Department Chair: William Lamberts

Faculty: Rachel Bergerson, D. Gordon Brown, Manuel Campos, Philip Chu, Clark Cotton, Ashley Fink, Katherine Furniss, Trevor Keyler, Stephen Jameson, Ellen Jensen, William Lamberts, Demelza Larson, Katherine Leehy, Jeanne Marie Lust OSB, David Mitchell, Michael Reagan, Stephen Saupe, Jennifer Schaefer, Kristina Timmerman

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 the oceans 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, Biochemistry and Nutrition majors and provides common curriculum 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. 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, NanoDrop UV spectrophotometers, a DNA sequencer, real-time PCR for measuring gene expression, 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 introductory courses take a post-test of basic information that they would be expected to gain from taking this course.
  2. Seniors take a comprehensive exam during their last semester (BIOL XXX).
  3. Students enrolled in an upper division biology course during their last semester take the "Annual Biology Department Assessment Survey".
  4. The department surveys alumni at five-year intervals.

Major: (46-48 credits)

Students will begin with Foundations of Biology (BIOL 101), followed by two intermediate courses (BIOL 201 and 202).  A minimum of 20 credits from our upper-division courses is required.  In addition, the capstone requirement for the Biology major can be completed though any of the following options:

  1. An Honors Thesis (BIOL 398), Biological Research (BIOL 372) or summer research (at CSB/SJU or elsewhere) that satisfies institutional capstone criteria.
  2. Senior Capstone in Biology course (BIOL 380), LAB version, in which students will collaboratively undertake a hands-on research project and write it up in a scientific paper.
  3. Senior Capstone in Biology (BIOL 380), LIB version, in which students will collaboratively write a review paper that investigates a novel thesis and/or synthesizes novel connections.

Students must also take MATH 124, CHEM 125/201 plus one additional course from the list below:

  • CHEM 250/202, CHEM 251/203 or CHEM 255/205
  • PHYS 105 or 191
  • MATH 118, MATH 119 or MATH 120 (if entering with AP Calculus)
  • CSCI 140, 150 or 239
  • ENVR 175

Minor: (24 credits)

BIOL 101, 201, 202 and 12 credits of upper-division BIOL courses.  Students must also take CHEM 125 as a prerequisite for BIOL 201.

Courses (BIOL)