Message from the Department Chair

L. Rockwood

Effective July 1, 2014, the former “Biology Undergraduate Program” became the Department of Biology. In this reorganization, faculty members from the School of Systems Biology and the Department of Environmental Science and Policy have moved into the Department of Biology. Over the past four years we have grown from a “program” of eight faculty and four staff, to a department of 22 faculty and 7 staff. Curriculum in the Department of Biology is further enriched by 44 faculty members from other departments and schools.  These include 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 Deans from the Colleges of Science.

The faculty in the Department of Biology is known for teaching excellence. Drs. Madden, Kocache, Forkner, Tondi and Rockwood have all received teaching awards within the past several years. Biology is the largest program in the College of Science; there are more than 1300 majors and we grant degrees to more than 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 beautiful new 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; and D) Microbiology.  A new concentration in Bioinformatics is being developed.  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 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 core (required) courses include a recitation, a laboratory, or both and we mandate more 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.

The Department offers research experiences through our Research Semester and through the INOVA Internships in Chronic Diseases.  An ongoing summer research program in Phage Ecology was initiated by Dr. Schwebach in 2015.  Another opportunity is the highly successful College of Science Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship ProgramWithin the Department of Biology, Drs. Edwards, Schwebach, Crerar, Luther, Forkner and Weeks have educational and research 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 Hall 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 on the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) facility in Front Royal.  This past summer the Department of Biology paired with SCBI to offer a two week intensive course (BIOL 440) in field biology.  Biology supported study abroad courses are offered through Mason Study Abroad and have included recent trips to Belize 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. 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.

Thank you for stopping by.

Larry Rockwood, Professor and Chair

Department of Biology