Feb 28, 2024  
Butler University Bulletin 2023-2024 
Butler University Bulletin 2023-2024

Biological Sciences

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Philip J. Villani, PhD, Department Chair

Jennifer R. Kowalski, PhD; Travis J. Ryan, PhD; Carmen M. Salsbury, PhD

Associate Professors
Sean T. Berthrong, PhD; Shelley Etnier, PhD; Lindsay K. Lewellyn, PhD; Kyryll Savchenko, PhD; Christopher C. Stobart, PhD; Andrew M. Stoehr, PhD; Philip J. Villani, PhD

Assistant Professors
Nathanael R. Hauck, PhD; Benjamin Spears, PhD

Senior Lecturers
Marva Meadows, MS; Michael P. Trombley, PhD

Instructors and Lecturers
Julia Angstmann, PhD, Director, Center for Urban Ecology; Marika Harrison, MS; Hilary Madinger, PhD; Ashlee Tietje, PhD; Jamie Valentine, MS

Department Website

Why Study Biology?

Biology is the study of living things, including plants, animals, and microbes. A major in biology will provide you with a broad education in the biological sciences, exposing you to many different facets of this diverse science. Biological sciences is a liberal arts major, and therefore it is largely about teaching students how to learn and think about the world. Students will develop an understanding of the scientific method, a process that develops analysis and reasoning skills.

Students will learn to think logically, for example, by designing and following an experiment through to its conclusion and analyzing the results. Many students do not realize the amount of creative thinking and problem-solving skills that also go into biology; these will be developed as well. Biology majors also have the opportunity to hone their communication skills, both oral and written, as they present the results of their experiments.

While many of these skills are emphasized in the classroom, independent research projects with faculty members and external internships afford many students the opportunity to apply these skills to real questions and problems.

A biology degree is versatile. While many students major in biology as a precursor to medical or dental school, there are a number of other fields that students may pursue as well. Students may go on to work as lab technicians at hospitals, or at the state crime lab; others may go on to teach at the primary, secondary, or college level. Many choose to pursue environmental careers, such as working in forestry or parks, or even as an environmental lobbyist. Many biology majors choose to go on to graduate school, where they pursue research in genetics, ecology, cell biology, medical research, or any other of the wide variety of fields in biology. Many other career opportunities are available in biomedical research, agriculture, and environmental management, among other fields.

Why Study Biology at Butler?

The Department of Biological Sciences offers a curriculum emphasizing broad training in biology as the key to success in graduate school, professional school, teacher education, and technical careers. The major is built upon a strong foundation of core courses in the liberal arts, general biology courses, and biology electives to meet student interests. Students studying science should be exposed early and often to the methods of discovery, inquiry, and problem solving used by scientists to explain the natural world. Our faculty members are familiar with these methods as we apply them in our individual research programs, and we strive to develop such capabilities in our students.

Therefore, we give our students opportunities to actively use the tools of scientific investigation in the lab and the field through a variety of courses at the molecular, cellular, organismal, and population levels of biological organization.

Personalized attention is an important aspect of studying biology at Butler. Our biology class sizes are small relative to those at many institutions; even most of our introductory classes typically have fewer than 30 students, and many upper-level courses have fewer than 20 students. Classes are thus interactive learning environments that foster not only hands-on scientific inquiry skills but also communication and critical-thinking skills that serve students well no matter what professional path they may choose after graduation. 

The low student-to-faculty ratio also provides opportunities for students to gain more intensive experiences through independent study with a faculty mentor. During the academic year, students are welcome to register for research credits.

Another popular option, the Butler Summer Institute, is a nine-week program in which participants undertake independent projects they design with a faculty mentor. Student research is frequently showcased during the annual Butler Undergraduate Research Conference, which attracts college students throughout the Midwest each spring to present their research results to their peers. Students may also apply for funds to travel to other regional or national meetings via the Holcomb Undergraduate Grants program. Finally, students often coauthor papers with faculty members for publication in professional journals or presentation at conferences. For example, recent joint student-faculty articles have been published in Biochemical Genetics, Evolution, Journal of Experimental Biology, Journal of Herpetology, Urban Ecosystems, and Animal Behavior.

Students studying biology at Butler also have opportunities for off-campus study, internships, and career exploration through special affiliated programs. For example, the Center for Urban Ecology educates and engages Butler students and citizens in the local community about the discipline of urban ecology and aims to create “citizen scientists” dedicated to continued stewardship of the natural world. Students can attend workshops, take classes, devise independent research projects, or participate in internship opportunities in ecology and environmental topics. Another option, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, is dedicated to understanding tropical biodiversity. The Butler-STRI partnership includes opportunities for students to serve as paid interns in Panama for existing research projects conducted by STRI scientists and for students to engage in new research initiatives with Butler faculty in Panama. Further, the partnership includes two field-based courses taught on site in Panama by Butler biology faculty. Students may also want to apply for biology internships, which are available throughout Indianapolis, the state of Indiana, and surrounding states.

Some students choose a major in biology as a gateway toward a career in health-related fields. Butler students who have qualified themselves with outstanding academic performance in the major have had great success in entering professional schools in medicine, dentistry, optometry, physical therapy, and veterinary medicine. Students receive individual advising by faculty on the selection of courses that will both satisfy the minimum entrance requirements and prepare them well for the professional school of their choice.

In addition, the pre-professional school advising area within the Center for High Achievement and Scholarly Engagement plans cocurricular activities, maintains a reference library of useful publications, and coordinates the application process.

Biology Student Learning Outcomes

We expect that students will be able to show mastery of various types of learning during their progression through different types of courses in the major. By the time they complete the biology major, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate content knowledge and proficiency in using and explaining techniques essential to the study of fundamental areas of biology: genetics, cellular and molecular biology, and ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Use and apply scientific literature properly to ask and answer questions in the biological sciences
  • Design experiments and collect, analyze, and interpret data using graphical and statistical analyses, in order to evaluate hypotheses
  • Communicate scientific ideas, concepts, and findings through writing and speaking
  • Evaluate the reciprocal ways in which scientific endeavors and inherent structural inequities impact scientific progress, societal practices, and the people who get to contribute to and benefit from science.   
  • Articulate the historical and current contributions of diverse ideas, experiences, and backgrounds to the advancement of science and the betterment of society.  

Degree Programs

  • Major in Biology (BS, BA)
  • Minor in Biology




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