Department Chair: William Lamberts

Faculty: D. Gordon Brown, Manuel Campos, Philip Chu, Clark Cotton, Katie Furniss, Ellen Jensen, William Lamberts, Jeanne Marie Lust OSB, Barbara May, David Mitchell, Robert Page, Beth Pettitt, James Poff, Michael Reagan, Stephen Saupe, Jennifer Schaefer, Kristina Timmerman, Marcus Webster, Elizabeth Wurdak

The biological sciences are rapidly expanding our understanding of the natural world, from the inner workings of cancer cells to the evolution of the human genome to the role that marine ecosystems play in controlling the composition of the atmosphere. The faculty of the Biology Department seeks to share the excitement of these discoveries with students. Our goal is to educate student in biology to prepare for graduate school or for professions in education or allied health professions, as well as to become life-long learners and well-informed citizens.
The students and faculty of the Biology Department are a community of learners, using inquiry-based methods to investigate the breadth of biology, its connection to other disciplines, and its relevance to individuals and to society.
The department offers a popular major and minor, supports students in the Nursing and Nutrition majors and provide courses to those majoring in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Our curriculum introduces students to the breadth of biological studies while enabling them to focus on areas of particular interest for further study. All of our courses feature labs, at the bench or in the field, allowing students to engage in the process of scientific investigation first-hand. We occupy two buildings furnished with extensive laboratory equipment including transmission and scanning electron microscopes, high-pressure liquid and gas-liquid chromatographs, a DNA sequencer, ultra and high speed refrigerated centrifuges, walk-in environmental, metabolic and cold chambers, bright field, dark field, fluorescence and inverted microscopes fitted with video and digital cameras and a variety of spectrophotometers. An extensive collection of insects, birds, and mammals support research in many areas. The rural setting of the two campuses is ideal for field studies, providing easy access to a variety of natural habitats including prairie, oak savanna, wetlands, coniferous and deciduous forests, ponds and several lakes. The Melancon greenhouse, a full-featured weather station, the Bailey Herbarium, Saint John's Arboretum, the Hall Natural History Museum, and the SJU maple sugar bush and sugar shack all provide excellent facilities for ecological and field research.


The Biology Department has adopted a multifaceted approach to assessing the effectiveness of its curriculum. In addition to standard measures, such as monitoring performance on tests, the Biology Department will administer and requires:

  1. All students in 121 take a pre- and post- test of basic information that they would be expected to gain from taking this course.
  2. Seniors take a comprehensive exam during the spring semester.
  3. Students enrolled in an upper division biology course during the spring semester take the "Annual Biology Department Assessment Survey".
  4. The department surveys alumni at five-year intervals.

Major (45 credits)

Required Courses:
BIOL 121, 221 and 222 as a basic introductory sequence, 1 credit of 348 and a minimum of 20 credits of upper-division biology courses, chosen in consultation with an advisor in the department.

For the biology major, the lower-division courses are designed to provide a broad background in basic biological concepts. The upper-division requirements are designed to offer a more in depth exposure to the principal disciplines within biology and permit some specialization along lines of individual interest. Biology majors are encouraged to attend departmental seminars featuring presentations by outside speakers and to participate in independent research in the field or lab. Seminar attendance is required for students enrolled in BIOL 348. 

Students may apply only one course from the following toward the major: 323 or 326.

Special Requirements:
The close interrelationship of biology to other disciplines requires that majors complete two courses in chemistry (CHEM 125 and 250), two chemistry labs (CHEM 201 and 202) and one course in mathematics (MATH 118, 119 or 124).

Students intending to continue in graduate or professional school should design appropriate programs of study with the assistance of a biology department advisor.  PHYS 105 and 106 as well as additional courses in chemistry are commonly recommended.

Minor (24 credits)

Required Courses:

121, 221, 222 and 12 credits of upper-division biology courses. 

Courses (BIOL)