Mar 23, 2019  
College Catalog 2012-2013 
College Catalog 2012-2013 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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

Part Time Faculty: Elizabeth Jansen, Randy Daughters

Laboratory Supervisor: Mike Anderson

Laboratory Supervisor and Instructor: Steven Sundby

Research Technician(grant supported): Mark Hove

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

*All Macalester students should understand that science is a continual and dynamic process of investigation. All students should appreciate that biological knowledge progresses via the support and rejection of competing hypotheses by the scientific community. Students should understand that these decisions are based on empirical evidence and logical arguments developed through inductive and deductive reasoning. To this end, all our students should become familiar with the historical development of some of the major concepts in biology. In addition, all our students should be able to develop scientifically informed positions on some of the social issues related to the biological topics they have studied.

*All biology majors should be able to understand and communicate the central concepts and investigational methods that currently define biology and that they should learn basic laboratory and field techniques used in the various biological subdisciplines. After completing the four required core courses, students should be able to demonstrate their understanding of the central theories and methods in molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, physiology, ecology, phylogeny, and evolution, and use the vocabulary that embodies this knowledge. Through the laboratory component of the core courses, students should learn to articulate a testable hypothesis and design an effective investigative approach; collect, organize and analyze data using appropriate quantitative tools including statistical and graphical methods; and effectively communicate their ideas orally and in writing using customary scientific formats and styles.

*All biology graduates should demonstrate an understanding of theories and specialized research techniques and be able to comprehend and critique primary scientific literature in their area(s) of interest. Upon graduation, students should be well prepared to pursue their interests in a variety of ways, including graduate or professional schools, public service, or entry into the work force.

*Finally, we expect all biology graduates to be able to 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.

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, rain forest ecology in Costa Rica and Ecuador, coral reef ecology in Australia, health sciences in Denmark, biochemistry in Scotland and technology in New Zealand.

The department sponsors a seminar program for all students. Visitors from academic institutions, industry, and government present their work and are available to students for questions, advice, and guidance not only in their specialty, but also in career choice and development.

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, the department is 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, animal behavior and ecology, genetics and molecular biology, plant physiology, animal physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, 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 Institutes have enabled the department to purchase several hundred thousand dollars worth of new 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, a research-grade greenhouse, image analysis and presentation equipment, a scanning electron microscope, 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 ponds, a river lake, birch and oak forests, and prairie. A prairie restoration project is ongoing. A building for teaching and research work also accommodates a resident naturalist.

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 department 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 are required to substitute for that requirement an approved intermediate level laboratory course in the area of the exemption.

Honors Program

The biology department participates in the 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. (Usually 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.