The Biology Department ensures that students gain exposure to the breadth of biological science and become proficient in the methods of scientific inquiry. The curriculum emphasizes the study of plants, animals, and microorganisms from the molecular to the ecosystem level. Through laboratory and field experiences and the opportunity to carry out original research, students gain proficiency in gathering, interpreting, and communicating scientific knowledge. Department graduates continue their education in all fields of biology and in professional schools, and they pursue careers in scientific research, biotechnology, education, agriculture, medicine, and public health.
To promote interdisciplinary education, the Biology Department maintains close ties (often including cross-listed courses) with other departments and programs including Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Studies, Geology, and Psychology, and with external partners including the Jackson Laboratory and the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences.
Three optional concentrations and an interdisciplinary option are offered in addition to the basic major.
The concentration in ecology and evolution is designed to provide students with a background to work in ecology, evolutionary biology, or related disciplines. Recent graduates in this area have enrolled in masters’ and doctoral programs in ecology, evolution, marine biology, and natural resource management. Others are employed by federal and state agencies, private and public organizations, and consulting firms.
The concentration in cell and molecular biology/biochemistry focuses on the interdisciplinary field at the interface between biology and chemistry and also prepares students for graduate study or employment in the biomedical fields. Recent graduates have pursued interests in biomedical research, genomics, and molecular biology; others have attended medical school or graduate school in various disciplines.
The concentration in neuroscience allows students to explore the interdisciplinary field at the interface between biology and psychology. This program prepares students for graduate study or employment in neuroscience or biomedical fields. Recent graduates have pursued research in neurodegenerative diseases, molecular neuroscience, and neuroimmunology.
The major in computational biology allows students to develop a coherent plan for the integration of computer science with biology, culminating in an integrative capstone experience. Students completing this major will be well prepared to obtain employment or pursue research in fields such as computational biology and bioinformatics.
Students interested in teaching are urged to read the “Education” section of the catalogue and to contact a member of the Education Program. Students majoring in biology and preparing for dental, medical, veterinary, or other health professions must carefully plan how to fit prerequisite courses in other disciplines into their course of study. Students interested in health professions should, in addition to working closely with their major advisor, consult regularly with the health professions advisor in the Career Center.
Chair, Associate Professor Lynn Hannum
Associate Chair, Associate Professor Syed Tariq Ahmad
Professors Catherine Bevier, Frank Fekete, Russell Johnson, Judy Stone, and W. Herbert Wilson Jr.; Associate Professors Syed Tariq Ahmad, Lynn Hannum, and Andrea Tilden; Assistant Professors David Angelini, Joshua Martin, Christopher Moore, Suegene Noh, and Ronald Peck; Visiting Assistant Professors Susan Childers, Thomas Klepach, Allison Moloney and Johanna van Oers; Senior Laboratory Instructors Tina Beachy, Scott Guay and Sarah Staffiere; Laboratory Instructors I Lyndell Bade and April Chiriboga; Research Scientists Paul Berkner, Bets Brown, Susan Childers, Phillip de Maynadier, William Feero, Josh Kavaler, and Ross Zafonte; Research Associate Louis Bevier
General Requirements for All Major Programs (Except Computational Biology)
For all major programs offered by the department, the point scale for retention of the major applies to all courses required for the major and all elected biology courses. Courses required for the major may not be taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory. At least 32 credit hours must be taken for the major, including at least six courses with a laboratory component and at least two courses at the 300 level or above. A maximum of four credit hours of independent study and two credit hours of seminar may be counted toward the major. No more than eight credit hours in a semester or 12 credit hours in total from off-campus study programs may be counted toward the major requirements. The academic honor of “Distinction in the Major” will be awarded to students who have an average of at least 3.5 in the biology major.
Requirements for the Basic Major in Biology
Thirty-two hours of course work in biology (excluding Advanced Placement credit), including Biology 163, 164, one course with laboratory in field biology (Biology 211, 237, 259, 271, 277, 334, Environmental Studies 358), and one course with laboratory in cellular biology (Biology 225, 227, 248, 274, 279, 367). Seniors must enroll in Biology 401 or 402. In addition, Chemistry 141, 142; Mathematics 121 or 161 or equivalent; and one of the following courses: Computer Science 151, 152, Mathematics 122, 162, 253, Statistics 212.
Requirements for the Concentration in Ecology and Evolution
Thirty-two hours of course work in biology (excluding Advanced Placement credit), including Biology 163, 164, 271, 320 (with or without the lab), and 382; one relevant summer research experience or research-based course (Biology 354, 373 with lab, 451, 483/484*; Environmental Studies 343 or 494); and one course with laboratory in cellular biology (Biology 225, 227, 248, 274, 279, 367). Seniors must enroll in Biology 401 or 402. In addition, Chemistry 141, 142; Mathematics 121 or 161 or equivalent, and Statistics 212; and one course selected from the following: Biology 211, 237, 259, 276, 277, 334, 376; Environmental Studies 244, 276, 356, or 358; Geology 141.
*with an approved topic
Requirements for the Concentration in Cell and Molecular Biology/Biochemistry
Thirty-two hours of course work in biology (excluding Advanced Placement credit), including Biology 163, 164, 279, 367 (with laboratory), 368 (with laboratory), 378, and one course with laboratory in field biology (Biology 211, 237, 259, 271, 277, 334, Environmental Studies 358). Seniors must enroll in Biology 401 or 402. In addition, Chemistry 141, 142, 241, 242; Mathematics 121 or 161 or equivalent; and one of the following courses: Computer Science 151, 152, Mathematics 122, 162, 253, Statistics 212; and one course with laboratory chosen from Biology 225, 248, 274, Chemistry 331, or Physics 145.
Requirements for the Concentration in Neuroscience
Thirty-two hours of course work in biology (excluding Advanced Placement credit), including Biology 163, 164, 274, and one course with laboratory in field biology (Biology 211, 237, 259, 271, 277, 334, Environmental Studies 358). Seniors must enroll in Biology 401 or 402. In addition, Chemistry 141, 142; Mathematics 121 or 161 or equivalent and one of the following courses: Computer Science 151, 152, Mathematics 122, 162, 253, Statistics 212; Psychology 111; two courses from the following: Psychology 232, 233, 236, 275, 374, 375 (this list is frequently updated as new courses are introduced; please contact your advisor if you have questions about a specific course); one elective course in psychology (200-level or above) or physics (141 or above) or computer science (151 or above) or mathematics (in addition to the mathematics requirement).
Requirements for the Major in Computational Biology
Students will design an integrative course of study in collaboration with academic advisors from the Biology and Computer Science departments. Foundational courses (may be satisfied by AP or other placement exams): Biology 163 and 164, Computer Science 151 or 152, and Mathematics 121. In addition, Biology 278 and 279, and one of 320, 371, or 378; Computer Science 231 and 251, and two of 333, 341, 361, 365, or 441; Statistics 212; and two additional courses in Biology, Computer Science, or Statistics at the 300-level or above, chosen in consultation with the advisor.
Honors Program in Biology
Biology majors with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.5 at the end of the January term of the junior year or with permission of the department are eligible to apply for the Biology Honors Research Program during spring registration of the junior year. Honors research projects will earn a total of seven to nine credits and will be conducted during each semester of the senior year (and may include Jan Plan). Completion of the honors program will include a written thesis, an oral presentation at the Colby Liberal Arts Symposium, and successful completion of an oral examination given by the student’s honors committee. Successful completion of the honors program will result in the degree being awarded with “Honors in Biology.”