Department of Biology

  • All Biology majors receive Academic Advising, the quality of which is unparalleled. Sr. Grace Mary Flickinger, a national-level winner for Academic Advising, recognized years ago the importance of one-on-one advising and nurturing of every student, not only for their smooth transition to Xavier as freshmen but also for their staying on track for their degree completion and their spiritual growth. Sister served as the Coordinator of Advising for many years, and generations of XU Biology majors have benefited from the highly regarded 'Open Door Policy' and other processes established by her over 30 years ago. These procedures have stood the test of time and continue to play a significant role in the many success stories here in Biology. Dr. Harish Ratnayaka currently serves as the Coordinator of Advising for the Biology Department. For suggestions on how to succeed as a Biology major, see Dr. Ratnayaka's website.

  • The Biology Department is a pioneer in the College of Arts & Sciences in successfully introducing and optimizing state-of-the-art technology-based teaching tools (personal responses units, LXRTest analysis, on-line quizzes, etc.) for increased student engagement and student learning. These newer teaching tools enable us to carry out sophisticated analysis of our instruction and assess student-performances throughout the semester, thereby serving as an excellent 'checks and balances' mechanism for ensuring no student is left behind and each does his/her best.

  • The department has taken the lead on re-designing and revising our pre-med curriculum to meet the changing 2015 MCAT and to address the growing and urgent national problem of declining African American professionals in the field of medicine. With the generous support of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) funding of $ 1 million dollars to the University, Dr. Ireland, Endowed Professor of Biology, led the efforts by working with faculty in Biology and other STEM disciplines to implement specific recommendations issued by the Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians (SFFP) committee. A joint venture between the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the HHMI, the SFFP's goal is to make students more active learners with demonstrated knowledge and ability to apply the principles of biology, mathematics and statistics along with those of computer programs, physics, chemistry and biochemistry to human health and diseases. To accomplish this, the department has introduced an array of innovative instructional approaches. Two new courses in Biology (Biol 1210L and Biol 1220L) have been launched to address self-reported impediments for freshman level success and labs will be revised to include more discovery/research oriented projects such as those in Xavier's currently HHMI funded 'Phage Genomics' course offered in our department.  Several additional pre-med courses have been infused with increased in-class activities, more interdisciplinary content, and exercises to hone students' computational and critical thinking skills with an emphasis on the application of knowledge as opposed to rote memorization.   We believe that our new and improved curriculum will help all our majors to become more competitive and score well on whichever standardized admissions tests they end up taking (MCAT, GRE, DAT, PCAT etc).

  • The Biology department prides itself in having state-of-the-art research facilities with the most modern equipment like -150 freezers, ultracentrifuges, microtomes, inverted fluorescence, confocal and TIRF microscopes, laminar flow hoods, digital cell counters, gel documentation systems, a Nanodrop spectrophotometer, NEON rapid transfection system, iBlot rapid western blot system, a flow cytometer and Quantitative RT-PCR apparatus to name a few.

  • Equally importantly, the department boasts impressive teaching laboratories associated with their own equipment and supplies. For example, the department has a fully-operational greenhouse (established through Keck funding) with over 500 sq. feet of space where students learn all about plants and their responses at the molecular level to environmental changes. Plants serve as an excellent model system to predict what happens in other higher living systems. We also have tissue culture facilities where students learn how to 'grow' normal and cancerous human cells outside of the human body and study the impact of certain medicines on them!

  • In Biology, our motto is "Biology is Wonderful, Get Involved" Our majors are strongly encouraged to get involved in student clubs and/or Honor Societies while keeping their academics as the main priority.  For example, most majors are members of the Biology Club. In addition, they join the pre-Vet Club, the pre-Dental Club, or associations like the Minority Association for Pre-Health Students (MAPS). etc., depending on their academic interests.  Many strive to seek admittance into Beta Beta Beta (TriBeta), the biological honor society as this is by invitation only. These clubs and Honor Societies sponsor several community outreach, fund raising and service activities.

  • The Phage and Genomics course is an elective for rising Sophomores. Since the Spring of 2011, the HHMI has sponsored the development and implementation of a two-semester course that represents a novel approach to the teaching of modern biology to lower-level undergraduate students. Offered for the first time in the 2011-2012 academic year under the direction of Dr. Joseph Ross, Associate Professor of Biology, and assisted by Dr. Shubha Ireland, Professor and Chair of Biology, Introduction to Phage and Genomics enabled sixteen sophomore biology majors to isolate their own harmless viruses from samples of soil and characterize them biologically and biochemically. Students were exposed to a variety of classical and modern techniques of microbiology, virology, molecular biology and biochemistry as they worked singly, in pairs and as a class to assemble a collection of viruses, purify them, obtain DNA from them and characterize the DNA chemically and physically. One sample of DNA was chosen and has been sent to a sequencing laboratory. In the second semester the students received considerable hands on experience in the use of modern software tools to characterize a viral genome at the nucleotide level: identifying genes, constructing a detailed map of the genome and using sequence comparison and analysis tools to suggest functions. Three students, McKenzie Moses, Wardah Mustahsan and Antonio Roberts will present the class's results at a symposium at the HHMI Janelia Farms Research Campus in June 2012. For more information, contact Dr. Joseph Ross. 

  • Last but not least, the Biology Department has a free resource center for learning, the Biology Resource Center, that is managed by Ms. Ebony Blackwell. Both Biology and non-Biology majors can receive help and extra tutoring from peer-tutors (selected by a selections committee in Biology) in General Biology 1230 and Biology 1240 lecture and labs. Assistance in more advanced subjects such as 2000 and 3000 level subjects like Microbiology, Biodiversity and Genetics is offered by experienced instructors who offer one-on-one academic assistance as well as review/recitation sessions for students outside the regularly scheduled classes.

Department of Biology


Norman C Francis Annex

Room 433

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