About the Major

At all levels, biology at Hamilton aims to offer a stimulating, thought-provoking experience, and classes are small. The emphasis on lab work and research gives students ample opportunities to apply what they learn outside the classroom. Many pursue summer research with professors, and all biology majors complete a research project through the Senior Program. 

Students Will Learn To:

  • Analyze and interpret original and published biological data
  • Apply the scientific method in a way that demonstrates comprehension
  • Communicate effectively about fundamental biological concepts using scientific language

A Sampling of Courses

Myrtle Spurge

Explorations in Biology: The Secret Life of Plants

A thematic course exploring five fundamental features of all biological systems, including structure and function, information flow, energy and matter, interactions, and evolution. Most ecosystems on Earth are shaped by plant life. While it may not seem like it, plants constantly do the same things we do: search for nutrients, secrete hormones, and defend themselves. In this course, we will explore the incredible adaptations plants use to survive and grow, compare these to adaptations of animals, and examine how plants provide the foundation for both ecosystems and human society.

Explore these select courses:

Biodiversity is one of our planet's most striking features, and both natural ecosystems and human society are structured by diversity in genes, species, and habitats. In lecture, we will explore global patterns of biodiversity and the biological processes driving these patterns. Additionally, we
will examine how people are threatening biodiversity across the planet, causing a new mass extinction event. For each threat to biodiversity, we will also discuss conservation and restoration strategies that can be used to protect biodiversity. In lab, we will quantify biodiversity in campus forests, and develop recommendations to guide the college's conservation and restoration efforts.

In this course we will integrate classical genetics, epigenetics, cell and molecular biology, and organismal approaches to the study of development. We will analyze a diversity of mechanisms, ranging from ones that set up pattern formation in the unfertilized egg to those governing morphogenesis of organ systems. Topics covered include embryogenesis, gene regulation, axis specification, morphogen signaling, stem cells, cloning, limb formation, and sex determination, as well as congenital defects and issues in human development.

A study of the fundamental functions of eukaryotic cells. The interrelationships of cellular structure and function, the cell cycle, protein trafficking and cellular communication will be examined through the study of neurons, the basic unit of the nervous system. Additional topics will include specialized activities of neurons. Three hours class and three hours of laboratory.

The relationship between animal behavior and disease is bidirectional: behavior can affect the likelihood of acquiring a disease, and disease can subsequently alter behavior. In this class, we examine the fundamentals of animal behavior (e.g., sexual selection, kin selection, social evolution, communication and signals, reproductive strategies) and apply them to current research on the ecology and evolution of disease. Discussion of foundational readings and the primary literature.

Study of computer-based approaches to molecular investigations: sequence variation, molecular evolution, functional and comparative genomics, and computational biology. Both literature-based lecture and training on the use of bioinformatic software are included.

Meet Our Faculty

Andrea Townsend

Chair and Associate Professor of Biology


behavioral ecology, disease ecology

molecular biology; molecular evolution; genome structures; and bioinformatics

Julian Damashek

Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology


Ecology, freshwater biology, marine biology, microbiology, biogeochemistry, bioinformatics, genomics

Rhea Datta

Associate Professor of Biology


gene regulation; patterning and morphogenesis; transcription factors and DNA-binding; regulatory DNA; developmental genetics; molecular biology; embryology; eye development

Peter Guiden

Assistant Professor of Biology


climate change; invasive species; novel ecosystems; plant-animal interactions; seed predation

Ariel Kahrl

Assistant Professor of Biology


evolutionary biology, reproductive physiology, and herpetology

Kyle Martin

Assistant Professor of Instruction Biology, Director of Microscopy


Microscopy, Biomedical Engineering

Mike McCormick

Chair of Geosciences, Professor of Biology, Joel W. Johnson Family Professor of Environmental Science


environmental geomicrobiology, specifically cell/mineral interactions; fate of environmental contaminants; solid-state respiration by bacteria; and molecular microbial ecology

Nicole McDaniels

Assistant Professor of Instruction in Biology


Natalie Nannas

Associate Professor of Biology


Genetics, molecular and cellular biology, bioethics, meiotic and mitotic chromosome segregation, spindle dynamics, fluorescence microscopy and live imaging

Noelle Relles

Assistant Professor of Instruction in Biology


biochemistry, genetics, and ecology labs; subject matter expert for McGraw Hill Education in physical and biological sciences

Patrick Reynolds

Associate Chair, Stephen Harper Kirner Professor of Biology


Marine invertebrate biology, particularly the evolution of Mollusca

Jason Townsend

Assistant Professor of Instruction in Biology


conservation biology, agroecology, ornithology, Nearctic-Neotropical migratory birds, and ecotoxicology

Careers After Hamilton

Hamilton graduates who concentrated in biology are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, including:

  • Zoology Professor, Ohio Wesleyan University
  • VP Investments, Smith Barney
  • Cinematographer/ Microbiologist, Wilderness Film & Video Productions
  • Editor, Horticulture Magazine
  • Dean for Translational Biomedical Sciences, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  • Orthopedic Surgeon
  • Chief, Post Conviction Unit, Philadelphia District Attorneys Office
  • Director, Wildlife Conservation Society
  • Professor of Clinical Anesthesiology, UCLA
  • Senior Policy and Research Analyst, Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Explore Hamilton Stories


Senior Theses Dig Deep, Demonstrate Knowledge Gained

Collaborating on data collection but analyzing different data for their theses, biology majors Saleh Eltayeb '24 and Simon Yan '24 examined how snow depth and temperature affect how long rodents forage and their specific foraging behavior, respectively.

Francesca Lanni ’22 holds a mouse while doing fieldwork.

No Spice for These Mice

A recent publication based on the senior thesis of Francesca Lanni ’22 revealed that, much like many humans, mice cannot take the heat — at least when it comes to their seeds.


Department Name

Biology Department

Contact Name

Andrea Townsend, Chair

Office Location
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

Site Search