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Biology

Imagine studying the environment in a place so rich in natural resources, habitats, and wildlife it would take years to know them all. The combination of Saint Mary’s perfect location and accomplished faculty has inspired many of our environmental biology majors to become highly skilled scientists.

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Field Research

You believe science is as much about activity as it is about theory. At the Department of Biology, so do we. And whether it’s finding astonishing fieldwork experiences close to campus, hands-on research opportunities, or internships at some of the most cutting-edge scientific organizations around, you’ll find few programs that fit you better. After all, our location alone sets us apart. As an environmental biologist at SMU, you’ll live and learn only minutes away from some of the nation’s most exciting natural habitats—from the Gilmore Creek Watershed (an SMU field research site for 75 years) to the backwaters and wing dams of the Mississippi, to Lake Winona, to the desert-like sand prairie of the Weaver Dunes.

Here, you’ll find hands-on learning experiences from day one. It’s something we believe in deeply. And it’s how our students learn. It’s no coincidence that in recent years, through summer grants, contracts, and internships, SMU environmental biology majors have studied everything from sharks in Florida to sea turtles in Baja…and done everything from tagging gulls on the islands of Green Bay to working on commercial fishing boats. And all this, in between exploring the different kinds of organisms that thrive at sites close to home, including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

As a student here, expect to:

  • Collaborate with faculty advisors on research and creative scholarship with real-world implications for Minnesotans and the world.
  • Join your professors to present research findings at the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda or at well-known regional and national conferences. (In fact, SMU biology majors have authored 26 published papers in the last few years.)
  • Work with world-class scientists through our partnership with the prestigious Mayo Clinic…or apply successfully to summer research projects with such renowned programs as the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center Summer Fellowship Program.
  • Take advantage of the many professional extracurricular activities Saint Mary’s offers, ranging from seminars, to the Biology Club, to the Beta Beta Beta honor society on campus.
  • Gain a global perspective by choosing from a variety of study abroad programs.



Meet the Faculty

Good science requires good mentoring. And our faculty offer you the best of all worlds—they are outstanding scholars, exceptional researchers and, above all, dynamic scientists who love to roll up their sleeves and test their theories through active fieldwork. Even more importantly—thanks to our small class sizes, personalized lab sessions, and one-on-one advising—they are always available to guide you, to collaborate with you, and to point you to new scientific avenues and rewarding professional opportunities.

Passionate about endangered species? You’ll find a national authority on ecology, geographic distribution, and conservation of animals and plants, particularly fish, amphibians, and reptiles, whose extensive publications include a paper titled “Rattlesnake eggs and the passing of a torch in Winona County, Minnesota” for the Archives of Natural History. Interested in how the human immune system responds to bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc.? You’ll work with a professor who not only has a Ph.D. in microbiology/immunology from the University of Minnesota, but also a postdoctoral fellowship from the Oregon Health Science University in Portland, Oregon. Whether it’s learning developmental biology from a professor who has earned multiple teaching awards in the past, or understanding molecular biology with a professor who has been recognized multiple times by Who's Who Among America's Teachers, as an SMU student you can expect to learn from the best.

Course Work

Rigorous science in a supportive, liberal arts setting. It kind of sums up the academic experience you can expect as a biology student at Saint Mary’s. We offer students seven different top-notch majors to choose from as well as a variety of different minors and pre-professional program options. And as a biology major, you can expect to work hard.

Our curriculum is designed to push students to challenge themselves to excel across a wide variety of fields, including cell biology, ecology, environmental biology, environmental toxicology, microbiology, molecular biology, and zoology. (It’s especially successful in preparing you to pursue careers in health-related fields, such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, cytotechnology, nuclear medicine technology, pharmacology, physical therapy, and optometry.)

But you also will learn in an incredibly supportive environment. From faculty advisors and mentors, to helpful staff, to numerous student services, you will be surrounded by a community eager to see you succeed.

Regardless of the major you choose, our curriculum is designed to prepare you innovatively and comprehensively to further your passion for biology and for science in general. By the time you graduate, you will be:

  • Well-prepared, academically and professionally, for rigorous graduate work
  • Proficient in the use of laboratory and/or field equipment, techniques, and technologies
  • Strong in your ability to conduct original biological research and to write a scientific thesis containing an explanation of the problem, the methods employed, an analysis of your data, and your conclusions

Careers in Biology

Want to transform your passion for biology into an exciting future? The Saint Mary’s Department of Biology is a perfect fit. From making a difference as medical doctors, medical scientists, forensic scientists, clinical laboratory technologists, dentists, veterinarians, science technicians, or through other health professions, to the management of natural resources and meaningful careers in the environmental field, to teaching or research and more, SMU biology students graduate to a whole world of exciting professional and intellectual opportunities.

What kind of organizations and graduate schools are SMU students admitted to?

  • You’ll find recent SMU biology graduates pursuing meaningful careers with such organizations as the Mayo Clinic, state and federal laboratories, environmental consulting firms, and renowned research laboratories across the nation.
  • Recent SMU alumni have been accepted to such medical schools as:
    - Chicago Medical School (Rosalind Franklin Institute)
    - Johns Hopkins Medical School
    - Medical College of Wisconsin
    - University of Minnesota Medical School
    - University of Wisconsin Medical School
  • Recent SMU alumni are pursuing graduate study at such schools as:
    - Boise State University
    - Michigan State University
    - Northern Illinois University
    - Southeastern Louisiana State University
    - Texas A&M University
    - University of Minnesota
    - University of Toronto
    - University of Washington
    - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Recent Graduates on the Move

  • Ashley (Fosmo) Payne ’08 works for an environmental consulting firm in the Twin Cities.
  • Bridget Emmett ’08 is in graduate school at the University of Washington working on marine policy in The Philippines.
  • Katie Berg ’07, who is attending medical school at the University of Minnesota, was awarded a Grants-in-Aid of Research from Sigma Xi as well as a Research to Prevent Blindness Medical Student Fellowship (one of only two such fellowships awarded nationwide).
  • Brendon Panke ’05 works on invasive plants in Wisconsin for the University of Wisconsin Extension Program in Weed Science.
  • Jennifer Cochran-Biederman ’05 was awarded a Cargill Fellowship to conduct Ph.D. thesis research on trout streams in Minnesota at the University of Minnesota.
  • Alan Schumacher ’04 works for the USDA in St. Paul managing bald eagles and other wildlife at urban airports.
  • Devin Bloom ’04, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto, works on the evolution of fish and has done fieldwork in Mexico and South America. One of her presentations was recently chosen as the outstanding student presentation in ichthyology at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Society of Ichthyology and Herpetology.
  • Joseph Roche, MD ’02 is working on research on auditory physiology funded by an ANS/AAO-HNSF Herbert Silverstein Otology/Neurology Award.
  • Joe Cochran, MD ’01 is chief resident in neurosurgery at Froedtert Hospital, associated with the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

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