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Facilities & Resources


The Swarthmore Biology Department is well equipped with up to date equipment and facilities for both research and teaching. All of these facilities are used by students in both courses and independent research. Use of equipment and research techniques are taught in biology courses and students are encouraged to use this knowledge in their own research projects.
The Biology Department is housed in Singer Hall. Each faculty member has a laboratory dedicated to their own advanced courses as well as a research laboratory. A modern teaching laboratory for introductory courses and two core research laboratories (Hughes and Speare) ensure that space is not a limiting factor for research in the department. In addition to research laboratories, a newly upgraded greenhouse, computer facility,  recirculating seawater system, animal facility, herbarium, bone room, microscopy suite, and a fully equipped shop for building custom equipment allow just about any kind of biological question to be asked at Swarthmore. The department is well equipped for molecular and cell biology. One example is our recent acquisition of a four channel real time PCR machine.  The biology library holdings, among the most extensive in the country for a school of Swarthmore's size, are located in the Cornell Science Library.

The Swarthmore campus is part of the world renowned Scott Arboretum and the Crum Woods, which is a tract of 236 forested acres adjacent to the College. Both provide opportunities for specimen collection and field studies.  Travel to other field sites is easy in one of the three departmental vans, and a full complement of field equipment including field telescopes, recording devices, a canoe, and professional GPS systems.

The medical school and biology department at the University of Pennsylvania are a 20 minute train ride from the Swarthmore campus which makes collaborations with Penn faculty easy and convenient. There are a number of biologically interesting places to visit in the vicinity of Swarthmore. Longwood Gardens, which has an ever-changing fantastic collection of tropical and native flora is accessible by car and is open year round. The Wistar Institute, Mutter Museum, Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Wagner Institute of Science are located in Philadelphia and accessible by car or train, and the Tyler Arboretum is within 15 minutes of campus by car.

Unlikely Scientists

Microbiologist Amy Cheng Vollmer unites two cultures in her 'only at Swarthmore' lab experiment.

Every summer, Vollmer, professor of biology, invites Swarthmore faculty members and administrators to spend a few days working in her lab. Philip Jefferson, Centennial Professor of Economics, and Cheryl Grood, associate professor of mathematics, volunteered to be the first guinea pigs, in 2005. They were followed in 2007 by Barbara Milewski, associate professor of music, and Bruce Maxwell '80, formerly of the engineering department. In 2011, Professor of History Tim Burke donned the lab coat. And in 2012, Leslie Hempling and Melissa Mandos of the dean's office proved that administrators can cultivate bacteria, too.

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