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Biology

Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

 

Martin Connaughton, Chair

Mindy Reynolds, Associate Chair

Daniel Brougher

Jennie Carr

Rosemary Ford

Mariah Goodall

Aaron Krochmal

Karen O’Connor

Jennifer Jones-Rowsell

Nate Nazdrowicz

Robin Van Meter

Kathleen Verville

 

The Biology major is designed to help students develop a strong and broad background in biological science. Students can elect to earn either a B.S. in Biology by completing courses across a wide spectrum of topics in biology and may include a specialization in one area to obtain a greater depth of knowledge or a B.S. in Biology with a Biochemistry Concentration to focus on studying biology at the chemical level.

 

The Biology Department also seeks to emphasize to its majors that the discipline of biology is intimately related to many disciplines outside of the sciences. As part of the major, students will gain an appreciation of the impact of biology on history, and they will appreciate the many philosophical and ethical questions that have biological underpinnings. Students are encouraged to find additional connections—to the humanities, to the social sciences, and to the other science fields—as they pursue their education.

 

A strong knowledge base is essential for a biologist, but it does not alone make the scientist. Therefore, the Biology major seeks to guide students to develop the skills to ensure that, for them, biology is an inquiry-based discipline. Through ample opportunities for practice, students learn to:

        read, understand, and analyze biological literature;

        design, perform, and analyze experiments to ask                             questions and test hypotheses;

        use up-to-date techniques and equipment common in the               discipline;

        communicate their questions and findings both orally and               in writing; and

        work collaboratively on experimentation with fellow                         students and faculty who share a love of inquiry.

 

The combination of these three components of our mission—the strong knowledge base, the appreciation of the connections between biology and other academic areas, and the collaborative “doing” of biology—position students to become skilled biologists, lifelong independent learners, and citizen leaders.

 

 

Many careers are available to students who have majored in biology. Some of these careers can be accessed directly by those with a B.S. in Biology. Others require—or can be enhanced by—post-graduate education. The Biology major seeks to ensure that graduates are well prepared for careers in biology and for admission to graduate programs (M.S. and Ph.D.) and programs designed to train and license the teaching or the medical professional. Among the many examples of the latter for which our students are well trained are medical school, dental school, veterinary school, pharmacy school, and nursing school, and well as programs that train the physician assistant, the physical therapist, and the occupational therapist.

 

The Biology Department offers classes for students enrolled in the first-year GRW program, distribution courses for nonscience majors, introductory level courses covering the breadth of the discipline at two levels (regular and Honors), and diverse upper-level courses for majors. Undergraduate research opportunities are available in departmental laboratories during both the academic year and the summer. Students can also participate in internships sponsored by off-campus laboratories through existing programs or those proposed by the student. A chapter of Beta Beta Beta, the national biological honor society, provides supplemental activities for students.

 

The nearby Chester River, a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay, and Chester River Field Station afford excellent opportunities for ecological studies in a wide variety of biological subdisciplines. Another resource is the Virginia Gent Decker Arboretum, the collection of trees and shrubs on the college campus, in which students can also study a broad range of topics. Collaborative student-faculty research is an important focus of the department and the Toll Science Center boasts personal labs for each of the faculty and a number of shared research spaces including a set of microsuites (fluorescence microscopy, cell and tissue culture, and histology), the aquatic research facility, and a spacious research greenhouse.

 

Requirements For The B.S. Degree

 

  1. B.S in Biology                               

  BIO 111, 112. General Biology with laboratory*

  BIO 206. Ecology with laboratory

  BIO 305. Genetics with laboratory

  5 Advanced Biology courses

        1 – course Category I

        1 – course Category II

        2 – courses Categories I, II, or III

        1 – course Categories I, II, III, VI, or V

  BIO 392. Junior Seminar

  BIO 491, 492. Senior Seminar

  SCE Senior Capstone Experience

  CHE 111, 112. General Chemistry with laboratory

  CHE 201, 202. Organic Chemistry with laboratory

  MAT 201. Differential Calculus

 

  Recommended: An introductory course in statistics

 

  2. B.S. in Biology with a Biochemistry Concentration

  BIO 111, 112. General Biology with laboratory*

BIO 205. Cell Biology with laboratory

  BIO 305. Genetics with laboratory

  BIO 409. Biochemistry with laboratory

  3 Advanced Biology courses

       1 – course Category I

        1 – course Category II

  1 – course Category III

BIO 392. Junior Seminar

BIO 491, 492. Senior Seminar

SCE Senior Capstone Experience based in the field of biochemistry

CHE 111, 112. General Chemistry with laboratory

CHE 201, 202. Organic Chemistry with laboratory

CHE 301. Analytical Chemistry with laboratory

CHE 303. The Chemistry of Biological Compounds

MAT 201, 202. Differential and Integral Calculus

 

Recommended: Two semesters of introductory physics

Note: Students who complete the Concentration in Biochemistry will also complete the minor in chemistry. Requests to substitute a course not listed above for one of the requirements may be considered by the program advisor (Dr. Mindy Reynolds).

 

*Students who successfully complete the Biology major typically have grades of C- or better in both semesters of General Biology (BIO 111, 112). We strongly encourage students who have grades below a C- in these classes and who plan to major in Biology to retake General Biology before enrolling in upper level biology courses.

 

We highly recommend that students enroll in a 200-level course in their Fall semester after completing the BIO 111, 112 General Biology sequence because one 200-level course must be completed before taking a 300- or a 400-level course.

 

All upper-level courses for the major must be taken at Washington College or in Washington College-approved programs although exceptions may be made by the department chair for transfer students.

 

Physics is a requirement for admission to medical school, many graduate programs, and some allied health programs. This requirement can be fulfilled by taking either the algebra-based physics course [College Physics I and II (PHY 101, 102)] or the calculus-based physics course [General Physics I and II (PHY 111, 112)].

 

Students should consult with the appropriate departmental advisor (listed on the departmental Web page at biology.washcoll.edu) early in their academic career to assist them in preparing for internships and admission to graduate schools and professional programs. Students are also encouraged to discuss options concerning research opportunities and career choices with members of the department.

 

 

Senior Capstone Experience

Each student must successfully fulfill the Department’s Senior Capstone Experience (SCE). Students will enroll in the four-credit SCE course during their final semester, although work on the SCE and related Senior Seminar (BIO 491, 492) meetings will span the entire final academic year. The Junior Seminar (BIO 392) introduces the SCE and the skills needed to successfully complete this project during the senior year.

 

The SCE for a biology major may be satisfied (1) by completing an independent laboratory or field research project, (2) by writing an in-depth scientific monograph or (3) by completing comprehensive exams and writing a case study. The comprehensive exams are in General Biology, Ecology, and Genetics. The case study is related to a biological phenomenon of the student’s choice. All SCEs are under the direction of a faculty member. Students must receive project approval from a sponsoring faculty member and the departmental chair. Guidelines for the Biology SCE, including requirements for receipt of honors, are distributed to all rising seniors and are posted on the departmental Web page.

 

Requirements For The Biology Minor

The course requirements for the biology minor include General Biology (BIO 111,112) and five upper-level biology courses. By petition of the biology department, an appropriate upper-level course in chemistry, psychology, or environmental studies may be substituted for one of the required advanced biology courses. Students planning on using the biology minor as a basis for further studies in the biological sciences or for employment should seriously consider taking a year of General Chemistry (CHE 111, 112). All students should note that CHE 111, 112 is a prerequisite for some upper-level biology courses.

 

Writing In The Discipline

The Biology Department emphasizes the importance of effective writing in the discipline in the design of the curriculum for the biology major. Writing appropriate to the field of biology is a key component of all majors-level courses, from the introductory General Biology sequence (BIO 111, 112) through the upper level biology courses and the Senior Capstone Experience. Some upper level courses are designated as writing intensive, but all courses in the major emphasize the development of writing skills. Through a combination of required and elective courses, students learn how to maintain laboratory notebooks; write abstracts, lab reports and research papers; and prepare poster presentations and the written backdrop to oral presentations.

 

Categories Of Study

 

Category I: Ecology

BIO 206. Ecology with laboratory

BIO 309. Marine and Estuarine Biology with laboratory

BIO 194, 294, 394, 495. Special topics courses with laboratory

 

Category II: Cellular Biology

BIO 203. Microbiology with laboratory

BIO 205. Cell Biology with laboratory

BIO 207. Biotechnology and Molecular Biology with laboratory

BIO 302. Developmental Biology with laboratory

BIO 305. Genetics with laboratory

BIO 310. Microbial Ecology with laboratory

BIO 404. Immunology with laboratory

BIO 409. Biochemistry with laboratory

BIO 194, 294, 394, 495. Special topics courses with laboratory

 

Category III: Organismal Biology

BIO 211. Plant Biology with laboratory

BIO 301. Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy with laboratory

BIO 303. Parasitology with laboratory

BIO 304. Invertebrate Zoology with laboratory

BIO 336. Ichthyology with laboratory

BIO 424. Comparative Animal Physiology with laboratory

BIO 194, 294, 394, 495. Special topics courses with laboratory

 

Category IV: Seminars (excluding summer field courses)

BIO 394. Special Topics in Biology (non-laboratory bearing course)

BIO 415-90. Evolutionary Biology - Honors

 

Category V: Research/ Independent Study/ Internship/Summer Field Courses

BIO 210. Community Ecology of Coastal Maine (summer field course)

BIO 221. The Bermuda Environment (summer field course)

BIO 395. Summer Research

BIO 397. Independent Study

BIO 490. Biology Internship

BIO 495. Independent Research

 

Course Descriptions

BIO 100 and 104 are distribution courses, and do not count toward the major or minor in biology.

 

100. Current Topics in Biology with laboratory

An introduction to some of the fundamental principles and concepts of modern biology with emphasis on three dominant themes: cell biology, genetics, and animal physiology. The application of biological phenomena to everyday life will be emphasized. The laboratory will explore topics introduced in lecture and expose students to investigative learning.

 

104. Ecology of the Chesapeake Bay with laboratory

A detailed exploration of the unique features and history of the Chesapeake Bay to demonstrate the dynamic interrelationships between ecology and human affairs. Topics include ecological principles, pollution, endangered species, conservation practices, and public policy. A regularly scheduled laboratory session will complement the lecture.

 

BIO 111, 112 are also for distribution and along with all upper-level courses (200-level and above) will count toward the major and minor in biology. Introductory courses and many upper-level courses are offered annually, while other courses are offered on an alternate year basis. For planning purposes, information about the semester/year in which a course is to be offered is available on the departmental Web page.

 

111, 112. General Biology with laboratory

This course provides an introduction to living systems. Topics studied include biomolecules, cell structure and function, metabolism, genetics and molecular biology (111) and diversity of life, physiology of plants and animals, evolution, and ecology (112). The laboratory complements the lecture and also provides an introduction to experimentation and communication of experimental results. These courses are designed for students with a strong interest in the biological sciences and are prerequisites for upper-level biology courses. An honors section of BIO 111 and of BIO 112 is offered. Biology 111 or permission of instructor is required for Biology 112.

 

203. Microbiology with laboratory

A study of microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protists). Topics include microbial physiology, metabolism, growth, and genetics; infectious diseases; interaction of the microbe and host; and environmental microbiology. The laboratory portion of the course emphasizes staining techniques; culture methods; environmental, food, and medical microbiology; identification of unknown bacteria; and an independent research project.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112.

 

205. Cell Biology with laboratory

An examination of the structure and function of cells. Topics covered will include the various chemical components and physical factors which contribute to cell structure and function. Lectures will also include surveys of cellular diversity and subcellular organization, including organelles, membranes, and the cytoskeleton. The laboratory explores these components using microscopy, tissue culture, and molecular techniques. Biology 205 provides a broad foundation for subsequent cellular, molecular, biochemical and genetics courses.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112.

 

206. Ecology with laboratory

A study of the fundamentals of ecology. Topics include the relationship between organisms and their physical environments; population growth, regulation, and interactions; the nature and diversity of biological communities; and ecosystem structure and function. Approximately half of the weekly laboratories will involve off-campus field trips for the collection of data from various ecosystems, while the remaining half will involve processing of collected data.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112.

 

207. Biotechnology and Molecular Biology with laboratory

This course introduces the tools and techniques of biotechnology. While the discipline of biotechnology is founded in molecular biology, its tools can be applied to tackle problems in all branches of biology from cell biology to evolution. This course provides the conceptual background for understanding the basis of biotechnology and emphasizes laboratory activities related to DNA and DNA-RNA-protein interconnections. Students will learn standard techniques in DNA analysis and cloning.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112.

 

210. Community Ecology of Coastal Maine

This summer course focuses on the biological communities of coastal Maine as represented by the communities within Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, ME. Students visit and characterize many of the diverse forest and marine communities represented on the island. The course begins with a consideration of the geological, oceanographic and climatic features of coastal Maine. Other topics considered in lecture and through data collection and observation in the field include succession, disturbance, species diversity, vertical and horizontal community structure, physical and biological stresses on communities, bottom-up and top-down regulation of community structure, and competitive and positive interactions among species.

Prerequisite: Biology 112.

 

211. Plant Biology with laboratory

An introduction to plants emphasizing their diversity, structure, function, and ecology. The laboratory includes field trips to collect local flora and explores plant cells and tissues, physiological processes and environmental influences on growth and metabolism.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112.

 

221. The Bermuda Environment

This summer course will investigate the complex ecology of the Bermuda Islands, the impact that human habitation has had on their natural history, and current environmental concerns and means of mitigating those concerns. Major areas of study will include (but not be limited to) coral reef ecology/symbioses, mangrove community ecology and environmental relevance, architectural and military influences during colonization, fisheries practices (past, present and future) and current concerns and problems, and ecotourism and associated environmental impacts. (Also ENV 221)

Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 101, or Biology 111-112, or permission of the instructor.

 

 

301. Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy with laboratory

A comparative study of the major body systems of vertebrates, with emphasis placed on system structure, function, and evolutionary modification across vertebrate phylogeny. Laboratory work consists of detailed systems-level examination and comparative dissection in numerous representative vertebrates.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112 and one 200-level biology course.

 

302. Developmental Biology with laboratory

Examines embryo development, focusing on cellular and regulatory mechanisms that guide the process. We will cover the events of development from fertilization through organogenesis in a range of animal systems including sea urchins, Drosophila, amphibians, chickens and mammals.  This course will also examine the role of developmental biology in medicine including stem cells.  The laboratory portion is an investigative approach to the study of animal development, emphasizing cellular and molecular techniques that will complement many of the topics covered in lecture using sea urchin and chicken animal models.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112 and one 200-level biology course. Biology 205 recommended.

 

303. Parasitology with laboratory

An introduction to the phenomenon of parasitism, the study of parasites and their relationships to hosts. Lecture and laboratory studies emphasize the morphology, taxonomy, life history, and host-parasite relationships of protozoa, helminths, and arthropods of medical and veterinary importance.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112 and one 200-level biology course.

 

304. Invertebrate Zoology with laboratory

A study of the basic patterns of form and function that characterize the major groups of invertebrate animals. Lecture and laboratory work will include invertebrate functional morphology, reproduction, development, evolution, and ecology. Emphasis will be on the diverse adaptations of invertebrates to the aquatic and terrestrial habitats in which they live.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112 and one 200-level biology course.

 

305. Genetics with laboratory

A study of heredity in cells, individuals, and populations, and of the molecular expression of genes. The course emphasizes genetic analysis in both lab and lecture. Topics in the laboratory include experiments in transmission, population, cellular, and molecular genetics using a variety of organisms as models.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112 and two upper-level biology courses or permission of the instructor.

Corequisite: Chemistry 112.

 

309. Marine and Estuarine Biology with laboratory

A study of marine and estuarine ecosystems. The biological, chemical, and physical parameters influencing these ecosystems will be discussed and the natural history, physiology, and ecology of selected ecosystems, invertebrate, and vertebrate phyla will be emphasized. About one-half of the laboratory will be spent in off-campus field trips and will include a two-or three-day mandatory trip to a field station. There will be some extra expense to the student, probably not more than $80.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112 and one 200-level biology course.

 

310. Microbial Ecology with laboratory

A study of microbes, particularly the bacteria, fungi, and protists, and their relationship to the natural environment. Specific topics include microbes in terrestrial and aquatic habitats; microbial interactions with other microbes, plants, and animals; microbial enumeration and activity determination; and biogeochemical cycling. These topics will be explored with emphasis on microbial physiology, metabolism, and adaptation. The laboratory portion of the course will focus on the Chesapeake Bay region and will include an independent research project. Prerequisite: Biology 111-112 and one 200-level biology course. Biology 203 recommended.

 

336. Ichthyology with laboratory

Ichthyology encompasses the study of fishes. Topics will include the systematics, physiology, behavior, ecology, and evolution of this diverse group. Identification of specimens during a weekly lab will familiarize students with the major fishes of the Chesapeake region. A multi-week independent project will familiarize students with the scientific method and with aspects of fish behavior. Field trips to the fish collection at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the largest in the world, and to the National Aquarium in Baltimore will broaden the perspective of the course. There may be some additional cost to the students for these trips, though not more than $50.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112 and one 200-level biology course.

 

 

392. Biology Junior Seminar

Biology majors participate with faculty in the department’s weekly Biology Seminar in the spring semester of the junior year. Instruction focuses on searching the biological literature, reading of primary literature, and preparing students to be engaged in the Senior Capstone Experience. Biology Junior Seminar is a non-credit bearing course.

 

404. Immunology with laboratory

An examination of the specific defense system of mammals. Topics include leukocyte characteristics and their responses to antigen; antigen characteristics; antibody structure, diversity, function, genetics, and synthesis; the major histocompatibility complex; vaccines; and disorders of the immune system. The laboratory focuses on animal handling, antibody purification, and detection of antigen-antibody interactions.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112 and one 200-level biology course.

Corequisite: Chemistry 112.

 

409. Biochemistry with laboratory (CHE 309)

An examination of living systems at the chemical level. Topics will include structure and function of macromolecules, cellular energetics, cellular respiration, with a particular focus on protein structure and enzyme function. A laboratory will be conducted weekly to introduce students to experimental techniques and molecular modeling.

Prerequisite: Biology 111 and Chemistry 202.

 

415. Evolutionary Biology - Honors

Evolutionary Biology is a seminar-style class revolving around discussion of readings from popular literature and scientific papers drawn from the primary literature. Topics of consideration will include natural selection, sexual selection, speciation, the co-evolution of man and disease, the selfish gene, and battle of the sexes as it is fought on the molecular level. The course will include a number of short writing assignments. Periodic Friday recitation sessions will be used for debates, oral presentations, videos, and other activities.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112 and two 200-level biology courses, college GPA of 3.4 or higher.

 

424. Comparative Animal Physiology with laboratory

A comparative study of physiological processes in animals. Topics will include gas exchange, circulation, water and ion balance, and excitable cells. As a comparative study, we will examine a variety of animals that are adapted to function in diverse environments. A weekly laboratory illustrates physiological principles.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112 and two 200-level biology courses.

 

491, 492. Biology Senior Seminar

Biology majors participate with faculty in the department’s weekly Biology Seminar in each semester of the senior year. Instruction focuses on searching the biological literature, reading of primary literature, and writing appropriate to the discipline. Students discuss readings and make oral and poster presentations. Biology senior seminar is a non-credit bearing course.

 

 

Special Courses

190, 290, 390, 490. Biology Internship

An internship developed by a faculty mentor and student in close consultation with the supervisor at the internship site. A learning contract will be developed prior to enrollment in the course. Evaluation of student performance will be completed by the faculty mentor based on fulfillment of the contract terms and written evaluation by the internship site supervisor. Not offered as Pass/Fail.

Prerequisite: Permission of faculty mentor.

 

194, 294, 394, 494. Special Topics in Biology

The study of areas in biology that are not regularly offered in the curriculum. Courses may be interdisciplinary, seminar or summer field-type courses.

Prerequisite: Biology 111-112, or permission of instructor.

 

195, 295, 395, 495. On-campus Research

A ten-week on-campus summer research project to be guided by a faculty mentor. Based on mutual interests, the student and faculty mentor will develop a research project, supported by a reading list and involving theoretical, laboratory, or field investigations. Participants will produce a final report detailing the findings of their research. Selection of students will depend on academic background, scholastic achievement, and the results of a personal interview with the faculty mentor. Not offered as Pass/Fail.

Prerequisite: Permission of faculty mentor.

 

196, 296, 396, 496. Off-campus Research

The course consists of an individual research project chosen by the student in consultation with a faculty mentor. The project involves the design and performance of an experiment or experimental series and submission of a written report. Not offered as Pass/Fail.

Prerequisite: Permission of faculty mentor, academic advisor, and biology department chair.

 

197, 297, 397, 497. Independent Study

The in-depth study of an area of particular interest to a student and faculty mentor not covered by the regular curriculum. Not offered as Pass/Fail.

Prerequisite: Permission of faculty mentor, academic advisor, and biology department chair.

 

SCE. Senior Capstone Experience

Each student must successfully fulfill the Department’s Senior Capstone Experience (SCE). Students will enroll in the four-credit SCE course during their final semester, although work on the SCE and the related Senior Seminar (BIO 491, 492) span the entire final academic year.