A student works in a lab.
Program Overview

Biology

Investigate the living world inside and around us.

Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

Diversity in Nature, Diversity in Approach

The domain of biology is vast, ranging from subcellular and biochemical processes to ecosystems and organized societies. Oberlin students and faculty engage this sweeping realm through state-of-the-art methods in biochemistry, molecular biology, computational modeling, and field work, investigating Darwin’s “Grandeur of Life” from genes to proteins, bacteria to birds, laboratory microcosms to forests and computer-generated worlds. We prepare students for a range of post-graduate pathways and careers, including medicine and allied health professions, research, conservation, education, and industry within and outside of biotechnology.

An Ethos of Collaboration in the Classroom, in the Laboratory, and in Nature

Students and faculty in the Biology Department work together to generate novel ideas and solve complex problems. The Biology curriculum ensures that all students develop a common set of core knowledge, skills, and competencies, while at the same time fostering personalized pathways through the major. Classrooms are vibrant spaces for working together to build synergies in understanding. Research labs are collaborative places where creativity and thoughtful experimental design leads to new scientific insight. Field teams cooperate in observational, analytical, and experimental enquiries, investigating ecological and evolutionary processes in river, forest, desert, tropical, and urban ecosystems. We embrace the synergies that arise from collaborative efforts, as well as the successes that come from individualized paths.

Since 2015, endowed funds have provided over $220,000 toward student research
Since 2015, over 50 Oberlin biology students have been coauthors on peer-reviewed journal articles

Featured Courses

BIOL 213

Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry

Whether living solo or within bodies, cells are busy at the molecular level. We investigate fundamental features of cells, how cells sense their environment and respond by turning on and off different genes, how cells talk to each other to coordinate behavior, and how cancer can develop if this coordination breaks down. Lab emphasizes modern biotechnology techniques used throughout the world.

Taught by
Maureen Peters, Laura Romberg, Aaron Goldman, Katherine Cullen
BIOL 308

Disease Ecology

The dynamics of infectious disease - in human, wildlife, and plant populations - is examined through the framework of Community Ecology. We focus class discussions and writing assignments on recent scientific literature. Lab is a semester-long mentored research experience through which students propose and design a study, collect and analyze data, and report results through both written and oral presentation.

Taught by
Mary Garvin
BIOL 336

Genomics

Genome analysis enriches every field of biology from ecology and evolution to virology and disease prevention. We discuss how genomes are sequenced and analyzed to identify genes and predict the functional relationships of their products. In lab, students conduct original computational research involving genome annotation, protein structure and function prediction, and evolutionary analysis of protein families.

Taught by
Aaron Goldman
BIOL 408

Seminar in Experimental Evolution

Evolutionary perspectives contribute to our understanding of cancer occurrence and progression, infectious diseases, agro-ecosystem productivity, and management of endangered and exploited populations. More than simply a historical process, evolution can be studied experimentally. Here we explore the scientific literature to evaluate the potential of experimental evolution to aid in improving the probability of desirable outcomes for society.

Taught by
Angela (Angie) Roles

Student Profiles

Postgrad Research at the FDA

At Oberlin, Gabby Walsh ’18 double majored in biology and biochemistry. Now, she is a postbaccalaureate fellow at the Food and Drug Administration.

Gabby Walsh

First Nexial Prizewinner

Adam Chazin-Gray ’17, a biology major with interests in public health, climatology, and infectious disease research, was the inaugural recipient of the Nexial Prize, an award worth $50,000 meant for graduate study at the interface of science and culture.

Adam Chazin-Gray

A Passion for Science Communication

A biology and musical studies double major at Oberlin, Lisa Learman '16 is now completing a PhD in the Cellular and Molecular Medicine program at Johns Hopkins University.

Lisa Learman

What does Biology at Oberlin look like?

A student in goggles and gloves examines something in a small container.

Honors Student Yiling Fang ’20 investigates gene expression during root development in Marta Laskowski’s lab.

Photo credit: Matthew Lester
Two students looking at plants in the greenhouse.

Oberlin students help to maintain the botanical collection in the Greenhouse.

Photo credit: Mike Crupi
Students listen to a presentation.

Tim Uyeki ’81, author and epidemiologist meets with a class studying infectious diseases.

Photo credit: Michael Hartman
Visitors on a tour of the lab.

Lab Crawl happens every spring, making it easy for students to visit and learn about research labs on campus.

Photo credit: Jennifer Manna
Three students crouch in the woods to examine something in the leaves.

Students in Professor Roger Laushman’s plant ecology class identify native ferns at a field site.

Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones
Sitting around a lab bench, students and a professor look at a computer screen together.

Students in Professor Keith Tarvin’s lab design an experimental study of squirrel eavesdropping behavior over Winter Term.

Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.


Lush green plants against the glass wall of a building.