Dec 04, 2022  
College Catalog 2014-2015 
College Catalog 2014-2015 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


Full Time Faculty: Lin Aanonsen, Sarah Boyer, Devavani Chatterjea, Kristi Curry Rogers, Mark Davis (Chair), Jerald Dosch, Daniel Hornbach, Elizabeth Jansen, Mary Montgomery, Marcos Ortega, Paul Overvoorde

Laboratory Supervisor and Instructors: Steven Sundby, Mike Anderson

Mission Statement

The Biology Department is committed to providing intellectually rich and challenging learning experiences for majors and non-majors alike. These experiences are intended to communicate the foundations and frontiers of the life sciences (from molecules to ecosystems), the methods of biological inquiry, and the relevance of biology to society.

Expectations for our Students

By the time they graduate, all biology majors should be able to:

  1. demonstrate their understanding of the central theories, findings, and methods in molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, physiology, ecology, phylogenetics, and evolution, and use the vocabulary that embodies this knowledge;
  2. demonstrate an understanding of theories, knowledge, and specialized research techniques in their area(s) of interest; 
  3.  comprehend, review, and critique primary scientific literature in their area(s) of interest;
  4.  articulate a testable hypothesis and design an effective investigative approach;
  5.  collect, organize and analyze data using appropriate quantitative tools including statistical and graphical methods;
  6. effectively communicate their ideas and results orally and in writing using customary scientific formats and styles;
  7. develop scientifically informed positions on some of the social issues related to the biological topics they have studied;
  8.  continue to pursue their biological interests in a variety of ways, including graduate or professional schools, public service, or entry into the work force;
  9. use their knowledge and communication skills to assume a leadership role in applying biological concepts and theories appropriately to investigate and/or solve a variety of problems, both in the area of their specialization and in the broader public sphere.

Opportunities for our Students

There are numerous opportunities for students to conduct research with faculty in the department during January, the summer, and the regular academic year. Stipends are available for summer research. There are also opportunities for off-campus research or internships at numerous local and national sites.  Macalester’s Science and Research Office assists students in finding and applying to research and internship opportunities.

Study Abroad.  Consistent with Macalester’s international focus, the department encourages its majors to study abroad. In recent years, biology majors have studied alternative medicine in Nepal, tropical ecology in Costa Rica, South Africa, and Ecuador (including the Galapagos Islands), coral reef ecology in Australia, health sciences in Denmark, South Africa, and Uganda, biochemistry in Scotland, and technology in New Zealand.

Careers.  A major in the biological sciences is excellent preparation for such careers as:

*Professional biologist with graduate training leading to college or university teaching and research;

*Professional biologist with graduate training leading to careers in forestry, agriculture, fisheries, biological oceanography, conservation, environmental education, public health, and other fields;

*Biology teacher at the middle and high-school level;

*Medical practitioner with graduate training in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, nursing, medical technology, physical or occupational therapy, sports medicine, and other health related professions;

*Medical and scientific illustration; writing, editing and journalism;

*Academic, industrial and government sector careers in health administration, technical support, instrumentation, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals.

Departmental Resources

The diversity and quality of the course offerings in the department are enriched by the specialties of the faculty and staff members. Owing to their diverse backgrounds and interests, department faculty and staff are able to offer students courses and training in a wide variety of biological subdisciplines. These include neurobiology, immunology, cell biology, aquatic ecology, animal ecology, plant ecology, soil ecology, animal behavior, genetics and molecular biology, plant physiology, animal physiology, microbiology, virology, biochemistry, neuropharmacology, neuroanatomy, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, phylogeny, paleobiology, and systematics. In addition, funding from the grants obtained by the college, department, and individual faculty members, supports research of both students and faculty.

The biology department, located in Olin-Rice Halls of Science, has both teaching and research laboratories that are well equipped to support the diverse scientific activities of faculty and students. In recent years, grants from the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have enabled the department to purchase many new pieces of scientific equipment. Departmental equipment includes state-of-the-art equipment for DNA and protein analysis, a flow cytometer, a real-time PCR system, a mammalian tissue culture facility, image analysis and presentation equipment, a scanning electron microscope, a research grade greenhouse, and a wide assortment of other technical equipment supporting course work and research.

The college’s 285-acre Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area in Inver Grove Heights, just 25 minutes from the campus, provides for the study of natural habitats such as prairies, ponds, a river lake,  and aspen and oak forests.  Current ongoing research projects include studies of invasive plants, carbon sequestration in the oak forest, nest predation of forest ground nesting birds, and a population study of turtles along an urban gradient.  A prairie restoration project is also ongoing. A building for teaching and research  accommodates a resident naturalist as well as housing for up to five summer student researchers.

General Distribution Requirement

All courses in the biology department count toward the general distribution requirement in the natural sciences except courses above 600 (tutorials, independents, internships, preceptorships).

General Education Requirements

Courses that meet the general education requirements in writing, quantitative thinking, internationalism and multiculturalism will be posted on the Registrar’s web page in advance of registration for each semester.

Additional information regarding the general distribution requirement and the general education requirements can be found in the graduation requirements section of this catalog.

Advanced Placement

Students who received a score of 5 on the Advanced Placement (AP) biology exam or a score of 5 or better on the International Baccalaureate (IB) biology exam will receive 4 or 8 credits, respectively, in general biology. These credits will count toward the graduation requirement, but may not be used toward a biology major or minor, or in fulfilling the distribution requirement in natural sciences and mathematics. Upon consultation with the Chair, biology students with such test scores may be exempt from taking one of the core biology courses (BIOL 260, BIOL 265, BIOL 270 , BIOL 285). Those wishing such an exemption must seek approval from the Chair and are required to substitute an approved intermediate level laboratory course in the area of the exempted course.

Honors Program

The biology department participates in the college’s honors program. Eligibility requirements, application procedures, and specific project expectations for the biology department are available on the department website (

Topics Courses

BIOL 194, BIOL 294, BIOL 394, BIOL 494

Examination of a topic of general interest to faculty and students, the topic to be announced in advance of registration. (4 credits)

Independent Study

The department offers independent study options in the form of independent projects, internships, preceptorships and Honors independent projects. For more information contact the department and review the Curriculum section of the catalog.