Department of 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

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.  We have a robust departmental honors program often involving research completed during both the summer and senior year. Faculty and students frequently travel to and give presentations at national scientific conferences, and publish jointly authored articles. We also have a great track record of sending students to the best graduate and professional schools in the country.  

The following sites have more detailed information about student research opportunities:

  • Amherst College Summer Research Opportunities: information about the Dean of the Faculty Summer Research Program (SRP) and the Summer Science Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (SURF). 
  • Biology Research News: brief snapshots of recent and ongoing research in the department. (Featured in the image-link at the top of the page.)
  • Faculty Profiles: details faculty research interests, current Amherst College courses, and recent publications.
  • Publications: lists recent publications by faculty member, with particular emphasis on those publications with Amherst College students as co-authors. 
  • Student Honors Research: lists of Biology Honors students' thesis titles and advisors, by class year.  
  • Student Job Interest Form: students often work part time as a research assistant during the academic year; submit this online form if you're interested.  
  • Nationwide Summer Research Opportunites: lists links and application deadlines for hundreds of summer fellowships in a variety of areas of study in Biology.


Additional information about the department for current Biology majors:

  • The 3+4 Committee: a student-faculty group tasked with improving interdepartmenal communication.  While primarily an outlet for majors' comments, concerns, and suggestions for the Department and the classes that we offer, the committee also sponsors numerous academic and social events each year.  
  • Major: a checklist of course requirements for Biology majors.
  • Prizes and Awards: details prizes available for Biology majors, typically those seeking funding for new or ongoing research projects. 
  • Seminars: profiles of approaching speakers for Biology's Monday seminars. Attendance is mandatory for senior Biology majors. 


Female student working at microscope.

 Last Updated:
4 June 2015 TLR



VIDEO: Eric S. Lander on “Secrets of the Human Genome”

Dr. Eric Lander

Watch video of a talk by Eric S. Lander, MIT Professor of Biology, Harvard Medical School Professor of Systems Biology, and Founding Director of the Broad Institute.

Elucidation of the sequence of the human genome surely ranks as one of the greatest scientific achievements of the past century. Dr. Eric Lander has pioneered this effort since its beginning. His research, and that of his colleagues around the world, have revealed the function of many genes that contribute to human variation and shown how, when defective, these genes result in human disease. In short, knowledge of the human genome, and of thousands of other genomes (of plants, animals, bacteria and viruses), has transformed both biological research and medical practice. Moreover, the implications of the work extend to diverse fields including anthropology, philosophy and law. Watch video of his November 9, 2015 talk at Amherst College.

KROPF SYMPOSIUM: New Approaches in Cancer Research - September 24, 2015

ew Approaches in Cancer Research

The Kropf Symposium featuring leading cancer researchers from Harvard, Stanford, Bilbao and King's College. Participate in short general discussions of emerging technologies in research leading to clinical applications. Participants will be available for discussion following the presentations. Students attending may sign up for dinner to follow with the participants and faculty (seating limited). Participants available earlier in the day to discuss careers in biomedical research with students.

Contact Information:

Professor Dominic Poccia

(413) 542-2198  


Edward R. Leadbetter (1934-2015) The Biology Department wishes to acknowledge the passing of Edward Renton Leadbetter on April 25th, 2015.  Dr. Leadbetter was a Biology faculty member at Amherst College from 1959 to 1977.  Our condolences to his family and our gratitude to his youngest son Jared for writing the obituary that follows:

Edward Renton Leadbetter, a former resident of Amherst and former Professor of Biology at Amherst College (AM Honoris Causa, ’70), died peacefully in his sleep at his winter residence in Falmouth MA on April 25. He was 81. He had just completed a week lived exactly as he liked to and chose to, and as a microcosm of his entire adult life: in the research laboratory each and every day, thinking and doing science, conversing with colleagues of all ages; and at home, enjoying food, drink, music, books, and conversation with his spouse of 58 years, Gloria.  More... (14 May 2015)


Many congratulations to Sophia Padelford '15 and Eric Steinbrook '15.  Both senior Biology majors have been offered Fulbright ETA grants(14 May 2015)


Loading the player...

The students enrolled in this spring’s “Seminar in Tropical Biology” (BIOL-454, Professors Clotfelter and Levin) 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 an intensive research project on tree species diversity, comparing three tropical forest types with a New England forest.  During the seminar portion of the course, they read papers from the primary literature and developed their interests in tropical biology into full-length research proposals. 

The field trip emerged from collaboration between the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, the Office of the Provost, the Department of Biology, The Center for Community Engagement (CCE), and the Collins Fund for Biology Fieldwork. (7 May 2015)


Professor Ethan Temeles Professor Ethan J.Temeles, Thomas B. Walton, Jr. Memorial Professor of Biology, will be offering a virtual lecture entitled, "Food, Sex, and a Hummingbird: The purple-throated carib of the Lesser Antilles" on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 12:30 p.m, ET. His talk is the first of Amherst College's Virtual Lecture Series of the 2014-15 academic year. An abstract of the talk and online registration instructions can be found here(29 August 2014)

Food, Sex, and a Hummingbird: The purple-throated carib of the Lesser Antilles

12:30 p.m. ET
Tuesday, September 30, 2014

See Biology News Archives for older stories. Last Updated:
14 May 2015 TLR


McGuire Life Sciences Building