Reed College Catalog


The biology major emphasizes the development of the student’s capacity to use and contribute scientific knowledge. The curriculum offers both conceptual and experimental approaches to studying the molecular, cellular, organismic, and population levels of biological structure. The department also encourages students to challenge their own abilities by providing them with multiple opportunities to create an intellectual framework and learn the techniques necessary for answering the questions that interest them. The faculty members, through active professional research programs of their own, offer opportunities for student involvement in biological research. An active guest scientist program adds to the unique research-oriented experience of the Reed biology undergraduate.

Reed students may broaden their research experience by arrangement with the faculties of the Oregon Health & Science University, the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Engineering, and the Oregon National Primate Research Center.

This atmosphere provides students with an unusual opportunity to develop an understanding of themselves as well as a firm background in the field, regardless of what their goals might be. Information on the subsequent history of biology graduates shows that about 60 percent enter teaching, research, or practice in biology and the medical sciences. This is a remarkable record, largely due to a synergism between the interests and motivation of Reed students and the nature of the program offered.

The Lewis Kleinholz Biological Laboratories are equipped with modern instruments and materials, permitting a variety of teaching and research approaches. The faculty is intensively engaged in research and in teaching research methodology to students. Upper-division courses typically include independent research components to foster the development of hypothesis generation, experimental design, and results analysis and interpretation skills. Some support is available for student independent research during the summer. Some courses have field components, and the department supports independent fieldwork. In addition, Reed has formal relationships with the Malheur Field Station in Oregon’s Great Basin, the Organization for Tropical Studies, the University of Costa Rica, and the Sea Education Association. Students may take courses for credit through these programs or at other field or marine stations.

Through the alternate biology program (described below) the biology department provides students with the flexibility of combining biology with other areas of inquiry, such as economics, political science, and anthropology. Faculty advisers can help fashion programs suited to the individual student’s motivations and interests. Alternate and ad hoc joint degree programs can be arranged between the biology department and most other Reed departments.

Requirements for the Major

  1. Biology 101/102, 470.
  2. Three semester lecture-laboratory courses in biology, one from each of three clusters: (1) Genetics, Genetics and Gene Regulation; (2) Animal Physiology, Cellular Biology, Developmental Biology, Microbiology, Plant Physiology; (3) Animal Behavior, Population Ecology and Evolution, Vascular Plant Diversity.
  3. Two additional units in biology, at least one of which must be a full lecture-laboratory course; the other may be an additional full lecture-laboratory course or two half-course combinations, consisting of various combinations. For example, a seminar course (Biology 431) can be combined with any lecture-only course. No more than one 200-level course may be used to meet the fifth unit requirement. Advanced courses may be taken in any sequence as long as course prerequisites have been met.
  4. Mathematics 111 and either 112, 121, or 141.
  5. Chemistry 101/102 and 201/202.

Physics is recommended.

The Alternate Program in Biology

The alternate program allows students to integrate a comprehensive grounding in biological science with an understanding of one or more alternate disciplines. Working with their advisers, students can tailor their educational program to prepare them for careers or for graduate and professional programs in environmental studies and conservation, public health, urban planning, environmental law, government, social work, precollege teaching, medical illustration, science journalism, and other fields. The primary academic adviser will be a member of the biology staff, and the student will choose a consulting adviser from the appropriate alternate field. After discussion with both advisers, the student must submit a formal petition to the department with a rationale for the integrated course of study. Except in unusual cases, this petition should be made no later than the end of the sophomore year. Once the petition is approved by the department, the Alternate Biology major may then be declared.

Requirements for the Alternate Biology Major

  1. Biology 101/102, 470.
  2. Three semester lecture-laboratory courses in biology, one from each cluster as described for the biology major.
  3. One additional full lecture-laboratory course from the above clusters.
  4. Chemistry 101/102.
  5. Mathematics 111 taken with either 112, 121, or 141.
  6. Six to eight semester courses in the nonscience concentration.

Organic chemistry and physics are recommended.

Biology 101 - Introductory Biology

Full course for one semester each, taught by several staff members. The course furnishes an understanding of biological principles and the properties of life. Among topics considered are structure and function of plants and animals, relations of organisms to each other and to their environment, energy relations of organisms, integrative and coordinating mechanisms of organisms, cell biology principles, genetics, molecular biology, reproduction, development and growth, and the evidence for organic evolution. The laboratory deals with the descriptive and experimental aspects of the topics covered in the lectures. Lecture-laboratory.

Biology 102 - Introductory Biology

Full course for one semester each, taught by several staff members. The course furnishes an understanding of biological principles and the properties of life. Among topics considered are structure and function of plants and animals, relations of organisms to each other and to their environment, energy relations of organisms, integrative and coordinating mechanisms of organisms, cell biology principles, genetics, molecular biology, reproduction, development and growth, and the evidence for organic evolution. The laboratory deals with the descriptive and experimental aspects of the topics covered in the lectures. Prerequisite: Biology 101 or consent of the instructor. Lecture-laboratory.

Biology 256 - Human Genetics

One-half course for one semester. The nature and function of genes and genomes, using human case studies. Readings will include classic and modern examples from the primary literature to illustrate fundamental genetic approaches and concepts. Consent of instructor is required for students who have completed related 300-level coursework. Prerequisite: Biology 101/102. Lecture-conference.

Not offered 2011–12.

Biology 263 - Molecular Ecology

One-half course for one semester. Survey of how molecular genetic tools are used to investigate ecological processes in natural populations of plant and animal species. Specific topics will include methods for studying genetic variation at the protein and DNA levels, quantitative predictions from ecological and evolutionary theory, and application of molecular genetic markers to research questions related to selection, patterns of migration, population bottlenecks and founder events, and plant and animal mating systems. Conferences will be student led and based on the primary literature. Prerequisites: Biology 101 and 102. Lecture-conference.

Biology 272 - Reproductive Biology

One-half course for one semester. An introduction to the cellular, endocrine, and evolutionary aspects of reproduction in animals. Lectures will emphasize the cell biology, anatomy, and physiology of vertebrate reproductive systems and present a comparative approach to understanding sex determination. Conferences will highlight contemporary literature on topics such as in vitro fertilization, birth control, hormone imposters, and animal cloning. Prerequisites: Biology 101/102. Lecture-conference.

Biology 281 - Exercise Physiology

One-half course for one semester. This course will explore the metabolic, muscular, cardiovascular, and sensorimotor aspects of human physiology. Particular attention will be directed to the requirements for and responses to vigorous physical exercise. Prerequisite: Biology 101/102. Consent of the instructor is required for students who have completed more advanced work in biology. Lecture-conference.

Biology 322 - Plant Physiology

Full course for one semester. An analysis of cell biology, biochemistry, metabolism, ecophysiology, and development of plants. Lecture topics include water relations, respiration, photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, mineral nutrition, plant hormones, plant molecular biology, genetic engineering, the role of environmental signals in plant development, and the environmental physiology of Pacific Northwest forests. Lectures will be supplemented with readings in research journals. Laboratory exercises are designed to demonstrate basic research techniques as well as the principles covered in lectures. Students are required to conduct an advanced, independent project. Prerequisites: Biology 101/102 and Chemistry 101/102. Chemistry 201/202 is recommended. Lecture-laboratory.

Biology 332 - Vascular Plant Diversity

Full course for one semester. A survey of vascular plants using evolutionary and ecological principles to interpret patterns of diversity in vascular plant form and function. Topics include plant species, methods of phylogenetic reconstruction, paleobotany, plant reproductive biology, and plant ecological interactions. Laboratory work will include a survey of flowering plant families with an emphasis on learning elements of the flora of the Pacific Northwest. Laboratory projects will demonstrate methods used for establishing evolutionary relationships, assessing genetic structure in natural populations, and identifying adaptive features of plant form and function, and will include independent research in the laboratory or field. Prerequisite: Biology 101/102. Lecture-laboratory.

Biology 342 - Animal Behavior

Full course for one semester. An integrated approach to the study of behavior—the phenotype through which an organism interacts with, and also modifies, its environment. We will study how behavioral phenotypes are shaped by the social and physical environment and analyze how they are implemented through development by neural physiology, gene networks, and individual genes. Conversely, we will study how behaviors modify the environment and thus impact the physiology and genetics of organisms as well as the evolution of species. Examples will be drawn from both laboratory and field studies using comparative molecular and behavioral approaches to identify patterns and recurring themes, which will be discussed in the context of existing theories about animal behavior. The laboratory will cover both bench skills and field techniques that will then be applied in independent student projects. Prerequisite: Biology 101/102. Lecture-laboratory.

Biology 351 - Developmental Biology

Full course for one semester. An analysis of mechanisms of early development of invertebrates and vertebrates. Emphasis is on the cellular, molecular, and genetic study of the determination of the body plan, with readings from the primary literature. The morphogenesis of selected organ systems is also presented. The laboratory emphasizes experimental work. An independent laboratory project is required. Prerequisites: Biology 101/102 and Chemistry 101/102. A course in genetics or cell biology is strongly recommended. Lecture-laboratory.

Biology 356 - Genetics and Gene Regulation

Full course for one semester. The molecular biology of eukaryotes, particularly as it relates to the control of gene expression. Genome organization, packaging and perpetuation, and mechanisms of gene regulation will be treated in depth, with the focus on experimental approaches and what they reveal about the conversion of genotype to phenotype. The laboratory will emphasize molecular approaches to analysis of complex genomes and gene expression. Prerequisites: Biology 101/102 and Chemistry 101/102. Chemistry 201/202 is recommended. Lecture-laboratory.

Not offered 2011–12.

Biology 358 - Microbiology

Full course for one semester. The biology of microorganisms, including structure and function of the prokaryotic cell, metabolism, genetics interactions with host organisms, and cell-to-cell communication. Course will emphasize current areas of active research using the primary literature to illustrate key concepts discussed in lecture. Laboratory exercises emphasize interactions of bacteria with their environment and with host organisms, using classical and molecular genetic techniques to address biological problems. An advanced independent research project is required. Prerequisites: Biology 101/102, Chemistry 101/102. Lecture-laboratory.

Biology 363 - Genes, Genetics, and Genomes

Full course for one semester. Overview and exploration of fundamental concepts and processes in genetics including heredity, mitosis, meiosis, DNA replication, transcription, translation, segregation, linkage, recombination, epistasis, selection, migration, drift, and evolution. Topics will also include DNA and RNA structure, coding and noncoding DNA, chromosomes, genome architecture, mechanisms of mutation, horizontal transfer, and applied genetics. Laboratories will provide the opportunity to investigate genetic questions and concepts using molecular and bioinformatic tools. Prerequisites: Biology 101 and 102, and Chemistry 101 and 102. Lecture-laboratory.

Biology 366 - Population Ecology and Evolution

Full course for one semester. The basic concepts of population ecology and population genetics are explored to provide an in-depth understanding of evolutionary biology and conservation biology. Topics include population growth and regulation, demography, interspecific interactions, population genetics, quantitative genetics, evolution of phenotypic plasticity, evolution of life histories, and basic molecular evolution. Examples are chosen primarily from the vertebrate literature. Laboratories emphasize the ecology of amphibian development, experimental design, and computer simulation. These skills are then put to use in both field and laboratory independent projects. The course is supplemented by field trips and video presentations. Prerequisite: Biology 101/102. One upper-division biology course is highly recommended. Lecture-laboratory.

Biology 372 - Cellular Biology

Full course for one semester. An in-depth study of the structure-function relationships within eukaryotic cells. The course emphasizes macromolecular organization and compartmentation of cellular activities. Lecture topics include evolution of cells, cellular reproduction, motility, signal transduction, cell-cell interactions, RNA and protein processing, energy transduction, functional specialization, cell death, and cancer. Laboratories investigate models of cellular regulation and incorporate methods that integrate morphological and biochemical techniques. Prerequisites: Biology 101/102 and Chemistry 101/102. Chemistry 201/202 is recommended. Lecture-laboratory.

Biology 381 - Animal Physiology

Full course for one semester. An intensive treatment of the cellular biochemistry and biophysics that result in the structure and integrative function of signaling pathways and the organisms that they regulate. Endocrine and neuronal regulatory interactions receive equivalent attention. Emphasis is placed on contemporary research examples to illustrate the concepts and topics discussed. The laboratory portion introduces the student to diverse techniques of modern cellular physiology. Prerequisites: Biology 101/102, Chemistry 101/102, and Chemistry 201/202, or consent of the instructor. Lecture-laboratory.

Biology 431 - Seminar in Biology: Contemporary Topics

One-half course for one semester. An examination of current topics and areas in biology with an emphasis on primary literature. Participants will lead group discussions and/or make oral presentations. Prerequisites: Biology 101/102, two additional units of biology with laboratory, and junior or senior standing.

Bacterial Pathogenesis. An examination of how bacterial pathogens interact with host organisms in order to cause disease. Topics include adhesion, colonization, invasion, toxins, subversion of host cell signaling events, immune evasion, and bacteria-to-bacteria communication as they pertain to pathogenesis.

Cambrian Zoology. Origin of animal body plans as revealed by the fossil record of early metazoans.

Cellular Regulation. A rigorous treatment of eukaryotic cells as complex systems and of basic cellular regulatory mechanisms. Areas of emphasis include cell–cell interactions, cell cycle regulation, and signal transduction.

Chromosome Structure and Function. Investigation of elements needed for chromosome stability, in particular telomeres, using contemporary studies of telomere metabolism, regulation of telomere length, and the role telomeres play in cellular senescence and cancer. Not offered 2011–12.

Climate Change Biology. An examination of the causes and biological consequences of global climate change. Consideration will be given to underlying physiological processes involved in responding to environmental challenges resulting both from elevated CO2 concentrations and from predicted shifts in temperature and precipitation in diverse ecosystems. Not offered 2011–12.

Comparative Functional Genomics. An exploration of current research that pairs both genomic techniques and bioinformatics approaches with ecologically and evolutionarily interesting questions, often using organisms that are not the traditional models in biomedical science.

Conservation Biology. Topics include history of biological conservation, population viability analysis, several amphibian-related field trips, and discussions of the role that a biologist can play in the conservation movement.

 Ecology and Evolution of Plant-Human Interactions. Ecological and evolutionary contexts of interactions between plants and humans. Potential topics include agricultural ecology, grazing, plant-resource extraction, crop evolution and their diseases/pests, plant breeding, transgenic species, and invasive plants.

Field Biology and Natural History of Amphibians. Evening field trips every other week will be taken to a variety of habitats to study the diversity and natural history of a fascinating group of animals. On alternate weeks students will lead discussions on the evolution of life history strategies in amphibians. Not offered 2011–12.

Membrane–Membrane Interactions. Consideration of contemporary research on the biophysics and molecular biology of the neuronal interactions that underlie and regulate metazoan behavior.

Molecular Genetic Analysis of Plant Evolution. An exploration of issues of current controversy and active research in plant evolution, highlighting places where molecular techniques and data are providing new insights for classical problems in plant evolution. Not offered 2011–12.

Plant Biotechnology. An exploration of emerging technologies, especially genetic engineering, that are revolutionizing agriculture and allowing for the production of plants with enhanced qualities. Emphasis will be placed on the molecular and physiological principles involved as well as the ecological risks and benefits.

Biology 470 - Thesis

Full course for one year.

Biology 481 - Special Topics

One-half course for one semester. Independent laboratory or library research on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor. A final written report is required. Prerequisites: standing as a junior or senior biology major, and approval of instructor, department, and division.