Biology

Overview

Biology is a rapidly expanding, multifaceted discipline, full of possibilities for undergraduate research and for stimulating graduate study and employment after Occidental. Within an evolutionary framework, our program investigates the interactions between molecules, cells, organisms, populations, and ecosystems that constitute life on earth. Interdisciplinary and integrative by nature, the biology program at Occidental engages both majors and non-majors in a curriculum that emphasizes laboratory and field investigation. Our students are encouraged to collaborate with faculty mentors, whose research employs current methods in addressing questions from the molecular to the global in scale. Students acquire skills from careful observation through hypothesis formulation and experimental design to formal oral and written presentations of results. After participating in the biology program at Occidental College, students are prepared for rewarding work and lifelong learning, armed with the tools necessary to understand large complex data sets and help explain the intricacies of living systems. This rigorous program provides our students with the training to enter the work force after graduation and/or transition to an advanced degree program. After completing the major, many students elect to take graduate training toward the Ph.D. in biological sciences or doctorates of medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacy or dentistry. Many of our students complete Masters programs in Biological Sciences, teaching, environmental health and safety, and resource management. Receiving a degree in Biology at Occidental College enables our students to excel in any post-baccalaureate professional pursuit.

The Department of Biology is housed within the Bioscience building which is contiguous with the Moore Laboratory of Zoology. Facilities include the bird and mammal collections (70,000 specimens) of Moore Laboratory, greenhouses, facilities for microscopy (scanning and transmission electron and fluorescence), a tissue culture suite and fluorescence-activated cell sorter, fully-equipped molecular biology laboratories, field vehicles, and three research vessels for nearshore marine studies and SCUBA diving. Because of its proximity to the Mojave Desert, the Santa Monica, San Gabriel, and San Bernardino Mountains, and seacoast, Occidental College is ideally suited for field and laboratory studies of environmental biology.

Major Requirements

Individual Program

Organismal Biology

Students must select one course from the list below:

BIO 105Marine Biology

4

BIO 106Biology of California

4

BIO 110Organisms on Earth

4

BIO 115General Zoology

4

Cellular and Molecular Biology (2 courses)
BIO 130Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology

4

And

 

BIO 221Molecular Biology

4

Or

BIO 224Genetic Analysis

4

Or

BIO 226Cell Biology

4

Environmental Biology

Students must select one course from the list below:

BIO 106Biology of California

4

BIO 260Biodiversity and Organization of Marine Ecosystems

4

BIO 270Ecology

4

BIO 275Flora of Southern California

4

Evolutionary Biology
BIO 280Evolutionary Biology

4

Organismal Biology

Students must select one course from the list below:

BIO 240Vertebrate Physiology

4

BIO 250Plant Form and Function

4

BIO 275Flora of Southern California

4

Upper-division Biology

Students must select three 300-level Biology courses.

Senior Seminar
BIO 490Senior Seminar

4

SUPPORTING COURSEWORK

Students are required to complete five additional courses. Two must be in chemistry as detailed below and three additional quantitative courses.

Chemistry

CHEM 120Foundations of General Chemistry

4

Or

CHEM 130Advanced Placement General Chemistry

4

And

CHEM 220Organic Chemistry I

4

Quatitative Coursework
Calculus
Calculus 1Scientific Modeling and Differential Calculus

Students who pass out of Calculus I instead take an additional quantitative course form those listed below.

Data Analysis

Students must select one course from the list below:

BIO 260Biodiversity and Organization of Marine Ecosystems

4

BIO 268Biostatistics

4

COGS 255Data Analysis and Visualization

4

GEO 255Spatial Analysis with Geographic Information Science

4

MATH 150Statistical Data Analysis

4

PSYC 201Statistics in Psychological Science

4

Additional Quatitative Course

Students must complete one additional elective (or a minimum of four units) either from the list above or from the following list:

BIO 270Ecology

4

BIO 326Molecular Evolution and Phylogenomics

4

BIO 340Advanced Animal Physiology

4

BIO 369Biological Oceanography

4

BIO 370Field Ecology

4

CHEM 221Organic Chemistry II

4

CHEM 300Physical Chemistry I

4

CHEM 301Biophysical Chemistry

4

COGS 242Computational Approaches to Cognition

4

COMP 151Programming in Basic

2

COMP 157Programming in C++

2

COMP 161Programming in Java

2

COMP 165Mathematica

2

COMP 167MATLAB

2

COMP 211Introduction to Computer Science

4

COMP 311Data Structures and Algorithms

4

COMP 353Information Theory

4

MATH 210Discrete Mathematics

4

MATH 212Multivariable Calculus

4

MATH 214Linear Algebra

4

MATH 310Real Analysis

4

MATH 312Complex Analysis

4

MATH 320Algebra

4

MATH 322Number Theory

4

MATH 330Probability

4

MATH 332Mathematical Statistics

4

MATH 340Ordinary Differential Equations

4

MATH 342Partial Differential Equations

4

MATH 350Mathematical Logic

4

MATH 352Computability and Complexity

4

MATH 354Set Theory and Foundations of Mathematics

4

MATH 360Axiomatic Geometry

4

MATH 362Topology

4

MATH 370Numerical Analysis

4

MATH 380Combinatorics

4

MATH 382Graph Theory

4

MATH 392Mathematical Models in Biology

4

MATH 396Mathematical Modeling

2

PHYS 110Introductory Mechanics

4

PHYS 115General Physics I

4

PHYS 120Introductory Electricity and Magnetism

4

PHYS 125General Physics II

4

For 2-unit courses, students must complete two, 2-unit courses to fulfill one quantitative requirement.

Emphasis in Cell and Molecular Biology

Organismal Biology:

Students must select one course from the list below:

BIO 105Marine Biology

4

BIO 106Biology of California

4

BIO 110Organisms on Earth

4

BIO 115General Zoology

4

Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology

BIO 130Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology

4

Cell and Molecular Biology

Students must select two courses from the list below:

BIO 221Molecular Biology

4

BIO 224Genetic Analysis

4

BIO 226Cell Biology

4

Environmental Biology

Students must select one course from the list below:

BIO 106Biology of California

4

BIO 260Biodiversity and Organization of Marine Ecosystems

4

BIO 270Ecology

4

BIO 275Flora of Southern California

4

Evolutionary Biology

BIO 280Evolutionary Biology

4

Organismal Biology

Students must select one course from the list below:

BIO 240Vertebrate Physiology

4

BIO 250Plant Form and Function

4

BIO 275Flora of Southern California

4

Upper-division Biology:

Students must complete a total of three 300-level Biology courses. Two must be chosen from the list below:

BIO 320Developmental Biology

4

BIO 322Principles of Biochemistry

4

BIO 323Histology

4

BIO 325Microbial Diversity

4

BIO 326Molecular Evolution and Phylogenomics

4

BIO 330Immunology

4

BIO 333Neurobiology

4

BIO 340Advanced Animal Physiology

4

BIO 350Microbial Symbiosis

4

Senior Seminar

BIO 490Senior Seminar

4

SUPPORTING COURSEWORK

All Biology majors must complete the required Supporting Coursework requirements. Please see above for more detail.


Emphasis in Environmental Science

A minimum of 16 courses are required to complete this program.

Biology Foundation:

(Eight courses required)

BIO 130Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology

4

BIO 280Evolutionary Biology

4

Students must select one course from the list below:
BIO 105Marine Biology

4

BIO 106Biology of California

4

BIO 110Organisms on Earth

4

BIO 115General Zoology

4

Students must select one course from the list below:
BIO 260Biodiversity and Organization of Marine Ecosystems

4

BIO 270Ecology

4

Students must select one course from the list below:
BIO 240Vertebrate Physiology

4

BIO 250Plant Form and Function

4

BIO 275Flora of Southern California

4

Select three courses from the list below:
BIO 350Microbial Symbiosis

4

BIO 360Avian Biology

4

BIO 369Biological Oceanography

4

BIO 380Plant Physiological Ecology

4

Chemistry Component:

(Two courses required)

CHEM 120Foundations of General Chemistry

4

One other chemistry course with lab

Economics Component:

(Two courses required)

ECON 101Principles of Economics I

4

ECON 301Environmental Economics and Policy

4

ECON 301: Students may petition for another 300-level course to substitute for ECON-301. An appropriate substitute must deal with environmental policy and be chosen in consultation with Academic Advisor.

Geology Component:

(3 required)

GEO 105Earth: Our Environment

4

GEO 255Spatial Analysis with Geographic Information Science

4

GEO 245Earth's Climate: Past and Future

4

Mathematics Component:

Select one option as detailed below:

Option 1-
Calculus 2Scientific Modeling and Integral Calculus

Option 2-
MATH 110Calculus 1

4

And

Department-approved statistics course

Emphasis in Marine Biology

Students are required to satisfy all the requirements for the biology major and must take four of the following upper-division courses:

BIO 260Biodiversity and Organization of Marine Ecosystems

4

BIO 268Biostatistics

4

BIO 344Invertebrate Morphology and Physiology

4

BIO 356The Biology of Marine Fishes

4

BIO 369Biological Oceanography

4

GEO 245Earth's Climate: Past and Future

4

These courses may also satisfy biology major requirements. 

WRITING REQUIREMENT

Students majoring in Biology will satisfy the final component of Occidental College's campus-wide writing requirement by successfully completing two courses at the 300-level (or appropriate course work). Students should familiarize themselves with the departmental requirement at the time of declaring the major. See the Writing Program and consult the department chair for additional information.

HONORS

The Honors Program at Occidental College is designed to allow the superior student’s attention to be focused on a directed investigation for a sustained period of time. It is expected that students admitted to the College Honors Program will have established themselves as outstanding prospects for individualized work in the department of their major and will also have established themselves as doing work of very high quality in all that they have undertaken at Occidental. Student admission to the College Honors Program will be by formal action of the faculty in the student’s major department (taken from the College Catalogue statement on Honors).

Requirements

  • Student typically will have worked on a research project for 2 semesters (or 1 semester + summer session) minimum, before applying for honors
  • Student must have an average GPA of 3.25 (college policy)

Application Process

  • Student should discuss with their research mentor and submit an official Letter of Intent to the Biology Chairperson by the beginning of their senior year, or sooner.
  • The letter of intent should include a summary of research results (realized and projected), as well as significance of the research and any projects in progress at the time of submission.
  • Applications will be evaluated by the Biology faculty.
  • Students nominated for honors will be notified by the Biology Chairperson.

Completion Process

  • At the time of nomination, each candidate will be assigned an honors thesis committee of two Biology faculty members, in addition to their faculty mentor. This committee will be available for guidance and to help ensure that milestones are met in a timely manner.
  • Milestones will include a thorough literature review, written drafts of the introduction, methods, and results sections, including draft figures, and a final discussion section, as well as preparation of a public seminar.
  • The candidate must complete a written thesis of their work. It is expected that the student will spend part of their final semester or directed research writing the thesis.
  • The written thesis will be due to the mentor by Monday in the 4th week of February.
  • The revised honors thesis will be due to the committee by Monday in the 3rd week of February.
  • The thesis will be reviewed by committee, and final revisions must be submitted by the last day of March.
  • Honors candidates will also give a presentation on their research during the week of April 15. These presentations will last approximately 15 minutes, with 5 min for questions.
  • Honors grades are Pass/Fail and reported to the registrar by the Chair. The chair will inform the students of their grade when it is decided upon by the committee.

Minor Requirements

COURSEWORK

Choose two introductory courses:

BIO 105Marine Biology

4

BIO 106Biology of California

4

BIO 110Organisms on Earth

4

BIO 115General Zoology

4

BIO 130Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology

4

Upper-level electives

Choose three additional courses at the 200 or 300 levels, two of which must be taken in the Occidental College Biology Department. Independent Studies and Advanced Placement credit may not count toward the minor.

Graduate Study

Graduate study toward the degree of Master of Arts under the thesis plan may be undertaken in Biology by properly qualified students. Thesis projects may be elected in any of the following fields: cellular biology, developmental biology, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, neurobiology, biochemistry, comparative physiology, animal behavior, environmental biology, ecology, systematics and evolutionary biology, and marine biology. Graduate courses, numbered 500 and above, are valued at five units unless otherwise noted. Consult the department chair for further information on graduate studies.

Courses

Biology Courses

Faculty

Regular Faculty

Daniel Pondella, chair

Associate Professor, Biology; Director, Vantuna Research Group

A.B., M.A., Occidental College; Ph.D., UCLA

Renee Baran

Associate Professor, Biology; Advisory Committee, Biochemistry; Advisory Committee, Neuroscience

B.A., Macalester College; Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Elizabeth Braker

Professor, Biology; Advisory Committee, Kinesiology; Advisory Committee, Urban and Environmental Policy; Affiliated Faculty, Latino/a and Latin American Studies

B.A., Colorado College; Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Shana Goffredi

Associate Professor, Biology; Advisory Committee, Biochemistry

B.A., University of San Diego; Ph.D., UC Santa Barbara

Gary Martin

Professor, Biology

B.A., M.A., California State College, Sonoma; Ph.D., UC Berkeley

John McCormack

Assistant Professor, Biology; Affiliated Faculty, Latino/a and Latin American Studies

B.S., University of Arizona; Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

Gretchen North

Professor, Biology; Advisory Committee, Urban and Environmental Policy

John W. McMenamin Endowed Chair in Biology 

B.A., Stanford University; M.A., University of Connecticut; M.A., College of William and Mary; Ph.D., UCLA

Cheryl Okumura

Assistant Professor, Biology

B.A. Pomona College; Ph.D. UCLA

Roberta Pollock

Professor, Biology; Biochemistry; Advisory Committee, Biochemistry

B.S., Emory University; Ph.D., Harvard University

Joseph Schulz

Associate Professor, Biology; Advisory Committee, Biochemistry; Advisory Committee, Neuroscience

B.S., Indiana University; Ph.D., UC San Diego

Kerry Thompson

Associate Professor, Biology; Advisory Committee, Biochemistry; Advisory Committee, Neuroscience

B.A., M.A., Ph.D., UCLA

Amanda Zellmer

Assistant Professor, Biology

B.S. University of Wisconsin, PhD University of Michigan

On Special Appointment

Maria Adreani

Non Tenure Track Assistant Professor, Biology

B.S., University of California, Santa Barbara; M.A., Northeastern University; M.S., California State University, Northridge; Ph.D. Florida State University

Jeffrey Arendt

Non Tenure Track Assistant Professor, Biology

B.S., University of Illinois; Ph.D., Binghampton University

Mary Clark

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Biology

B.A., Occidental College; Ph.D., UCLA

Kristine Kaiser

Part-time NTT Visiting Assistant Professor, Biology

B.S., M.S., Cleveland State University; Ph.D., UCLA

James Maley

Collections Manager Moore Laboratory of Zoology

B.S., M.S., University of Alaska Fairbanks; Ph.D., Louisiana State University

Jane E. Mendel

Part-time NTT Assistant Professor, Biology

B.S., B.A., University of Mississippi; Ph.D., University of Tennessee

Karen Molinder

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Biology

B.A. Occidental, PhD U.C.L.A.

Dwayne Morris-Irvin

Part-time NTT Assistant Professor, Biology

Gary Schindelman

Full-time NTT Associate Professor, Biology

B.S., State University of New York at Binghamton; Ph.D., New York University

Jonathan P. Williams

Adjunct Instructor, Biology

B.S., UNC Wilmington, M.S., CSU Northridge

Laurel Zahn

Adjunct Instructor, Biology

B.S. University of California, Santa Cruz, M.S. California State University Long Beach