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Biology

The world is our laboratory and the laboratory is our world

Overview      |   Meet an Earlhamite   |   Our Faculty   |   Plan of Study   |   Courses  

 

Earlham's Biology program encompasses all facets of biology, from cell to ecosystems, from neuroscience to environmental science and health. From day 1, you will have unparalleled access to our faculty who teach and do research in and at the intersection of our different disciplines - environmental science, neuroscience, biochemistry, health science, ecology, evolution, and cell and molecular biology.

Want hands-on research? It begins with your first biology course. Throughout your Earlham experience, you'll do research in the field and lab. You'll also apply what you learn beyond campus through internships, opportunities with our research partners and amazing off campus experiences across the U.S. or overseas.

Plus, you'll be part of a community that cares about you and has a rich history of success in placing students into life science graduate programs. Our faculty will get to know you by first name (you'll do the same with them) and they will use their resources and networks to help you discover and follow your career path. We embrace who you are and will challenge you to think outside the box. We believe in developing the whole person, as well as the biologist within.

More from the Biology Department:

Highlights

Earlham ranks in the top ten in the U.S. for the percentage of our graduates who earn doctorates in the life sciences.

You can do Biology research around the world from our own campus to Alaska, Borneo, Hawaii, New Zealand, Tanzania/Kenya, Bahamas, the Amazon rain forest, and the Galapagos Islands.

Recent graduates have earned prestigious post-graduate fellowships including National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships, Fulbright Grants and Watson Fellowships. Our alumni have found work in zoos, museums, with state and federal government, with major corporations, and as educators.

Earlham has recently invested over $30 million in state-of-the-art science facilities. We have a fully equipped molecular biology lab, a digital fluorescence microscope, a greenhouse, a natural history museum, and a human cadaver lab. All our facilities are designed to facilitate innovating learning, active partnerships and, most importantly: collaboration, discovery and deep learning.

Meet An Earlhamite
Rachel Riggs
Cold-blooded Friends

During four years at Earlham, Rachel Riggs ’18 developed strong friendships with her peers. A few reptiles at Earlham’s Joseph Moore Museum might want to call her a friend as well.

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Quinn Smith
Arctic Advocate

Quinn Smith '04 worked with others in writing a petition that helped convince the U.S. government to ban all fishing in Arctic waters. The petition and the movement was a truly massive undertaking.

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Stesha Pasachnik
A Life-Changing Experience

Identifying a person who has changed your life is a true gift. For Stesha Pasachnik ’03, that individual is Biology Research Professor John Iverson.

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Our Faculty

Dan Atwater
Assistant Professor of Biology

Peter Blair
Professor of Biology; Co-Director, Center for Global Health and the Integrated Program in Health Sciences

John Iverson
Professor Emeritus of Biology; Biology Research Professor

Heather Lerner
Director of the Joseph Moore Museum; Associate Professor of Biology

Karen Mager
Assistant Professor of Environmental Sustainability

Lindsey McGee
Assistant Professor of Biology

Bob Rosenberg
Professor of Biology

Brent Smith
Professor Emeritus of Biology

Chris Smith
Associate Professor of Biology

Emi Smith
Assistant Professor of Biology

Wendy Tori
Associate Professor of Biology; Martha Sykes Hansen Endowed Chair in Biology for Ornithology

Jose-Ignacio Pareja
Director of Science and Technology Commons; Science, Technology Learning Specialist

Daniel Thompson
Biology Stockroom Manager

Kim Wills
Administrative Assistant
Plan of Study

First-Year Students

Students interested in majoring in Biology should speak with a Biology faculty member early in their undergraduate career. Faculty will help lay out a four-year plan that includes required courses, elective courses, opportunities for off-campus study, and possible internships. Early consultation is important to sequencing of several courses so that off-campus study remains an option. In general, students should take BIOL 111 and CHEM 111 in their first semester, CHEM 221 and BIOL 112 in their second semester, and BIOL 341 in the fall of their sophomore year. A summer research experience is highly recommended, and faculty work with students to identify appropriate opportunities.

General Education Requirements

The Department offers one course that meets the Quantitative Reasoning component of the Analytical Reasoning Requirement, BIOL 111. These courses give students tools for lifelong learning and for informed decision-making on important biologically-related issues such as the environment, medicine and genetics. The Department also offers Earlham Seminars.

The Major

All of the following courses are required:

  • BIOL 111 Ecological Biology
  • BIOL 112 Cells, Genes and Inheritance
  • BIOL 226 Biological Diversity
  • BIOL 341 Cell Physiology
  • BIOL 480 Senior Seminar
  • BIOL 488 Senior Capstone Experience
  • CHEM 111 Principles of Chemistry
  • CHEM 221 Organic Chemistry I

One of the following courses:

  • CHEM 321 Organic Chemistry II
  • CHEM 331 Equilibrium and Analysis
  • GEOL 201 Earth and the Environment
  • MATH 120 Elementary Statistics
  • MATH 180 Calculus A
  • MATH 280 Calculus B
  • PHYS 120 General Physics I
  • PHYS 125 Analytical Physics I
  • PSYC 342 Experimental Psychology

Majors should complete at least 16 additional credits in upper-level Biology courses, of which at least 13 must be from courses numbered from 342 to 471.

The Minor

A total of 24 credits in Biology, including at least two of the following courses:

  • BIOL 111 Ecological Biology
  • BIOL 112 Cells, Genes and Inheritance
  • BIOL 226 Biological Diversity

Twenty-one (21) credits must be in courses numbered below BIOL 472. Four credits for the minor may be from CHEM 111 or CHEM 221.

Note: CHEM 221 is included as an option for the minor for those students who test out of CHEM 111 but still want to take more Chemistry.

Courses

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

*BIOL 111 ECOLOGICAL BIOLOGY (4 credits)
An introduction to the study of the interrelationships among organisms and their physical and biotic environments. Topics include natural selection and adaptation, population growth and regulation, competition, predation, mutualism, productivity, energy flow and nutrient cycling. Emphasizes doing hands-on scientific research and problem solving using the primary ecological literature. Lab. (A-QR)

BIOL 112 CELLS, GENES AND INHERITANCE (4 credits)
An overview of cell structure and function and the principles of inheritance, including such topics as transmission genetics, DNA structure, central dogma of molecular biology, regulation of gene expression, meiosis and mitosis, protein function, cell cycle and recombinant DNA techniques. Lab emphasizes inquiry-based experiments and contemporary techniques.

BIOL 200 EPIDEMIOLOGY (3 credits)
A study of patterns and determinants surrounding infectious and chronic disease in human populations. This course will introduce the principles, concepts and methodsof population-based epidemiology, and will cover topics including the dynamic behavior of disease, measures of disease frequency and effect, uses of rates and proportions and other statistics to describe the health of populations, epidemiologic study designs, and bias in investigating the extent of disease problems and the associations between risk factors and disease outcomes.

BIOL 226 BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY (4 credits)
A survey of plants, animals, fungi, protists and bacteria emphasizing basic principles in organismal biology. Topics include origin of life, evolution, structure and function, homeostatic mechanisms, reproduction and life history phenomena, and systematics. Lab.

BIOL 240 SEMINAR (1-3 credits)
Sophomore level. Topics selected by the instructor.

BIOL 241 CARE AND USE OF COLLECTIONS (4 credits)
Natural history, or biological, collections have provided the foundation for the field of biology and the discovery of the processes that underlie the diversity of life on earth. The importance of such collections over time cannot be overstated. Yet formal training in caring for, expanding, and using biological collections is surprisingly lacking. This course aims to introduce students to the wealth of possibilities that exist in biological collections and the practical responsibilities of preserving them. As part of a team, students will gain hands-on practice accessioning, organizing, databasing, communicating with the public about, and conducting research with specimens in the collection. The second half of the course is devoted to research uses of biological collections. Students will read examples in the primary scientific literature of how research using natural history collections has made important contributions to our understanding of the natural world. Because students will read scientific articles that use museum specimens, they should feel comfortable with reading scientific papers and with the content covered in BIOL 111 (i.e. achieved a grade of B or better). Prerequisites: BIOL 111 or instructor approval. Also listed as MUSE 241.

BIOL 242 TOPICS IN NEUROSCIENCE (1 credit)
For declared and prospective Neuroscience majors (sophomore and above). Discussion of recent neuroscience articles in popular and scientific journals. Prerequisites: At least one of the following — PSYC 250, BIOL 341, BIOL/PSYC 353, or permission of the instructor.

BIOL 251 INTRODUCTION TO NUTRITION SCIENCE (3 credits)
This course will serve as an introduction to the science of human nutrition and the relationship of food and nutrients to health and disease. Topics covered will include the macro- and micronutrients, digestion of food, and current recommendations for nutrient intake. Also discussed will be current scientific literature on the role of nutrition in selected disease processes and the use of foods as medicines. Prerequisites: CHEM 111. Also listed as CHEM 251.

BIOL 286 BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH (1-3 credits)
Topical course with the opportunity for participation in a research project.

BIOL 341 CELL PHYSIOLOGY (4 credits)
An examination of basic principles of cell physiology. Topics include thermodynamics, enzyme mechanisms, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, coupling of ATP hydrolysis to cellular reactions, regulation of protein function, membrane structure, cell signaling, and neural and muscular activity. Lab emphasizes inquiry-based experiments and contemporary techniques. Prerequisites: BIOL 112 and CHEM 111 or consent of the instructor.

BIOL 342 SEMINAR (1-3 credits)
Junior level. Topics selected by the instructor.

BIOL 343 IMMUNOLOGY (3 credits)
An introduction to the biology of the immune system, including cells and tissues, activation, differentiation and specificity, effector mechanisms, immunity to microbes, autoimmunity, immunodeficiency and AIDS, evolution, hypersensitivity and transplantation. A non-lab course. Prerequisites: BIOL 112, BIOL 341 and CHEM 221, or consent of the instructor.

BIOL 345 ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY I: NERVOUS AND ENDOCRINE (4 credits)
An in-depth study of the structures and functions of human nervous, sensory, muscular and endocrine systems. Each system is covered at the molecular, cellular, organ, and organism levels. Labs include extensive hands-on studies of human anatomy. Prerequisite: BIOL 341. Offered Spring Semester.

BIOL 346 VERTEBRATE ZOOLOGY (4 credits)
This course will involve a survey of the vertebrate groups with special emphasis on lower vertebrates (fishes, amphibians, reptiles) and mammals with lesser emphasis on birds. The evolution of vertebrates will be the central theme of the course and will be approached through the study of adaptive radiation in form and function. Lab periods will include laboratory exercises and field trips. Prerequisites: BIOL 111 and 226.

BIOL 347 ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY II: CARDIOVASCULAR, RESPIRATORY, RENAL AND DIGESTIVE (4 credits)
An in-depth study of the structures and functions of human cardiovascular, respiratory, renal and digestive systems. Each system is covered at the molecular, cellular, organ and organism levels. Labs include physiology experiments, research projects and hands-on studies of human anatomy. Prerequisite: BIOL 341. Offered Fall Semester.

BIOL 348 ORNITHOLOGY (4 credits)
A look into the behavior, ecology and evolution of birds. Provides students with theoretical and hands-on experiences with birds. The first half of the semester integrates lectures and laboratory exercises to expose you to topics such as the origin and evolution of birds, avian anatomy, avian behavior, reproductive strategies, among other things.  Second half of semester constitutes an intensive field experience, with early morning field trips, stressing bird identification and natural history of birds. Prerequisite: BIOL 111.

BIOL 350 FIELD BOTANY (4 credits)
Systematics, morphology, physiology, geography, cytogenetics and life history phenomena are used to clarify the ecology and evolution of plants. In addition, concepts of plant community and conservation ecology are investigated using a comparative biome approach. Emphasizes field-based ecological research projects and plant identification via keying in the lab and by sight in the field. Lab. Prerequisites: BIOL 111 and 226. Offered twice every three years.

BIOL 351 HUMAN GENETICS AND GENOMICS (3 credits)
This course explores the complex and intriguing relationship between our genes and our physical characteristics. This course will cover subjects including mutation, genetic disease, cancer and genetic counseling. Students also will focus on epigenetics, personal genomics and human genome manipulation. Current ethical challenges facing the field, particularly in medicine, will be discussed. Prerequisite: BIOL 112.

BIOL 352 INVERTEBRATE ZOOLOGY (4 credits)
Life histories, anatomy, physiology and evolutionary trends among representatives of the invertebrate phyla. Lab. Prerequisites: BIOL 111 and 226.

BIOL 353 BEHAVIORAL NEUROSCIENCE (3 credits)
Advanced seminar examines the physiological mechanisms underlying a variety of psychological processes. Requires extensive reading of primary source materials. All students prepare a major seminar presentation and paper. Also listed as PSYC 353. (AY)

BIO 357 ANIMAL BEHAVIOR (4 credits)
An introduction to the evolutionary and ecological processes that promote the diversity of animal behaviors found in nature. Topics include development of behavior, biological rhythms, the evolution of foraging behavior, reproductive behavior, mating systems, parental care and social behavior. Students design and conduct their own behavioral study. Lab. Prerequisites: BIOL 111. (RCH)

BIOL 360 CONSERVATION BIOLOGY (3 credits)
A discussion-based course investigating the impacts humans have on biodiversity and measures used to mitigate them.  Conservation biology is an interdisciplinary, value-laden, crisis-driven discipline. Topics include conservation law, ethics, and ecological economics; species extinction, rarity and their causes; population viability analyses and practices; designing, establishing, managing and restoring protected areas; and sustainable human development. A non-lab course. Prerequisites: BIOL 111. (AY)

BIOL 362 BIOLOGY OF INSECTS (4 credits)
The classification, life histories, behavior and ecology of insects. Includes field research projects. Lab. Prerequisites: BIOL 111 and 226.

BIOL 383 BIOINFORMATICS (4 credits)
Bioinformatics is the application of statistics and computer science to the field of biology. This course is a wide ranging introduction to the field, the tools, and the techniques used to work with large datasets, and will principally concentrate on the analysis and visualization of novel genomic and metagenomic data. The course is centered around doing research and using tools, with much of the course time dedicated to active learning. Prerequisite: BIOL 111, 112, CS 128 or CS 290. Also listed as CS 383. (AY)

BIOL 384 DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY (4 credits)
Developmental biology is the scientific study of how a single cell transforms into a multicellular organism. This course aims to provide students with an introduction to this complex biological process by discussing the interactions between cellular signaling pathways, gene regulation and the environment that give rise to complex multicellular organisms. Through the lens of developmental biology, students will also develop their ability to interpret primary literature (both classic and current) and effectively and ethically present scientific data. Laboratory sessions will focus on experimental manipulations of the nematode model organism Caenorhabditis elegans and emphasize effective science communication with images and student-led research projects. Prerequisites: BIOL 112, CHEM 111 and BIOL 341.

BIOL 410 APPLICATIONS OF GEOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION SYSTEMS (GIS) IN ECOLOGY,  ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (4 credits)
This course is designed to provide a basic and integrative knowledge of GIS theory and its applications in Ecology, Environmental and Health Sciences using the existing state-of-the-art software: ArcGIS. The course will cover basic GIS concepts such as mapping, projections, geo-referencing and spatial analysis. It will be taught using a combination of lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on, interactive tutorials in the classroom. Students will constantly apply spatial analytical tools to address questions, solve problems and complete independent projects in and outside the classroom. Prerequisites: junior or senior standing. (AY)

BIOL 451 EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY (4 credits)
Consideration of the factors affecting the evolution of populations (mutation, genetic drift, gene flow, selection, breeding systems, population structure), the mechanisms of speciation, phylogenetic inference and macroevolution. Prerequisites: BIOL 111, 112 and 226. Offered twice every three years.

BIOL 455 POPULATION AND COMMUNITY ECOLOGY (4 credits)
Examines interactions among populations and their environments from empirical and theoretical perspectives. Topics include life history evolution, optimality, population growth, competition, predation, community structure and theories of species coexistence. Emphasizes ecological inquiry via experimental design and statistical analysis of data from student-initiated field research projects. Lab. Prerequisites: BIOL 111. Offered twice every three years. (RCH)

BIOL 460 PLANT CELL BIOLOGY (3 credits)
A study of processes, structures and functions that are unique to plant cells. Possible topics: specialized organelles and cell types, carbohydrate metabolism, signal transduction, genomics, and fertilization and early development. Emphasizes photosynthesis and other responses to light. Reading and presenting research literature. Note: Biology-Chemistry Interdepartmental majors who take BIOL 226 from course options in List A need to take a course other than Plant Cell Biology to fulfill requirements for the Major.

BIOL 461 MICROBIOLOGY (4 credits)
A study of bacteria and virusesfocusing on microbial physiology, growth, replication, genetics, ecology, pathogenesis, evolution, systematics, impact on global health, and historical and modern techniques. Research emphasizes acquiring skills in the craft of microbiology including laboratory safety, sterile technique, microbial culturing and staining, isolation and identification of unknown bacteria, antimicrobial activity and biochemical analyses. Lab. Prerequisite: BIOL 341.

BIOL 462 PARASITOLOGY (4 credits)
A study of the general biology of the parasitic protozoans, helminths and arthropods of humans and domestic animals. Detailed discussions of parasite pathology, physiology, life cycles, diagnosis, therapeutics, control strategies and total impact on global health (humans and domestic animals). Lab includes visualization of representative taxa, morphology, culturing methods, applied diagnostics, parasite genomics and modern molecular techniques. Prerequisite: BIOL 341.

BIOL 464 ADVANCED CELL PHYSIOLOGY (3 credits)
Detailed examinations of protein structure and activity. Selected "hot" topics are discussed, including mechanisms of stem cell biology, protein sorting within cells, regulation of cell cycle, apoptosis, and cellular mechanisms of memory and learning. Emphasizes reading, presenting and discussing original research papers. Topics change regularly. May be taken more than once with faculty approval. Prerequisite: BIOL 341. (AY)

BIOL 465 ADVANCED CELL PHYSIOLOGY LABORATORY (1 credit)
Project-based lab course that examines various aspects of cell structure and function using contemporary techniques. Recent projects include isolation and purification of bacterially expressed proteins, analysis of protease inhibitors, measurements of phagocytosis by insect hemocytes. Technique include bacterial culture, centrifugation, column chromatography, SDS-PAGE, Western transfer and analysis, fluorescence microscopy and cell culture. May be taken concurrently with BIOL 464. Lab. Prerequisite: BIOL 341.

BIOL 466 MOLECULAR GENETICS (3 credits)
Covers DNA and RNA structure and functions, mutation, genetic code, genome organization, replication, gene regulation and recombinant DNA technology, bioinformatics, epigenetics and RNA interference. A non-lab course. Prerequisites: BIOL 341 and CHEM 221. Offered once every three semesters.

BIOL 467 NEUROPHARMACOLOGY (3 credits)
Neuropharmacology is the study of the mechanisms by which drugs affect nerve cells, circuits of nerve cells, the brain and behavior. The course introduces the basic concepts of drugs, drug receptors, intracellular signaling mechanisms, synaptic transmissions, pharmacokinetics, learning, mood and behavior. Building on that foundation, the course covers specific drugs such as antidepressants, painkillers, antipsychotics and sedatives. Drugs being tested for diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's will be discussed. Prerequisites: BIOL 341 and either BIOL 345, PSYC 353 or consent of the instructor.

BIOL 471 MARINE BIOLOGY SEMINAR (2 credits)
An ecological approach to topics in marine systems: habitats and the associated organisms, symbiotic relationships and human impact. Combination of lecture and student presentations. Prerequisites: BIOL 111 and 226. (AY)

BIOL 480 SENIOR SEMINAR (2 credits)
Required for the Major. Special topic seminars for seniors. Specific topics selected by students in consultation with a faculty mentor and with Departmental approval. Largely student organized and executed. Competence in oral communication and use of contemporary literature stressed.

BIOL 481 INTERNSHIPS, FIELD STUDIES AND OTHER FIELD EXPERIENCES (1-2 credits)
An internship organized by the student in consultation with the adviser. Internships must be approved by relevant faculty before the experience takes place. Credits for the experience must be negotiated between the adviser and the on-site supervisor.

BIOL 482 SPECIAL TOPICS (1-3 credits)
Topics chosen at the discretion of faculty.

BIOL 483 TEACHING ASSISTANTS (0-2 credits)

BIOL 484 FORD/KNIGHT COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH PROJECT (3 credits)
Collaborative research with faculty funded by the Ford/Knight Program.

BIOL 485 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
A laboratory, field and/or literature investigation of a specific topic conceived and planned by the student in consultation with a faculty adviser. For the advanced student.

BIOL 486 STUDENT RESEARCH (1-4 credits)
A laboratory investigation of a specific topic conceived and planned by the student in collaboration with a faculty supervisor. Culminates in a comprehensive report prepared in the style of a thesis or a scientific paper.

BIOL 488 SENIOR CAPSTONE EXPERIENCE (0 credits)
Majors must successfully complete comprehensive examinations in the Spring Semester of the Senior year.