Message from the Department Chair

L. Rockwood

The Department of Biology has a long history at George Mason; it was one of the original departments in the old College of Arts and Sciences and several graduate degree programs were originated in the Department of Biology before those programs broke away and formed their own departments (Department of Environmental Science and Policy and the School of Systems Biology).  The present Department of Biology was organized officially on July 1, 2014.  Over the past several years we have grown from an undergraduate “program” of eight faculty and four staff, to a department of 23 faculty and 7 staff. Curriculum in the Department of Biology is further enriched by over 40 faculty members from other departments and schools.  Biology courses have been taught by members of the School of Systems Biology (SSB), the Department of Environmental Science and Policy (ESP), the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences (AOES), the Department of Geography and Geoinformation Systems (GGS), the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, the School of Integrative Studies (formerly New Century College) and two Deans in the Colleges of Science.

The faculty in the Department of Biology is known for teaching excellence. Drs. Madden, Masterson, Kocache, Forkner, and Rockwood have all received teaching awards within the past several years, the latest being a university awards presented to Dr. Kocache in May of 2017 and to Dr. Masterson in May of 2018.  Biology is the largest program in the College of Science; there are more than 1300 majors and we grant degrees to almost 300 students per year. The College of Science moved into a new building, Exploratory Hall, in July of 2013 and, as a result, all Biology teaching laboratories and almost all faculty and staff offices are found in this modern, beautiful building.

The Department of Biology offers BA and BS degrees in Biology, and a BS in Medical Laboratory Science. The faculty is involved in graduate programs such as the MS in Biology, the MS in Environmental Science and Policy, the Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Policy, and the Ph.D. degree in Biosciences. We offer a broad undergraduate curriculum with concentrations available in: A) Biopsychology; B) Biotechnology and Molecular Biology; C) Environmental and Conservation Biology; D) Microbiology; and Bioinformatics. An undergraduate Career Changer’s Certificate is also available for post-baccalaureate students.  Faculty members of the Department of Biology sponsor the concentration in Evolutionary Biology within the MS degree in Biology, the concentration in Biocomplexity and Evolutionary Biology within the Ph.D. in Biosciences, and teach bio-medically-oriented courses for the George Squared and EMDP2 graduate programs.

The bachelor degree programs in biology provide a sound liberal arts education with substantial experience in quantitative and analytical thought, along with preparation for related professions. Our entire core (required) courses include a recitation, a laboratory, or both and we require additional laboratory experience beyond the core.  Through the requirements outlined above,  the Department provides the strong background necessary not only for graduate study in the Life Sciences, but also enables students to develop careers in a wide variety of disciplines, including secondary school teaching, environmental management, microbiology, molecular biology, biotechnology, genetics, wildlife management, fisheries biology, and marine science. Furthermore, our curriculum prepares student for careers in the Health Sciences including medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and related allied health disciplines. The BS degree in Medical Laboratory Science prepares students for careers in doctor’s offices, and hospitals, as well as in biotechnology and industrial laboratories.  Individuals with the MLAB degree often move into research and administrative positions later in their careers.

The Department offers research experiences through our Research Semester and through the INOVA Internships in Chronic Diseases.   Another opportunity is the highly successful College of Science Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship ProgramWithin the Department of Biology, several of our faculty have grants from the National Science Foundation for educational and scientific research and most of these grants provide opportunities for student research. Our faculty works closely with the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, & Research (OSCAR), the 4VA Consortium, the STEM Accelerator Program and the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (see below) to provide additional resources and faculty to support student research in Biology.

Substantial student research opportunities are available in Colgan and Discovery Halls on the Science and Technology campus in Manassas.  These include faculty research laboratories in the Microbiome Analysis Center, which supports research in evolutionary biology, bioinformatics, molecular ecology, phylogenomics, natural history and field biology.  For more information go to:

For additional experiences, check out the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, which offers a semester long program at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) facility in Front Royal.  Biology supports study abroad courses, which are offered through Mason Study Abroad, to Belize, Costa Rica and Kenya.

In summary, the faculty and staff of the Department of Biology are very excited about our department and we welcome you to work with us as we develop educational and research opportunities for students in the Biological Sciences. We are a growing department with four new research oriented faculty joining the department over the next 15 months.

On a personal note, I have seen Mason grow and develop since 1974 and I am optimistic that the College of Science and the Department of Biology, in particular, will provide you with a truly great educational experience.

Larry Rockwood, Professor and Chair

Department of Biology