The Biology Program provides you with a solid and comprehensive foundation in the biological sciences, preparing you to enter a variety of professional fields or continue your education in graduate school or in a health-professional program.
As a Biology major at MacMurray College, you are offered a broad background in biology with concentrations in the following areas:
- General Biology
- Cell & Molecular Biology
- Environmental Biology/Ecology/Zoology
- Health (Pre-Professional)
You gain experience in the laboratory and field through coursework, research opportunities, and career experiences. You will participate in collaborative learning through group projects and may gain leadership experience as undergraduate science mentors.
At MacMurray, you have opportunities to learn beyond the classroom through field trips to regional museums, zoos, and scientific laboratories. In addition, students have the following opportunities to expand their knowledge and experience.
Participate in Scientific Research
Motivated students may actively participate in scientific research. Students may assist faculty in experimental design and/or data collection during the academic year while earning credits toward graduation, or they may choose to gain research experience during the summer at various off-campus sites. Research experience is vital for students intending to pursue graduate studies in biology.
Study Biology Around the World
MacMurray College offers a variety of study abroad experiences to its students. Students may choose to participate in a week-long trip during spring break; an extended study abroad trip, such as a 2-3 week trip during May term; or a semester-long program. The Population Biology & Management course focuses on the animal and plant species of southern Florida, and students recently traveled to West Africa as part of an Ecology & Conservation course. By traveling to other parts of the world to study biology, students not only become better trained biologists, but they gain a greater appreciation of cultural diversity. Potential employers view these experiences as indications that students can adapt to new situations and work well with others.
Become an Undergraduate Science Mentor
Select students may choose to become an undergraduate science mentor for a specific biology, chemistry, or physics course. These upper-level students will help their peers with note-taking, preparing for laboratory activities, and will facilitate study sessions. In turn, the mentors gain leadership experience and a more in-depth understanding of the science. Students seeking entrance into professional or graduate school, or anyone that wishes to work as part of a group in a scientific setting, would gain from this opportunity.
Your Career in Biology
With a degree in biology, you will have a wide range of potential careers, including a health professional, a laboratory scientist, a conservation biologist, an athletic trainer, or a scientific researcher (just to name a few). Our graduates have been accepted to such advanced-degree programs as the St. Louis University's Physician Assistants program and Washington University's Physical Therapy program, and they are working for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
Learn more about Biology courses and how to pursue a degree in Biology through our academic catalog.
BIOL 109. Human Biology. (3) The study of the biology of the human organism, with emphasis on physiology and pathology, including nutrition, reproduction, and substance abuse. Additional topics include bioethics, human ecology, genetics, and evolution. Three class hours per week. No prerequisite. Not to be taken for credit in the Biology major Health track. Students cannot get credit for both BIOL 109 and 110. Offered every other spring.
BIOL 110. Human Biology. (4) The study of the biology of the human organism, with emphasis on physiology and pathology, including nutrition, reproduction, and substance abuse. Additional topics include bioethics, human ecology, genetics, and evolution. Three class hours and two laboratory hours per week. No prerequisite. Not to be taken for credit in the Biology major Health track. Students cannot get credit for both BIOL 109 and 110. Offered every other spring.
BIOL 112. Animal Behavior. (4) Why do animals do what they do? This course provides an overview of the scientific study of animal behavior, including discussions of current scientific literature. Lab exercises will provide experience using quantitative research tools and techniques employed in laboratory and field settings. These exercises will emphasize how simple studies integrate behavioral methods with hypothesis testing, experimental design, data analysis, and presentation of findings. Three class hours and two laboratory hours per week. No prerequisite.
BIOL 120. Medical Terminology. (3) This course is designed to develop skills for understanding and effectively applying medical terminology. It will emphasize facts, concepts, and technical vocabulary pertaining to both health and illness. Three class hours per week. Prerequisite: one semester of biology. Offered every fall.
BIOL 121. General Biology I. (4) Introductory course that covers fundamental concepts of cell composition, metabolic processes, and introductory genetics. Three class hours and three laboratory hours per week. Prerequisite: high school biology or consent of instructor. Offered every fall.
BIOL 122. General Biology II. (4) Second introductory course for students needing two semesters of biology. Covers evolutionary and ecological principles and processes and the diversity and complexity of living organisms. Three class hours and three laboratory hours per week. Prerequisite: BIOL 121 or permission of instructor. Offered every spring.
BIOL 209. Microbiology. (4) Survey of the physiology, morphology, and ecology of bacteria and viruses. Emphasis is on medical microbiology. Three class hours and three laboratory hours per week. No prerequisite.
BIOL 211. Global Environmental Issues. (3) This course will cover a variety of current environmental challenges facing people around the world. Students will learn the basics of environmental biology, the threats to natural systems, and possible solutions to those threats. Emphasis will be placed on how religion, culture, and politics influence our relationship with the environment and how decisions are made about how to utilize, preserve, and/or extract resources from the natural world. Three class hours per week. No prerequisite.
BIOL 220. Plants in Society. (4) This course uses a multidisciplinary approach to examine the important relationship between plants and people. Students will take part in an in-depth examination of past and present roles of plants in human society. Lectures cover the historical development of human migration and agricultural practices, ethnobotany, conservation, and plant diversity on both a local and global scale. The role of biotechnology in food production and pharmaceuticals is also investigated. Classes will include a combination of lectures, laboratories, field trips, and student-led seminars throughout the course. Three class hours and two laboratory hours per week.
BIOL 241. Contemporary Issues in Biology. (3) This course examines how biology relates to our everyday lives. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the basic biology and recognizing areas of controversy within public health, research, environmental biology, and population biology. Three class hours per week. No prerequisite.
BIOL 308. Genetics. (4) The principles of heredity with an emphasis on molecular genetics. Topics include implications of genetic engineering, human genetics, gene expression, and its control. Three class hours and three laboratory hours per week. Prerequisite: BIOL 121. Offered every spring.
BIOL 312. Zoology. (4) Explores the form, function, behavior and ecology of animals in an evolutionary context. Starting with sponges, different phyla are examined with respect to their external and internal features. Three class hours and three laboratory hours per week. Prerequisite: two semesters of biology.
BIOL 317. Cell and Molecular Biology. (3) An in-depth study of cellular processes from a molecular point of view. Three class hours per week. Prerequisite: BIOL 308. Offered every odd year in fall.
BIOL 320. Human Anatomy and Physiology I. (4) The study of human organ system structure and function. Representative diseases/disorders are selected for each unit with pathophysiological processes stressed. Topics covered are cytology and histology, plus the integumentary, skeletal, muscular, nervous, and sensory systems. Three class hours and two laboratory hours per week. Prerequisite: one semester of biology or chemistry. Offered every fall.
BIOL 321. Human Anatomy and Physiology II. (4) The study of human organ system structure and function. Representative diseases/disorders are selected for each unit with pathophysiological processes stressed. The systems covered are endocrine, immune, cardiovascular, respiratory, urinary, digestive, and reproductive. Three class hours and two laboratory hours per week. Prerequisite: BIOL 320. Offered every spring.
BIOL 333. Biochemistry. (4) The basic concepts which give rise to the vast diversity of biochemical processes in living organisms. Topics include basic enzymology, anabolism and catabolism of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and nucleic acids, generation of energy, and selected topics from physiological biochemistry. Three class hours and three laboratory hours per week. May be taken for biology or chemistry credit (see CHEM 333). Prerequisites: CHEM 331 and two semesters of biology. A second semester of organic chemistry is strongly recommended.
BIOL 347. Independent Study. (2-4) A project to be conducted with faculty supervision. Prerequisite: permission of individual instructor. Offered on demand.
BIOL 350. Biology Research Methods. (3) This course offers students a comprehensive understanding of research design, data collection and analysis, and presentation of scientific findings. Students will develop and complete scientific investigations, analyze their data using statistics, and create poster presentations of their results. Three class hours per week. Prerequisite: PSYC 221 or BUSA 367.
BIOL 361. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. (4) This course provides an in-depth analysis of ecological concepts and evolutionary theory. Lecture topics will include natural selection, phylogenetics, coevolution, species interactions, and ecosystem ecology. Laboratory activities will focus on methodology for ecological sampling, population dynamics, and ecosystem ecology. Three class hours and three laboratory hours per week. Prerequisites: BIOL 121 and 122.
BIOL 420. Topics in Science. (2) A comprehensive examination and analysis of selected biological topics. Involves the use of primary literature and seminar presentations. Two class hours per week. Prerequisites: senior standing in Biology and course in statistics (BUSA 367 or PSYC 221). Offered every spring.
BIOL 479. Undergraduate Science Mentor. (2-3) The goal of this course is to provide the student one-on-one mentoring with a faculty member in Biology in order to provide the student with individualized guidance in science theory and/or advanced laboratory/field skills. Practical application to peer mentorship is a crucial aspect of this course meant to strengthen science fundamentals and leadership skills essential for careers in the biomedical, physical and laboratory sciences, and field biology, as well as in teaching. Two credits for lecture or laboratory-only participation, or three credits for lecture and laboratory course participation. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.
BIOL 497. Senior Thesis in Science. (2-4) Development, execution, and presentation of biological research project under supervision of faculty. Prerequisites: junior or senior standing and permission of specific thesis instructor. Offered on demand.
Dr. Nadine Szczepanski '79
Lead Faculty for Natural Sciences, Horace A. Shonle Professor of Chemistry
"I love teaching at MacMurray because I love interacting with our students. I like helping them to learn chemistry and helping them to become successful in their chosen fields. I enjoy really getting to know them as people and watching them become confident adults by the time they graduate."
- Areas of interest: Dr. Szczepanski has a special interest in applied chemistry. Currently she is collaborating with a Mac student on a research project with the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association. They are studying the chemistry of wines and the IGGVA is conducting a sensory analysis. They are trying to correlate the chemistry of wines with sensory appeal.
Before Dr. Szczepanski came to MacMurray, she worked for the Illinois EPA as an analytical chemist, at Owens-Corning studying coatings for composites, at Avery International studying pressure sensitive adhesives, and at Mead Corporation studying carbonless copy papers. She has a US Patent for her invention of a novel carbonless copy coating.
Dr. Szczepanski is also interested in how chemistry is taught internationally. She has served as a mentor for the US National Chemistry Olympiad team for several years and as a judge at the International Chemistry Olympiad in the Republic of Georgia in 2016.
- Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry — University of Illinois at Chicago
- M.S. in Chemistry — University of Illinois at Chicago
- B.S. in Chemistry and Psychology — MacMurray College
- Courses taught: General Chemistry I and II, Organic Chemistry I and II, Quantative Analysis, Organic and Biological Chemistry
Dr. Gwen Knapp
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry
"I love teaching at MacMurray because I really get to see the evolution of my students as they become successful in their chosen careers."
- Areas of interest: Dr. Knapp is interested in the genetic regulatory mechanisms of bacteria.
- Ph.D. in Biochemistry — Texas A&M University
- B.S. in Molecular Genetics — Purdue University
- Courses taught: General Chemistry, Biochemistry, Organic and Biological Chemistry for Non-majors
Dr. Tim Polnaszek
Assistant Professor of Biology
"The learning community here at MacMurray is great! I've only been here for a short time but am already greeted by many students and faculty by name around campus. Glad to be part of #MacFam!"
- Areas of interest: Dr. Polnaszek is interested in animal decision making and cognition, and has done research with woodchucks, blue jays, and bumble bees. Outside of academia, he loves spending time with his family, and they especially like camping, hiking, and enjoying the outdoors together. Dr. Polnaszek also enjoys board games, yard games, and other competitive endeavors. His most favored outdoor sport to play is Ultimate Frisbee, and he is in the process of gathering faculty, staff, and students on campus to take part in the fun.
- Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior — University of Minnesota
- B.S. in Zoology — North Dakota State University
- Courses taught: Ecology and Evolution, Global Environmental Issues, General Biology II
Dr. Kristie Wrasman
Assistant Professor of Biology
"I love seeing students get excited about learning."
- Areas of interest: Wrasman is interested in studying the relationship between genetic variation and phenotypic variation in cells.
- Ph.D. in Cell Biology — Johns Hopkins University
- B.S. in Molecular Genetics — The Ohio State University
- Courses taught: General Biology I, Cell and Molecular Biology, Genetics, Microbiology
Ashley Huels '19
"After completing my internship, I am more confident and excited to take the next step in my educational and professional journey."