Department of Biology

About Us

What majors and minors are offered?

The Department of Biology offers seven different undergraduate majors and a minor in Biology. Students with diverse interests in biology can complete a Bachelor of Science degrees majoring in Biology or Natural Science in Biology that will prepare them to enter the workforce or pursue postgraduate training. Students can focus their undergraduate experience by pursuing the major in Biology with Zoology Concentration or the major in Biology with Botany Concentration. The Major in Biology with Health Science Concentration prepares students for medical school, dental school, veterinary medicine school, and other professional health programs. The Bachelor of Science degrees majoring in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and in Biotechnology prepare students for work in the life sciences industry or graduate school. For certification in secondary science teaching, Missouri Western offers a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Natural Science in Biology for Secondary Teachers. Students can pursue a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Wildlife Conservation and Management for work in wildlife and environmental sciences or graduate schools in these areas.

Why should I major in biology?

Advances in all areas of biology are reshaping our understanding of the natural world and our place in it. According to Freeman Dyson, “Biology is likely to remain the biggest part of science through the 21st century.” Steve Jobs said, “I think the biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning.” The realization of these bold predictions begins with undergraduate students who major in biology and find ways to participate in the new era of biology.

Why should I choose this biology program?

  • The program has a variety of majors and courses that students can use to tailor their undergraduate experiences.
  • Almost all biology major courses include laboratory components that are taught by biology faculty members. All faculty members in the program hold PhDs in their respective fields.
  • The program has a strong emphasis on Applied Learning, with opportunities for undergraduate research during the academic year and in the summer. A high percentage of students present their findings at professional meetings. Students can also pursue a variety of internships, service, and travel abroad opportunities.
  • The program is housed in a newly renovated science building and has access to modern laboratory equipment.
  • Students have access to outdoor resources on campus and nearby for courses and undergraduate research activities.
  • Students in the program get to know their professors, who are dedicated to advising students formally and informally.
  • Faculty members have ties with industry and agencies and can provide professional connections for students.

What is accreditation?

National accreditation is one way to ensure the quality of the program you choose. The organizations providing accreditation ensure the program meets certain standards of quality.

  • The Bachelor of Science majoring in Natural Science in Biology for Secondary Teachers is fully accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
  • The Bachelor of Science majoring in Wildlife Conservation and Management degree is one of only two programs in the state of Missouri to offer all of the required courses for certification as a Wildlife Biologist by The Wildlife Society.

What graduate schools and programs are your graduates attending?

Many of our graduates have gone on to graduate school to earn a Masters or a PhD in one of the disciplines of biology. Our students have attended graduate schools throughout the country, including the University of Missouri, the University of Kansas, Duke University, and the University of Pittsburgh. Our students have also been admitted to professional schools such as the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, just to name a few.

As a high school student, how should I prepare for a biology degree?

High school students who have completed at least three years of high school science, and mathematics through advanced algebra are best prepared for the field of biology.

What type of student succeeds in the field of biology?

Biology is a constantly growing field, with new areas of interest and study available all the time. Students that are highly motivated and have a problem-solving orientation are most likely to succeed. The ability to think outside the box and the desire to ask questions and seek answers will help students succeed.

What is the typical class size?

Freshman biology class lectures are taught in standard lecture halls of 60 to 100 students, and freshman biology lab sections have less than 24 students. Upper division classes, both lectures and labs, often have 10 to 20 students, allowing both the professors and students to have more personal interaction and focus on class topics and discussions.

What opportunities do students have to work with faculty?

Students have numerous opportunities to work closely on a one-on-one basis with faculty throughout their academic career. Faculty-sponsored internships and student research projects give students opportunities to work with professors on new or ongoing research projects. Students can participate in summer research through the Program of Research, Teaching, and Applied Learning (PORTAL). Students have the opportunity to assist professors as teaching assistants or to help with the operation of the department as a student worker.

What student organizations are available?

  • Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society
    Beta Beta Beta is the Honor Society for Biology students who have an interest in contributing to the field of biology through research, education, and community service.
  • The Wildlife Society
    The Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society is a professional development organization for students preparing for careers in wildlife biology, conservation and management. This internationally award-winning organization provides members opportunities to gain leadership, professional, and skill set development through applied and experiential learning outside the traditional classroom format.
  • Pre-Professional Club
    The Pre-Professional Club provides students interested in health professions programs with opportunities to learn about strategies and tips for applying to professional school, meet representatives from professional schools, and develop shadowing and internship opportunities.

What type of awards have your faculty and students received?

  • Biology students have won awards for their research presentations at regional, national, and international meetings such as district and national meetings of the Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society, the Heartland Undergraduate Biochemistry Forum at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and the international Genetically Engineered Machines competition.
  • Biology faculty members have been recognized for their teaching and research excellence with the Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Missouri Western Board of Governors Distinguished Professor Award, the James V. Mehl Outstanding Faculty Scholarship Award, the Missouri Western Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Award, and the Jesse Lee Meyers Excellence in Teaching Award.
  • The Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society was awarded the International Chapter of the Year Award in 2011 and 2013.
  • The Psi Chapter of the Beta Beta Beta National Honors Society Chapter was awarded the SGA Organization of the Year Award in 2014.

What types of grants has your department received recently?

  • Grants from the National Science Foundation totaling over $4 million.
  • Grants from the Missouri Department of Conservation totaling over $250,000.
  • Grants from the Environmental Systems Research Institute totaling $160,000.
  • Grants from the National Institutes of Health totaling $136,000.
  • Grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service totaling $10,000

Does your department have any partnerships with medical schools?

The department has formed partnerships with four medical schools in Missouri to offer admission to qualified Missouri Western Biology majors.

  • Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences: Early Matriculation Partners Program
  • A.T. Still University’s Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine: Still Scholars Early Acceptance Program
  • University of Missouri – Kansas City, School of Medicine: Medical Scholars Program
  • University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Medicine: Bryant Scholars Program

Does the department have any direct interaction with the community?

The department’s student organizations are involved in numerous service projects such as street and trail clean-up, Girl Scout Merit Badge workshops, stream teamwork, quail surveys and volunteer as naturalists for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Faculty members serve on various community boards and volunteer for community projects throughout the year. They also work with students on their projects and host many community and school groups that tour the department.