Taylor Allen, Associate Professor of Biology; Department Chair
Christopher N. Anderson, Visiting Assistant Professor
Jane Ellen Bennett, Lecturer in Biology and Laboratory Instructor
Mark R. Braford, Professor of Biology and Neuroscience
Yolanda Paje Cruz, Robert S. Danforth Professor of Biology
Katherine E. Cullen, Lecturer in Biology and Laboratory Instructor
Omar T. Eldakar, Visiting Assistant Professor
Mary C. Garvin, Associate Professor of Biology
Adam Haberman, Visisting Assistant Professor of Biology
Marta Laskowski, Associate Professor of Biology
Roger H. Laushman, Associate Professor of Biology
Catherine A. McCormick, Professor of Biology and Neuroscience
Michael J. Moore, Associate Professor of Biology
Maureen A. Peters, Associate Professor of Biology
Angela J. Roles, Assistant Professor of Biology
Laura Romberg, Assistant Professor of Biology
Nicholas Ruppel, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
Robin S. Salter, Associate Professor of Biology
Keith A. Tarvin, Associate Professor of Biology
The biology major at Oberlin has three learning goals. 1) Students should have knowledge of key biological concepts and underlying fundamentals and should be able to apply these across all levels of organization. 2) Students should have critical thinking and functional skills needed to carry out the scientific process from inception through communication of results. 3) Students should have an understanding of the ways in which biology interrelates with other sciences, disciplines, and society.
Many biology majors proceed to study and work in the life sciences, including medicine and related fields, conservation, agriculture, and environmental studies. By a proper selection of biology and other science courses in consultation with a departmental advisor, a student majoring in biology can prepare for graduate study in a wide range of areas such as animal behavior, anatomy, biochemistry, biophysics, botany, cell biology, community ecology, conservation biology, developmental biology, disease ecology, genetics, environmental sciences, evolutionary biology, forensic biology, forestry, immunology, marine biology, molecular biology, microbiology, mycology, parasitology, physiology, population biology, systematics, virology, wildlife biology, and zoology, to name a few.
Advanced Placement. Students earning a score of 4 on the Advanced Placement Biology exam (AP Bio) will receive four hours of natural science credit, as BIOL 604, applied toward graduation requirements, but not toward the Biology major. Four hours of Biology major credit, designated as BIOL 605, are automatically granted to students earning a score of 5 on the AP exam, or a 6 or 7 on the International Baccalaureate Biology Higher Level exam, and these students are exempt from the introductory sequence (BIOL 100/101 and 102), but must still complete the 27 hour minimum for the major, by earning 23 biology credits in addition to the four granted as Biology 605. Students with Biology 605 may elect to take either Biology 100/101, or Biology 102 for four credits; if both of these courses are taken, Biology 605 credit will not be granted. Students with AP credit must still take at least five laboratory courses.
Exemption (not Placement) tests are offered twice annually, prior to the start of each semester for students wishing to be exempted from taking Biology 100 (not 101), or 102. Students may not take the exemption exam for a course in which they have enrolled. Note that a score of 5 in AP Biology or a 6 or 7 on the IB exam will also exempt a student from these courses. It must be pointed out, however, that our core courses are appropriate and helpful for those intending to take the MCAT, GRE, or similar proficiency exams. See the above paragraph for advanced placement details.
Entry-Level Course Sequence Suggestions.
Students with a strong high-school science background find taking Introductory Biology and Chemistry courses simultaneously in the first semester both useful and challenging. Other students benefit from taking only one of these courses during their first semester at Oberlin. Prospective Biology majors are urged to consult with a Biology faculty member during freshman advising period to discuss these options.
The biology major consists of a minimum of 27 hours of coursework in categories I through IV and additional cognate coursework in category V. A minimum of nine hours of advanced coursework (defined as courses in categories II, III and IV) must be completed at Oberlin. No more than seven hours of the advanced coursework may be transfer credits. Courses in which a student has earned a letter grade lower than a C– may not be used to fulfill the requirements of the Biology major. Students must take at least five lab courses, distributed as described below.
Requirements for the Biology Major
- Core Biology Courses:
- Biology 100 (Organismal Biology, lecture) and Biology 101 (Organismal Biology, lab)-Semester 1
- Biology 102 (Genetics, Evolution and Ecology, lecture, and lab)
- Biology 213 (Cell and Molecular Biology, lecture)
- Upper-level Biology Courses Taken at Oberlin College:
- At least two 200- or 300-level Biology lecture courses (exclusive of Biology 213)
- At least one 200- or 300-level Biology lab experience (exclusive of Biology 214)
- Additional Laboratory Courses:
Two laboratory experiences, one of which may be replaced by a semester of research taken for credit. (Each lab course or course that includes a lab counts as a single lab course regardless of the number of lab meetings per week.)
- Additional Upper-Level Courses to bring the total number of hours to at least 27: Requirements in categories III and IV above may be fulfilled by taking 200- or 300-level courses in Biology; 200- or 300-level courses in Neuroscience; Environmental Studies 316 (Systems Ecology) and 340 Environmental Systems Modeling); Chemistry 374 (Biochemistry); and Geology 320 (Paleontology). Up to three credit hours of a 400-level Biology seminar, 400-level Neuroscience seminar or Chem 407, and up to three credit hours of research may be counted toward the major. Honors candidates completing two full semesters of research may count up to four credit hours toward the major. Private readings do not count for major credit.
- Cognate Course Requirements:
- Chemistry 101 and 102 (or 103 may replace 101 and 102)
- Chemistry 205
- One of the following: Calculus (Math 132 or 133), Chemistry (Chem 254), Physics (103 or 110), Statistics (Psyc 200 or Math/Stat 113 or 114).
There is no minor offered in Biology.
Candidates for Honors in biology enroll as seniors in BIOL 501 and 502, carry out a
research project in consultation with a faculty committee, write and defend a thesis based on
completed work, and give a required research seminar. Students interested in this program should
initiate a discussion of research possibilities with any member of the staff during the junior year.
Students are not accepted formally into the Honors Program until their proposed research is
reviewed by the department at the beginning of their first semester of research.
Off-Campus or Summer Study
The department offers limited scholarships for summer course
work at approved field (inland and marine) stations in the United States. Applications for these
scholarships are invited early in the Spring Semester; awards are made in May. In general,
students planning off-campus study are advised to consult first with their advisor, and then the
Chairman to determine acceptability of courses to the major.
Transfer of Credit
Credits in biology earned elsewhere may be applied to the Oberlin biology
major with the approval of the department chair, as long as 14 of the 27 hour minimum in
biology, including nine hours of advanced course work (defined above, under ‘major’), are
completed at Oberlin.
Among the topics for Winter Term projects that members of the Biology Department are willing to sponsor are the following: Mr. Allen: projects relying upon genetic, molecular biological, and biophysical techniques to address cell physiological questions. Readings in the physiology of muscle and motile cells. Instruction and readings in Old Icelandic and Old English literature. Ms. Bennett: intensive science review; pre-medical internship. Mr. Braford: laboratory research in comparative neuroanatomy for students who have had Biology 320; neurobiology; evolution; systematics. Ms. Cruz: projects involving comparative embryology, developmental biology, marsupial biology. Readings in the history of biology, philosophy of science, evolution. Ms. Garvin: projects and readings in parasitology, entomology, ornithology, epidemiology, and ecology. Ms. Laskowski: projects involving plant physiology, plant molecular biology. Mr.Laushman: projects involving conservation biology, population genetics, and aquatic vascular plants. Ms. McCormick: projects on the evolution of vertebrate auditory and lateral line systems; topics on the evolution of vertebrate structure. Mr. Moore: lab and field studies in plant systematics, particularly desert taxa. Ms. Peters: laboratory studies of a biological rhythm in the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, using a variety of genetic, molecular biology, and genomic techniques. Readings in genetics, molecular biology and genomics. Ms. Romberg: projects involving the biochemistry and kinetics of bacterial cell division proteins and computational modeling of protein polymerization. Ms. Salter: projects involving immunology, virology, or cancer; health career internships. Mr. Tarvin: projects and readings in vertebrate evolutionary and behavioral ecology, ornithology, avian blood parasites, molecular genetic tools for evolutionary analyses and readings in human behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology. Ms. Thornton: projects involving neuroendocrinology and behavioral neuroendocrinology.
Preparation for Post-Graduate Education
Medical School, Dental and Veterinary Medicine. Most medical, dental, and veterinary
- One year of General Biology with laboratory.
- Two years of Chemistry with laboratory.
- One year of Mathematics.
- One year of Physics with laboratory.
- One year of English.
Students planning careers in medicine should consult the Health Career Advisors, the Office
of Career Services, and references in the Science Library for details.
Graduate Schools. Most graduate schools in biology expect a major in the biological sciences to
- Two years of Chemistry with laboratory.
- One year of Physics with laboratory.
- College-level Mathematics (Calculus and Statistics).
- Courses in Computer Science.
Certain deficiencies in course work may be made up in graduate school but generally not for
graduate credit. Students planning to pursue an advanced degree should consult individual
admission requirements of the schools and graduate departments in which they are interested.
The qualifying examination for most graduate schools is the Graduate Record Examination
(GRE) which consists of two parts, the General Examination and an Advanced component in
biology. The majority of graduate schools require the General Examination for admission but
there is variation with respect to the Advanced requirement. Students are strongly urged to
consult with members of the Biology Department in preparing for graduate work.
Introductory Courses for Non-majors and Prospective Majors
Intermediate and Advanced Courses
Pre-Requisites for Biology Courses
Each course in the Biology department which requires a pre-requisite will indicate the specific course that is required for admission to the course. A minimum grade of C-, CR or P is required in the pre-requisite. A student may also consult with the instructor if special preparation for a course might be considered as a substitute for the pre-requisite.