Biology

The Department of Biology

Biology students and faculty at Amherst are engaged in studyingContact: Biology Dept. Amherst College
Amherst, MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2097 biology@amherst.edu

how living organisms function, develop, reproduce, interact, behave, and evolve. We offer courses for students with career interests in biology, and courses for students who are not majoring in science but who wish to study modern biology as part of liberal arts education.

Close collaboration between faculty and students is a hallmark of Biology at Amherst.  Several opportunities exist for students to join a research laboratory, including working part time as a research assistant during the academic semester, undertaking an independent (or special topics) study, or full time as a fellow in the summer months.  In addition, we have a robust departmental honors program often involving research completed during both the summer and senior year and a great track record of sending students to the best graduate and professional schools in the country.   

Faculty and students frequently travel to and give presentations at national scientific conferences, and publish jointly authored articles.  Link to faculty profiles that highlight research and publications with students or to a list of departmental publications.

The departmental 3+4 committee is a a student-faculty group working toward increasing communication among students and faculty within the Amherst College Biology Department. While their chief role is to be an outlet for majors' comments, concerns, and suggestions about the Department and the classes that it offers, they also coordinate a variety of academic and social events for the Department.  Current members of the 3+4 committeee.

Female student working at microscope.


Tags: 

RECENT NEWS:

2014-15 HONORS INVITATIONAL


An information session for the 2014-15 Honors Program in Biology will be held on February 26, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. in MERR 3.  The Biology faculty will discuss the Honors Program, their own research fields, and how to sign up for the program. (18 February 2014).

INFORMATION SESSION: 5 COLLEGE SUMMER INTERNSHIP


On February 10, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. in MCLS 428 there will be an Information Session for those who may be interested in applying for a paid, 10 week summer internship through the Five College Coastal & Marine Sciences NOAA Summer Internship Program.  The application deadline is March 3, 2014. (31 January 2014).

BIOL-454 FIELD TRIP TO COSTA RICA


The students enrolled in this spring’s “Seminar in Tropical Biology” (BIOL-454, Professor Clotfelter) got a head-start in their studies with an Interterm field course in Costa Rica.  While in Costa Rica they studied the biota of three terrestrial habitat types (lowland tropical forests, montane cloud forests, and tropical dry forests) as well as the invertebrates of the rocky intertidal zone.  Learning alongside local specialists, the students learned more about taxonomic groups that are particularly significant in the tropics, such as bats, ants, and epiphytic plants.  Students conducted independent research projects on herbivory, pollination, butterfly activity patterns, and the community ecology of decomposers.  They will build upon these independent projects, and pursue new research topics, in the seminar to follow in the spring semester. Trip highlights. (22 January 2014). 

Students from BIOL-454 on Costa Rica hillside, Interterm 2014

 

GERALD R. FINK ’62 BIOSCIENCE SYMPOSIUM 2014


HEALTH CARE TODAY: RESEARCH, TEACHING, CLINICAL APPLICATION, AND COMMERCIALIZATION OF DISCOVERIES

The Gerald R. Fink '62 Bioscience Symposium for 2014 will be held on Thursday, January 16th in Cole Assembly Room in Converse Hall at Amherst College.  This symposium is an opportunity to talk with alumni and guests and make important contacts.

The following speakers are expected:

  • George W. Carmany III ’62, hospital chairman, health care investor, and member of the Advisory Committee on Education of the Harvard Medical School.
  • Gerald Fink ’62, founding member of the Whitehead Institute and the American Cancer Society Professor of Genetics at MIT.
  • Ginger Graham, The former CEO of Amylin Pharmaceuticals, a leading provider of therapies for the treatment of diabetes; Group Chairman of Guidant Corporation; Division President at Eli Lilly; and current faculty member at Harvard Business School.
  • Tyler Jacks, Director of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and David H. Koch Professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Peter Millard ’76, received his MD at the University of Vermont and his PhD in public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel.  He has spent half of his career living and working in Zimbabwe and most recently Mozambique, specializing in primary care in global health, the care of patients with HIV/AIDS, and teaching medical students in Africa. He has also practiced primary care in Bangor, Maine.
  • Robert Sauer ‘69, Salvador E. Luria Professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former chairman of the department.
  • Carolyn Sufrin ’97, majored in anthropology and chemistry at Amherst, received a Watson Fellowship. She’s a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and a medical anthropologist. She specializes in reproductive health care for marginalized populations, including incarcerated women.

This symposium will be an opportunity to talk with alums and guests and make some important contacts. Registration is required and limited. (3 December 2013)

BIOLOGY PROFESSOR NAMED JOURNAL EDITOR


Associate Professor of Biology Ethan D. Clotfelter has been named Associate Editor of the international behavioral biology journal Behaviour. Behaviour publishes papers on all aspects of animal (including human) behavior, with a particular emphasis on behavioral evolution. The journal was founded by Nobel Laureate Niko Tinbergen in 1948.  (July 22, 2013)

BIOLOGY ALUM WINS NSF DISSERTATION GRANT


Sarah Sander '06, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Genetics at the University of Georgia, has received a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation.  Her project entitled "Evolution of visual pigments in fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae)" will focus on the mating signals of fireflies, which range from simple glows to complex flashes.  Her research will use next-generation sequencing techniques to examine the evolution of visual pigments (opsins) in fireflies in relationship to mating signal color and environmental light conditions.  (3/1/13)

INTERVIEW WITH NEW BIOLOGY FACULTY MEMBER


The latest edition of The Amherst Student features an interview with our newest faculty member, Professor Alexandra Purdy.  (2/14/13)

RECENT BIOLOGY GRADUATE AMONG AMHERST COLLEGE'S POST-BACCALAUREATE FELLOWS 


Nate Belkin '12 will spend the summer expanding on his research on the protein TMEM16F and the role it plays in Scott syndrome, a rare congenital bleeding disorder resulting from a defect in the mechanism required for blood coagulation.The “scrambling” of cell components that normally occurs following injury does not occur in people with Scott syndrome. Belkin was able to tentatively determine that TMEM16F is not the actual protein involved in the scrambling process. He will use his post-baccalaureate time to verify that conclusion and elaborate on it. “My assay was only partially developed in my final thesis final project,” he wrote. “My summer research will verify, extend, and in general tidy up my thesis results…The end result is to get a clean and polished product and series of experiments that I can publish…These results might shed some interesting light upon the currently unknown role of TMEM16F in regulating the scrambling activity that is missing in Scott syndrome patients.”   After Amherst, at Amherst: The Post-Baccalaureate Fellows.  (July 16, 2012)

RECENT BIOLOGY GRADUATE PUBLISHES PAPER IN AMERICAN NATURALIST


Joanna Rifkin '09 is the first author on a new paper to appear in the July 2012 issue of The American Naturalist, a prominent journal in evolution and ecology. In the paper, she uses a meta-analysis approach to examine the relationship between animal group size and parasite transmission. Rifkin conducted her senior thesis research with Professor Ethan Temeles while at Amherst; currently she is pursuing her PhD in the Program in Genetics and Genomics at Duke University.

BIOLOGY PROFESSOR RICHARD GOLDSBY RETIRES


Since joining the Amherst College faculty in 1982 as the Cross Professor, and then after a stint as Distinguished University Professor at UMass, re-joining our faculty a decade later as the Simpson Lecturer, Richard Goldsby has been a mainstay of the College’s Biology Department.

He is the author of many important papers on basic mechanisms of mammalian immunology.  Amherst students were often drawn to Dick because of the exciting and medically relevant immunological research in his continuously funded laboratory.  But he has also been a legendary classroom teacher, serving as nurturing mentor and demanding role model to a diverse group of Amherst students ranging from humanities majors tutored in Cancer and Aids to dozens of Amherst thesis students and a substantial number of graduate students on their way to successful careers as physicians or research scientists.  Dick was our “silver-throated orator,” who could extemporize in whole paragraphs on subjects ranging well beyond immunology,  yet offer concise common sense if, for example, as colleagues we lost our way in a discussion of departmental policy.  His powers of persuasion are gentle but effective.  Dick bestowed upon us not just sage advice, but also a grace and generosity of spirit (and spirits, if that term can be stretched to include his collection of fine wines) from which we all benefitted.  Self-effacing co-author of a best selling Immunology textbook and three other popular works, successful biotechnology entrepreneur, and raconteur extraordinaire, Dick continues to be sought after by his former colleagues for his extensive and deep knowledge of immunology and cancer biology.  He retires at the top of his game. -DLP/PLW/DIR


 
Last Updated:
18 February 2014 TLR

Tags: 
 

McGuire Life Sciences Building