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

  • Medical imaging physicist and faculty member, Duke University Health System
  • Land stewardship assistant, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Iowa
  • Biology professor, Austin College, Texas
  • Nephrology fellow, Duke University, North Carolina
  • Dentist, U.S. Navy
  • Senior environmental engineer, General Motors of Canada, Ontario
  • Scientist, Genentech, San Francisco
  • Sr. research associate, DuPont Pioneer, Des Moines
  • Orthopedic surgeon, California Orthopedic Institute, San Diego, Calif.
  • Research scientist, EMD Millipore, Boston


  • 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)

Jordan Wachter

Jordan Wachter

Jordan Wachter plays football, studies biology, reads poetry and plans to enter the health care field.

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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.

  • Duke University School of Medicine
  • University of Iowa, dentistry
  • Virginia Commonwealth University, forensic science
  • University of Newfoundland, microbiology
  • The University of Kansas, pharmaceutical chemistry
  • Colorado State University, organic chemistry
  • McGill University - Macdonald Campus, agricultural engineering


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
  • Northwestern University, Chicago
  • National University of Mexico, Yucatan
  • Minnesota DNR, St. Paul
  • 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 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
  • 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 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.


Internship of a Lifetime

Internship of a Lifetime

Ashley Radig’s summer work will help others with her diagnosis.

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Summer Research Crew
Summer Research Crew

Twenty-three students turned full-time researchers this summer. They investigated bats, bees, polymers, criminal sentencing and more — and received research grants to do it!

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In their own words: Central alums reflect on grad school
In their own words: Central alums reflect on grad school

Recent graduates look back on what helped them succeed in grad school, and how their liberal arts background prepared them for the future.

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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.