At Lawrence you won’t just study biology; you will do biology.

One of our largest majors at Lawrence, the biology program’s coursework and collaborative research with faculty will help you study and apply your talents to create new knowledge. Experimental work increases in sophistication as you flex your creative muscles and synthesize new information with previous discoveries.

Since biological entities span a range from macromolecules such as DNA and proteins within cells, to organs such as animal hearts or plant leaves, to entire ecosystems, you’ll be exposed to the breadth of biology through courses, labs, local and global field experiences and research. Your path toward the major will be unique.

We believe that all individuals can become biologists, and we welcome diverse perspectives. We acknowledge, and apologize for, explicit and implicit actions that each of us have taken that have perpetuated norms of white supremacy in our classrooms and on our campus. The Biology Department statement on Anti-Racism and our update to that statement provide details of how we are working to make our program more inclusive every day. 

  • Understanding how living things work
  • Understanding how living things interact with their environments and with each other
  • Conducting research with others and on your own
  • Human health and public health
  • Ecology, animal behavior, plant biology, marine biology
  • Genetics, cell biology, microbiology, molecular biology, immunology, and more!


Life After Lawrence

Lawrentians enjoy careers in...

Research (recent areas include molecular genetics, marine biology, human genetics, and more), medicine (cardiology, radiology, pediatrics, internal medicine, surgery, sports medicine, and more), wildlife biology, nursing, veterinary medicine, physical therapy, sports medicine, genetic research, education (elementary, secondary, collegiate), biotechnology, hospital administration, law, marine biology

Recent employers include...

Mayo Clinic, 3M, U.S.D.A., U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, New Jersey State Academy for Aquatic Sciences, Shaw Group (environmental consulting), Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, University of California-San Diego

Lawrentians earn advanced degrees in...

Marine biology, biology, biotechnology, ecology, medicine, microbiology, veterinary medicine, nursing, dentistry, law, physical therapy, business

Recent schools include...

(MD) Dartmouth, Mayo Clinic, Medical College of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah; (DDS) Iowa, Louisville, Marquette and Michigan; (PhD) Boston University, Chicago, Emory, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Penn State, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Wash U, University of Washington, UC-Riverside, Wisconsin; (DVM) Minnesota, Wisconsin; (MPH) Columbia, Duke, Emory, Johns Hopkins, North Carolina, Wake Forest

Get research experience from day one

In your first year, you’ll work in small groups with faculty members on a co-designed research project, building skills in experimental design and implementation, data analysis and scientific presentation. You'll build on this with courses covering the diversity of organisms and experimental design and analysis, followed by more research opportunities through upper-level courses and Lawrence University Research Fellowships.

Dive deeper with the Lawrence University Marine Term Program

Marine biology at a land-locked college? Yes! Take courses on coral reef ecology, environmental microbiology and ecological energetics, and spend two weeks on a Caribbean island, diving to undertake a census of coral reef biodiversity and complete a self-designed research project.

Explore ecology, cell biology, and genetics

With upper level courses in aquatic ecology, terrestrial ecology and plant ecology you can sample lakes and rivers and search for bats and bugs in fields and woodlands. In cell biology, you will create a portfolio of images using our confocal microscope (check out the video below). In genetics you can map genes and fingerprint DNA.

Share your research during BioFest: Senior Symposium

What biology topic are you especially passionate about—dance-based physical therapy, dental abnormalities, fungi soil remediation... or something else we haven't explored yet?  At BioFest you will communicate your research to the Lawrence campus and Appleton community in the format of your choice, such as a research poster, sculpture, website, or podcast. (And it will become part of your post-Lawrence portfolio.)

The Biology Curriculum

  • Integrative Biology:
    Cells to Organisms
  • Integrative Biology:
    Organisms to Ecosystems
  • Integrative Biology:
    ​Experimental Design and Statistics
  • Principles of Chemistry: Energetics and Dynamics
  • At least seven courses in intermediate and upper-level biology, at least five of which must be lab courses
  • Completion of Biology Senior Experience.

Course descriptions and more courses


Update to Biology Department Anti-Racism Pledge
15 January 2021

On June 10, 2020, every member of the Biology Department publicly signed a letter in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and our commitment to reaffirm or implement anti-racist and inclusive approaches in our teaching and mentoring. We openly acknowledged and apologized for times when we have fallen short of our ideals and values, and we pledged to, individually and collectively, self-reflect and take actions intended to dismantle the norms of white supremacy at Lawrence.

While we had originally planned on bringing forward individual initiatives, we now believe a model with a greater emphasis on collective behaviors, interactions, and accountability will be both more effective and in line with our values. One essential component of working within a collective framework is that it will allow for us to help each other identify the unintentional actions, behaviors, and biases that each of us may exhibit at the various organizational levels in which we navigate. We want to follow up with you about our plans as we work to identify the explicit and implicit behaviors and policies that create inequities in our classes and lab, on our campus, and in our wider scientific and local communities.

Given the inextricable link between power and the maintenance of structures that uphold the norms of white supremacy, we are actively seeking ways to utilize our power and privilege at various levels within the organizational structures that we navigate to endorse antiracist policies. Last summer several faculty members in the department participated in the community read of Ibram X Kendi’s book How to be an Antiracist. Kendi emphasizes how “[t]here is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups (pg. 18)”. We have reflected and identified 4 broad organizational levels in which we will be collectively reflecting, reporting, and dialoguing on about how to work towards dismantling white supremacy culture in each of these spaces throughout the upcoming months. Furthermore, we have all committed to initiating changes in the areas in which we have most agency:

a. Classroom
b. Research labs, advising, and career advising
c. Department
d. University (Committee Assignments & Campus Level Initiatives and Projects)
e. Wider Scientific and Local Communities

Our current detailed approaches are as follows (thus far):
1. At the classroom level, we will continue our introductory course redesign funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for inclusive pedagogy (working groups separated by instructors of 130, 150, and 170). However, we will increase the prioritization of specific items within these individual groups related to dismantling white supremacy in the classroom and add a monthly agenda item at a department meeting for group check-ins and communication explicitly connected to these discussions (see previous document from June for specific examples). We expect this work to then extend to our upper level courses as we identify successful approaches.
2. Continue to provide research opportunities and paid employment (teaching assistants, stockroom workers, lab assistants, and tutors) equitably. We will give particular attention to supporting students from groups traditionally marginalized by science in our hiring practices and our associations with groups like Wisc-AMP, SACNAS and other professional societies.
3. At the Department Level, we are working on examining our own styles of communication, our methods of making decisions, and whether we need to further clarify specific roles and obligations in the department. Our department commits to having discussions about how white supremacy culture has impacted our work and is seen in any of our policies.
4. We will think critically about the processes, policies, and decisions that are being made in the committees and other campus initiatives that we contribute to. We will keep anti-racism explicit in the front of our minds as we work to consider the impact of the work we are doing. We will appoint a tenured-member of the department on a rotating basis to serve as a diversity and inclusion advocate to view our decision-making processes through an antiracist lens.
5. Wider work within our respective scientific and local communities will vary by faculty member. Current examples include:  recruiting traditionally marginalized voices in editorial work, participation in diversity initiatives that address issues of systemic racism in professional societies, foster a local and diverse community of citizen scientists, and work to establish paid internships to support students from underrepresented backgrounds. 
6. We are making space to listen, provide feedback, and hold each other accountable for the actions that we pledge to take. We plan to utilize department meeting minutes to document our plans and actions. It is not our intention for accountability to be punitive but rather to serve as a guide in which to further build and support each other.

We recognize that this is a living document that will continue to evolve along our collective and individual journeys towards antiracist ideals.

The Chandler Senior Experience

Purposeful advising in spring of sophomore year, and attendance at BioFest will spark you to think about what you want to undertake for your culminating project. At a weekend Björklunden retreat during junior year, you’ll brainstorm project ideas and further sharpen your focus. Internships, LU Research Experiences and tutorials may shape your project further, which you’ll launch prior to Term II of your senior year.  (More about Biology Senior Experience available in the Course Catalog.)

A sample of recent Senior Experience projects:

(all designed by Lawrentians with their professors)


Fox Valley Bat Detectives: Using Citizen Science Acoustic Bat Monitoring to Understand Local Bat Activity

The Effect of Hierarchical Relationship on Social Behavior in a Troop of Japanese Macaques

A Secret to the Synapse? Investigating Targets of the Transcription Factor, DAF-19, in the Nervous System of C. elegans.

Effects of Toxic Cyanobacteria on Feeding and Reproduction Ecology of a Copepod from Green Bay, Lake Michigan

Navajo Tea: A Traditional Navajo Medicine and a Promising Cancer Therapeutic

Hands-only CPR in India