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The Earlham Biology Department's unique strength is its balanced curriculum with unusual depth in outdoor biology and ecology on the one hand, and modern laboratory experiences in cellular and molecular biology on the other. Students learn the principles of a variety of sub-disciplines of biology, and they acquire skills in scientific problem solving by means of laboratory, field and literature research. The rich curriculum allows students to develop a strong general program and to concentrate in the areas of cellular/molecular/physiological or organismal/ecological/evolutionary biology.
A hallmark of biology at Earlham is the close working relationships students develop with professors in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the field. Recent cooperative student-faculty research efforts have investigated a wide variety of topics including population dynamics of turtles and endangered iguanas, spider ecology in the Dominica rainforest, microbial prospecting in geothermal features, refining the annotations of the malaria genome, the ecology of invasive weeds in deciduous forests, the composition of pre-settlement forests, and Manakin lekking behavior in Amazonia.
During their education, majors are encouraged to study abroad on one of Earlham's off-campus programs or a program affiliated with the Great Lakes Colleges Association/Associated Colleges of the Midwest science programs at Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Tennessee or Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. The Biology Department faculty have been very active in leading both semester-long off-campus programs (Tanzania, England, Oak Ridge, New Zealand) and shorter expeditions during May Term and on Ford/Knight projects (Amazon, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Galapagos Islands, Nebraska Sandhills, U.S. Virgin Islands, Yellowstone National Park).
Our department emphasizes "hands-on" science. Our facilities richly support this emphasis and include a state-of-the-art molecular genetics laboratory with an automated DNA analyzer, an ecology research lab, a scanning electron microscope, fluorescent microscopes, open access to the campus computer network, nationally recognized library facilities and access to online resources, greenhouse and animal care areas, an excellent regional herbarium, 600 acres of natural areas on the back campus, and 200 acres of nearby College-owned forests and old-fields. Many students take on active roles in the department through their work with faculty and staff in the stockroom, office and greenhouse, and through their participation as teaching and research assistants. Students working in Earlham's Joseph Moore Museum of Natural History develop skills in preparing specimens, caring for scientific collections and exhibits, and providing educational programs to the wider regional community.
The Earlham Biology Department ranks among the nation's leading undergraduate programs for preparing students for further study and high level careers in biology. According to HEDS data, Earlham is ranked 10th (in the 99th percentile) among 1533 institutions of higher learning in the U.S. in the percentage of graduates who go on to receive Ph.D.s in the biological sciences. Of those receiving Ph.D.s in the life sciences in general, Earlham ranks 14th (both also in the 99th percentile). Our graduates have received prestigious national scholarships for post-graduate study, including Fulbright, Goldwater, National Science Foundation and Watson fellowships/scholarships. They earn their graduate degrees at such institutions as Berkeley, Chicago, Cornell, Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Purdue, Stanford and Yale; and at the universities of Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.
Read more about Earlham's Ph.D. Production.
Earlham has an equally distinguished record of graduating students who go on to become doctors and veterinarians. We have a 90 percent acceptance rate among our students who apply to medical school. Our recent graduates have attended Duke, Harvard, Indiana University, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Ohio University, Stanford, University of Michigan and Yale. An increasing number of our graduates are pursuing professions in Public Health. Earlham's Health Services Advisory Committee works closely with pre-med and pre-vet students to ensure that they follow the appropriate curriculum and assists them through the application process.
Read more about Health Careers Advising at Earlham.
The postgraduate research of Earlham graduates is diverse and spans such topics as three dimensional protein imaging and organelle biogenesis, ethnobotany and evolution in South Pacific island plants, cellular repair of DNA damage resulting from chemotherapy, rivers as landscape constraints in avian conservation, conservation genetics of endangered Honduran iguanas, HIV and nutrition of women in Zimbabwe, computational modeling of coral reef ecosystem dynamics, play and antagonism behaviors of orphaned chimpanzees in Zambia, and the ecology of marine crab larvae settlement in southeastern Alaska.
Earlham's Biology majors pursue a wide variety of careers. The top five career areas for our majors are in the fields of research, conservation and the environment, health, education and business. Graduates work in such settings as the National Institutes of Health, the Nature Conservancy, the Indiana University Medical Center, the Catalina Island Marine Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Brazilian rain forest and the U.S. Peace Corps. The Department assists our students as they prepare for productive lives after Earlham.
When Sylvia Torti ’92 arrived in Chiapas, Mexico in 1994, she thought she was going to gather data for a doctoral dissertation related to bird migration. Instead she had stumbled upon the idea for a novel.
Associate Professor of Biology Peter Blair is a talented researcher and teacher. His courses include cell biology, immunology and parasitology, and his summer research opportunity is one of the most popular on campus.
Professor Emeritus of Biology John Iverson’s turtle research has provided summer research experiences for students for more than 30 years.