Degrees & Programs Biology
Dig deeper into the natural world as you explore living systems and human life in the lab and the field.
Work closely with Christian professors who introduce you to creative and rigorous scientific investigation in a classroom that includes the mountains, the coast and the Channel Islands. Through coursework and independent research, you learn laboratory techniques and field methods. You may even conduct advanced research with faculty and fellow students. Professors integrate biology and faith and discuss issues related to science, ethics and culture. Rigorous study combined with personal attention prepares you for rewarding and challenging work in the lab and the environmental, biotech and health fields.
Biology Tracks & Requirements
The biology department offers three options leading to a bachelor of science degree in biology—a general track providing a comprehensive introduction to all areas of biology, a more specialized track emphasizing cellular and molecular biology and a track emphasizing environmental biology and natural history. Each track is comprised of lower-division courses in biology, mathematics, and physical sciences, plus a variety of required and elective upper-division courses.
The bachelor of arts major in biology consists of lower- and upper-division course work in biology and supporting physical sciences and mathematics. The program is designed for students who wish to obtain a strong preparation in biology, while also obtaining a broader exposure to courses outside the major than is generally possible with a bachelor of science degree. See requirements here.
Biology Minor (20 Units)
- BIO 5, 6 General Biology I, II (4,4)
- Upper-division BIO Electives (12)
Biology majors may also be interested in completing an interdisciplinary Environmental Studies minor. Up to two upper-division qualifying Biology courses can be applied to the minor.
Click on the link to check out the ENV minor website, and contact Dr. Amanda Sparkman for more details.
Wherever your pre-health plans may ultimately lead you, they all share one key element: a strong foundation in biology. And Westmont's biology major is designed with this in mind.
Our classes will deepen your understanding of the wondrous complexities of the body. And our research experiences - including opportunities for discovery in neuroscience, hormonal regulation, and infectious disease - will train your mind to think scientifically and critically in a field that demands those skills. More importantly, these experiences are woven together with a consideration of the ethical and theological concerns that shape the practice of the health sciences - those "big picture" questions that are central to the work of any health practitioner. We invite you to a major that will not only prepare you for admission to a graduate program, but also provide you with tools of critical and Christian thinking that are vital to a career of service in the health industry.
Check out our pre-professional programs: pre-dentistry, pre-medicine, pre-vet, pre-nursing, pre-pharmacy, pre-PA.
Biology Faculty Highlights
She studies the evolutionary ecology of reptiles
She is an invertebrate zoologist working with Eastern Pacific gorgonian corals who loves spending time exploring tide pools up and down the west coast
His research explores a newly-discovered infection strategy used by the bacteria that cause whooping cough
He uses multi-electrode arrays (MEAs) to model human neurological disorders in the laboratory
Arthritic mice help her study autoimmune disorders
He’s an internationally known expert on biology, love and religious belief
She studies plant ecology, exploring avenues of restoration for chaparral plants suffering the impacts of disease, drought and fire.
Meet the Staff
Fire has played an integral role in shaping plant communities throughout California, yet today fire frequency, size and severity seem to be steadily increasing across the state. What are the causes and consequences of these changes?
This fall, Nicole Molinari, ecologist at the US Forest Service, was invited by the Biology Department to speak to Westmont about the complexities of this question, comparing the historical and current fire regimes in two dominant vegetation types in California- conifer forests and chaparral shrublands. She explored the drivers of changing fire regime (e.g. fire suppression, population growth, drought) within these two vegetation types as a platform to explore potential solutions to the problem.
The human population of Westmont comes and goes with the academic calendar, but the campus is a year-round home to countless other occupants, and many of them go unnoticed. Once you know where to look, however, the fascinating array of Westmont's wildlife is there to be discovered.
In celebration of these wild neighbors of ours, the Biology department has launched the Westmont Biodiversity website, housing a growing collection of photos, videos and audio recordings. Watch a bobcat creep along the edge of campus...learn what a Phoebe sounds like and where you might see one...see how small a Small Pointed Snail actually is!
See Westmont through new eyes at www.westmontbiodiversity.com! If you have material to contribute to the website, contact Dr. Amanda Sparkman.
This year, Westmont was pleased to host "HerpFest 2020."
HerpFest is a regional gathering of professional herpetologists and students who meet annually to present their work and create a network of support for research on reptiles and amphibians in southern California.
Beth Horvath has seen the publication of her large monograph on Gorgonian corals. It was published by ZooKeys as a Special Issue, #860, comprised of three separate articles in the one issue, and went public and on-line on July 4th—a unique form of Independence Day! As a result of this work, Beth is also listed as a co-author on the 2019 revised NOAA West Coast Deep-Sea species list.
Lab Coordinator Nick Taylor has been testing out motion-detector trail cameras on campus to collect preliminary data that will be useful for independent student research projects. So far he's captured a number of mammals on film, including striped skunk, raccoon, possum, gray foxes, and California ground squirrel. One camera even caught an owl in flight--most likely a great horned owl, which are commonly heard on campus at night.
Jeff Schloss spoke on “Cooperation and Survival in Evolutionary Biology” for Faraday Institute of Science and Religion at Cambridge University. He gave the opening and closing plenary lectures on “Evolutionary Explanations of Morality: Implications for Moral Realism” and “Red in Tooth and Claw?: Evolution and the Problem of Natural Evil” for national meetings of the Wesleyan Theological Society at Point Loma University. Jeff also led a seminar on “Beyond the ‘Or Wars’: Epistemological Conflict in the Battles Over Evolution” for the James Barrett Lecture Series in Humanistic Anthropology and the Public Discourse Project at the Humanities Institute of the University of Connecticut.
Amanda Sparkman collaborates with biologists from Iowa State University and Penn State on an NSF grant, “Integrated Physiological, Genetic, and Demographic Responses to Long-Term Habitat Change.” They study garter snake populations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the grant includes summer research fellowships for two Westmont students every year through 2020.
- Teaching (primary, secondary and college)
- Health sciences (M.D., P.A., nurse practitioner, D.O., dentist, chiropractor, pharmacist)
- Public health (epidemiology, policy, education, research)
- Museum sciences
- Wildlife biologist
- Park ranger
- Ecology and conservation biology
- Genetic counseling
- Environmental policy and law
- Sustainable development
- Veterinary medicine
- Pharmaceutical industry
- Environmental consulting
- Environmental education
- Intellectual property/technology law (J.D., L.L.M.)
Anthony Waldrup '11 works as a Watershed Restoration Project Manager in SW Washington state. "I absolutely love it" he says. "I'm able to collaborate with farmers, timber owners, local community members and others on projects that improve watershed health & function." Such projects include planting native riparian trees and shrubs, installing engineered log jams in rivers for fish habitat, and implementing beaver dam analogues to improve water/sediment retention. "I feel like my liberal arts education at Westmont really helped prepare me for this role that involves dialogue across multiple industries with a wide diversity of stakeholders."
Aaron Wilk ’16 graduated with a triple major in chemistry, biology and music. He writes "I'm currently an MD/PhD student at Stanford, studying Immunology. This year my work has pivoted completely to studying COVID: specifically what makes a good vs. bad immune response to COVID, and developing ways to turn a bad one into a good one. Still pursuing a career as a physician-scientist, I'm hoping to run a research lab in academic medicine while also seeing patients."
Mari Freitas '18 is currently working at the University of Minnesota while studying for her Masters in Public Health in Epidemiology. A TA at the University, she has also been hired at the Minnesota Dept. of Health to work on infectious disease studies. She says: "I wouldn't be here without the support of my professors at Westmont, especially Dr Julio and Dr McQuade, who inspired me to pursue a degree in epidemiology."
Katie West '18 graduated from Idaho State with a Masters degree as a Physician Assistant. She is now living in Boise and working in Dermatology.
Stephen Howe '15 defended his PhD in Biomimicry and Biomechanics this year - over Zoom! - at the University of Akron. "I studied fish swimming behaviors; specifically how fish turn."
Aaron Barnes ’12 is doing his residency in vascular surgery at Dartmouth Medical School.
A specialist in the narrow field of radiation oncology, David Bush ’86 treats cancer patients from around the country. He works as a physician and professor at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif., which has pioneered the promising technology of proton radiation therapy. He contributes valuable research about this form of treatment, seeking ways to help heal people with cancer.
Sarah Bryan '13 completed medical school at St. George's University in the Caribbean, and is now doing her residency in internal medicine at MountainView hospital in Las Vegas. "I'm likely going on to pursue an emergency medicine fellowship after this," she says.
After finishing medical school at Loma Linda, Ben West '15 came back to Cottage Hospital in SB for internship and is now an Ophthalmology resident at UC Davis. "One of the highlights of the past few years was getting to go back to Ensenada with Potters Clay and help out the Med/Dent team! I am still so grateful for my time at Westmont and I hope everyone in the Bio department is doing well."
Kaitlyn Lewis '14 graduated with her Masters in Medical Science and is currently working in LA as a Physician Assistant, engaged in COVID testing among low-income city residents.
After graduation, Brandon Coble '14 taught with Catalina Environmental Education Program (CELP) and with LA County Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. "With CELP I took students of all ages on ecological adventures, to teach them about the environment and how they could live more sustainably. Many had never been in the ocean before, so it was a fun challenge for me and them to go snorkeling, kayaking, and see what God's creation holds." Nowadays Brandon uses his chemistry and general science background in his work at CalPortland Cement, where he manages a lab. He & his team are developing specialty concrete mix designs for high-profile projects in the LA metro area (think LACMA and LAX). Brandon adds: "I am thankful daily for the well-rounded education I received at Westmont, which gave me the tools to grow."
Erin LeVoir '15 is completing her third year of medical school in New Orleans, having done years 1 and 2 in Queensland, Australia. "I moved to New Orleans at the beginning of 2020, just in time to escape the Australian fires and jump right into the COVID-19 pandemic," she says. "Navigating a pandemic from this perspective has been fascinating and challenging." After discovering a love for "all things brain-related", she will apply for residencies in neurology after getting her MD in 2021.
Mark Duncan '10 works as a hospitalist at the University of Colorado Hospital, where he is now an Assistant Professor. "I get to do a fair amount of teaching," he's glad to say.
Stephen Avila '14 hopes to complete his MD and business concentration in May 2021, at which time he'll head from Indiana U back to Santa Barbara to get married! "I'm going into neurology and currently doing some Moyamoya disease research and some business consulting for ENT clinics on the side." He hopes to do his residency in California so as to be near his father who has made a full recovery from invasive Stage IV cancer. Currently enrolled in pharmacy school at USC,
Macy Gipson ’19 plans to earn her doctorate in Pharmacology over the next four years. She is concurrently working on her Ph.D. in pharmacogenetics, which will take an additional three years, so she can practice as both a pharmacist and a scientist.
Mary Elizabeth Heard '18 is working on a women-focused social enterprise that she started in a small southern village in India. She is also researching different sustainable agricultural methods that have been used to create job opportunities for village people there. She has spent time in Dehradun where an organization is doing research on how sustainable farming can alleviate poverty.
Torin Shaikh '14 had two passions at Westmont: baseball & biology. After graduation he played professional baseball in Japan for two years before returning to join his family's optical & aerospace manufacturing business in California: TFD Inc. He explains: "The business is built upon Thin Film technologies such as High Vacuum chambers, Plasma Vapor Deposition, and other manufacturing methods similar to semiconductor work. Starting as a Process Engineer I'm now VP of Production/Engineering. It's been rewarding to learn mechanical & chemical engineering from a Biology background, and I couldn't have gotten this far without my time at Westmont."