About Biology

Our Program and Courses

As a biology major, you will learn how to tackle questions about both the known and the undiscovered as you study all forms of life through hands-on exploration, individualized instruction and a collegial learning atmosphere. This program will prepare you to evaluate and address important questions in one of the most rapidly expanding fields of knowledge. Your learning won’t take place in the classroom alone; you often will be designing, conducting and analyzing research in the field or laboratory. Whether focusing on your findings in the teaching lab or embarking on independent and collaborative research, you’ll be supported by F&M’s cutting-edge field, laboratory, and computing equipment.

By the time you graduate, you will: 

  • Learn concepts from across the breadth of biological disciplines, with depth in focused areas of interest.
  • Utilize quantitative skills to develop and test novel research questions, ethically and in collaboration with others.
  • Synthesize and expand upon existing scientific theories and models by critically and analytically engaging with literature.
  • Hone skills as effective scientific communicators, through both writing and speaking.

Curious what biology classes are like? Take a look at our course catalog to see the depth and breadth of what’s available to you, including related majors in biochemistry and molecular biology, bioinformatics, neuroscience, animal behavior, earth and environmental science, environmental studies, and public health.

Our Faculty and Staff

Daniel R Ardia

Associate Dean of the Faculty and Charles A. Dana Professor of Biology

Biological Foundations of Behavior; Biology; Science, Technology and Society

Contact »

Jaime E Blair

Professor of Biology, Program Chair of Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Contact »

Vincent Carson

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Biology

Contact »

Beckley K Davis

Associate Professor of Biology

Contact »

James T Engleman

Greenhouse Manager & Laboratory Technician

Contact »

Peter A Fields

The Dr. E. Paul & Frances H. Reiff Professor of Biology

Contact »

Janet M Fischer

Dr. E. Paul & Frances H. Reiff Professor of Biology, Department Chair of Biology

Contact »

Edith L Gallagher

Visiting Scholar of Biology

Contact »

Lisa R Garrett

Laboratory Support Supervisor, Biology

Contact »

Sarah Gotwols

Research Associate of Biology

Contact »

Kelly Hallinger

Visiting Assistant Professor

Contact »

Aaron F Howard

Teaching Professor of Biology

Biological Foundations of Behavior; Data Science

Contact »

Pablo D Jenik

Associate Professor and Associate Chair Department of Biology

Contact »

Robert N Jinks

Professor of Biology

Biological Foundations of Behavior

Contact »

Andy Miller

Research Associate of Biology

Contact »

Kirk Miller

B. F. Fackenthal, Jr. Professor of Biology

Public Health

Contact »

Clara S Moore

Professor of Biology

Biological Foundations of Behavior; Public Health; Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Contact »

Harriet E Okatch

Assistant Professor of Biology & Public Health

Contact »

Mark H Olson

Professor of Biology

Contact »

David M Roberts

Associate Professor of Biology

Contact »

Samantha M Seldomridge

Academic Department Coordinator

Public Health

Contact »

Ryan Snead

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Public Health

Biology

Contact »

Stephanie A Stoehr

Institutional Biosafety Officer and Teaching Professor of Biology

Public Health

Contact »

Joseph Thompson

Dr. E. Paul & Frances H. Reiff Professor of Biology

Biological Foundations of Behavior

Contact »

Learning Outside the Classroom

In the Field

F&M’s location provides the perfect landscape for studying biology. Lancaster County’s flourishing agricultural countryside, the nearby Susquehanna River, diverse nature preserves managed by the Lancaster Conservancy, and F&M’s Spalding Nature Conservancy provide exciting opportunities for field research. 

You can also enjoy hands-on experience in our facilities in the Barshinger Life Sciences & Philosophy Building on campus. The building features 12 student-faculty research laboratories, a greenhouse, and animal rooms. Specialized facilities and research equipment include a confocal microscope, preparative and ultracentrifuges, electrophoresis equipment, a dark room, a cold room, a quantitative thermal cycler, a plant growth facility, a vivarium, and controlled environment chambers. A variety of equipment is also available for terrestrial and aquatic field studies.

Research Opportunities 

Every student at F&M has extraordinary opportunities to engage in independent or faculty-led research. These are not experiences you have to wait until graduate school to pursue. Our students’ research has been published in leading scholarly journals, and your professors will be there every step of the way to mentor and advise you in your journey. In fact, biology faculty are expert researchers working on a wide array of cutting-edge topics, including: 

  • Bioinformatics
  • Biomechanics
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Ecology
  • Genetics and Genomics
  • Immunology
  • Limnology
  • Marine Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Muscle Physiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Ornithology
  • Plant Development, Ecology, and Reproduction
  • Public Health
  • Sustainability
Explore research at F&M

Off-Campus Study

In addition to research opportunities at F&M, you’re encouraged to explore activities off campus. Biology students have traveled for internships around the world, studied tropical biology in Central and South America, Australia, and Africa; engaged in marine biology research in the Caribbean, Galapagos, East Africa, Australia and the South Pacific, and have completed research at various field courses across the U.S. and internationally.
Explore off-campus study at F&M

Success Beyond F&M

What happens after you graduate with a degree in biology? Many students go onto graduate school or choose to embark on their chosen career path. You’ll also find recognition and support in the Benjamin Rush Pre-Health Honor Society, an organization that hosts programs and events and creates a sense of community among outstanding students interested in the health professions.

Graduate School

More than half of our majors in the biology-related fields go on to graduate or professional school after F&M. In any given year, about one-third of our graduates enter medical school or another health professions graduate program, while another one-third enter other forms of graduate study. Their individualized learning and hands-on experience while at F&M gives them an advantage in getting admitted into some of the nation’s finest graduate programs, including University of Michigan, Yale University, Cornell University, Harvard University, and Duke University. They pursue research in disciplines as diverse as biological chemistry, marine biology, plant biology, organismal biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, biomedical studies, immunology, cancer biology, and biomechanics. In biomedical fields, graduates have specialized health-related areas such as medicine, dentistry, nursing, veterinary medicine, pharmaceutical research, nutrition, sports medicine, physical therapy, and health care administration.  

Career Paths

Biology majors are prepared for careers in a wide array of fields, due to the program’s emphasis on the breadth of biology and its association with other natural sciences. Our alumni have found success in sports medicine, genetic counseling, patent law, and high school teaching. They hold positions such as:

  • Agricultural Consultant
  • Biostatistician
  • Conservation Engineer 
  • Dentist
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental Research Manager
  • Forensic Biologist
  • Healthcare Administrator
  • Marine Biologist
  • Medical Researcher
  • Molecular Biologist
  • Nurse
  • Nutritionist
  • Pharmaceutical Researcher
  • Physical Therapist
  • Physician
  • Veterinarian
  • Wildlife Biologist

Alumni Spotlight

“We are now helping hundreds of legally blind patients see again every year.”

After graduating from F&M, Wenxin Wei ’02 found himself on the other side of the country, studying a new form of eye surgery in California. Now, the biology graduate is back in Lancaster, helping legally blind patients see again. “When I got an offer to come back from California…and provide a service that was needed to the residents of Lancaster, it was the perfect match,” Wei, a partner at Eye Associates of Lancaster, said. “At that time, none of the practices in Lancaster offered this procedure. We recently hired two new cornea specialists and are now helping hundreds of legally blind patients see again every year.”
Read More »

Faculty Spotlight

‘Losing Blue’: When Art Explains Science

For nearly two decades, biology professors Janet Fischer and Mark Olson have brought F&M students to research the ecology of the lakes that are nestled beneath the snowy mountain peaks of Yoho and Banff National Parks in the Canadian Rockies. Over the years, as the glaciers melt because of climate change, Fischer and Olson have detected subtle changes to the waters. They decided to share this science through film. “Losing Blue,” a National Film Board of Canada production, is a collaborative effort between Fischer and Olson and Leanne Allison, an award-winning Canadian documentary filmmaker.
Read More »

Faculty Spotlight: Dan Ardia

Related Fields of Study

Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Explore biological processes at their smallest scale. At its core, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at F&M focuses on the structure and function of biomolecules, which are the metabolic machinery of the cell and control its underlying genetics.

Bioinformatics

Immerse yourself in a rapidly-expanding field that combines the study of biology, chemistry, computer science, and applied mathematics. By studying bioinformatics at F&M, you’ll explore how to develop methods and software tools for understanding biological data.

Neuroscience

As a student of neuroscience at F&M, you will not only learn how the brain works, but contribute to the ever-growing body of information on this unique organ. Using a blend of knowledge and tools taken from the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and psychology, you’ll develop a rich understanding of both the physical and social functions of the brain.

F&M Biology in Action

February 7, 2024

'A Perfect Match': Alumni Eye Surgeon on Returning to Lancaster

After graduating from Franklin & Marshall, Wenxin Wei ‘02 found himself on the other side of the country, studying a new form of eye surgery in California. Now, he’s back in Lancaster, helping legally blind patients see again.

January 31, 2024

‘Losing Blue’: When Art Explains Science

“Losing Blue,” a collaborative effort between the filmmaker, her writer and two F&M biologists, Professors Janet Fischer and Mark Olson, a wife-and-husband scientific team.

June 8, 2023

A Morning at Spalding Conservancy

Take a stroll through Franklin & Marshall's Spalding Conservancy on any given day, and you might just find yourself in the middle of a student research project. The 54-acre property is home to flora, fauna and countless discoveries where William Li '23 Li has tracked woodpeckers, juncos and a variety of sparrows.