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Willamette University

900 State Street
Salem, Oregon 97301

503-370-6300 voice

Biology View this department's website

The biological sciences are undergoing a quiet revolution of discovery that is having a profound influence on the way we live and think. Whether discovery is molecular or ecological in scope, the transcendent qualities to be cultivated in all biology students are logical thought, clarity of expression, precision of statement, employment of analytical skills, and common sense. The Biology program captures these qualities by focusing on three curricular patterns.

First, the department offers contemporary course work that mirrors the rapid changes in biology and defines the mechanistic forces operating at the cellular and molecular levels of organization. Second, courses are offered that emphasize phylogenetic relationships, evolutionary concepts and functional qualities of living things. Third, the historical, social and ethical dimensions of biology are interwoven in the fabric of all courses to provide a sense of perspective and to impart the impact biological discovery has had on our understanding of what it is to be human in a complex world of differing views and expectations.

The Biology program emphasizes active participation and investigative learning in classroom, laboratory and field settings. Students have the opportunity to use the latest technologies including transmission and scanning electron microscopy, x-ray microanalysis, ultracentrifugation, scintillation counting, protein electrophoresis, video image analysis, and DNA manipulations in the Olin Science Center. Students who major in Biology may do collaborative research with the faculty or independent research in spacious and superbly equipped laboratories. The department maintains a reference collection of local flora and fauna for student use. A departmental computer lab provides student access to personal computers for classroom instruction and independent projects. Furthermore, field-oriented courses take advantage of the tremendous biodiversity in proximity to Salem. Nature preserves, wildlife refuges, coastal tide pools, sand dunes, grasslands, and montane forests are all within an hour's drive of campus and serve as field laboratories. The University also is a charter member of the Malheur Field Station consortium and maintains an active relationship with the station located on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the high desert country of southeast Oregon.

Career opportunities extend to the biomedical sciences, resource management, teaching, and environmental science. It is not uncommon for graduates to enter nonrelated fields (i.e., law, news media, commercial travel, insurance) and apply their understandings of biology to problems they encounter. Analytical and problem-solving skills in their biology studies and research to problems encountered outside the field.

Requirements for the Biology Major (13 Credits)

9 credits in Biology, 3 credits in Chemistry and 1 additional credit in Physical Science, Mathematics or Statistics

Core Courses

Required of all majors

  • BIOL 125 Ecology, Evolution and Diversity (1)
  • BIOL 130 Cell Biology and Genetics (1)
  • BIOL 244 Physiological Dynamics in Animals and Plants (1)
  • CHEM 115 (NW) Introductory Chemistry I (1)
  • CHEM 116 (QA) Introductory Chemistry II (1)
  • CHEM 225 Organic Chemistry I (1) or
  • CHEM 230 Environmental Chemistry (1)

Intermediate-level Courses

One credit emphasizing Ecology, Evolution and Diversity (1)

One credit emphasizing Molecular and Cellular Biology, Physiology (1)

Research Methods Courses

One credit from the following (1)

Two additional elective credits (2)

  • These may include additional courses from those listed above or other Biology offerings including research courses (BIOL 297, 497). (See note below on excluded courses.)

Capstone Experience

1 credit in BIOL 498 Biology Colloquim (.5 each over 2 semesters)

Includes completion of a comprehensive written assessment examination.

One credit in Physical Science, Mathematics, or Statistics (1)

Note

BIOL 246 (Human Anatomy) does not count toward a major in Biology. Students cannot apply more than one biology MOI course toward the major, and typically these are taken during the first two undergraduate years. Credit cannot be earned in both BIOL 250 (Microbiology) and BIOL 221 (Microbes and Infectious Diseases), and for both BIOL 333 (Gene Structure and Function ) and BIOL 112 (Human Heredity). Students enrolling in both BIOL 210 (Biodiversity: Discovering Life) and BIOL 125 (Ecology, Evolution, and Diversity) will earn only .5 credits toward the second course. Those students planning to apply for admission to graduate or professional schools in science are strongly urged to complete the following courses:

Requirements for the Biology Minor (7 Credits)

Cellular/Molecular Biology Emphasis

5 credits in Biology, 2 in Chemistry

  • BIOL 125 Ecology, Evolution and Diversity (1)
  • BIOL 130 Cell Biology and Genetics (1)
  • CHEM 115 (NW) Introductory Chemistry I (1)
  • CHEM 116 (QA) Introductory Chemistry II (1)

Three credits from the following (3)

Ecology/Evolutionary Biology Emphasis

5 credits in Biology, 2 in Chemistry

  • BIOL 125 Ecology, Evolution and Diversity (1)
  • BIOL 130 Cell Biology and Genetics (1)
  • CHEM 115 (NW) Introductory Chemistry I (1)
  • CHEM 116 (QA) Introductory Chemistry II (1)

Three credits from the following (3)

Faculty

  • Barbara Stebbins-Boaz, Associate Professor of Biology, Chair
  • Jennifer Butler, Instructor of Biology
  • Ben Crabtree, Assistant Professor of Biology
  • David Craig, Associate Professor of Biology
  • Scott D. Hawke, Professor of Biology
  • Susan Kephart, Professor of Biology
  • Brianna Lindh, Assistant Professor of Biology
  • Sharon L. Rose, Professor of Biology
  • Barbara Stebbins-Boaz, Associate Professor of Biology
  • Gary Tallman, Professor, Taul Watanabe Endowed Chair in Science
  • Grant O. Thorsett, Professor of Biology

Course Listings

BIOL 110 (NW) Principles of Biology (1)

Introduces principles and concepts which apply to all living organisms with special emphasis on humans and their societies, including bioethical concerns and the applications and limits of scientific method. Topics considered are: physical-chemical background, scientific theories as to the origin of life, organization from cell to organism to populations, major groups of living organisms, biological energetics, principles and environmental problems. Historical acquisition of scientific knowledge and questioning of "scientific facts" are discussed. Non-majors course. Laboratory required.

Mode of Inquiry: Understanding the Natural World

  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Staff

BIOL 112 (NW) Human Heredity: Principles and Issues (1)

This course deals with aspects of genetics having special relevance to human life and human society. Topics include mechanisms of genetic transmission and expression; genetic aspects of human development, behavior, and aging; genetic counseling; genetic screening; in vitro fertilization; gene therapy; genes in the market place; the human genome project; cloning; and genetic technology and the law. Included in the course will be discussions of the moral and ethical issues associated with many of these topics. Laboratory required. Note: Credit may not be earned for both this course and BIOL 333: Gene Structure and Function.

Mode of Inquiry: Understanding the Natural World; Death Cluster

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Thorsett

BIOL 125 Ecology, Evolution and Diversity (1)

An introduction to biological diversity with emphasis on the origins of diversity, the phylogenetic relationships or organisms, and the ways in which these organisms interact and function in ecological communities. Topics to be covered include the origin of life, evolutionary change, phylogeny and classification, diversity in form and function, and the adaptations and interactions of organisms within communities and populations. Lecture, discussion, field, and laboratory experience.

  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Craig, Kephart, Rose

BIOL 130 Cell Biology and Genetics (1)

An integrated study of cellular biology including the role of biomolecules; enzyme action; energy transformations; cellular organelles with special emphasis on the nucleus and its role in the storage and expression of genetic information at the molecular level; Mendelian genetics; multiple alleles; gene interactions; gene mapping; extra-chromosomal inheritance; and population genetics. Laboratory.

Prerequisite: CHEM 115 or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Stebbins-Boaz, Thorsett, Tallman

BIOL 210 (W; NW) Biodiversity: Discovering Life (1)

An inquiry-based course that investigates the fundamental properties of living organisms and their surroundings, but focuses on the overall theme of diversity. We will explore diversity at varied organizational levels ranging from genes, molecules and single cells to entire ecosystems. The course introduces concepts of functional ecological diversity and genetic diversity and the impact of humans in the natural world. We will employ case studies that emphasize tropical biology and the interactions between indigenous cultures and natural ecosystems in tropical and temperate regions. Lectures, discussions, labs and field trips. Part of the Environmental and Indigenous clusters. This is a paired course. Together these courses fulfill two course credits and two writing-centered credits.

Prerequisite: Students must enroll concurrently in the RHET 210: Media and the Environment course.

Mode of Inquiry: Understanding the Natural World; Environmental Cluster; Indigenous Peoples and Cultures Cluster

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Kephart

BIOL 221 (W; NW) Microbes and Infectious Diseases (1)

An integrative study of microorganisms that cause diseases. Students will learn about how infectious agents cause disease and how hosts respond to these diseases. In both laboratory and lecture sections students will learn how to identify infectious agents, how these agents are spread and what diseases they cause.

Mode of Inquiry: Understanding the Natural World; Death Cluster

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Rose

BIOL 244 Physiological Dynamics in Animals and Plants (1)

This course explores the commonalities in animal and plant physiology ranging from the roles of hormones and solute transport to exchange of respiratory gases. Lecture and laboratory activities focus attention on the integration of functional qualities from the molecular to the organ-system levels of organization. Closed to freshmen.

Prerequisite: CHEM 115 and BIOL 125 or 130.

  • Offering: Annually
  • Instructor: Hawke, Tallman

BIOL 246 Human Anatomy (1)

Introduction to the structural characteristics of the human body and the interrelationships among its systems. Clinical terminology and applications are stressed. Laboratory. Closed to first-semester freshmen.

  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Cagle, Harmer

BIOL 250 Microbiology (1)

A study of bacteria and viruses: their structure, physiology, taxonomy, growth and reproduction. The relationship of microbes to disease: modes of pathogenicity, host defense mechanisms and immunological responses. Ecological roles of bacteria. Industrial uses of microbes. One laboratory meeting each week which deals with bacterial isolation, culturing and identification techniques, selected immunological procedures and standard water analysis.

Prerequisite: BIOL 125 or 130

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Rose

BIOL 255 General Ecology (1)

Organisms in the natural environment; plant and animal populations; the community concept; and methods of description and analysis of ecological communities. Laboratory or field trip.

Prerequisite: BIOL 125 or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Staff

BIOL 256 Field Zoology (1)

Laboratory and field course: methods of seeking, collecting and identifying animals. Covers taxonomic and ecological principles with application to local forms.

Prerequisite: BIOL 125 or consent of instructor

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff

BIOL 257 Plant Ecology and Conservation (1)

A natural history-based, investigative approach to plant ecology and conservation, emphasizing the dynamic interactions of plants in relation to biotic and abiotic environments. Explores the life histories and interrelationships of plant populations within ecological communities. Includes case studies of plant adaptations and interactions within grassland, savanna, and forest habitats. Covers ecological sampling techniques and tree identification. Lecture, discussion, field, and laboratory experiences.

Prerequisite: BIOL 125 or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Kephart

BIOL 260 Human Physiology (1)

Course focuses on cellular mechanisms and body systems and the relationship between them that dictates the physiological functions of the human body. Emphasis is placed on the homeostatic control of the human body. The required laboratory component examines the specific details of each physiological system, and prepares students for independent research. Writing skills and familiarization with digital data acquisition techniques are also emphasized.

Prerequisite: BIOL 246 or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Stavrianeas

BIOL 297 Research Exploration in Biology (.25 - 1)

Course allows exploration of a research interest in the area of expertise of a member of the biology faculty. Nature of participation varies from learning new techniques to collaborative research with the faculty mentor and advanced students. Course provides hands-on experience in literature search, data collection, and synthesis of results in a final paper and oral presentation. May be repeated for credit.

Prerequisite: Consent of biology faculty

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff

BIOL 333 Gene Structure and Function (1)

Study of the principles of heredity in microbes, plants and animals. An integrated course in classical and molecular genetics dealing with such topics as: Mendelian genetics, mapping, gene interaction, extrachromosomal inheritance, DNA, gene action, gene regulation, mutagenesis, recombinant DNA technology. Laboratory.

Prerequisite: BIOL 130 and CHEM 115

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Thorsett

BIOL 350 (W) Molecular Genetics (1)

A study of the structure and function of genetic material at the molecular level. Topics to be discussed include: DNA, RNA, proteins and their interrelationships through the "Central Dogma" of information transfer; genetic regulation; recombinant DNA and genetic engineering; genetic screening. Special emphasis will be on the primary literature and research methods employed in this sub-discipline of biology. Laboratory.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: BIOL 333 and CHEM 225

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Thorsett

BIOL 351 (W) Animal Physiology (1)

A course designed to examine the intimate relationship between form and function from the cellular to the organismal level of organization in animals. Topics reviewed focus on how the animal body engages physiological controls to regulate such processes as salt/water levels, temperature, muscle action, hormonal release and nerve communication. Special attention is devoted to the methodology of physiology with emphasis on the primary literature. Laboratory.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: BIOL 125 and CHEM 115

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Hawke

BIOL 352 (W) Plant Systematics and Evolution (1)

Field and laboratory course emphasizing research techniques and primary literature in plant systematics and evolution. An investigative approach to the study of plant diversity including the classification, probable relations and genetic variability of vascular and nonvascular plants. Special emphasis is placed on the Oregon flora and the relationship of plant morphology and breeding systems to habitat and distribution. Laboratory.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: BIOL 125 required; BIOL 130 recommended

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Kephart

BIOL 353 (W) Behavioral Ecology (1)

An introduction to the principles and investigative techniques of behavioral ecology. The ecological influence and evolutionary implications of animal behavior will be investigated through field studies, laboratory exercises and computer simulations. Lectures, discussions and readings in the primary literature and research projects will introduce the student to all stages of the investigative process. Topics to be examined include: social interactions, mating systems, foraging behavior, orientation/navigation, communication and reproductive success. Laboratory.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: BIOL 125 required; BIOL 130 and 255 recommended

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Staff

BIOL 354 (W) Advanced Microbiology (1)

An introduction to the principles and investigative techniques of Microbial Ecology. Students will study microbial processes in soil, water and in hosts to better understand the distribution and biochemistry of microorganisms in respective habitats. Each student will become familiar with the primary literature, modern laboratory techniques and the instrumentation central to this field of biological inquiry. Laboratory.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: BIOL 250 or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Rose

BIOL 356 (W) Plant Molecular Biology (1)

Investigation of plant responses to environmental signals using methods of DNA manipulation and reverse genetics. The course will include exposure to primary literature and experimental methods of the discipline. Topics include plant responses to light, hormones, water, nutrients, and temperature at the cellular and molecular levels. Laboratory will require an independent project using DNA manipulation to investigate model organisms such as Arabidopsis and tobacco.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: BIOL 130 and BIOL 244, or consent of instructor

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Tallman

BIOL 358 (W) Developmental Biology (1)

A survey of mechanisms that regulate animal development. Topics include genetic and biochemical control of cell division and differentiation, cell-cell communication and cell movement. Various animal model systems will be used to illustrate these mechanisms and to highlight their many evolutionarily conserved features. The course includes lectures, readings, and discussions of relevant primary literature, and independent research. Laboratory.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: BIOL 130 and BIOL 244

  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Stebbins-Boaz

BIOL 360 Molecular Cell Biology (1)

A description of signal transduction mechanisms that govern major cell processes: Cell survival, cell differentiation, cell division, and inter- and intracellular communication. Topics include regulation of the cell cycle and tumor biology, hormonal signaling, motile and motor processes, nerve impulse transmission, and pharmaceutical action. Examples drawn from yeast, animal, and plant models. Laboratory focuses on molecular and biochemical methods used to investigate signal transduction. Closed to freshmen.

Prerequisite: BIOL 130 and CHEM 225, or concurrent

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Tallman

BIOL 376 Evolutionary Biology (1)

Historical review of evolutionary theories, mechanisms of speciation, macroevolution, biogeographic evidences, examples of evolutionary trends of selected groups including a review of evidences currently known to elucidate the evolutionary development of humans.

Prerequisite: Three courses in Biology or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Odd-numbered springs
  • Instructor: Staff

BIOL 446 Embryology (1)

An investigation of the basic morphological processes involved in the ontogenetic development of vertebrate and invertebrate animals, including a presentation of physiological, genetic and biochemical evidence for the mechanisms controlling development. Laboratories.

Prerequisite: BIOL 125

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Hawke

BIOL 470 Special Topics in Biology (.5 or 1)

This course is designed to allow in-depth study of topics of interest to students in biology. The flexibility of the seminar format permits a timely focus on one of a variety of newly emerging and/or significant areas relevant to biology.

Prerequisite: Three courses in biology or consent of instructor

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff

BIOL 490 Independent Study (.5 or 1)

Individual programs in which a student can pursue research or study a topic not normally available in the departmental curriculum. Each program of study must have the approval of the Biology faculty. For those who require the study of a topic not offered.

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff

BIOL 497 Research in Biology (.25 - 1)

Individualized program of investigative research in which student works directly with a biology faculty member in his or her area of research expertise. Nature of participation varies from collaborative research to the design and execution of an independent project equivalent to a thesis. For all students, course provides hands-on experience in literature search, data collection, and the synthesis of results in a formal paper and oral presentation. Upon completion faculty may nominate students with outstanding projects for credit in Honors Research in Biology (BIOL 499) in lieu of BIOL 497. May be repeated for credit.

Prerequisite: Consent of instructor; research methods course (BIOL 350W-358W) recommended

  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Staff

BIOL 498 Biology Colloquium (.5)

An immersion in the literature of biology forms the capstone experience in the major. Engages advanced students in current scholarship and discussions with peers and professional scientists. Students critique and synthesize readings on current research, ethics, and history, and they evaluate journal articles written by invited speakers. Each colloquium culminates in a formal symposium during which students who have completed a research thesis present their results. Designed to deepen student understanding of the many forms of inquiry and research in biology. To be repeated once for a total of 1 credit.

Prerequisite: Junior or senior biology majors, or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Staff

BIOL 499 Honors Research in Biology (.5 to 1)

Granted in lieu of BIOL 497 upon recommendation of two members of the biology faculty for outstanding achievement upon completion of a substantive independent research investigation. Student develops and completes a research project culminating in a thesis, prepares a written document in the form and style of a scientific publication, and presents the results orally in a formal symposium.

Prerequisite: Consent of biology faculty

  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff