Biology is consistently one of the most popular majors at Davidson College. Students conduct research on campus during the school year and over the summers. Many students are accepted to summer research positions around the country, ranging from bench work at Caltech, to field studies at Glacier National Park, or bioethics work at the National Institutes of Health. Biology majors have been awarded prestigious national and international awards such as NSF Graduate Fellowships, Goldwater Scholarships, Watson Fellowships, and Fulbright Scholarships. About two-thirds of biology graduates will attend professional (medical and allied health) or graduate school, while the remaining graduates will pursue career tracks that vary according to their personal interests. Examples of graduate and medical schools that biology alumni have attended recently include Harvard, Stanford, Washington University, Johns Hopkins, Yale, Princeton, University of Chicago, and Duke as well as many others. Students are often accepted to multiple schools and get to select where they want to attend. Many young alumni explore career interests or travel to distant places for one to three years after Davidson before deciding to attend graduate or professional schools.
The Biology Department is composed of twelve staff members, thirteen full time faculty members and three part-time faculty members who share a dedication to undergraduate education where learning, exploring, and scholarship are blended with mentoring, research and friendships. Staff members safely maintain animals, equipment, chemicals, and laboratories. No class is larger than 32 students, including our introductory courses. Labs are capped at 16 students with individual faculty members teaching both the lab and lecture sections for a single course. Faculty enjoy getting to know our students personally, including those who major in other disciplines. Upper level classes can range from 32 students in lecture courses, 12 students in seminar courses, six students in group investigation research courses, or one to five students in independent research. All research is centered on undergraduates learning and performing science because Davidson has no graduate students. Many faculty collaborate with other departments, most often in the sciences. Faculty and student collaborators are well-funded with research grants (including NSF and NIH), they co-author publications, and present their research at scientific meetings.
optical tweezers used in biophysics.
Mouse over image to see light pathways (red = laser; green = reflected).
The Biology Department is housed in the adjoining Watson Life Sciences and the Dana Science Buildings. The facilities include well-equipped teaching and research laboratories, a large state-of-the-art lecture hall, cell culture facilities, microscopy facilities, and an animal care facility. All instructional laboratories are equipped with networked computer stations for every two students and an instructor's computer with video projection units. Faculty offices are located near their research and teaching laboratories to facilitate student-faculty interactions.
Students and faculty members have access to major equipment funded by the college and external grants. Students can use a laser-scanning confocal microscope, DNA microarray printing and scanning systems, real time PCR , 96-well fluorometer, epifluorescence microscopes with digital cameras and time-lapse imaging, stereographic 3D viewing goggles for visualizing structures, dual-head dissecting microscopes, microinjection, micromanipulators, and cryostat. In addition, common equipment includes PCR machines, spectrophotometers, DNA/RNA/protein gel and blotting apparati, gel and blot imaging systems, web servers, -80 freezers, high-speed and ultra centrifuges, bench-top microfuges, etc.
Biology students use the College's ecological preserve, Lake Campus and newly acquired farm to conduct field research. Other local sites include county parks and greenways. The 220 acre preserve is adjacent to the main campus and the site of many semester-long or multi-year projects. GPS and GIS positioning software and equipment allow students to locate geographical positions and produce images territories or ranges. For botanical studies, a greenhouse is available to grow plants under controlled conditions. Alternatively, growth chambers are available for plant and animal physiology experiments. Multi-year seed bank, behavior ecology, and community ecology research projects provide longitudinal perspectives and short-term projects are available as well.
Biology faculty members focus on teaching and also write grants to fund student research and teaching innovations. Both private and governmental funds have enabled our biologists to purchase major equipment, supplies and pay summer stipends for students. Funding sources include: National Science Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Keck Foundation, Pew Foundation, North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Duke Energy Environmental Center, Waksman Microbiology Foundation, National Human Genome Research Institute, Merck/American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Whitehall Foundation. Since 2004, Biology faculty members have been awarded more than $7.8M in external support from NSF, NIH, HHMI, and other organizations. In 2011 eight Biology faculty members produced 22 publications with 34 total undergraduate co-authorships. Davidson biology faculty have been recognized by state, regional and national organizations as leaders in their fields of study.