About the Major

At all levels, biology at Hamilton aims to offer a stimulating, thought-provoking experience, and classes are small. The emphasis on lab work and research gives students ample opportunities to apply what they learn outside the classroom. Many pursue summer research with professors, and all biology majors complete a research project through the Senior Program. 

Students Will Learn To:

  • Analyze and interpret original and published biological data
  • Apply the scientific method in a way that demonstrates comprehension
  • Communicate effectively about fundamental biological concepts using scientific language

A Sampling of Courses

Myrtle Spurge

The Secret Life of Plants

A thematic course exploring five fundamental features of all biological systems, including organization, information flow, energy and matter, interactions, and evolution. Most ecosystems on Earth are shaped by plant life. While it may not seem like it, plants constantly do the same things we do: search for nutrients, secrete hormones, and defend themselves. In this course, we will explore the incredible adaptations plants use to survive and grow, compare these to adaptations of animals, and examine how plants provide the foundation for both ecosystems and human society.

Explore these select courses:

In this course we will integrate classical genetics, epigenetics, cell and molecular biology, and organismal approaches to the study of development. We will analyze a diversity of mechanisms, ranging from ones that set up pattern formation in the unfertilized egg to those governing morphogenesis of organ systems. Topics covered include embryogenesis, gene regulation, axis specification, morphogen signaling, stem cells, cloning, limb formation, and sex determination, as well as congenital defects and issues in human development.

Theory, practice and application of the scanning electron microscope and energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis to selected research projects. Three hours of class and three hours of lab.

Survey of the conservation of biological diversity from genes to populations to ecosystems. We will explore current ideas and literature in protecting, preserving and restoring biodiversity and ecosystem function. Discussion of ecological foundations, techniques to study conservation (e.g., technological, molecular, habitat restoration), and policy issues. We will examine causes of diversity loss such as habitat loss, and how conservation planning can help mitigate losses in the face of continuing anthropogenic pressures such as fragmentation, pollutants and climate change.

Study of computer-based approaches to molecular investigations: sequence variation, molecular evolution, functional and comparative genomics, and computational biology. Both literature-based lecture and training on the use of bioinformatic software are included.

An in-depth study of how genetic information is accurately transmitted and the consequences of mistakes in this process. Topics include mechanisms of chromosome segregation, chromosome and aneuploidy disorders, genetics of cancer, epigenetics, molecular mechanisms of genetic disease and gene therapy options.

Meet Our Faculty

Wei-Jen Chang

Chair and Professor of Biology


molecular biology; molecular evolution; genome structures; and bioinformatics

Harvey Cramer

Assistant Professor of Instruction in Biology


Rhea Datta

Assistant Professor of Biology


gene regulation; patterning and morphogenesis; transcription factors and DNA-binding; regulatory DNA; developmental genetics; molecular biology; embryology; eye development

Peter Guiden

Assistant Professor of Biology


climate change; invasive species; novel ecosystems; plant-animal interactions; seed predation

cellular neurobiology and neuroethology; measurement and detection of neurotransmitters; isolation and identification of novel chemical messengers; cellular metabolism in the nervous system

Jaime Mancilla

Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology


electrophysiological recordings for the analysis of sensory processing; general physiology; neurophysiology; neuroanatomy; sensory systems

Mike McCormick

Associate Professor of Biology


environmental geomicrobiology, specifically cell/mineral interactions; fate of environmental contaminants; solid-state respiration by bacteria; and molecular microbial ecology

Abigail Myers

Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology


Natalie Nannas

Assistant Professor of Biology


Genetics, molecular and cellular biology, bioethics, meiotic and mitotic chromosome segregation, spindle dynamics, fluorescence microscopy and live imaging

Noelle Relles

Assistant Professor of Instruction in Biology


biochemistry, genetics, and ecology labs; subject matter expert for McGraw Hill Education in physical and biological sciences

Patrick Reynolds

Stephen Harper Kirner Professor of Biology


marine invertebrate biology, particularly the evolution of Mollusca

Andrea Townsend

Associate Professor of Biology, Director of Environmental Studies


behavioral ecology, disease ecology

Jason Townsend

Lecturer in Environmental Studies


conservation biology, agroecology, ornithology, Nearctic-Neotropical migratory birds, and ecotoxicology

Kenneth Bart

Director of Microscopy and Imaging Facility, Lecturer in Biology


electron, light and confocul microscopy and X-ray microanalysis

David Gapp

Silas D. Childs Professor of Biology Emeritus (retired)


endocrinology of reptiles, with a focus on the action and evolution of gastrointestinal and pancreatic hormones

Jinnie Garrett

William R. Kenan Professor of Biology Emerita (retired)


Sue Ann Miller

Professor of Biology Emerita (retired)


embryogenesis; morphogenesis; histology; functional morphology and pedagogy related to learning to think dynamically about microscopic form

William Pfitsch

Associate Professor of Biology Emeritus (retired)


the biology, ecology, physiological ecology and physiology of plants; community, ecosystem and invasive plant ecologies; habitat restoration; tropical and alpine ecologies; biology teaching

Ernest H. Williams, Jr.

Professor of Biology Emeritus (retired)


field ecology, butterfly population biology, and data analysis

Explore Hamilton Stories

Dylan Morse ’22

Morse ’22 Awarded Watson Fellowship to Study Salmon Conservation

When Dylan Morse ’22 thinks about salmon, he sees more than a pink fish that cooks up nicely on the grill. He sees a connection between people and nature.

Rhea Datta

Datta Publishes Paper on Role of Palindromes in DNA

Assistant Professor of Biology Rhea Datta recently published an article in the journal BioEssays.

Pablo Reina-González ’22 guides viewers through a science experiment.

Biology Department, Levitt Center Launch SciKids on YouTube

When the pandemic began, more than just in-person classes were put on pause. Programs that fostered college and community connections also took a hit, including Science Exploration Days.

Careers After Hamilton

Hamilton graduates who concentrated in biology are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, including:

  • Zoology Professor, Ohio Wesleyan University
  • VP Investments, Smith Barney
  • Cinematographer/ Microbiologist, Wilderness Film & Video Productions
  • Editor, Horticulture Magazine
  • Dean for Translational Biomedical Sciences, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  • Orthopedic Surgeon
  • Chief, Post Conviction Unit, Philadelphia District Attorneys Office
  • Director, Wildlife Conservation Society
  • Professor of Clinical Anesthesiology, UCLA
  • Senior Policy and Research Analyst, Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues


Department Name

Biology Department

Office Location
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

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