Biology

SARA HIEBERT BURCH, Professor
JOHN B. JENKINS, Professor 2
RACHEL A. MERZ, Professor 3
KATHLEEN K. SIWICKI, Professor
ELIZABETH A. VALLEN, Professor 3
AMY CHENG VOLLMER, Professor and Chair
NICHOLAS KAPLINSKY, Associate Professor
JOSE LUIS MACHADO, Associate Professor
ALEXANDER BAUGH, Assistant Professor
BRAD DAVIDSON, Assistant Professor
VINCENT FORMICA, Assistant Professor
ELIZABETH NICHOLS, Assistant Professor 3
JASON DOWNS, Visiting Assistant Professor
LORI SCHOTTENFELD-ROAMES, Visiting Assistant Professor
CHRISTOPHER VECSEY, Visiting Assistant Professor
STACEY MILLER, Laboratory Instructor
LAUREL ECKE, Laboratory Instructor
WILLIAM GRESH JR., Laboratory Instructor/Greenhouse Manager
PHILIP KUDISH, Academic Coordinator/Laboratory Instructor/Science Associate Coordinator
JOCELYNE MATTEI-NOVERAL, Laboratory Instructor
DIANE FRITZ, Administrative Coordinator
2 Absent on leave, spring 2015.
3 Absent on leave, 2014–2015.

At all levels of the biology curriculum, students are engaged in learning about the functions and evolution of diverse biological systems as well as the methods by which biologists study nature. There is much flexibility in the curriculum, allowing students to craft a path through the biology major that best suits their own interests. While fulfilling the requirements for the major, students are able to build a broad biological background by taking courses focused on different levels of biological organization, while also being able to concentrate on specialized areas of particular passion if they choose.

Our goals for biology majors

A basic tenet of the department is that the best way to learn about biology is to do biology. Therefore, almost every course has weekly laboratories or field trips, where students learn to become biologists by making original observations, asking questions about life processes, solving problems and designing and testing hypotheses by performing experiments. Communication skills are emphasized in all biology courses, as students read and evaluate research articles in scientific journals, write laboratory reports according to the standards of professional scientific writing, participate in frequent opportunities for oral presentations and critical discussion, and work in research teams.

The curriculum prepares students to pursue careers in research or to apply their biology interests and knowledge to careers as diverse as medicine, governmental policy planning, science education, public health, and writing children’s books. A number of departmental alumni have also chosen careers outside of science, such as law and finance, where they report that the organizational, critical thinking, and communication skills that they learned as a biology major have been crucial for their success.

The Academic Program

In addition to first-year seminars, the department offers four different types of courses. Students are introduced to the study of biology at Swarthmore by taking BIOL 001, Cellular and Molecular Biology, and BIOL 002, Organismal and Population Biology. Either course may be taken first. Courses numbered 003–009 do not have associated laboratories; usually BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 are prerequisites. Diverse intermediate-level courses, some offered in alternate years, allow students to choose coursework in areas of particular interest. These courses are numbered 010–039 and generally have BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 (or AP credit) as prerequisites. Some of these courses also require prior coursework in the Chemistry Department. Finally, two-credit seminars (with three-digit course numbers) have an intermediate-level course as a prerequisite and are usually taken by students in their junior or senior years.

Majors and minors

The Biology Department offers a course major, course minor, honors major and honors minor. In addition, special majors in biochemistry and neuroscience are regularly offered in cooperation with the Chemistry and Biochemistry and Psychology departments, respectively. A student may choose an interdisciplinary minor in environmental studies, which includes courses in the Biology Department. In addition, the department has also supported special majors as described below.

Sample paths through the discipline

As pointed out in the introduction, there are many paths to a biology major. Following are some ideas to keep in mind as you plan your schedule.

Getting started as a biology major: Many majors take BIOL 001 and/or BIOL 002 during their first year. These two courses may be taken in either order and it is not uncommon for prospective majors to take BIOL 002 during the spring semester of their first year, and BIOL 001 during the fall semester of their second year. Students who realize their interest in biology later have also taken both courses during their sophomore year and successfully completed the major in eight semesters. We generally encourage all students to take at least one of the introductory courses, even if they have AP credit. BIOL 001 is always offered in the fall semester, and BIOL 002 always in the spring semester.

We encourage majors to fulfill the mathematics and chemistry requirements for the major during their first two years. In particular, some intermediate level courses require CHEM 010 (or CHEM 003 and 004) and CHEM 022. Completion of those chemistry courses gives more flexibility in biology course choice. However, we are willing to work with students to craft the best path for each individual.

Continuing as a biology major: Because most intermediate level courses require both BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 (or AP credit), taking both courses before continuing on in the field usually serves students best. For planning purposes, most Group III intermediate-level courses are taught in the fall semester, and most Group I intermediate-level courses are taught in the spring semester. Some Group II courses are taught in spring and others in fall.

The two-credit seminar course(s) you are most interested in taking may influence your other course choices. In addition to your own interests, prerequisites for seminars (which may consist of a specific intermediate-level course), faculty leave schedules, and study abroad considerations may constrain your course choice and schedule.

Some faculty strongly encourage students interested in doing research with them to take at least one course with them before working on a research project. It is important to talk to specific faculty members you are interested in working with to understand their specific requirements for work in their laboratory.

Completion of the biology major: Course majors must pass the comprehensive exam (BIOL 097 Themes in Biology) during the fall semester of the senior year. Honors majors are required to enroll in at least one credit of BIOL 180 (often but not always in fall semester of the senior year), and in Senior Honors Study (BIOL 199), which is taken in the spring semester of the senior year.

Course Major

Acceptance criteria

    1. Three courses (or advanced placement credit and two courses) in biology. If the student does not have AP or transfer credit, both BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 are required.
    2. One semester of Organic Chemistry (CHEM 022). The prerequisite for CHEM 022 may consist of CHEM 010, CHEM 003 plus CHEM 004, or placement approved by the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department.
    3. Swarthmore College credit for two courses in mathematics or statistics (not STAT 001 or MATH 003). Alternatively, students may complete calculus II (MATH 025). The Biology Department strongly recommends a course in statistics for majors.
    4. Applicants must have an average grade of C (2.00) or better in BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 (or if AP credit is given, in the first two biology courses taken at Swarthmore). In addition, the applicant must have an average grade of C (2.00) or better in all courses taken in the Biology Department, and an overall average grade of C (2.00) or better in the Division of Natural Sciences and Engineering at Swarthmore College (biology, physics and astronomy, chemistry and biochemistry, mathematics and statistics, engineering, and computer science). Unpublished grades in biology for the first semester of the first year will be considered in the C average requirement; passing grades of CR in other courses in the Division of Natural Sciences and Engineering are acceptable.

Requirements for graduation

  1. Credit requirements: In addition to fulfilling all the requirements to be accepted as a biology major, the student majoring in biology must have completed by the end of the senior year a minimum of eight biology credits, two of which come from a seminar (numbered 110–139). Students may take a course or seminar in biology as CR/NC but are not encouraged to do so.
  2. Distribution requirements: Students majoring in biology must pass at least one course in each of the following three groups: I. Cellular and Molecular Biology, II. Organismal Biology and III. Population Biology. The digit in the tens place of the course number signifies the group of the course (i.e., BIOL 020 is a Group II course and BIOL 114 is a Group I course).
      1. Students majoring in biology may count only one course numbered 003–009 toward the eight required credits. Courses numbered 003–009 do not meet the Group distribution requirement.
      2. BIOL 093 (Directed Reading) and BIOL 094 (Independent Research) count as credits toward the biology major but cannot be used as distribution requirements. No more than two credits in BIOL 093, BIOL 094 or BIOL 093 and BIOL 094 in combination may be used to satisfy the eight-credit requirement for the biology major.
      3. CHEM 038 (Biochemistry) may be counted as a Group I course. In this case, the CHEM 038 grade will be counted towards the biology GPA.
  3. Seminar requirement: All biology majors are required to include at least one two-credit seminar (with a number greater than 100) in their courses in the major. A seminar in biology is defined as an advanced offering that uses primary rather than secondary source materials and encourages active student participation in presentation and discussion of materials. Note that all two-credit seminars have at least one intermediate level course (numbered 10–39) as a prerequisite; the particular prerequisites for seminars vary and should be considered during selection of intermediate level courses.
  4. All seminars must be taken at Swarthmore College.
  5. A student may, with permission of the faculty instructor, take a seminar without the laboratory component. A seminar without the laboratory component becomes a BIOL 093 and does not meet the seminar requirement.
  6. Comprehensive examination: All biology course majors must satisfy the general College requirement of passing a comprehensive examination given by the major department. In biology, this comprehensive examination is the lecture series BIOL 097, Themes in Biology. BIOL 097 is offered only in the fall semester and is usually taken by students during the fall of their senior year. This course features a series of visiting speakers who give presentations connected by an overarching theme that can be addressed from all areas of biology. It enables faculty and students to interact on an intellectually challenging project, allows students to think about a topic from a variety of levels of biological organization and gives students the opportunity to meet and interact with a variety of distinguished biologists.
  7. Students are required to take and complete the requirements of BIOL 097 but are not required to register for the course for credit. BIOL 097 does not count as one of the eight credits required for a major in biology, although it can be counted as one of the 32 credits required for graduation.
  8. Evaluation of a student’s performance for this comprehensive examination will be Pass/No Pass and will be based on the questions prepared by each individual and team for each lecture, participation in discussions, hosting a guest speaker and the final presentation. For students enrolled in BIOL 097 for credit, Pass/No Pass on the comprehensive exam will be translated into Credit/No Credit for purposes of earning credit.
  9. Students who fail BIOL 097 fail the comprehensive exam and thus may not graduate. The department will evaluate all such failures and decide on the appropriate action. Students will be notified of failure by the first day of classes in the spring semester of their senior year.
  10. If a student is given permission by the College to be away from campus during the fall semester of the senior year, the Biology Department faculty may give permission to the student to write a senior paper and enroll in BIOL 095, a Senior Project, to satisfy the College requirement of a comprehensive examination. Alternatively, the student may be given permission by the Biology faculty to enroll in Themes in Biology during the junior year if the student has planned in advance to be away during the fall semester of the senior year.

Course Minor

Students who wish to minor in biology must complete six credits, at least four of which are to be taken at Swarthmore College. The GPA requirement to enter the minor is the same as for biology course majors 2.00 in BIOL 001 and BIOL 002, 2.00 in courses taken in the Biology Department, and 2.00 in all courses taken in the Division of Natural Sciences and Engineering. Both BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 are required (although one or both of these may be replaced by credit from an advanced placement examination after another biology course is completed; note that the department strongly encourages all students with AP credit to take at least one of the introductory courses). There are no requirements for courses outside the department. There is no distribution requirement within the department for the minor. Only one course numbered 003–009 is allowed. Only one credit in BIOL 093 or BIOL 094 is allowed. CHEM 038 (Biochemistry) may be counted as one of the six biology credits

Honors Major

Acceptance criteria

  1. The course requirements for an honors major in biology are the same as those for a course major in biology (see above).
  2. Admission to the Honors Program in biology is based on academic record. Applicants to the Honors Program in biology must have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 in all courses taken in the Natural Sciences and Engineering Division at Swarthmore College and must obtain a grade of B or better in all lecture courses and seminars used for the Honors Program. Applicants must also have a GPA of 3.00 in all biology courses. Unpublished grades in biology for the first semester of the first year will be considered in these requirements; passing grades of CR in other courses in the Division of Natural Sciences and Engineering are acceptable.
  3. Students should list the anticipated fields of study, including two 2-credit seminar courses, in their Sophomore Plan.
  4. Students who are accepted into the program must select a research project and mentor by the middle of the junior year. Final approval of the student’s Honors Program will occur during the fall semester of the senior year when the Final Honors Program Form is signed by the chairs of the participating departments.

Requirements for graduation

  1. Credit requirements for honors: In addition to fulfilling the requirements to be accepted as biology honors major, the student majoring in biology must complete a minimum of eight biology credits. Students may take a course or seminar in biology as CR/NC but are not encouraged to do so. Students must earn a grade of B or better for all courses and seminars used for honors preparations. Honors students may not take Bio 097, Themes in Biology, for credit but are welcome and encouraged to attend the seminars.
  2. Distribution requirements for honors: Students graduating with an honors major in biology must pass at least one course in each of the following three groups: I. Cellular and Molecular Biology, II. Organismal Biology, and III. Population Biology. The digit in the tens place of the course number signifies the group of the course (i.e., BIOL 020 is a Group II course and BIOL 114 is a Group I course).
    1. The Biology Department faculty strongly encourage honors students to fulfill their group distribution requirements with intermediate- or seminar-level courses. Our experience has been that students with coursework at these levels have a more complete and deeper understanding of biology. In addition, students who alter their plans and withdraw from the Honors Program have much more flexibility in scheduling if they have already planned to fulfill the department distribution requirement with intermediate- or seminar-level courses. To mitigate the scheduling constraints imposed by the Honors Program, however, the following rules also apply to honors students:
      1. BIOL 001 may be counted as a Group I course, or BIOL 002 may be counted as a Group III course for purposes of the distribution requirement for honors majors.
      2. An honors major who has taken both BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 can use them to satisfy any one of the distribution requirements.
      3. AP credit may not be used to satisfy the distribution requirement.
  3. Seminar requirement for honors: All honors biology majors are required to complete at least two 2-credit seminars (those with a number greater than 100) for honors preparations. A seminar in biology is defined as an advanced offering that uses primary rather than secondary source materials and encourages active student participation in presentation and discussion of materials. Note that all two-credit seminars have a prerequisite course from the intermediate level (numbered 010–039); the particular prerequisites for each seminar should be considered during selection of intermediate level courses.
    1. The two seminars used for honors preparations must be taken from different faculty members and must be taken at Swarthmore College.
  4. Research (Thesis) requirement for honors: At least one, but not more than two, credits of thesis research (BIOL 180) are required. Thesis research will be graded by an External Examiner. The thesis research will be a substantial project carried out over 2 semesters, 2 summers, or 1 summer + 1 semester.
  5. The primary mentor for the thesis need not be a Swarthmore faculty member, but a Swarthmore faculty member must agree to be an on-campus mentor.
  6. Students should plan on completing their research by the end of the fall semester of their senior year.
  7. The honors thesis has a page limit of 20 pages, not counting references, figures, figure legends or tables.
  8. Senior Honors Study: Senior Honors Study (BIOL 199) is required for all honors majors in the spring semester of their senior year. This integrative/interactive program prepares each student to finalize and present his or her thesis work formally, in both oral and written forms. During the first few meetings of the semester, faculty members are available for consultation about data analysis. At mid-semester, students present posters of their projects to the faculty and other honors students for review. Comments from faculty and students on these posters will guide students in revising and polishing their written theses. SHS BIOL 199 is Credit/No Credit and the evaluation is done by the biology faculty.
  9. Review of work for honors: The Biology Department will review the academic work of all candidates for the external examination at the end of the junior year and in November of their senior year. Progress on thesis research is assessed at the beginning of the fall semester of the senior year. At these times, the department may ask a candidate not to discontinue participation in the Honors Program. Withdrawal from the Honors Program must occur by December 1 of the student’s senior year. At that time, the student is responsible for consulting with the department about satisfying the comprehensive requirement for the major.
  10. Honors examinations: Students will take two written examinations, one based on each of their seminar preparations. The biology written examinations will be closed-book, 3-hour exams. The oral exams are normally one-on-one, but there are special circumstances under which a student may be examined by a panel of examiners. Oral examinations for seminar preparations are normally 45 minutes in length. The oral exams for thesis research are 60 minutes in length.

Honors Minor

Biology minors in the Honors Program do not need to satisfy the distribution requirements of the major or take chemistry or mathematics unless required to do so for a specific preparation. Honors minors do not participate in Senior Honors Study. Applicants to the Honors Program in biology must have a GPA of 3.00 in all courses taken in the Divisions of Natural Sciences and Engineering, a GPA of 3.00 in all biology courses taken at Swarthmore College, and a grade of B or better in all lecture courses and seminars used for the Honors Program.

The program in biology for an honors minor requires at least four credits and usually consists BIOL 001 and BIOL 002, an intermediate level course (course number between 10 and 39) and a two-credit seminar (course number greater than 100).

Application Process Notes for the Major or the Minor

In addition to the process described by the Dean’s Office and the Registrar’s Office for how to apply for a major, we also ask that you attend the departmental information meeting for sophomores. A copy of the Biology Student Handbook, which contains detailed information about courses and other aspects of the major, minor, and regularized special majors, is available online via a link from the departmental homepage at www.swarthmore.edu/biology.

Applicants from the sophomore or junior classes who have completed all the requirements with the appropriate grades are accepted as a course major in biology. Applicants from the sophomore class who are in the process of completing these requirements with the required GPA are accepted contingent upon successful completion of the missing courses. Others who will not complete these requirements by the end of the current semester are deferred until the requirements are met. All students who have applied for the major in biology and who have been accepted or deferred are assigned an adviser in the Biology Department.

Special Majors and Minors

Biochemistry

The Biology Department, in collaboration with the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, offers a course major and an honors major in biochemistry. This major gives students the opportunity to gain a strong background in chemistry with special emphasis on the application of chemistry to biological problems. Approval and advising for this special major are obtained through the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department and details about the course and honors major can be found in the Chemistry and Biochemistry section of this catalog. The Biology Department encourages biochemistry majors to take both BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 as a number of intermediate level courses in biology require both courses as a prerequisite.

  1. Honors biochemistry majors are expected to participate in Senior Honors Study (BIOL 199) only if the thesis research is done in the Biology Department.
  2. Honors biochemistry majors must conduct thesis research with a Swarthmore faculty member.

Neuroscience

The Psychology and Biology departments offer a course major and an honors major that combines work in the two departments in a way that allows students flexibility in choosing the focus of their Neuroscience major. Approval and advising for this special major is done through both departments and details about the course and honors major can be found in the psychology section of this catalog.

Bioeducation

The special major in bioeducation consists of six courses in biology. Students must complete at least one course in each group (I, II, and III) and one course in Evolution (BIOL 034). In addition to the six biology courses, students must complete CHEM 010 (or CHEM 003 plus CHEM 004) and CHEM 022, one year of mathematics (not MATH 001 or 003), and write a thesis to be supervised by faculty in the Biology and Educational Studies Departments. The special major in Bioeducation will include at least four education courses to be approved by the Educational Studies Department. Students should consult with the chair of the Educational Studies Department about further requirements for the Bioeducation special major. Approval and advising for this special major are through both the Biology and Educational Studies Departments.

Environmental Studies

A minor in environmental studies consists of an integrated program of five courses plus a capstone seminar (ENVS 091), which a student takes in addition to a regular major. The details of the minor and courses offered may be found at www.swarthmore.edu/envs.xml. The five courses must include at least one course in environmental science/technology; at least one course in environmental social science/humanities; and at least one more course from either of these two groups for a minimum of three courses from these two lists. Up to two of the five required courses may be chosen from the list designated adjunct and interdisciplinary courses. The capstone seminar is offered in the spring of the student’s senior year. Advising for this program is by the chair of the Environmental Studies Committee.

Other special majors

Individualized special majors may be constructed after consultation with the chairs and approval of the participating departments. The special major is expected to specify a field of learning that crosses departmental boundaries and can be treated as a sub-field within the normal departmental major. Individualized special majors consist of at least 10 credits, but usually not more than 12. A more detailed explanation of the individualized special major is found in Chapter 7 “Educational Program.” Previously approved special majors include cognitive science, neuroscience, environmental science, biostatistics and biophysics.

Thesis / Culminating Exercise

See Acceptance Criteria and Requirements for Graduation, Comprehensive Examination.

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Credit

Both BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 are required for the biology major and minor. However, one or both of these courses may be replaced by credit from one of the advanced placement examinations listed below, which will be granted after one biology course with laboratory is completed in the department. One biology credit is awarded for a score of 5 on the advanced placement examination; a score of 6 or 7 on the International Baccalaureate; or A on the Higher Level of Biology, Advanced Level Examination, German Arbitur, Austrian Matura or French Baccalaureate exam. Note that the department strongly encourages all students with advanced placement credit to take at least one of the introductory courses.

Transfer Credit

Credit for courses taken at an institution at which the student was previously matriculated may be counted toward the biology major. Courses will be evaluated on an individual basis to determine which departmental distribution requirements they meet.

Off-Campus Study

The Biology Department faculty enthusiastically support study abroad for their majors. Majors may study abroad and earn credits that count toward the requirements for a biology major or, alternatively, participate in programs without earning biology credit, while still completing the major in eight semesters. By college regulation, we cannot guarantee a specific amount of credit in advance toward the Swarthmore degree for successful completion of academic work completed at other institutions, with the exception of regular semester coursework at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and the University of Pennsylvania completed under the four-college arrangement. Notwithstanding this restriction, our experience has shown that, with proper advance planning, study abroad is nearly always compatible with completion of the degree in eight semesters (including the semester(s) spent abroad). Planning is the key to success, and students contemplating study abroad are urged to see the

Off-Campus Study

Adviser early in the planning process.

Prior to studying abroad, students should obtain preapproval and credit estimation from the faculty member with teaching and research interests most closely related to the proposed course. At this time, the faculty member will describe what course characteristics are important for obtaining Swarthmore College credit, how credit will be calculated upon completion of the program, and which departmental distribution requirements, if any, the courses are likely to fulfill.

Upon return, the student should present a transcript, syllabus of the course (including the number of hours in lecture and laboratory), class notes, laboratory directions, examinations, laboratory reports and any papers or other written work (but not the textbooks) to the Biology Department’s Academic Coordinator, who will then determine which faculty member will be asked to award credit for the course. Courses without a laboratory will be awarded no more than one-half credit.

Research and Service-Learning Opportunities

Academic year opportunities

Research

Students may receive academic credit for research carried out either on- or off-campus (BIOL 094). Students interested in doing research on campus should contact individual faculty members directly. For off-campus research credit in BIOL 094, the student must submit a one-page proposal to the department indicating 1) prior course work in the area of research, 2) previous technical experience in a laboratory, 3) the name and address of the director of the laboratory and the name of the person under whom the student will work directly, and 4) a short description of the proposed project and the methods to be used in the investigation. This proposal must be presented to the chair of the Biology Department, no later than one week before registration for the semester in which credit will be received.

There are also opportunities for students to be paid for research during the academic year. Individual faculty members should be contacted about the potential for positions in their laboratory.

Academic Assistants

Each year approximately 10 students are selected to assist in the BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 laboratories. These students are selected for their academic excellence, laboratory expertise, and ability to communicate with students. Each selected student assists in one laboratory per week and attends a weekly staff meeting for the course. BIOL 002 hires two or three additional students to staff evening computer clinics. Contact the laboratory coordinator for BIOL 001 or BIOL 002 for more information.

Approximately eight students are selected as Science Associates (SAs) for excellence in comprehension, communication and compassion. SAs attend all BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 lectures on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, meet weekly with the SA program coordinator and faculty lecturers throughout the semester, and facilitate small group problem-based learning in evening study sessions. Contact Philip Kudish for more information.

Dean’s tutors in biology are hired on a rolling basis, to support student learning in BIOL 001 and BIOL 002. This is a flexible student position in which tutors meet one-on-one with students at mutually convenient times, typically for one hour per week. Contact Philip Kudish for more information.

Experienced students are hired as laboratory assistants, van drivers and/or study guides in several intermediate level courses, including Genetics, Marine Biology, and Neurobiology. Students are also hired to help with the care of organisms associated with various courses and research laboratories. The departmental administrative assistant, animal facility manager and greenhouse manager, as well as individual faculty members, may be contacted about these positions.

The department collaborates with the Chester Children’s Chorus (www.chesterchildrenschorus.org/) to support Science for Kids, a summer and academic year program focused on engaging children from the nearby Chester-Upland school district with experimental science. The academic year program meets on Saturdays while classes are in session and the College has funds from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to pay Swarthmore students involved in the program.

Student Committee for faculty searches

Each year the Biology Department conducts several searches for replacement faculty to teach courses when regular members of the department are on leave. In some years there is a search for a permanent or tenure-track position. Students are invited to serve on a Student Search Committee to interview and help select a candidate.

Summer opportunities

Research

Paid fellowships for summer research are offered by the Biology Department as well as other institutions. Funds are available for field and laboratory research projects conducted on- and off- campus. Information regarding the awards, application deadlines and downloadable applications are available on the Biology Department website. An information session is usually offered at the end of the fall semester to describe opportunities in more detail.

Community service

The Biology Department collaborates with the Chester Children’s Chorus (www.chesterchildrenschorus.org) to support Science for Kids, a summer and academic year program focused on engaging children from the nearby Chester-Upland school district with experimental science. The summer program commitment is 5-8 hours per week for 5 or 6 weeks and can usually be integrated with a full-time job or research position elsewhere on campus. Contact Liz Vallen or Jocelyne Noveral if you will be on campus for the summer and are interested in participating.

Teacher Certification

Students may complete the requirements for teacher certification through a program approved by the state of Pennsylvania. Options to pursue a biology major along with teacher certification or to pursue a special major in biology and educational

studies are available. For further information about the relevant set of requirements, please refer to the Educational Studies section of the Bulletin.

Life After Swarthmore

Graduate school

Many of our majors have gone on to graduate school in biology after completion of their degree. While some students attend graduate school immediately after graduation from Swarthmore, others work for at least a year or two before applying to graduate programs. This time between finishing at Swarthmore and graduate school can be used to gain more experience in biology, or to try out a new field. These experiences both strengthen your graduate school applications and help you to know what you are most interested in studying. One- or two-year jobs are available at a variety of research institutes, field stations, universities, museums, government laboratories and companies.

The Biology Student Handbook contains specific suggestions for applying to graduate programs and Biology Department faculty are happy to talk with students about programs and projects. Note that graduate schools in biology pay Ph.D. students a stipend for research and/or teaching. In addition, a few prestigious fellowships (e.g., National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship) are awarded to the student (not to the program), giving the recipient more flexibility and autonomy in their graduate program.

Career options/opportunities

In addition to graduate school and professional school (medical, law, veterinary, business) there are many other job possibilities. The American Institute of Biological Sciences web page (www.aibs.org/careers/), which describes jobs open to people with a degree in biology, is a helpful resource. A degree in biology can lead to positions in the following areas:

Research: This could include laboratory work, fieldwork, or some combination of the two. Major employers include universities, research institutes, non-government organizations and companies (e.g., pharmaceutical, agricultural, biotechnology, food science).

Healthcare: Many doctors, dentists, nurses, veterinarians, laboratory technicians and other health care providers have backgrounds in the biological sciences. Other biologists utilize their background in disease prevention and control.

Environmental management: Park rangers, conservation biologists, zoo biologists, and land management specialists use their background in biology to develop and evaluate management plans to conserve natural resources.

Education: In addition to serving as university and college professors, some of our graduates teach in elementary and secondary schools, at museums and zoos, and at aquaria and nature centers. Biology majors also author newspaper and magazine articles, and may contribute to textbooks as writers, editors or illustrators.

Other ideas: Our graduates have obtained jobs in politics and policy, in areas such as economic and biological impacts of land use practices, science advising on biomedical procedures, effects of climate change, and educating members of Congress about scientific issues. Other biology majors have found positions in forensics, bioinformatics and computational biology. Finally, some majors have had careers in investment banking, consulting and law.

Courses

Biology course numbers reflect study at different levels of organization—General Studies (001–009), intermediate courses in Cellular and Molecular Biology (010–019), Organismal Biology (020–029), Population Biology (030–039), Seminars in Cellular and Molecular Biology (110–119), Seminars in Organismal Biology (120–129), and Seminars in Population Biology (130–139).

General Studies

BIOL 001. Cellular and Molecular Biology

An introduction to the study of living systems illustrated by examples drawn from cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, microbiology, neurobiology, and developmental biology.
One laboratory period per week.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
Writing course.
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Staff.

BIOL 002. Organismal and Population Biology

Introduction to the study of organisms emphasizing morphology, physiology, behavior, ecology, and evolution of whole organisms and populations.
One laboratory per week.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
Writing course.
1 credit.
Spring 2015. Staff.

Group I: Cellular and Molecular Biology (010–019)

BIOL 010. Genetics

This introduction to genetic analysis and molecular genetics explores basic principles of genetics, the chromosome theory of inheritance, classical and molecular strategies for gene mapping, strategies for identifying and isolating genes, the genetics of bacteria and viruses, replication, gene expression, and the regulation of gene activity. Major concepts will be illustrated using human and nonhuman examples.
One laboratory period per week.
Prerequisite: BIOL 001 or permission of the instructor.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Jenkins.

BIOL 011. Epigenetics

The growing field of epigenetics studies mechanisms of regulation of gene expression that are not due to changes in the DNA sequence. In this course, we will examine how epigenetic modifications to the genome influence processes such as gene dosage control, genetic imprinting, stem cell pluripotency, prion formation, and learning and memory. We will also discuss diseases that can result from abnormal epigenetic mechanisms. The laboratory component will provide hands-on experience exploring a range of epigenetic phenomena.
One laboratory period per week.
Prerequisites: BIOL 001 and BIOL 002.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Spring 2015. Vecsey.

BIOL 014. Cell Biology

A study of the ultrastructure, molecular interactions, and function of cell components, focusing primarily on eukaryotic cells. Topics include protein and membrane structure, organelle function and maintenance, and the role of the cytoskeleton.
One laboratory period per week.
Prerequisites: BIOL 001 and BIOL 002, and
previous or concurrent enrollment in CHEM 022; or permission of the instructor.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Schottenfeld-Roames.

BIOL 016. Microbiology

This study of the biology of microorganisms will emphasize aspects unique to prokaryotes. Topics include microbial cell structure, metabolism, physiology, genetics, and ecology. Laboratory exercises include techniques for detecting, isolating, cultivating, quantifying, and identifying bacteria. Students may not take both BIOL 016 and BIOL 017 for credit.
One laboratory period per week.
Prerequisites: CHEM 022; BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 or by permission of the instructor.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Spring 2015. Vollmer.

BIOL 017. Microbial Pathogenesis and the Immune Response

A study of bacterial and viral infectious agents and of the humoral and cellular mechanisms by which vertebrates respond to them. Laboratory exercises include techniques for detecting, isolating, cultivating, quantifying, and identifying bacteria. Students may not take both BIOL 016 and BIOL 017 for credit.
One laboratory period per week.
Prerequisites: CHEM 022; BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 or by permission of the instructor.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Not offered 2014–2015. Vollmer.

BIOL 019. Omics

An introduction to the study of genome structure, function, and evolution, with a focus on applying our understanding of genomes to answer fundamental biological questions. The course will also investigate the related fields of proteomics, metabolomics, and systems biology.
 One laboratory period per week.
Prerequisites: BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 or by permission of the instructor.
1 credit.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
Spring 2015. Kaplinsky.

Group II: Organismal Biology (020–029)

BIOL 020. Animal Physiology

An examination of the principles and mechanisms of animal physiology, ranging from the subcellular to the integrated whole animal in its environment. Possible topics include metabolism, thermoregulation, endocrine regulation, nutrient processing, and muscle physiology.
Prerequisites: BIOL 001 and BIOL 002. CHEM 010 is recommended.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Spring 2015. Hiebert Burch.

BIOL 021. Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy

A system by system examination of vertebrate morphology with an appreciation for the variation offered by the diversity of vertebrate forms. While morphology or physical form is the focus, each anatomical system is presented within a context of function and evolution. Laboratory exercises will involve dissection.
One laboratory period or field trip per week.
Prerequisites: BIOL 001 and BIOL 002.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Spring 2015. Downs.

BIOL 022. Neurobiology

A comprehensive study of the basic principles of neuroscience, ranging from the electrical and chemical signaling properties of neurons and their underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms to the functional organization of selected neural systems.
One laboratory period per week.
Prerequisites: BIOL 001 and CHEM 010.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Spring 2015. Siwicki.

BIOL 024. Developmental Biology

In this course, we will explore the process by which single cells (fertilized eggs) develop into complex organisms. Students will conduct detailed observations of live embryos and engage in independent experimental analysis during weekly laboratory sessions.
One laboratory period per week.
Prerequisites: BIOL 020 or BIOL 022, or permission of the instructor.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
Eligible for GSST credit.
1 credit.
Not offered 2014–2015. Davidson.

BIOL 025. Plant Biology

This course is an exploration of the diverse field of plant biology. Topics will include growth and development, reproduction, genetics and genome biology, evolution and diversity, physiology, responses to pathogens and environmental stimuli, domestication, agriculture, and applications of plant genetic modification. Laboratories will introduce organismal, cellular, molecular, and genetic approaches to understanding plant biology.
One laboratory period per week.
Prerequisites: BIOL 001 and BIOL 002.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Not offered 2014–2015. Kaplinsky.

BIOL 026. Invertebrate Biology

The evolution, morphology, ecology, and physiology of invertebrate animals.
One laboratory period per week; some all-day field trips.
Prerequisites: BIOL 001 and BIOL 002.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Not offered 2014–2015. Merz.

Group III: Population Biology (030–039)

BIOL 030. Animal Behavior

This course will focus on the mechanistic, functional consequences, evolution and development of animal behavior. We will explore the conceptual roots of ethology and the current state of the art. In addition to an understanding of the primary literature, course content will emphasize statistical methods in this field. Lab and field component combines descriptive and experimental approaches.
Lab required.
Prerequisites: BIOL 001 and BIOL 002; STAT 011 or equivalent is recommended.
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Baugh.

BIOL 034. Evolution

The course focuses on how the genetic structure of a population changes in response to mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift. Other topics, such as evolutionary rates, speciation, phylogeography, and extinction, provide a broader view of evolutionary processes.
One laboratory period or field trip per week.
Prerequisites: BIOL 001 and BIOL 002.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Formica.

BIOL 035. History of Life

An exploration of the evolutionary history responsible for the incredible diversity of organisms on earth today. An understanding of this history will be developed through study of geological processes, reconstruction of evolutionary relationships, and a familiarity with the fossil record. Readings and discussion of primary literature will supplement the course material.
One laboratory per week.
Prerequisites: BIOL 001 and BIOL 002.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Downs.

BIOL 036. Ecology

The goal of ecology is to explain the distribution and abundance of organisms in nature through an understanding of how they interact with their abiotic and biotic environments. Students will gain ecological literacy and practice by studying processes that operate within and between hierarchical levels or organization such as individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems. All this knowledge will be applied to understand the current global changes occurring in nature as a result of human activities.
Three to 6 hours of laboratory and/or fieldwork in the Crum Woods per week, in addition to at least one field trip per semester.
Prerequisites: BIOL 002 or permission of the instructor.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Not offered 2014 - 2015. Machado.

BIOL 037. Conservation Biology

This course provides an overview of the foundational concepts and future horizons of biodiversity conservation, and illustrates central issues in contemporary conservation with case studies, critical reading of primary literature, field experiences and exposure to quantitative methods.
One laboratory period or field trip per week.
Prerequisites: BIOL 002 or permission of the instructor.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Fall 2015. Nichols.

BIOL 039. Marine Biology

Ecology of oceans and estuaries, including discussions of physiological, structural, and behavioral adaptations of marine organisms.
One laboratory per week; several all-day field trips.
Prerequisites: BIOL 001 and BIOL 002.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
1 credit.
Not offered 2014–2015. Merz.

BIOL 068. Bioinformatics

(See CPSC 068)
Prerequisite: CPSC 035 required.
Eligible for COGS credit.
Lab required.
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Soni.

Independent Studies

BIOL 093. Directed Reading

A program of literature study in a designated area of biology not usually covered by regular courses or seminars and overseen by a biology faculty member.
0.5 or 1 credit.
Fall or spring semester. Staff.

BIOL 094. Research Project

Qualified students may pursue a research program for course credit with the permission of the department. The student will present a written report to the biology faculty member supervising the work.
0.5 or 1 credit.
Fall or spring semester. Staff.

BIOL 094A. Research Project: Departmental Evaluation

Students carrying out a BIOL 094 research project will present a written and oral report on the project to the Biology Department.
0.5 credit.
Fall or spring semester. Staff.

BIOL 180. Honors Research

Independent research in preparation for an honors research thesis.
Fall or spring semester. Staff.
Senior Comprehensive Examination

BIOL 095. Senior Project

With the permission of the department, a student may write a senior paper in biology to satisfy the requirement of a comprehensive examination for graduation.

BIOL 097. Themes in Biology

Invited scientists present lectures and lead discussions on a selected topic that can be engaged from different subdisciplines within biology. Serves as the senior comprehensive and examination; it is required of all biology majors in course.
Fall 2014. Staff.

Honors Study

BIOL 199. Senior Honors Study

An interactive, integrative program that allows honors students to finalize their research thesis spring semester. BIOL 199 is not part of the 8-credit minimum required for the biology major.
Writing course.
1 credit.
Spring 2015. Staff.

Seminars

BIOL 110. Human Genetics

In this exploration of the human genome, the topics to be discussed will include patterns of human inheritance; classical and molecular strategies for mapping and isolating genes; the metabolic basis of inherited disease; the genetic basis of cancer; developmental genetics; complex-trait analysis; the genetic basis of human behavior; and ethical, legal, and social issues in human genetics.
Attendance at medical genetics rounds and seminars at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine is required.
Prerequisite: Any Group I course or BIOL 024, or BIOL 025.
Lab required.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
2 credits.*
Not offered 2014–2015. Jenkins.

BIOL 112. From Cells to Organs

This course will examine the morphogenesis of various organs, including (but not limited to) the neural tube, the heart, the lungs, the pancreas, the kidneys, and the vasculature. Through reading and discussion of primary literature, we will explore how cells organize into different types of tubular structures.
Independent or group research projects are required and will focus on fruit flies as a model system.
Prerequisites: Any Group I or Group II biology course.
2 credits.
Spring 2015. Schottenfeld-Roames.

BIOL 114. Symbiotic Interactions

This seminar will focus on the molecular basis of plant-microbe, animal-microbe, and possibly microbe-microbe symbioses. In addition to studying specific systems, common themes and pathways will be analyzed and discussed (nutrient exchange, suppression of the immune response, specificity of host-symbiont recognition, etc.). Readings will be primarily from the research literature. Laboratory projects will use molecular techniques and likely focus on the sea anemone Aiptasia and its symbiotic, photosynthetic dinoflagellate, Symbiodinium.
One required laboratory per week.
Prerequisites: CHEM 022, and any Group I or Group II biology course.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
2 credits.*
Not offered 2014–2015. Vallen.

BIOL 115E. Plant Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology

The course will investigate the technological approaches that plant scientists are using to address environmental, agricultural, and health issues. Topics will include biofuels, nutritional engineering, engineering disease and stress resistance, bioremediation, and the production of pharmaceuticals in plants. This course consists of one discussion and one laboratory per week. Laboratory projects will include independent and ongoing research.
One required laboratory per week.
Prerequisites: BIOL 025 or any Group I course.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
2 credits.*
Not offered 2014–2015. Kaplinsky.

BIOL 116. Microbial Processes and Biotechnology

A study of microbial mechanisms regulating metabolism and gene expression in response to natural and experimental stressors. Technical and ethical applications of these concepts in biotechnology will be addressed.
Independent laboratory projects.
Prerequisites: BIOL 014, 016, 017, or CHEM 038.
Lab required.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
Writing course.

2 credits.
Not offered 2014–2015. Vollmer.

BIOL 119. Genomics and Systems Biology

Fundamental questions in biology are being answered using revolutionary new technologies including genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, systems biology, modeling, and large scale protein and genetic interaction screens. These approaches have fundamentally changed how scientists investigate biological problems and allow us to ask questions about cells, organisms and evolution that were impossible to address even five years ago. Readings will include animal, plant, fungal, and bacterial literature. Weekly laboratory projects will incorporate genomic and molecular approaches.
Lab required.
Prerequisites: Any Group I or Group II biology course.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
2 credits.*
Not offered 2014–2015. Kaplinsky.

BIOL 120. Sleep and Circadian Rhythms

This seminar will focus on the characteristics, disorders, and many possible functions of sleep and circadian rhythms. Topics will span molecular biology, genetics, animal and human behavior, and medicine. The research portion of the course will include short introductory studies of sleep and rhythmic behavior, followed by longer-term novel group research projects in fruit flies.
Lab required.
Prerequisites: BIOL 022 or BIOL 014. STAT 011 or equivalent recommended.
2 credits.
Not offered 2014–2015. Vecsey.

BIOL 123. Learning and Memory

Neural systems and cellular processes involved in different types of learning and memory are studied through reading and discussion of research literature.
Independent laboratory projects required.
Prerequisite: BIOL 022 or permission of the instructor.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
2 credits.
Fall 2014. Siwicki.

BIOL 124. Hormones and Behavior

This course will focus on endocrine regulation of animal behaviors, including reproduction, aggression, stress, sickness, parental care, and seasonality, with an emphasis on critical reading of primary literature.
Independent laboratory projects required.
Prerequisites: BIOL 020 , 022, or 023 or permission of the instructor.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
2 credits.*
Fall 2014. Hiebert Burch.

BIOL 125. Frontiers in Developmental Biology

Through discussion of the primary literature and independent experimental studies, students will investigate current gaps in our understanding of animal development. Potential topics include: the interplay between embryonic development and evolution; how gene regulatory networks generate complex patterns of cell identity; and the ability of cells to interpret their environment using dynamic internal structures.
Lab required.
Prerequisites: BIOL 010, 014, 024, or 025 or permission of instructor.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
2 credits.
Spring 2015. Davidson.

BIOL 126. Biomechanics

Basic principles of solid and fluid mechanics will be explored as they apply to the morphology, ecology, and evolution of plants and animals.
Prerequisites: Any Group II or Group III course.
Lab required.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
2 credits.
Not offered 2014–2015. Merz.

BIOL 131. Animal Communication

This seminar will examine animal communication from a cross-disciplinary perspective with a focus on the physiological basis and evolution of communication systems and an emphasis on understanding the primary literature. We will build on material covered in BIOL 030. Lab and field component combines descriptive and experimental approaches with a quantitative emphasis.
One required laboratory per week.
Prerequisites: Completion of BIOL 001 and 002; Completion of one of the following: BIOL 020, 022, 026, 030, 034, 036 or 039; Recommended: a course in statistics (e.g. STAT 011).
2 credits.*
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
Not offered 2014–2015. Baugh.

BIOL 135. Parasite Ecology and Conservation

This course will review the epidemiological, ecological, and conservation concepts required to understand the complex role of parasitic biodiversity in ecology, conservation and the medical sciences. Drawing on primary literature, the course will emphasize links between field observations and quantitative methods, as well as cover a series of contemporary ‘hot-topics’ in which parasitic diversity plays a key role.
One laboratory period or field trip per week.
Prerequisites: BIOL 002 and BIOL 036 or BIOL 037, or permission of the instructor.
2 credits.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
Spring 2016. Nichols.

BIOL 136. Molecular Ecology and Evolution

Understanding molecular techniques and analysis has become increasingly important to researchers in the fields of ecology and evolution. Through discussion of the primary literature, and independent laboratory projects, students will explore how molecular tools are being implemented in studies of biogeography, dispersal, mating systems, biological diversity, and speciation. Depending on interest, topics such as wildlife forensics, conservations genetics, human migration, molecular clocks, and bioinformatics will also be discussed.
One required laboratory each week with continuing, independent laboratory projects.
Prerequisites: BIOL 002 or BIOL 034, and one Group I or Group III Biology course or BIOL 025.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
2 credits.*
Not offered 2014–2015. Formica.

BIOL 137. Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning

Can the current decline in global biodiversity alter the functioning and stability of ecosystems? The answer to this question can be reached by evaluating the ecological consequences of changing patterns in biodiversity, through either extinction or addition of species. We will review the relative or specific role of extrinsic factors (climate, disturbance, soils, etc.), genetic, taxonomic, and functional diversity in ecosystem functioning using both experimental and natural evidence.
Prerequisite: For Biology majors: any biology course numbered BIOL 026 or higher. For ENVS minors: participation in BIOL 036 is required. Other students should seek permission of the instructor before registration.
Lab required.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
2 credits.*
Not offered 2014–2015. Machado.

BIOL 138. Paleontology

The extraordinary diversity of life is the product of the ongoing processes of speciation and extinction. An understanding of the fossil record is essential to the formulation of robust hypotheses about evolutionary history and the relationships that tie together all forms of life.
This seminar will use independent research projects and a synthesis of primary literature to highlight the key role that paleontological data play in a range of biological research pursuits.
Prerequisites: Any GROUP II or III course.
Lab required.
Natural sciences and engineering practicum.
2 credits.*
Not offered 2014–2015. Downs.
*With permission of instructor, a student may take the discussion (NOT LAB) section of this seminar as 1 credit of BIOL 093.