Why Study Biology?

Biology is an adventure! It’s solving problems about living organisms. As a student of biology you must have a curiosity about living things and a foundation for questioning, exploring, experimenting and experiencing the excitement of discovery.

What careers are possible?

Many of our biology graduates go on to programs leading to health-related professional careers in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, physical and occupational therapy, optometry, medical technology, and human genetic counseling.

Areas of Emphasis

After completing general biology, students may choose elective courses to earn either the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Sciences degree in biology. A minor in biology is also available.

During the past 10 years, 65 percent of PLU graduates seeking medical school admission and 85 percent of those seeking dental school admission have been accepted.

Other graduates earn master’s and doctoral degrees in areas including wildlife biology, marine biology, physiology, cell biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, and neurobiology.

Biology graduates also find immediate employment opportunities in secondary education, fish and wildlife programs, environmental programs, pharmaceutical industries, basic research, genetic engineering and other biotechnology areas.

Our faculty members have expertise in career counseling PLU biology students. They work with you to plan coursework, map out career objectives and assist with professional and graduate applications.

The Pre-Health Sciences Advising Team advises students aspiring to careers in the health sciences. Students are encouraged to obtain a pre-health sciences advisor early in their program of study. Requirements for pre-professional preparation for health sciences are available from the committee or the department and are described in the university’s catalog.

What if I want a research experience, an internship or a campus job?

Many of our faculty members provide research opportunities for our students on faculty research projects during both the academic year as well as the summer, most frequently in association with the College of Natural Sciences Undergraduate Research Program. Students have also obtained summer research positions at other universities around the country.

Internship opportunities in biology are also available. For example, our students have obtained internships at The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, the Washington State University Research & Extension Center, various health care facilities, physical therapy clinics, and local conservation groups. Available internships are listed through PLU’s Office of Academic Internships.

The department also employs students as laboratory teaching assistants, herbarium assistants, museum assistants, animal care technicians, greenhouse technicians and stockroom/glassware workers.

Why study Biology at PLU?

The PLU Biology Department faculty members are trained across a broad spectrum of knowledge, from molecular biology to ecosystem ecology, and have professional teaching and research expertise with a full range of organisms: viruses, bacteria, fungi, plants and animals (including humans).

Professors, not teaching assistants, teach the laboratory sections and they are available outside of class for conversation and advising.

The diversity of department courses provides broad coverage of modern biology and allows flexible planning. The laboratory components of courses are designed to permit plenty of hands-on experiences in genuine research settings. In addition to traditional classroom study, students may participate in laboratory and field biology research, academic internships and study abroad.

After completing two semesters of general biology, students may choose elective courses, taking at least one course in each of three distributions: Molecular and Cellular Biology; Organism Structure and Function; and Ecology and Evolution. Students are also required to take Genetics as well as Zoological and Botanical offerings. Students may earn either the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Sciences degree in biology. A minor in biology is also available. Students may also combine their biology studies with another major or minor to pursue multi-disciplinary interests like biochemistry or biostatistics, for example.


The modern Rieke Science Center supports students and programs with efficient teaching and research laboratories. PLU has:

  • a Biology computer lab and a variety of scientific software for use in our laboratory classes and research
  • PCR thermocyclers, including real-time PCR and thermogradient capabilities
  • modern spectrophotometers, including a nano-drop, a Klett colorimeter, and those with UV capabilities
  • facilities and equipment for recombinant DNA experiments, including an electroporator, a bead-beater, a gel documentation system, and a variety of electrophoresis equipment
  • laminar flow hoods, a tissue-culture hood, and hoods equipped with UV light
  • a working museum with vertebrate and invertebrate specimens
  • a herbarium with extensive plant collection
  • environmental growth chambers
  • multiple centrifuges including those with refrigeration and ultra-speed capabilities
  • -80˚C ultrafreezers for specimen storage
  • facilities for maintaining small animals
  • Two 125-gallon aquaria for fresh-and/or salt-water experimentation
  • a human cadaver for independent study
  • a tissue processing microtechnique room
  • a variety of microscopes including stereoscopes, a fluorescence microscope, an inverted microscope, and compound light microscopes with dark-field capabilities
  • a walk-in cold room for low-temperature experiments
  • high-quality spotting scopes