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Dr. Kat’s List: Five Colleges for Biology

Biology might seem like it’s just slides, cells, microscopes, and DNA models, but there’s a lot more to it than sitting in a lab all day.

From conserving farm and grazing land, to developing new disease-resistant plants, to researching cures for a myriad of diseases, there’s a lot of biology that goes into making sure the things you use every day, especially during the holiday season, are safe for you and the environment.

There are many different elements of the study of biology that can prepare you for a job in the lab or out in the field. From the micro to the molecular, here is Dr. Kat’s List of schools for biology fanatics.

Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Stanford University in Stanford, CA has an academic reputation that precedes itself, but its marine biology program is one for the history books. Founded in 1892 as the first marine laboratory on the west coast, the Hopkins Marine Station is an 11-acre campus on Cabrillo Point that houses 10 faculty members and 40 graduate students in the biology department.

Located 90 miles from Stanford’s main campus, the Hopkins Marine Station boasts state-of-the-art laboratories and an extensive library of marine science books, journals, and other resources. Undergraduate marine biology majors can take courses in oceanography, environmental and comparative physiology, and conservation biology, to name a few. Classes are offered throughout the year, and even non-Stanford students interested in marine biology can take classes at Hopkins during the summer. Its close proximity to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary makes it a prime spot to research a diverse range of marine and plant life.

Stanford’s marine biology program isn’t just fieldwork and labs, however. Students have the opportunity to expand their understanding of marine life and science through courses like Views of a Changing Sea: Literature & Science, where the study of fiction and non-fiction literature is coupled with examining scientific journals to understand the state of the planet’s changing oceans and sea life throughout modern history.

Since opening in 1891, this private university has grown from its original student body of 555 to include over 15,700 students from over 90 countries. Students can participate in any of the school’s over 650 clubs and organizations, and about 25% of students participate in fraternities and sororities. For those students looking for a more diverse experience, Stanford offers over 80 different undergraduate housing facilities, including academic, language, and cross-cultural houses.

Tufts University, Medford, MA
Biology may seem like just cells and microscopes, but at Tufts University biology students study all facets of bioscience, from biochemistry to conservation and evolution. Collaboration across all bio concentrations is what makes the program at Tufts stand out from the average curriculum.

Students and faculty across all concentrations frequently collaborate and learn together, and they are required to take courses covering cellular and organism biology, which includes plant development, neurobiology, population biology, animal behavior, and marine biology.

As a strong research institution, undergraduate biology students at Tufts are also encouraged to participate in a variety of research opportunities, like the Sackler School’s summer research program, where undergraduate biology majors work on popular research projects alongside graduate students.

Can’t find a research opportunity that meets your academic interests? No problem. Through the Tufts Summer Scholars program, students can submit their own research proposals for a variety of initiatives. If approved, students receive stipends and grant money to carry out their research with a mentor.

The spirit of collaboration at Tufts doesn’t end with the biology department. This private, research university offers over 100 majors and minors whose departments frequently work together to create a comprehensive and collaborative learning environment for the school’s nearly 10,700 students. Tufts also offers over 200 student clubs and organizations, so there’s no shortage of on-campus activity.

Tufts has a strong research focus, but it is also known for its stellar study abroad programs. About 40% of Tufts students participate in study abroad programs in places like Chile, Ghana, China, France, and Japan, to name a few.

Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO
With over 5,000 acres of campus located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado State University (CSU) in Ft. Collins, CO is in the perfect spot for the outdoor adventurer looking to get some hands-on biology research experience. The fish, wildlife, and conservation biology program at CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources is one of the best in the nation and was the first to emphasize the importance of public input in the planning and execution of wildlife policy and conservation.

What’s so unique about CSU’s program is the opportunity for hands-on research in the field. What’s better than fieldwork? How about a field in the middle of the Rocky Mountains! Since 1916, students have participated in a variety of field-based programs at Pingree Park, CSU’s mountain campus located at 9,000 feet in the mountains of the Mummy Range.

During the one-month summer courses at Pingree Park, students live and work in the mountain cabins and classrooms, learning the fundamentals of a variety of disciplines, including plant-life biology, research, and wildlife conservation. It’s not uncommon for mountain lions, moose, and a variety of other animals to wander onto the campus, creating unique opportunities to view and interact with nature while studying biology.

CSU, known for its commitment to wildlife biology and conservation education, also offers over 65 other majors, 412 student organizations, and 35 honor societies to its 25,000 students. This public, state university attracts students from all over the world, and offers 15 different residential learning communities based on academic majors and language-learning communities.

Frequently ranked in Money Magazine‘s “Best Places to Live,” Ft. Collins is located just north of Denver and boasts a plethora of award-winning restaurants, shops, and outdoor activities. CSU students can attend one of the many festivals held at the Old Town Square, see a concert at the Aggie Theater, or go for a bike ride along the trails above the Horsetooth Reservoir.

Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa, NC
At a school where community service and work experience are deeply embedded in its academic approach, it’s no wonder Warren Wilson‘s biology program affords students the rare opportunity to not only learn, but get hands-on experience in several biology fields.

Warren Wilson’s biology program offers students the opportunity to study a wide variety of concentrations, from ecology and genetics to microbiology and plant evolution. Biology students must take a comprehensive core curriculum that includes chemistry, physics, mathematics, and, in some cases, education and environmental studies.

In conjunction with the school’s emphasis on experience and work-based learning, all biology students are also required to conduct an independent research project and present it in the school’s Natural Science Seminars.

Students can also apply to work on the biology and environmental studies or forestry crews where they maintain the labs and equipment and aid research opportunities. This is another unique way students gain hands-on experience working in a biology lab or in the field conducting experiments and managing complex scientific equipment.

This private, liberal arts college sets itself apart not only with its stellar biology program, but also with its overall approach to education across all majors. Warren Wilson’s curriculum, called “the Triad,” is composed of three areas: academics, work, and service. The school’s 1,000 students must complete 100 hours of community service over four years and 15 hours a week on a university-sponsored work crew, in addition to course requirements, in order to graduate.

Located in the Swannanoa Valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Warren Wilson campus includes over 300 acres of farmland, 600 acres of forest, and 25 miles of hiking trails. Students often spend their weekends enjoying the sights of Asheville and Black Mountain, or stay close to campus to take advantage of the extensive outdoor activities

University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
For a program with a more traditional curriculum, but also a strong focus on collaboration, the University of Rochester‘s biology program combines the College of Arts and Science and the School of Medicine and Dentistry to provide a variety of courses and seminars for undergraduate students.

UR’s program prepares students for a variety of careers in biology, as well as for medical school. Many courses combine research and scientific principals with technical writing, reading, and reasoning skills. In Evolution Writing and Topics on Drug Development, students combine research and writing skills to complete scientific papers on topics and issues outside of the laboratory.

To supplement classroom learning, UR biology students also conduct independent research through academic year programs for credit, as well as summer research through the DeKiewiet Summer Fellowships.

With over 200 majors, UR’s academic excellence extends far past the biology lab. Located in Rochester, NY, UR is a private, research university with close to 9,300 students from all 50 states and over 50 different countries.

There is never a shortage of activities for UR students. 25% of UR students are members of a fraternity or sorority, but with over 200 student clubs and organizations, there’s something for everyone on campus. Every spring the school also holds Dandelion Day, a day of celebration, music, food, and other activities as a reprieve from the stress of exams. Past musical performers at Dandelion Day include Reel Big Fish, Eve 6, and OK Go.

So whether you’re looking to save the sea’s fish from pollution and overfishing, attend medical school to become a pediatrician, or if you’re interested in researching a cure for cancer, these five schools have great programs that will prepare you for a plethora of careers. Other schools that take biology to the next level include the University of Washington, Emory University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Johns Hopkins University.

From the lab to the classroom, we wish you the best of luck in your college search!

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