Sep 20, 2021  
2021-2022 General Catalog 
2021-2022 General Catalog


Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: College of Science

Department Head: Diane G. Alston
Location: Biology-Natural Resources 117C
Phone: (435) 797-2485
E-mail: or

Associate Department Head:
Susannah French, Biology-Natural Resources 235G, (435) 797-9175,

Assistant Department Head:
Carol vonDohlen, Biology-Natural Resources 235C, (435) 797-2549,

Administrative Supervisor:
Nancy Kay Pierson, Biology-Natural Resources 117E, (435) 797-1770,

Co-Directors of Graduate Studies:
Carol vonDohlen, Biology-Natural Resources 235C, (435) 797-2549,
Karen Kapheim, Life Sciences Building 339, (435) 797-0685,

Graduate Programs Coordinator:
Shaun Heller, Biology-Natural Resources 117K, (435) 797-3203,

Director of Undergraduate Studies:
Thayne Sweeten, Biology-Natural Resources 123, (435) 797-0895,

Biology Advisor Coordinators:
Dani Lawrence, Biology-Natural Resources 101B, (435) 797-2652,
Samuel Rivera, Biology-Natural Resources 101A, (435) 797-2652,

Advisor for Biology Programs and Health Professions:
Human Biology Emphasis: Dani Lawrence, Biology-Natural Resources 101B, (435) 797-2652,
Biology; Cellular/Molecular; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: Samuel Rivera, Biology-Natural Resources 101A, (435) 797-2652,
Health Professions: Yvonne Kobe, Exploratory Advising Office, Taggart Student Center 302, (435) 797-3373,

Advisor for Biological Sciences Composite Teaching Major:
Dani Lawrence, Biology-Natural Resources 101B, (435) 797-2652,

Advisor for Public Health Major:
Carl Farley, Biology-Natural Resources 131, (435) 797-2566,

Degrees offered: Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Arts (BA), Master of Science (MS), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biology; BS and BA in Composite Teaching—Biological Science; BS in Public Health; MS and PhD in Ecology, PhD in Neuroscience

Undergraduate emphases: Biology BS, BA—Biology, Cellular/Molecular, Composite Teaching - Biological Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Human Biology; Public Health BS—Industrial Hygiene, Environmental Health, Public Health Education

Full details of the learning objectives, assessment plan, student outcomes, and evidence of continuous improvement for these programs of study can be found at by clicking on the assessment tab.

Undergraduate Programs



The Department of Biology offers programs leading to a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree. Majors will complete a core of courses which provide an understanding of biological principles. Upper-division courses provide integration, in-depth study, and an opportunity for specialization within the different degree emphases. Additional coursework in chemistry, physics, statistics, and mathematics provides knowledge and analytical skills in these important related fields. Biology degrees provide a foundation for graduate work or employment in research, industry, or governmental agencies. Biology majors can add a minor area of study, such as business or chemistry, to enhance their employment opportunities.

Composite Teaching - Biological Science

This major combines content training in biology and related fields (including chemistry, physics, geology, mathematics, and statistics) with education courses. Graduates are qualified to apply for a teaching license through the Utah State Office of Education. Advisor: Dani Lawrence, Biology-Natural Resources 101B,

Public Health

The Department of Biology offers preprofessional training in public health. Individuals completing the BS degree have employment opportunities in such areas as environmental health, industrial hygiene, public health education, administration, nursing, nutrition, mental health, and social work. Advisor: Carl Farley, Biology-Natural Resources 131.

Academic Advising

The Department Head, the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and advisors in the Department of Biology are available to provide undergraduate majors with additional information regarding specific programs and career opportunities. The Biology Advising Center is located in Biology-Natural Resources 101. Program requirements, advising information, and scheduling information are on the Department of Biology web page at

Students with majors in the Department of Biology should consult with their advisors regularly as they plan their course of study. Students have the responsibility to keep themselves aware of major requirements and course prerequisites. For additional information, obtain an official Major Requirement Sheet from the Biology Advising Center. General requirements, specific course offerings, and the semesters that courses are taught may change.

Mathematics is an important and required skill to enhance one’s success in the sciences. Proper course level placement in mathematics at the beginning of the degree program is essential. Students should consult with an advisor and, if necessary, take the ALEKS Math Placement Exam to determine the appropriate level to begin their mathematics studies for meeting requirements and completion of their major. For more information about the ALEKS Math Placement Exam please visit


The primary mission of the Department of Biology is to discover and advance knowledge in the biological sciences, and to make that knowledge available to students through a diverse set of educational experiences. To achieve this, three specific areas are being targeted: (1) A core program in the life sciences is aimed at providing the skills and knowledge base needed for a wide variety of employment and educational opportunities in biological and biotechnology fields; (2) a premedical, predental, and pre-health program has the specific goal of guiding students with respect to opportunities in the health professions; and (3) a public health program provides pre-professional training in such subjects as environmental health, industrial hygiene, and public health education. For full details about Program Learning Objectives, Undergraduate Program Assessment, Data-based Decisions, and more go to

Undergraduate Research in Biology

The Department of Biology offers a broad array of undergraduate research opportunities. Undergraduate research allows students to have a real-life experience in a faculty research lab. Many students publish their research in scientific journals and present their research at national scientific meetings. Students may do undergraduate research work under the supervision of selected faculty members.

To receive academic credit, a student must enroll in BIOL 5800 , Undergraduate Research. Students doing Honors in Biology do undergraduate research and write a bachelor’s thesis.

For complete information about undergraduate research, contact Dani Lawrence at or Samuel Rivera at


University Requirements

Students are responsible for meeting all University requirements for total credits, upper-division credits, credits of C- or better, and the University Studies Program .

College of Science Requirements

All college requirements are met by completing the departmental degree requirements; no additional coursework is required.

Admission Requirements for the Biology, Biological Science-Composite Teaching, and Public Health Majors

New freshmen admitted to USU in good standing qualify for admission to the Biology major. Transfer students from other institutions need a 2.25 transfer GPA, and students transferring from other USU majors need a 2.25 institution GPA for admission to the Biology major in good standing.

New freshmen admitted to USU in good standing qualify for admission to the Biological Science-Composite Teaching major. To qualify for admission to the Secondary Teacher Education Program (STEP), students must acquire an institution 3.0 GPA and 30 credits of coursework. Transfer students from other institutions or other USU majors need an overall 3.0 GPA and 30 credits of coursework to be admitted to the major and the STEP. For information on additional admission criteria, students should contact the School of Teacher Education and Leadership (TEAL).

New freshmen admitted to USU in good standing qualify for admission to the Public Health major. Transfer students from other institutions need a 2.5 transfer GPA, and students transferring from other USU majors need a 2.5 institution GPA for admission to the Public Health major in good standing.

GPA Requirement

To graduate, a candidate for any bachelor’s degree with a Biology or Public Health major offered by the Department of Biology must maintain a grade point average of 2.25 in all Department of Biology (BIOL or PUBH prefix) courses required for the major and a grade of C- or better in BIOL 1610 BIOL 1615 BIOL 1620 , and BIOL 1625 . The Pass-Fail option is not acceptable for any course required for the degree, except where a course is only graded pass/fail, but D grades are permitted within the restrictions of the 2.25 GPA. The Biological Science-Composite Teaching major requires an overall GPA of 3.0 and a grade of C or better in all BIOL prefix and STEP Program Courses for graduation. The 2.25 GPA requirement and the C- or better grade in BIOL 1610 BIOL 1615 BIOL 1620 , and BIOL 1625  requirement apply to the Biology, Public Health, and BioMath minors.

Field Trips and Laboratory Fees

Many biology courses require field trips. Those enrolled are expected to dress appropriately for the conditions and observe any safety precautions issued by instructors. Many courses require modest laboratory fees to purchase and maintain equipment and supplies for use in the laboratories and cover salaries for teaching assistants and student laboratory technicians.

Financial Support

Scholarships, assistantships, grants-in-aid, and work-study programs are available from the University. Both the College of Science and the Department of Biology offer scholarships. Applications for departmental and college scholarships should be submitted during early spring semester. Contact the College of Science Office (Eccles Science Learning Center 245) and the Biology Advising Center (Biology-Natural Resources 101) for details.

University Honors Program

The University Honors Program offers students in all colleges and majors the unique opportunity to deepen their educational experience with hands-on practical applications of their academic knowledge. The Honors Program admits incoming, transfer, and existing USU students based on application. High achieving students with at least one year remaining are encouraged to apply.  See the University Honors Program catalog entry and website ( for more information.

Suggested Four-year Plans

Suggested semester-by-semester four-year plans for students working toward a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree are available in the Department of Biology. Students should consult with their advisor to develop a plan of study tailored to their individual needs and interests.

Additional Information

For more information about requirements for the majors and minors within the Biology Department, see the information provided in the general catalog.

Graduate Programs

Admission Requirements

See Graduate Admissions at for general admission requirements. Complete details about graduate programs, admission requirements and application procedures are available online at

To be recommended for matriculated status, an applicant must have earned a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) from an accredited institution, and a Biology faculty member must agree to serve as the major professor for that applicant. The Department of Biology also considers these guidelines for admission: (1) the transcript should show a minimum GPA of 3.0 (B); and (2) the GRE (including the Biology Advanced GRE) is not required, but is welcomed as supplementary information. Applicants for whom English is not the primary language must have scored at least 575 (paper-based exam) or 233 (computer-based exam) on the TOEFL. The applicant’s undergraduate program should be similar to that offered by the Department of Biology at Utah State University, which includes the following and their prerequisites: general biology, genetics, ecology, physiology, and evolution; general and organic chemistry; biochemistry; calculus; statistics; and physics. Other preparatory courses may be specified by the student’s supervisory committee.

Degree Programs

For those who have demonstrated strong academic capability as well as research interest, the Department of Biology offers the Master of Science Degree and the Doctor of Philosophy Degree in either Biology or Ecology. An Interdisciplinary Doctor of Philosophy in Neuroscience is available through the Interdepartmental Program in Neuroscience and Biology.

Undergraduate majors in Biology at USU with especially strong backgrounds and interest in research may apply for study of the Master of Science degree as transitional students. Acceptance as a transitional student allows undergraduates with advanced standing to integrate up to nine credits of graduate work into the final semesters of their Bachelor of Science study. Acceptance into this program, as into all graduate programs in Biology, is closely regulated. Formal application through the School of Graduate Studies is required.


The Department of Biology provides a dynamic and broad base for research and graduate study through a balanced program of basic and applied studies at ecosystem, population, organismal, cellular, and molecular levels. An outstanding variety of field sites; animal, plant, and microbe growth facilities; and modern well-equipped laboratories are available. Also, the Intermountain Herbarium, an excellent Insect Collection, the USDA/ARS U.S. National Pollinating Insects Collection, the Stable Isotope Laboratory, and the Center for Integrated BioSystems exist as research and support facilities.

Faculty members participate in and are supported by several interdepartmental programs, including the Ecology Center and the program in neuroscience. In addition, many less formal contacts and interactions exist with colleagues in the Colleges of Agriculture, Education and Human Services, Natural Resources, and Science.

Students are encouraged to carefully consider how their career goals match the faculty’s research interests. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to contact faculty members with whom they are interested in working. Because of the combination of a diverse interdisciplinary base and excellent focused research programs, students have an opportunity to learn the philosophies and methods of many branches of biology. For further details about the faculty’s research interests, students are encouraged to visit the Biology website:

Financial Assistance

Research assistantships are available through graduate faculty seeking to recruit students on grant-supported funds. Teaching assistantships are awarded annually through the Biology Graduate Programs Committee. All awards are made on a competitive basis and specific teaching needs are considered in awarding teaching assistantships. Given satisfactory performance, MS students are supported for at least three years and PhD candidates for at least five years on teaching assistantships. The department may also recommend particularly qualified students for College of Science or University fellowships (see Departmental research awards and scholarships are available annually (see Admission to the graduate programs of the Department of Biology does not guarantee financial support; however, applicants will not normally be admitted without financial support.

Career Opportunities

Completion of graduate degrees in Biology prepares students for careers in teaching and research in universities and colleges. Many graduates also find employment with private industry and state and national governmental agencies. Specific employment possibilities will depend on the nature of the graduate program pursued. The extensive background provided by a graduate degree also prepares students for eventual administrative responsibilities.

Research Emphases

Research areas of departmental faculty are diverse. See for current faculty and their research programs.

Research and Teaching Facilities


Graduate study in plant taxonomy offered in the Department of Biology utilizes the extensive facilities of the Intermountain Herbarium. The collection includes over 280,000 research specimens. About 50 percent are from the Intermountain Region, while most of the remainder are from other regions of North America.

Insect Collection

Comprising more than three million specimens, the Insect Collection is available to scientists and graduate students involved in taxonomic research and to those requiring identification of insects in various research projects. The collection primarily covers the Intermountain Region, but it also contains species from nearly all areas of the world. In addition, Biology became home to the American Entomological Institute in 2016. The institute’s holdings include one of the world’s largest collections of spider wasps and velvet ants, along with specimens of other species from the Intermountain West and Neotropical countries including Brazil, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Argentina, and Chile. The center is also home to an extensive library of historically significant entomological texts and reprints. The Biology-Natural Resources Building also houses the USDA/ARS U.S. National Pollinating Insect Collection.

Biology Research and Teaching Greenhouse Facilities

Built in the mid-1960s, the Biology Greenhouse serves as an important teaching and research resource for the Department of Biology at Utah State University. The plant specimens are used in numerous teaching labs and offer students an opportunity to study a wide array of plant life. The specimens are divided up into four rooms, each of which serves a different purpose.

Miller Science Garden

The Dr. Gene Miller Life Science Garden Laboratory is an experimental garden for students in USU’s Department of Biology courses, as well as citizen scientists. Students analyze changes in the garden over time, and citizens discover biodiversity in the garden and beyond.

Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope

The Department of Biology has a BioRad 1024 Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope. This state-of-the-art technology utilizes highly tuned lasers to give detailed sectional views of the interior of intact structures such as cells and tissues and greatly extends the advantages of fluorescence microscopy. This microscope is utilized by researchers campus-wide and is an indispensable tool for molecular and cellular studies.

Microscopy Core Facility

This research service unit is managed by the Office of Research. The facility maintains a scanning electron microscope equipped with EDS/EBSD system, a dualbeam (FIB/SEM) microscope equipped with Omniprobe/EBSD system, a laser dissection microscope, and several microscopy sample preparation tools. The facility provides microscopy service, project consultation, and user training.

Center for Integrated BioSystems (CIB)

The CIB operates three service laboratories and a variety of research projects. The service laboratories provide essential biological resources for biotechnology research and development including DNA sequencing, peptide synthesis, protein sequencing, antibodies, and fermentation.

FACULTY - College of Science  

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: College of Science