Central College’s biology department is committed to hands-on learning and research in the life sciences through classroom and field opportunities and one-on-one faculty mentorship. Students have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment in the Vermeer Science Center and the nearby 79-acre Carlson-Kuyper Field Station. Central biology graduates are currently changing the world as clinical and environmental researchers, field biologists, college professors, high school teachers, doctors, veterinarians, nurses, dentists, occupational therapists and more.

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

  • Land stewardship assistant, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Iowa
  • Biology professor, Austin College, Texas
  • Nephrology fellow, Duke University, North Carolina
  • Dentist, U.S. Navy
  • Orthopedic surgeon, California Orthopedic Institute, San Diego, Calif.


  • Bio-Chem Club
  • SCATE (Students Concerned About the Environment)
  • Tri-Beta (national biological sciences honor society)
  • Health Professions Club
  • AWARE (Acquiring Wellness and Rural Education)

Athena Bowen

Athena Bowen

Athena Bowen ’12 spent a summer analyzing dicentric chromosomes with a leading leukemia researcher and fellow Central alumna.

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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.

  • University of Iowa, dentistry
  • Virginia Commonwealth University, forensic science
  • University of Newfoundland, microbiology


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

  • Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge
  • Nature Conservancy of Iowa
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Ohio State University Cytogenics Lab

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 mammalogy, prairie ecology and restoration, conservation biology and natural history
  • Anya Butt, B.A., M.S., Ph.D., Associate 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 and Pre-Health Coordinator, interest areas include histology, human anatomy and physiology, epidemiology and environmental endocrine disruptors
  • Paulina Mena, B.S., Ph.D., Assistant 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., Assistant 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 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

Changing the World

The faculty and students in the biology department truly believe in changing the world. Globally we are facing enormous problems as well as expanding opportunities. This is especially true in the areas of social, medical and environmental issues. Each of us has a role to play, and a biology major can have a global impact on the future of humankind and the planet.

Research Opportunities

Opportunities to conduct hands-on research are an integral component of the biology program at Central. Students conducting research with Central faculty members gain experience in all levels of research, from hypothesis building to data analysis and communication of results at scientific meetings.

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.

The Heartland Global Health Consortium

The Heartland Global Health Consortium provides students with many opportunities to learn and meet leaders in the health field.  Central is a founding member of the consortium, which consists of 10 Iowa-based institutions, collaborating on educational and research opportunities in global health.  

Support for Student Research

Funding for research in biology is made possible through the Arthur J. Bosch Endowment for Student Research, which supports collaborative research projects with faculty and alumni during summer breaks. In the past, students have studied the impact of drought on prairie plants and the distribution of the endangered Indiana bat.


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, the largest lake in Iowa.


Making the Most of Central

Making the Most of Central

Dancer, softball player, biology and mathematics double major Shannon Coulson ’15 is taking advantage of all Central has to offer.

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Ask an Alum: What is Crystallography?
Ask an Alum: What is Crystallography?

Did you know there’s a real-life version of “X-ray vision?” It’s called crystallography, and Marvin Hackert ’66 is one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject.

The post Ask an Alum: What is Crystallography? appeared first on Civitas.

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Health Care in Cameroon
Health Care in Cameroon

Brett Rozeboom ’16 was as well prepared as he could be for his six-week medical internship in Cameroon. A biology major from Sioux Center, Iowa, Rozeboom spent nine months planning the trip with the Luke Society of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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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.