Exploring the mystery of life

Biology is the study of life itself, in all its many forms. As a biology major at Elon, you will explore this intriguing subject through a specialized, hands-on combination of classroom instruction, laboratory research and field experience. Through Elon’s experiential approach, you will gain a profound understanding of biological concepts; develop the critical-thinking, problem-solving and communication skills necessary to meet the challenges of a fast-changing world; acquire the skills to retrieve, use and analyze information; become adept at using the latest technology to conduct biological research; and build an invaluable base of real-world experience.

You will have access to state-of-the-art facilities and a diverse, creative faculty with a remarkable store of knowledge and the desire to share it with you. By the time you graduate, you will have gained a broad-based understanding of fundamental biological ideas and an in-depth knowledge of the specialized subjects that interest you. You will be fully prepared to continue your education in a graduate program or to embark directly on a career in a field such as biotechnology, field biology, health care, education or research.

Working on my research project granted me the opportunity to have hands-on experience using laboratory techniques often taught on the graduate level. Under the guidance of my supportive faculty mentor, I was truly privileged to be at the forefront of research early in my academic career.

Damon Ogburn ’07, Duke Human Vaccine Institute

First-rate facilities

Housed in the McMichael Science Center, Elon’s Department of Biology provides students with access to the latest technology. During your time at Elon, you will have the opportunity to work with equipment such as our DNA sequencer, high end microscopes (fluorescent, scanning electron), a flow cytometer,  high performance liquid chromatograph, PCR thermocyclers (regular and real-time), protein and DNA electrophoresis equipment, climate-controlled growth chamber and much more. When you move on to postgraduate work or a career, you will be familiar with the advanced equipment you will find in graduate school or a professional laboratory.

McMichael also is home to Elon’s modern greenhouse facility, an herbarium, an undergraduate anatomy lab, and Elon Forest. These resources provide enhanced opportunities in the classroom and research that broaden our students’ exposure to the field of Biology.

Top-flight faculty

Elon biology majors learn from and work alongside dynamic faculty who blend professional experience, academic training, creativity, dedication and a passion for teaching. And that attention extends beyond graduation; professors have built strong contacts with industries, research companies and academic institutions, and they will use those contacts to help students find professional positions in their areas of interest.

Flexible Curriculum

Biology is the study of life in all its diverse forms. As a species, we have always been deeply fascinated by other living creatures. Early humans’ dependence on other animals and plants for food, medicine and shelter fostered an appreciation for life’s interconnectedness. Modern society has rediscovered these relationships in the face of such challenges as global warming, rainforest destruction, antibiotic resistance, emerging diseases, pollution and rising cancer rates.

Our approach to biology at Elon stresses hands-on experiences in the classroom, laboratory and field. The course of study includes off-campus experiential opportunities and research seminars that encourage creative approaches to biological problems. The focus is on science as a process, not merely a collection of established facts.

The faculty strives to provide students with a high-quality program that enables them to (1) develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills to better understand and meet present and future biological challenges; (2) develop competency in information retrieval, use and analysis; (3) develop an understanding of the latest technologies utilized in biological investigation; (4) acquire broad-based knowledge of biological concepts from molecules to ecosystems; and (5) acquire an experiential learning opportunity through either research or internship.

In all of Elon’s biology offerings, students receive a strong foundation in biology that prepares them for graduate studies, medical and other allied health-related professional schools, teaching and industry.

The Department of Biology offers programs leading to the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Biology and a minor concentration in Biology for students majoring in another discipline.

The Department of Biology has divided its course offerings that serve as electives into three concentrations to assist students in the development of a broad-based major with the necessary fundamental biological concepts while at the same time providing the student with the flexibility to build a program that meets their individual interests and needs.

International study and field research

Members of the biology faculty lead two international field research programs during Winter Term. In the Belize program, students collect data, record observations and conduct experiments in the tropical rain forest and in coastal habitats. In the Peru program, students study Amazonian rain forests and high-altitude cloud forest ecosystems. Biology majors have participated in semester study abroad programs in Australia, Denmark, and the Turks and Caicos islands.


Internships enable you to put your classroom knowledge into action and gain experiences highly valued by graduate schools and employers. Biology majors have interned at organizations such as:

  • Carnivore Preservation Trust
  • National Institute of Environmental Health Science
  • North Carolina Zoological Park
  • Alamance Regional Medical Center
  • Connecticut Institute of Physical Therapy
  • Laboratory Corporation of America
  • Moses Cone Hospital
  • Massachusetts General Hospital

A chance to shine

Biology majors at Elon are encouraged to pursue research projects and present their findings at institutional, regional and national conferences such as Elon’s annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF), the North Carolina Academy of Science Conference and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. Students also may become involved with school and national organizations, including the Lincoln Pre-Med Society, Beta Beta Beta and the Student Sierra Coalition.

Honors and scholarships

Academically talented students who plan to major in biology may qualify for the Elon College Fellows or Honors Fellows programs. These programs offer scholarship support, study abroad grants, special courses and many other benefits. Visit the Elon Fellows programs web site for more information.

The biology department also offers exclusive scholarship awards to deserving students. Jane M. Baird Scholarships are awarded to selected freshmen who participate in the pre-medical program. Junior and senior biology majors may apply for financial support through the R.D. Rao Scholarship, Reddish-Morgan Scholarship and Jerry W. Lawson Scholarship.

After graduation

About half of Elon’s biology graduates elect to pursue postgraduate studies at many of the nation’s leading medical schools, professional schools and graduate institutions. Recent graduates have been accepted to:

  • Albert Einstein Medical School, Yeshiva University
  • Duke University
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • North Carolina State University
  • University of Georgia
  • Wake Forest University
  • East Carolina University
  • Boston University
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Villanova University
  • The Ohio State University

Other graduates embark on careers in a wide range of fields, including health care, wildlife management, medical research, government and more. Recent graduates have been employed by organizations including:

  • Research Triangle Institute
  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
  • Qiagen
  • National Cancer Institute
  • Procter and Gamble
  • Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, U.S. Department of Defense

Get a picture of what our graduates do with their Biology degrees by checking out the #elonbiocareer hashtag on Instagram.