Investigating how life works with hands-on projects.

Biology encompasses the study of living organisms, from tiny bacteria to giant oak trees, and from small molecules to the complex interactions of ecosystems.  You will be immersed in project-based learning in both lab-based classes and your own research.

Interested in joining the STEM cohort scholarship program? Take advantage of joining a cohort of students and build relationships in and out of the classroom with faculty.


  • Minor, Biology

    A student may minor in biology by completing Biology 117, 201, and 300 plus two additional biology courses approved by the department chair.

  • Bachelor of Science, Biology- Teacher Preparation

    To enable students to meet Virginia requirements for licensure to teach biology and, under certain circumstances, other related subjects.

  • Bachelor of Arts, Biology

    To acquaint students with the basic principles and branches of the biological sciences; to provide preparation for employment in industry, research, conservation, or health-related areas.

  • Bachelor of Science, Biology

    To acquaint students with the basic principles and branches of the biological sciences; to provide preparation for graduate study or employment in industry, research, conservation, or health-related areas.

  • Bachelor of Arts, Biology -Teacher Preparation

    To enable students to meet Virginia requirements for licensure to teach biology and, under certain circumstances, other related subjects.

Student Research

  • <h4 class="lw_blurbs_title">Barn Owl Pellets as an Indicator of Small Mammal Community Structure in Eastern Tennessee: A Composite Skeletal and Mitochondrial Analysis</h4><div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><img width="611" height="382" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/2/width/611/height/382/402_Copy_of_VZM.IMG_20161020_083653.rev.1501684654.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image402 lw_align_left" srcset=" 2x, 3x" data-max-w="2133" data-max-h="1332"/></p><p><strong>Thomas Wolfe ’19</strong> is analyzing bone and hair samples from owl pellets (balls of undigestable material hacked up by owls) as a means of studying the composition of the small mammal population of Northeast Tennessee and to compare results gained through this method to results gained through a more traditional approach based on trapping. </p></div>
  • <h4 class="lw_blurbs_title">Systematics and Taxonomic Status of the Nantucket Island Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus fuss)</h4><div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><img width="611" height="458" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/2/width/611/height/458/391_IMG_3314.rev.1500652183.JPG" class="lw_image lw_image391 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/2/width/611/height/458/391_IMG_3314.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/2/width/611/height/458/391_IMG_3314.JPG 3x" data-max-w="3200" data-max-h="2400"/></p><p><strong>Taylor Blevins ’19</strong>, a biology major, is conducting a study to determine the naming system of the Nantucket Mouse (<em>Peromyscus leucopus fussus)</em>, which is domestic to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, MA.</p></div>
  • <h4 class="lw_blurbs_title">Nuclear Phylogeny of the Phlox glaberrima complex</h4><div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><img width="611" height="458" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/2/width/611/height/458/390_IMG_3312.rev.1500651753.JPG" class="lw_image lw_image390 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/2/width/611/height/458/390_IMG_3312.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/2/width/611/height/458/390_IMG_3312.JPG 3x" data-max-w="3200" data-max-h="2400"/></p><p><strong>Maria Popa ’18</strong>, a biology major, is analyzing how historical biogeography has influenced genetic variation in the <em>Phlox glaberrima/Phlox carolina</em> species complex (wildflowers), and the relationship between morphology of species and their evolutionary histories. </p></div>
  • <h4 class="lw_blurbs_title">Evaluation of Epithelial Body Swabbing as a Non-Invasive Method for DNA Sampling in Endangered Salamanders</h4><div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><img width="494" height="371" alt="Taylor Richardson and Erin Kirk swabbing a salamander for DNA from Elk Garden, VA" src="/live/image/gid/2/width/494/height/371/414_Erin_and_Taylor_swabbing_a_salamander.rev.1502112019.png" class="lw_image lw_image414 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/2/width/494/height/371/414_Erin_and_Taylor_swabbing_a_salamander.rev.1502112019.png 2x" data-max-w="1052" data-max-h="789"/></p><p> Biology major, <strong>Erin Kirk ’17</strong>, worked to demonstrate the effectiveness of a non-invasive DNA sampling technique and its utility in conservation genetic studies. This technique allowed for endangered species of salamanders, that she found at Whitetop, Elk Garden, and Mt. Rogers, to not be harmed during sampling. </p></div>
  • <h4 class="lw_blurbs_title">Genetic Variation Among Betula lenta, B.uber, and B. alleghaniensis</h4><div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><img width="611" height="458" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/2/width/611/height/458/389_IMG_3307.rev.1500651045.JPG" class="lw_image lw_image389 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/2/width/611/height/458/389_IMG_3307.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/2/width/611/height/458/389_IMG_3307.JPG 3x" data-max-w="3200" data-max-h="2400"/></p><p><strong>Annie Lenhart ’18</strong>, a biology major, is investigating the difference between <em>Betula lenta</em> (Sweet Birch), <em>B. uber</em> (Virginia Round-Leaf Birch)<em>,</em> and <em>B. alleghaniensis</em> (Yellow Birch) using genetic markers.</p></div>
  • <h4 class="lw_blurbs_title">Blindness and How it is Related to Cataracts in Danio rerio</h4><div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><img width="611" height="385" alt="Sydney Norwood ’18 transferring broken shells of the immature Zebrafish out into a beaker by th..." src="/live/image/gid/2/width/611/height/385/479_FullSizeRender-13.rev.1504884861.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_center" data-max-w="993" data-max-h="625"/></p><p> Biology major, <strong>Sydney Norwood ’18</strong>, is working to connect the ocular development of the Zebrafish to human ocular development. The zebrafish’s optics are highly similar, both structurally and developmentally, to humans. She is incorporating calcium carbonate, potassium phosphate, and sodium phosphate into homemade fish food to test whether these substances will form cataracts in the fish.</p></div>
  • <h4 class="lw_blurbs_title">Studying Salamanders in Southwest Virginia</h4><div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><img width="611" height="469" alt="Erin Kirk presents her research on salamanders at Ampersand Day 2017." src="/live/image/gid/44/width/611/height/469/crop/1/src_region/83,25,2604,1960/570_Ampersand-Day-2017_379.rev.1505419780.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image570 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/44/width/611/height/469/crop/1/src_region/83,25,2604,1960/570_Ampersand-Day-2017_379.rev.1505419780.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/44/width/611/height/469/crop/1/src_region/83,25,2604,1960/570_Ampersand-Day-2017_379.rev.1505419780.jpg 3x" data-max-w="3200" data-max-h="2133"/>The Lexington, Virginia native has passion for learning to use new tools in the lab and relate that to research on endangered species. This project has allowed her to combine both, and she hopes to prove the effectiveness of this non-invasive method. Exploring Whitetop Mountain, Elk Garden, and Mt. Rodgers, her project landed her a spot in the Student Showcase at Ampersand Day 2017.</p></div>
  • <h4 class="lw_blurbs_title">Relationships Between Climate Change and Salamander Lengths</h4><div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><img width="611" height="815" alt="Zane Moran ’19, pictured right, out conducting research." src="/live/image/gid/2/width/611/height/815/403_4ECB12B6-02B3-49A7-A753-23E98E51C598_2.rev.1501684939.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image403 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/2/width/611/height/815/403_4ECB12B6-02B3-49A7-A753-23E98E51C598_2.rev.1501684939.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/2/width/611/height/815/403_4ECB12B6-02B3-49A7-A753-23E98E51C598_2.rev.1501684939.jpg 3x" data-max-w="2400" data-max-h="3200"/></p><p> Mathematics and Biology double major, <strong>Zane Moran ’19</strong>, is using both his majors to explore the relationships between climate change and salamander lengths, hoping that any relationships that can be observed through the research may help serve as future indicators of climate change. </p></div>