Biology faculty and students share a fascination with the natural world and enthusiasm for learning and research.
We provide a comprehensive biology curriculum for students interested in research, education, conservation and the health professions. A strong program is never static, and our recently added courses include marine biology, biomathematics, insect biology and conservation biology. In addition to a biology major, we offer a biochemistry and molecular biology major jointly with the Department of Chemistry.
Field biology is a central component of our curriculum. We take advantage of our enormous campus in field natural history, plant kingdom, ecology and insect biology. We are censusing spotted salamanders in a woodland pond, measuring the effects of deer on forest vegetation, tagging migratory monarch butterflies and documenting the spread of an invasive crayfish.
Student research is embedded within our curriculum. Biology majors first gain research experience in lab courses, and then as seniors (and sometimes as juniors) they conduct a semester or more of research with a faculty mentor. Research is required for the B.S. degree and is optional for the B.A. degree. Many students' projects are supported through an institutional grants program and through grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Jeffress Memorial Trust.
Our state-of-the-art equipment has been obtained through grants from the National Science Foundation, LI-COR, the Jeffress Memorial Trust and an endowment from the Kresge Foundation.
We encourage biology students to take advantage of diverse off-campus opportunities. In recent years students have participated in field courses in South Africa, Panama and Hawaii; internships with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the New York Aquarium and the Wildlife Center of Virginia; research at other universities; and semester programs offered by Sweet Briar's Junior Year in Spain and the Smithsonian-Mason Global Conservation Studies Program. Click here to read journal entries by a student taking a tropical ecology course in Panama.