photo of biology lab tools on a desktop


Biology majors at Reed formulate and test hypotheses and analyze and interpret data. Coursework incorporates both conceptual and experimental approaches. The synergism between the interests and motivations of Reed students and the rigorous nature of our program, including a research-intensive thesis, enables students to pursue their individual interests. Reed’s research and teaching labs are well equipped, containing contemporary image analysis instrumentation, such as fluorescence and confocal microscopes, molecular imaging and analyses to investigate gene activity, instruments for biochemical assays, and a greenhouse.

Across the department, student-driven inquiry contributes to scientific literature. Of the 50 peer reviewed publications by Reed’s biology faculty members over the past decade, 60 percent include student coauthors. As a biology student at Reed, you can even contribute to thirty years of cumulative scientific research in Reed’s canyon, where the restored headwaters of Crystal Springs have become spawning habitat for anadromous fish as well as threatened and endangered species.

Annually, per capita, Reed ranks in the top four colleges and universities in the US that send students on to graduate and professional programs in the life sciences. Biology graduates advance to successful careers in human and veterinary medicine, education, biotechnology, public health, law, and advocacy.

Alumni profile

Michelle Nijhuis ’96

Environmental Science Journalist
photo of Michelle Nijhuis

Michelle Nijhuis ’96 studied biology at Reed and then became an environmental and science journalist. With a focus on conservation and climate change, her work has been published in National Geographic, the New York Times, Nature, and Smithsonian magazine.

She has traveled throughout the western United States and beyond, and her research has been supported by the Alicia Patterson Foundation, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and the Food and Environment Reporting Network. She is also a longtime contributing editor of High Country News and was the 2008 commencement speaker at Reed.

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Seminar Series
A regular seminar series with invited scientists adds to the unique research-oriented experience of Reed’s biology undergraduates.

Independent Projects
Every upper division course includes a six-week independent project that is designed, executed, analyzed, and presented by students.

Conference-style classes introduce students to current topics and areas in biology through examining and discussing primary literature with their peers.

Related Programs

Interdisciplinary Programs
Students can also major in biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB) and environmental studies-biology.

Alternate Program
Students may petition to study in the biology alternate program, which allows them to integrate professional interests in public health, urban planning, environmental law, and more.

Faculty Awards

Professor Suzy Renn won a $618,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate a striking example of maternal behavior— voluntary starvation among African cichlid fish. Her research could shed light on the evolution of maternal instincts and deepen our understanding of metabolic and feeding disorders.

Professor Erik Zornik won a $444,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to research mechanisms in the brain that generate rhythmic behavior, with the goal of finding new treatments for neurological disorders.

Professor Todd Schlenke won a $373,000 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to study one of nature’s most unforgiving arms races— the struggle between fruit flies and venomous parasitic wasps.

Professor Jay Mellies won a $362,769 grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate a key regulatory protein in E. coli.

Graduate Schools

Most-frequently Attended by Reed Biology Alumni

  • Columbia University
  • Harvard University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Oregon Health Sciences University
  • Oregon State University
  • Portland State University
  • Stanford University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Washington
  • Yale University

What Do Alumni Do?

Biologist Fish Technician
Wyoming Game and Fish Department
Sophia Bruno ’21

 Pacific Diagnostics
Alex John ’21

Graduate Student in Cell and Molecular Biology 
Tulane University
Julia Montes-Laing ’20

VP of Business Development 
Immunomic Therapeutics
Colin Magowan ’06

Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL)
Sasha Kramer ’99

National Cancer Institute
Preetha Rajaraman ’94

Sierra Club
Jennifer Ferenstein ’88

US Congresswoman 
Suzan DelBene ’83