
  • Biology of Sex: This course examines the important themes in biology through the lens of reproduction; a defining characteristic of all life. This course uses an evolutionary-based approach to understand the cost and benefits of asexual versus sexual reproduction. We will study why sex evolved, discover some of the fantastic strategies plants and animals use to mix their genes, explore the evolution of sex, learn how genetic information is passed from generation to generation, and visit such topics as mating strategies, sperm competition, female mate choice. (Ryan)
  • Dangerous Diseases: Black death, the Spanish Flu, AIDS – Is the greatest threat to humanity likely to come from a new deadly disease that causes worldwide havoc? This course explores the cell biology, molecular biology and physiology behind some of humanities' most tenacious infectious diseases, such as SARS, Ebola, Hantavirus, and HIV. Understanding the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases allows assessment of the possibility that a deadly infection could cause another deadly global outbreak. Finally, students explore how scientists combat infectious diseases and whether or not the human genome project and the ability to sequence the genomes of disease-causing organisms offer new mechanisms to fight deadly diseases. (Carle)
  • HIV and Related Topics: According to the World Health Organization, there are over 33 million people currently living with HIV. We will examine HIV from various angles including how it enters cells, how it integrates into the human genome, how it changes, and methods to detect it and prevent its infection. Through these topics we will explore concepts such as molecular and cellular components of cells, genetics and evolution, and immunology and viruses. (Mowery)
  • Living Color: Color is a fascinating trait in living organisms. Color serves important roles in animal communication, such as mate choice, social interaction, and predation. Color may even vary during an organism’s lifetime. Moreover, how we perceive color is due to mechanisms in the eye, which can vary between species. As curious scientists, we can ask many questions about the biology of color. How do animals create color in their skin, fur, feathers, or scales? What causes variation in color between or within species? Have colors evolved because they increase an organism’s fitness, or reproductive success, or due to other mechanisms of evolution? What can impact color over an organism’s lifetime? How can comparisons of groups of related species help us determine how and why colors and color vision have evolved? (Deutschlander)
  • Plants and People: Plants, broadly defined, are incredible organisms that humans rely on for food, shelter, textiles, medicine, and the oxygen we breathe. This course explores the basic biology of plants and emphasizes the ways in which humans and plants are similar and different with a focus on how we sense and respond to the world around us, all while covering all the core principles of biology. (Straub)
  • Secret Life of Bees: Explores important facets of biology through the lens of bees. Bees are a model system in biology, used in a diverse array of biological research including genetics, ecology, and evolution. During this course we will study defining characteristics of bees and their insect relatives, investigate why some bees are social and others are solitary, understand how bees and flowering plants evolved together for pollination, and learn about genetic mechanisms that underlie bee behavior. We will also cover general topics in biology related to all organisms, such as the evolutionary relationships among species, how traits are passed from parents to offspring, sex determination, how genes are expressed in individuals, and forces of evolution including natural selection. (Fischman)

BIOL 220 Genetics  This course focuses on the foundational principles that define the broad and integrative field of modern genetics.  The major topics considered are the structure of genetic material, its replication, its transmission, and its expression. Special emphasis is placed on the central features of genes, transcription and translation, and the mechanisms that regulate expression and transmission. Epigenetics, genome modification and editing, and applications of genetics in medicine are explored through the primary literature. The course consists of lectures and laboratory experience with either animal or plant systems. Through the laboratory experiences, students will build upon and expand their skills in experimental design as well as molecular and/or cellular techniques routinely used in the field. With laboratory. Required for all biology majors. Prerequisite: BIOL 167. (Carle, Fischman, Kenyon, Straub, offered each semester)

BIOL 225 Ecology  This course is an introduction to ecological theories as they apply to individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems. Topics covered include physiological ecology, population dynamics, competition, predation, community structure, diversity, and the movement of materials and energy through ecosystems. The laboratory is designed to provide experience with sampling techniques and an introduction to the methods of experimental ecology. With laboratory. Required for all biology majors. Prerequisite: BIOL 167. (Brown, Cosentino, Cushman, offered each semester)

BIOL 230 Biostatistics  Statistics is a framework for answering questions with data and is a critical component of scientific inquiry and decision-making. The class will emphasize the practical use of statistics to make decisions about scientific hypotheses. Subjects discussed include sampling, experimental design, probability, parameter estimation, confidence intervals, and statistical hypothesis testing for categorical and quantitative data. The course includes an introduction to statistical computing using standard spreadsheet or statistical software packages. The concepts presented in this class are applied in nature and require, as background, only an elementary knowledge of algebra and the desire to learn. Required for all biology majors. Prerequisites: BIOL 167 and either BIOL220 or BIOL225. (Brown, Cosentino, offered each semester)

BIOL 300 Evolution Evolution is often referred to as the great unifying principle of all the biological sciences. In this course, both micro-evolutionary process and macro-evolutionary patterns are discussed. Micro-evolution involves studying current evolutionary processes (such as natural selection, sexual selection, and genetic drift) using techniques from population, quantitative, and molecular genetics. Additional topics include levels of selection, adaptation, and ecological factors important for evolutionary change. Evolutionary processes also are central to the understanding of past events and, therefore, topics such as biological diversity, speciation, phylogeny, and extinction are also discussed. With laboratory. Required for all biology majors. Prerequisites: BIOL220, BIOL225, BIOL230, and junior status (Cosentino, Straub, offered each semester)

BIOL 302 Immunology  Immunology is a complex, multi-discipline and evolving field of study. We will explore cellular immunology, molecular immunology and the immune system in diseases. A wide range of topics will be covered including the cells and organs of the immune system, innate and acquired immunity, the structure and function of the major molecular players in the immune response, vaccines, immunity to microorganisms, immunodeficiency, transplantation and cancer. The laboratory portion will explore the molecular immunological techniques relevant to the medical and research fields. With laboratory. Prerequisites: BIOL 220, BIOL 230, CHEM110, and junior or senior status (Mowery, offered annually)

BIOL 315 Advanced Topics in Biology  An in-depth study of topics of current research interest. Recent examples of courses include Building Organs, Marine Biology, Parasitology, and Wildlife Ecology and Management. Prerequisites: Dependent on the topic of the course. (Staff, offered occasionally)

BIOL 316 Conservation Biology  Conservation biology addresses the alarming loss of biological diversity around the globe. In this course, students will explore the causes and consequences of biodiversity loss. Emphasis will be placed on integration of ecological and evolutionary theory to address the management and protection of biodiversity. Topics include species extinction and rarity, conservation genetics, population ecology, population viability analysis, landscape ecology, land and wildlife management, and captive species management. Students will also examine social, economic, and philosophical aspects of conservation, including the role of science in environmental policy. This course combines lecture, laboratory, and discussion of the primary literature. With laboratory. Prerequisites: BIOL225 and BIOL230 (Cosentino, offered occasionally)

BIOL 322 Microbiology  This course provides a broad introduction to microorganisms. Students are given an opportunity to both examine microbes from the traditional vantage of microscopes and colonies, and enter the current conversation on and techniques using microorganisms. Microbiology is a multi-disciplinary field and this course will allow students to explore genetics, molecular biology, bioinformatics, evolution, ecology, biochemistry, and immunology. With laboratory. Prerequisites: BIOL 167 and CHEM110. (Mowery, offered annually)

BIOL 324 Anatomy  This course presents a systemic approach to the study of the human body. Course topics begin with an introduction of anatomical terminology and an overview of cellular processes and tissue classification. Students then are introduced to the gross and microscopic anatomy of the following systems: integumentary, skeletal, muscular, nervous, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, urinary and reproductive. Students will also develop an understanding of how these systems develop during early embryology, as well as learning the clinical relevance of disease and disorders that affect anatomy. One of the goals of this course is to provide an understanding of human anatomy which then provides the foundation for clinical diagnosis and decisions. The laboratory component of the course generally parallels and reinforces lecture concepts with practical hands-on learning. Prerequisite: BIOL 167. (Fischman, offered annually)

BIOL 325 Invasion Ecology  Biological invasions are primary drivers of global environmental change. Species invasions also provide unique opportunities for studying ecological and evolutionary interactions among organisms and their environments. This course focuses on the process and underlying mechanisms of colonization and establishment, the effects of species redistribution on recipient communities and ecosystems, and the management techniques employed to prevent and address invasions. Students engage in research projects and discussions of the scientific literature. With laboratory. Prerequisites: BIOL225 and BIOL230. (Brown, offered occasionally)

BIOL 327 Cancer Biology  Cancer is not a single disease. Rather, it is a collection of related diseases that share similarities in origin, genetics, and development. This course will explore the complexities of cancer development. The course begins with understanding DNA damage and mutations, followed by the genetic differences between cancer and normal cells. Next, we move out of cell to discuss the role of the microenvironment in cancer suppression and development. In this section we discuss normal cells, such as stroma and immune cells, and how they influence tumor development. The final section of the course discusses unresolved theories of cancer development and treatment. Prerequisites:  BIOL 220, BIOL 230, CHEM110, and junior or senior status.

BIOL 328 The Biology of Plants  The diversity of plants is enormous, ranging from microscopic phytoplankton to trees more than 300 feet tall. Using an evolutionary approach, students study this great diversity and follow the development of plants from the earliest photosynthetic single-celled organisms to complex flowering plants. Plant structure and function are discussed in relation to the environment in which plants live. Studies of plant anatomy, physiology, and ecology focus on flowering plants. Throughout the course, human uses of plants and plant products are highlighted. The laboratory provides hands-on experience with the plant groups discussed in lecture and an opportunity to experimentally test many of the concepts presented. With laboratory. Prerequisite: BIOL167. (Straub, offered alternate years)

BIOL 332 Cell Biology  An introduction to the fundamental principles that guide the functions of cells and organelles. The major topics covered are transcription and translation, cell communication and signal transduction, cellular metabolism (respiration and photosynthesis), and cell motility. These topics are studied in the context of cancer and other human diseases. With laboratory. Prerequisite:  BIOL 220. (Carle, offered annually)

BIOL 333 General Physiology  An introduction to the major physiological processes of animals, from the level of cells and tissues to the whole organism. A comparative examination of animals emphasizes basic physiological processes and demonstrates how animals with different selective pressures "solve problems" related to integrating the separate yet coordinate organ systems of their bodies. Students examine relationships between structure and function, mechanisms of regulation, control and integration, metabolism, and adaptation to the environment. Laboratory exercises reinforce lecture topics and emphasize an investigative approach to the measurement of physiological processes. With laboratory. Prerequisite: CHEM110 and BIOL220 or BIOL225 or BIOL324. (Deutschlander, offered annually)

BIOL 334 Vertebrate Biology  Vertebrates are among the most abundant and conspicuous animals in the natural world. Topics covered include an exploration of the diversity of vertebrates, the characteristics that define each vertebrate group, and how those characteristics relate to each group's evolution. In addition, the course covers principles of systematic biology, methods used to study vertebrates, behavior, reproduction, life history and physiology of vertebrates. The laboratory combines experiments with field trips. With laboratory. Prerequisites: BIOL225 and BIOL230 (Ryan, offered annually)

BIOL 338 Aquatic Biology Aquatic biologists study lake, river, and ocean ecosystems. This course uses regional aquatic habitats as a natural laboratory to deepen students’ understanding of biological processes. Through these field experiences and literature from geographically diverse locations, students will learn about (1) structures of aquatic organisms that enable organisms to function in aquatic environment, (2) the distribution of organisms within and among aquatic ecosystems as they relate to abiotic conditions and biotic interactions, and (3) selective forces – both abiotic and biotic – that alter the traits and behaviors of aquatic organisms. During the semester, students learn techniques to study water quality, community composition, and ecological interactions among aquatic organisms. Laboratories involve designing experiments, drawing conclusions from analyzed data, and communicating scientific results. With laboratory. Prerequisites: BIOL 225 and BIOL230. (Brown, Cushman, offered annually)

BIOL 339 Global Change Biology  Global Change Biology is the study of interactions between organisms and environmental change. This course will introduce students to biological responses of plants and animals (including humans) to climate change, habitat destruction, overharvesting, pollution and invasive species. Topics such as disturbance regimes, species range shifts, phenotypic plasticity, emerging diseases, and adaptation to these environmental stressors will be covered. Global Change Biology is a rapidly-emerging multi-disciplinary field, which integrates physical science with areas of biology such as physiology, ecology and evolution. With laboratory. Prerequisites: BIOL225 and BIOL230. (Cushman, offered alternate years)

BIOL 340 Neurobiology  In this course students examine concepts and experimental models in cellular and systems neurobiology in order to gain a better understanding of how the nervous system is integrated to produce simple and complex behaviors. After a consideration of how individual neurons function, students examine (1) how parts of the nervous system are specialized to sense and perceive the environment, (2) how commands are initiated and modified to produce smooth, well-controlled movements, and (3) how more complex functions of the nervous system (such as emotions, language, homeostasis, etc.) are produced by neural networks. Because neurobiology is an inherently comparative field, students examine neural processes that demonstrate basic concepts inherent to neurological systems both in invertebrates and vertebrates (including humans). Laboratories include some computer simulations of neuronal physiology and "wet lab" experiments designed to introduce students to techniques for investigation of the neural basis of behavior. With laboratory. Prerequisites: BIOL 220, BIOL230, and CHEM110. (Ryan, offered occasionally)

BIOL 341 Developmental Biology  This course presents a comprehensive view of the principles that govern how a single fertilized egg develops into a complex organism. Developmental biology is an integrative discipline that includes other fields of biology such as molecular and cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, evolution, neurobiology and physiology. Through lectures and laboratory exercises, students learn the experimental approaches used by scientists to study developmental processes. With laboratory. Prerequisites: BIOL220, BIOL230, and CHEM110. (Kenyon, offered annually)

BIOL 356 Ornithology  Birds instill wonder in many people due to their colorful and melodious communication, their incredible flight and migrations, and their ubiquitous presence everywhere humans live. Birds are also obvious sentinels of environmental change; more than one species has been a "canary in a coal mine" for environmental disturbances such as pesticide use, pollution, and climate change. Ornithology is the scientific study of this amazing group of animals. In this course, we will study local avifauna to learn about the diversity, natural history, and conservation of birds. Students will develop identification skills and learn and practice field techniques in ornithology. The study of birds also provides the opportunity to take a holistic approach to biology, combining subdisciplines such as evolutionary biology, systematics, population biology, genetics, animal behavior and physiology. Lecture and discussion topics may include the evolution and systematics of extant birds, feathers and flight mechanics, anatomy and environmental physiology, migration and dispersal, foraging ecology and niche partitioning, communication, parental and social behavior, and conservation. We will read and assess primary literature in ornithology to investigate how scientists advance our understanding of birds, and will examine the role of citizen science in advancing our ornithological research. Student experience, knowledge, and interest will determine specific case studies we explore. With laboratory. Prerequisites: BIOL230 and BIOL220 or BIOL225 (Deutschlander, offered annually)

BIOL 380 Genomics  The field of genomics is a rapidly developing area of biology due to recent advances in DNA sequencing technology that makes relatively rapid sequencing of whole genomes of organisms and genome-scale approaches to answering biological questions possible. These advances in sequencing are revolutionizing studies in many areas of biological study, including genetics, development, evolution, and medicine. Topics to be covered in this course include methods for genome sequencing, genome assembly and annotation, genomic approaches for the study of structural changes, whole genome duplication, gene family evolution, gene expression, as well as evolutionary genomics, metagenomics, and personalized medicine. In the laboratory for the course, students will acquire the wet lab skills necessary for genomic data collection, use next-generation sequencing technology to sequence billions of base pairs of DNA, and gain the bioinformatics skills necessary to process, characterize, and analyze genomic data. With laboratory. Prerequisites: BIOL 220 and BIOL 230 (Straub, offered alternate years)

BIOL 460 Biology Seminar  The biology seminar is intended as a capstone experience that integrates knowledge learned in previous biology courses. Seminar topics are selected by the faculty and announced in advance of registration. Seminars are a detailed exploration of a current topic in biology. Required for all biology majors. Prerequisites: Senior Biology major and BIOL 300. (Offered spring semester).

Topics offered:

  • Biology of the City: More than half the world’s human population resides in cities, including >80% in North America. Urban areas are the fastest growing ecosystem on Earth. How does the process of urbanization affect environmental conditions? Does biodiversity increase or decrease during the process of urbanization? Are there particular kinds of traits that allow wildlife to thrive in cities, and does urbanization cause the evolution of these traits? Moreover, how do changes in the environment and biodiversity in cities affect quality of life for humans? We’ll explore these and related questions in the senior seminar this semester. (Cosentino)
  • Evolutionary Medicine: This course explores the application of modern evolutionary theory to understanding health and disease among contemporary human populations. Evolutionary thinking is yielding important advances in understanding the nature of disease and evolutionary approaches are becoming widely used for both disease surveillance and control. Concepts in evolutionary theory will be introduced and will provide a framework for understanding the difference between proximate and ultimate causes of human ailments. You will learn why certain populations are prone to specific diseases, explore how virulence evolves, and come to understand why cancer and obesity is on the rise. (Ryan)
  • Genome Collisions: What happens when genomes collide? This seminar will focus on the biological phenomenon of polyploidy, also known as whole genome duplication. We will explore the causes and consequences of the presence of one or more extra sets of chromosomes from the cellular to ecosystem levels. We will ask both proximate and ultimate questions as we seek to understand polyploidy from complementary perspectives. For example, how does polyploidization contribute to wound healing in animals? What is the role of polyploidy in cancer? How are gene expression and development affected by the presence of extra copies of genes, and is the answer different if hybridization preceded genome doubling? Why are most major crop plants polyploid? Why are polyploid species more invasive than diploid species? Does polyploidy contribute to increased survival in challenging environmental conditions and during mass extinctions? Is polyploidy only a successful strategy in the short term or is it a major driver of broadscale organismal diversity? (Straub)
  • Nature in the Future: This seminar examines the biological realities of humans facing down a planet profoundly changed by the power we're exerting on the Earth. We will apply modern biological insight and case studies to explore anthropogenic disturbances, which are continual forces – destructive and constructive – shaping the everchanging assemblage of ecosystems, species, traits, and molecular processes that characterize life on Earth. For example, the city has assumed a critical role in shaping the Earth with over half of the world’s human population now living in urban environments along with a suite of plants and animals that adapt to the city as viable, unique habitat. Is the human city functioning as a terrestrial coral reef? For another, synthetic gene drives – the propagation of a set of genes by engineering their transmission to offspring – is dissolving the imagined border between humans and nature and between the laboratory and the wild. Will this technology improve ecosystem function in degraded habitats? Both proximate and ultimate perspectives will be considered as we tackle the topic “Nature in the Future” with the goal of better understanding biological phenomena in our dynamic world. This will require integrating knowledge and skills you acquired as a biology major, in both required courses and subdisciplines. (Brown)
  • Viruses: In this course students will have the chance to read about the current findings on a number of viruses that have important impacts ranging from humans to the environment. Students will explore a particular virus that interests them by delving into the scientific questions about that virus. Students will also write a grant proposal, which will allow them to think about the next important questions and integrate all their research on their virus. (Mowery)

BIOL 450 Independent Study Prerequisites: BIOL 220 or BIOL 225 or BIOL 230 or by permission. 

BIOL 456 1⁄2 Credit Independent Study Prerequisites: BIOL 220 or BIOL 225 or BIOL 230 or by permission.

BIOL 495/496 Honors Prerequisites: BIOL 220, BIOL 225, and BIOL 230.