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Biology

Iowa State University is a major center for research and education in the biological sciences. Students have the opportunity to learn from some of the nation’s leaders in biological research and teaching and to participate in innovative, meaningful research projects that explore frontiers of biology. Few other universities have such a wealth of faculty expertise available to undergraduate students.  Read more about the history of the Biology Program here.  

An Interdepartmental Major

The faculties of the Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology (EEOB) and the Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology (GDCB) jointly offer the undergraduate Biology major.   This high quality academic program has the flexibility to accommodate a range of career goals while taking advantage of the university’s strengths in science and technology. A bachelor’s degree in biology provides excellent preparation for graduate study in biological disciplines ranging from the molecular to the ecological levels, and for entrance into various professional schools, such as human medicine, physical therapy, or veterinary medicine. The major is well suited for those who plan to teach biology, who wish to enter government or industrial employment in health or environmental professions, or who prefer educational breadth as an end in itself. By working with our professional and faculty advisers, it is possible to design a unique program of study that will meet student needs and objectives.

Breadth and Flexibility

Biology encompasses an amazing diversity of disciplines and scales of study ranging from molecules to the biosphere.  The Biology major offers a rich variety of coursework addressing most of the areas of biology.  Curriculum requirements offer tremendous flexibility in creating an individualized program of study to facilitate achievement of a student’s career goals, while simultaneously assuring some exposure to all areas of biology and providing complementary knowledge from supporting courses in chemistry, physics, and math/statistics.

While flexibility is the hallmark of the Biology major, the breadth of the field can also be challenging.  Thus, in an effort to provide more guidance to students who desire such, the major also provides five advising tracks, or areas of specialization, for students who wish to focus on subfields of biology or who have specific career goals in mind: (1) ecology and conservation, (2) evolution and biodiversity, (3) molecular and cellular biology, (4) pre-medical and human health, and (5) pre-veterinary medicine.  

Opportunities in Biology

Beyond academics, there are many opportunities Biology majors can take advantage of during their degree program.  Some of the most popular opportunities include: 

Undergraduate research - Students who have interests in biological research are encouraged to become involved in the research projects of faculty members on campus. Those doing so may receive credit for the experience in BIOL 499 Undergraduate Research Experience.  Making the effort to find a suitable research mentor and engaging in research work can be one of the most valuable experiences of an undergraduate education.  

Field trip courses – The Biology Program offers two field trip courses: BIOL 393 (North American Field Trips in Biology) and BIOL 394 (International Field Trips in Biology).  In recent years field trip opportunities to the Boundary Waters area of Minnesota, Honduras, and Spain have been available. The classes are low enrollment and allow extensive interaction between instructors and students in locations of biological interest.

International experience - Because major discoveries in science often result from global efforts, biology majors are encouraged to include an international or study abroad component in their degree programs. This can be done by participating in BIOL 394 (International Field Trips in Biology) or attending a university in another country for up to a year as an exchange student.  

Summer Biological Field Stations - Courses taken at summer field stations may be transferred to Iowa State University as credit in BIOL 481 Summer Field Studies. Such stations are found throughout the country and often offer courses that emphasize the adaptation of plants and animals to unique environments.