Hands-on learning and research — in the classroom, through field opportunities and via one-on-one mentorships — is how Central College's biology department will help you stand out. You'll gain significant experience using state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment in Vermeer Science Center and at our 79-acre Carlson-Kuyper Field Station, strengthening your resume for future employers and graduate or professional programs.

As a biology major at Central, you'll benefit from many sought-after internship and research opportunities alongside expert faculty — some as early as your sophomore year. Or take advantage of in-depth, hands-on experiences within a range of healthcare fields. Central students find this type of early participation contributes greatly to making them top candidates for prospective employers and graduate programs.

of biology majors are admitted into their first- or second-choice grad school
  • 43% of biology majors enter graduate or professional school after graduation
  • The Arthur J. Bosch Endowment for Student Research supports research between students, faculty and alumni

The Real World


Successful Careers

  • Rachel Spooner ‘15, neuroscience graduate research assistant, University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Annette Dean ‘15, NSF Graduate research fellowship and Ph.D. candidate, University of Wisconsin
  • Shannon Coulson ’15, research associate in tumor immunology, NewLink Genetics, Ames
  • Hannah Davy ’14, clinical review technician, Prime Therapeutics, Eagan, Minn.
  • Brandon Clough ’13, environmental analyst, state hygienic lab, University of Iowa
  • Rhiley Huntington Binns ’13, programs presenter, Science Center of Iowa, Des Moines 
  • Athena Bowen Puski ‘12, genetic counselor, University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Clinic
  • Andrew Roberts ’12, production scientist, Integrated DNA Technologies
  • Brianne Nederhoff ’11, physician assistant, Cedar Valley Otolaryngology and Facial Reconstructive Surgery
  • E. Keith Bowers ‘08, assistant professor of biology, University of Memphis
  • Pam Sagraves Soltis '80, researcher, professor and curator, University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History, National Academy of Sciences 


  • Bio-Chem Club
  • SCATE (Students Concerned About the Environment)
  • Tri-Beta (national biological sciences honor society)
  • Health Professions Club

Erich Thalacker

Erich Thalacker

"I have been part of original summer research at Central College and Oklahoma University."

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Graduate Placement

Thanks to rigorous coursework and research opportunities, 92 percent of biology students who applied to graduate school were accepted into a program of their choice.

  • Colorado State University, organic chemistry
  • Des Moines University, osteopathic medicine, physician’s assistant, physical therapy
  • Duke University School of Medicine
  • Iowa State University, college of veterinary medicine, ecology, biology
  • John’s Hopkins School of Nursing
  • Marshall University, forensic science
  • McGill University, Macdonald Campus, agricultural engineering
  • Palmer College of Chiropractic
  • St. Louis University, occupational therapy
  • University of Iowa, dentistry, medical school, physical therapy
  • University of Kansas, pharmaceutical chemistry
  • University of Nebraska, Omaha, biology
  • University of Newfoundland, microbiology
  • University of Northern Iowa, biology
  • University of Michigan, public health
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, genetics
  • Virginia Commonwealth University, forensic science


Central's biology department equips students for future research with hundreds of internship opportunities, which prepare students for graduate school and post-graduate experiences.

  • Baylor School of Medicine
  • Eurofins Scientific
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources
  • Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge
  • Nature Conservancy of Iowa
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Ohio State University Cytogenics Lab
  • Kemin Industries
  • Northwestern University, Chicago
  • National University of Mexico, Yucatan
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. Paul
  • Peace Corps
  • Pella Regional Hospital
  • Teach for America
  • World Food Prize Foundation, Des Moines

Courses & Faculty

Introductory courses such as Introduction to Cells and Diversity of Life lay the foundation for the biology major. In the second year, students begin to explore biology more deeply in ecology and genetics. Both the junior and senior years include research opportunities, seminars and electives in a student’s specific area of interest.

Electives include botany, human anatomy, animal biology, microbiology, tropical ecology, evolutionary medicine, conservation biology, aquatic toxicology and many others.

Learn more about biology in the course catalog.

Biology photo
Meet the faculty:
  • Glenn Barnett, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biochemistry, interest areas include biochemistry and molecular genetics
  • Russ Benedict, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Professor of Biology, interest areas include prairie ecology and restoration, conservation biology and natural history, mammalogy
  • Anya Butt, B.A., M.S., Ph.D., Professor of Biology, interest areas include geospatial technologies and applications, water resources, geosciences, natural disaster resilience and global health
  • Ellie Du Pre, B.S., Ph.D., Professor of Biology, interest areas include histology, human anatomy and physiology, epidemiology and environmental endocrine disruptors
  • Lee Macomber, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology, interest areas include transition metal uptake, utilization and toxicity using bacteria as model organisms.
  • Paulina Mena, B.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology, interest areas include understanding how organisms adapt to their environment and what role their chromosomal architecture plays in that process
  • Nicole Palenske, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology, interest areas include human anatomy and physiology, environmental physiology and aquatic toxicology
  • Kristin Siewert, B.S., M.S., Lecturer of Biology, interest areas include Wetland ecology, restoration ecology, monarch biology and ornithology
  • Paul Weihe, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology, interest areas include wetland ecosystems, ethnobotany, ecology and environmental science

Sample Schedule

First year
  • General Chemistry
  • Introduction to Cells
  • Organic Chemistry I
  • Diversity of Life
Sophomore year
  • Organic Chemistry II
  • Principles of Ecology
  • Genetics
  • Math and computer science requirement
Junior year
  • Math and computer science requirement
  • Biology electives
  • Study abroad
Senior year
  • Biology Seminar
  • Evolution
  • Biology electives

The Central Difference

Play a Role in Changing the World

We face enormous global problems — and expanding opportunities — especially in the areas of social, medical and environmental issues. Biologists have an important role to play, individually and as team members. Discover the many ways you, as a Central biology major, can make a positive impact on the future of humankind and our planet. At Central, we'll help prepare you for an extraordinary life of professional achievement and personal satisfaction.

Make Valuable Professional Connections

You’ll have countless opportunities to learn and meet leaders in the health field through the Heartland Global Health Consortium. Central is a founding member of the consortium, which consists of 10 Iowa-based institutions, collaborating on educational and research opportunities in global health.

Other recent conferences include:

  • Council on Undergraduate Research
  • Heartland Global Health Consortium Conference
  • Iowa Academy of Science
  • Iowa Prairie Conference
  • North American Congress on Conservation Biology
  • Society of Ecological Restoration
  • Upper Midwest Association for Campus Sustainability

Take Advantage of Rare Research Opportunities

You’ll conduct hands-on research with Central faculty members and others to gain early and significant experience in all levels of research, from hypothesis building to data analysis and communicating results at scientific meetings.

During summer breaks, the Arthur J. Bosch Endowment for Student Research supports collaborative research projects with faculty and alumni, including topics like the impact of drought on prairie plants and the distribution of the endangered Indiana bat.

Biology students are also encouraged to study abroad on one of Central’s international programs, such as the Yucatan peninsula where students can observe varied habitats such as salt marshes, mangrove swamps, rocky and sandy beaches and rainforests. In Merida, students can also intern at a local hospital or veterinary clinic.  

It’s experiences like these that take your college career to the next level — and get the attention of employers and graduate schools.

Learn in Nationally Recognized Facilities

Feel confident you are immersed in a progressive community. Central’s Vermeer Science Center was awarded the silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating from the United States Green Building Council, the first LEED-rated building in the state. Students have direct access to classrooms and laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation and presentation technology. Additionally, several parks and wildlife areas are within 10 minutes of campus, including Lake Red Rock, Iowa’s largest lake.

Learn More

Want to find out more about biology at Central? Contact us to learn more about this major and our other strong academic programs. Visit campus to observe classes and experience The Central Difference firsthand.