The Department of Biology is one of the largest undergraduate degree programs on campus, with over 1,000 declared majors. Students may choose to follow a curriculum leading to a B.A. or a B.S. in General Biology or a B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in one of five sub-disciplines: Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology; Physiology; Ecology & Evolutionary Biology; Environmental & Conservation Biology; and Plant Biology.
Students are encouraged to take their learning beyond lecture halls by participating in faculty-mentored research projects. By conducting research under the guidance of a faculty member, students learn practical application of classroom knowledge, cultivate analytical thinking skills, and actively practice the scientific process. Many students present their research findings at scientific meetings on campus or at regional and national conferences. Attending scientific meetings offers students the opportunity to learn what other researchers in their field are studying and to develop professional contacts.
The Biology degree curriculum, coupled with activities such as undergraduate research, provides students the requisite knowledge and skills to pursue careers in basic and applied research, education, medicine, environmental science, and science policy.
The Department of Biology houses the Master of Science Biology for Teachers program. This interdepartmental and interdisciplinary program is designed for biology teachers in K-12 schools and community colleges, but welcomes other formal and informal science educators, as well. The program involves coursework and research designed to expand the student's understanding of biology and improve their ability to effectively teach biological concepts.
There are approximately 100 Ph.D. students in the Department of Biology's graduate program. Graduate students take advanced courses to increase the depth of their knowledge in specific areas, rotate through research labs to expand their repertoire of scientific techniques, and teach courses in order to develop their skills as educators and strengthen their knowledge of basic biology.
Graduate students develop research projects in a wide variety of biological disciplines and often work across disciplines. Areas of study include molecular and cellular biology, developmental biology, physiology, evolutionary biology, ecology, and conservation biology. Dissertation projects frequently combine research in the field and lab and often capitalize on the Department's connections with Friday Harbor Marine Labs, the Burke Museum, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and other local scientific organizations.