Biology is the core life science program. The Department of Biology provides a comprehensive, interdisciplinary education offering courses aimed at breadth and depth of study including cellular and molecular biology, biotechnology, genetics, physiology, organismal biology, animal behavior, plant biology and physiology, ecology, and evolution. The curriculum emphasizes the process of science through inquiry-based experiential learning in laboratory and field courses, faculty-mentored research, and co-curricular opportunities. Students connect their experiences and gain global perspectives through participation in international research projects, attendance at regional and national conferences, and field work both domestic and abroad.
Students may choose to combine the biology major with an additional major or minor in another field, such as business, chemistry, computer science, education, environmental studies and sustainability, mathematics and/or psychology. This is an especially important consideration for the B.A. degree.
Both the B.S. and B.A. degree programs in Biology prepare students for employment and graduate and professional study. Students are successful in a wide range of careers, including biomedicine, biotechnology, microbiology, ecological and behavioral science, education, environmental studies, science communication, outreach and advocacy. Our students are well prepared to pursue further study in the health professions (including professional study in medical, dental, and veterinary schools), as well as for graduate study in the diverse areas of the life sciences.
Regardless of the curricular path chosen, each student is individually advised and counseled according to his/her aptitude and career interests and courses are recommended to assist students in reaching their full potential.
The Biology Major: The B.A. in Biology is based on the foundation of the core curriculum in biology, but offers flexibility in terms of course selection. Many of the chemistry, physics and math requirements in the B.S. program are options rather than requirements in the B.A. program. Students will be strongly encouraged to pursue a second major or minors in fields such as education, business, communications, psychology, history, sociology, philosophy, computer science, environmental studies and sustainability among many other choices. Each student is individually advised and counseled according to his/her aptitude and career interests. Students should note that, unlike the B.S. program, the B.A. program does not by itself fulfill medical school requirements.
Health Professions Advising (including Pre-Medical, Pre-Veterinary and Pre-Dental): Dr. Charlotte Berkes, Merrimack College’s Health Professions Advisor, will meet with students having an interest in the medical professions as early as their freshman year. Students will be advised about course selection and extracurricular activities that will strengthen their application to professional schools. Dr. Berkes is also available to assist recent graduates in the application process.
Graduate School Advising: The Department is committed to advising those students interested in pursuing careers in graduate school. The Department’s Graduate School Advisor, Dr. R. David MacLaren, is available to students to help them in preparation for, applying and attending graduate school. We also partner with the O’Brien Center for Student Success in helping students prepare for graduate study.
Experiential Learning, Internship and Faculty Led Research: All Biology majors are strongly encouraged to participate in at least one semester of experiential learning within the department, either through research under the direction of a Biology faculty member (BIO 4092 and BIO 4096) or a Biology Internship (BIO 4095). The internship is an off-site work-study experience co-supervised by Dr. Mark Birnbaum, the departmental Internship Coordinator and a mentor in the workplace. The Department also works in close collaboration with the O’Brien Center for Student Success in helping students in their career planning.
Larry J. Kelts Global Field Studies Program: Named in honor of the creator, the program provides students with intensive learning experiences in applied ecology, conservation biology and human ecology in environmentally significant locations across the globe. This program invites students to witness and compare the biological complexity of natural ecosystems, to appreciate their natural beauty, rich history, and to understand the effects of human activities on these systems. Recent courses have included field studies in Hawaii, but during past trips students have traveled to Tanzania, the Amazon River Basin in Brazil, Belize, Australia and the Galapagos Islands.
HHMI SEA PHAGES: The Department of Biology at Merrimack College is a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Alliance. The HHMI SEA PHAGES project engages freshmen and upper level students in a unique research based curriculum as part of a global consortium investigating bacteriophage (viruses that infect bacteria) biology and evolution. Students begin by collecting soil samples in the field. In the lab, they purify, characterize and name their phage. Next, they visit the Wyss Institute in Boston to take electron microscope pictures of the virus particles. After purifying the phage genome DNA, the students send it to be sequenced. The project continues as they identify the gene functions during the annotation process. The completed annotation is published in GenBank and includes the student as authors. Finally, students are selected to present their findings at the Annual SEA PHAGES Symposium at the HHMI Janelia Research campus.