Academic Catalog and Handbooks

2023-2024 Edition


Department Chair: Jennifer Schaefer

Faculty: D. Gordon Brown, Erica Baken, Manuel Campos, Katharine Cary, Philip Chu, Clark Cotton, Ashley Fink, Trevor Keyler, Stephen Jameson, William Lamberts, Demelza Larson, David Mitchell, Michael Reagan, Alexa Roemmich, Justin Rost, Stephen Saupe, Jennifer Schaefer, Kristina Timmerman, Cyprian Weaver OSB, Emily Willaert, Tod Worner

The biological sciences are rapidly expanding our understanding of the natural world, from the inner workings of cancer cells to the evolution of the human genome to the role that the oceans play in controlling the composition of the atmosphere. The faculty of the Biology Department seeks to share the excitement of these discoveries with students. Our goal is to educate students in biology to prepare for graduate school or for professions including those in education or allied health professions, as well as to become life-long learners and well-informed citizens.

The students and faculty of the Biology Department are a community of learners, using inquiry-based methods to investigate the breadth of biology, its connection to other disciplines, and its relevance to individuals and to society.

The department offers a popular major and minor, supports students in the Nursing, Biochemistry, and Nutrition majors, and provides courses that fulfill Integrations Curriculum requirements. Our major and minor introduce students to the breadth of biological studies while enabling them to focus on areas of particular interest for further study. Our courses feature bench and/or field labs allowing students to engage in the process of scientific investigation first-hand. We occupy two buildings furnished with extensive laboratory equipment including transmission and scanning electron microscopes, NanoDrop UV spectrophotometers, a flow cytometer, a DNA sequencer, high-speed refrigerated centrifuges, mammalian cell culture facilities, an animal care suite, walk-in environmental, metabolic, and cold chambers, and bright-field, dark-field, fluorescence, and inverted microscopes fitted with video and digital cameras. An extensive collection of birds and mammals helps to acquaint students with the fauna of central Minnesota. The rural setting of the two campuses is ideal for field studies, providing easy access to a variety of natural habitats including prairie, oak savanna, wetlands, coniferous and deciduous forests, ponds, and several lakes. The Melancon greenhouse, the Bailey Herbarium, the Saint John's Abbey Arboretum, and the SJU maple-sugar bush and sugar shack all provide excellent facilities for ecological and field research.


The Biology Department has adopted a multifaceted approach to assessing the effectiveness of its curriculum. In addition to standard measures, such as monitoring performance on tests, the Biology Department requires the following:

  1. Every student in an introductory course takes a post-test of basic information that they would be expected to gain from taking the course.
  2. Seniors take a comprehensive exam during their last semester (BIOL XXX).
  3. Students enrolled in an upper division biology course during their last semester take the "Annual Biology Department Assessment Survey".
  4. The department surveys alumni at five-year intervals.