From the smallest molecule, to the largest biome, the study of biology crisscrosses the living world, charting its processes and problems. It’s about finding a new species of insect; it’s about biomedical breakthroughs; it’s about discovery.

Why study Biology at Sewanee?

Through both laboratory and field courses, Sewanee biology students explore the fundamental understanding of biological complexity. More importantly, our students are exposed to the pressing questions that remain in these dynamic disciplines.  The Sewanee biology curriculum is based on a rigorous intellectual foundation that equips our majors for success in many different areas after graduation.

  • Ecology and Biodiversity: Studying biological complexity from genes to ecosystems and their response to human interactions.
  • Molecular Biology: Understanding the fundamental building blocks of life through the exploration of genes and their impact on cell function.

  • Integrative: Explores the interconnectedness of life with a focus on the structure and function of organisms.
First Destinations: Biology majors

Sewanee graduates secure positions in a variety of fields. Some you would expect, others, are a bit of a surprise. Sewanee prepares you for your profession and your passion. Below is a sampling of recent graduates' first job.

  • Community Health Promoter, Peace Corps, Lima, Peru
  • Research Associate, Yale Child Study Center, New Haven, CT.
  • Investment Research, New Capital Partners, Birmingham, AL.
  • Research Associate, DeCode Genetics, Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Trauma Sales Associate, Stryker Orthopedics, Baton Rouge, LA
Graduate School & Preprofessional Programs: Biology Majors

Sewanee graduates enjoy extraordinary acceptance rates to top graduate and preprofessional programs–about 95 percent to law school and over 85 percent to medical school. Below is a sampling of where Sewanee grads continue their education.

  • Medical degree program, medicine and public health, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.
  • MSN. advanced nursing program, Johns Hopkins University.
  • Ph. D. biology program, Duke University.
  • Ph. D. neuroscience program, Oregon Health & Science University.
  • M.S. cancer science, The University of Glasgow

Stress Test

A Sewanee biology professor and her students look to shed new light on an age-old debate—by scaring some tiny fish.

Behind an unmarked door on the ground floor of Woods Labs, Katie McGhee is studying tiny fish from Lake Cheston as she seeks to tease out clues to one of the great puzzles of human life. It’s a question that has vexed everyone from philosophers and criminologists to biologists and theologians: What makes us the way we are? Nature or nurture?

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"If you're a student who is interested in being outside and studying the natural world and being able to do that at any time, Sewanee is the place for you."

What we teach

What students research


Kristen Cecala studies the patterns and processes contributing to changing amphibian distributions in the face of landscape changes including land-use and climate change. She is specifically interested in linking observational and manipulative experiments to explore mechanisms of change. Her research also contributes towards development of comprehensive management strategies for freshwater ecosystems.


Kirk Zigler studies the evolution and development of invertebrate animals, and is particularly interested in cave biodiversity. Contact him for more information about research opportunities in these fields.


Nancy Berner studies acclimation — a process by which organisms modify their phenotype to match their environment. In particular, Dr. Berner studies mechanisms controlling seasonal acclimation — reversible phenotypic changes brought on by changes in season — in the Eastern red spotted newt.


Elise Kikis studies the aberrant proteins that underlie neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s Disease. Huntington’s Disease is one of several autosomal dominant disorders in which a polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion leads to “toxic gain of function” caused by the adoption of a misfolded or aggregated state associated with proteotoxicity. Contact her for more information about research opportunities in her laboratory.


Jon Evans studies the dynamics of plant populations and the processes that determine the composition and structure of plant communities over time and across landscapes. He is specifically interested in the role of clonal growth as a mechanism for population persistence in plant communities. As a conservation biologist, he studies the consequences of land-use history, global climate change, and exotic species introductions on long-term change in ecological communities.


Programs of Study

Students select one of three major tracks in Biology:

Requirements for the Minor in Biology

Requirements for the Major and Minor in Biochemistry 

Meet our faculty


Alyssa R. Summers
Chair and Associate Professor of Biology, Director of Office of Medical and Health Programs

Spencer Hall 177, Ext. 1856

The Domain: An Immersive Experience