Dec 14, 2018  
2018-2019 Catalog 
2018-2019 Catalog

Department of Biology

(See also Mathematical and Computational Biology  and Joint Major in Chemistry and Biology )

Professors Adolph (Chair), Ahn, Bush, Donaldson-Matasci, Haushalter, Hur, McFadden, Schulz, and Stoebel.

The biology program prepares graduates for further study and employment in biology and related fields. Biology graduates work in molecular genetics, neurobiology, mathematical ecology, medicine, epidemiology, plant physiology, bioinformatics, pharmacology, biotechnology, systems biology, veterinary medicine, forensic science, evolutionary biology, science teaching, science writing, and other areas.

The Harvey Mudd biology major, in conjunction with the common technical Core, provides the topical breadth that is the foundation of modern biology and the intellectual depth that enables students to understand how discoveries in the life sciences are made and communicated. A set of required Biology Core courses provides a broad foundation in biology. Building on this foundation, each student, in consultation with a biology faculty advisor, selects a group of advanced biology and related technical courses that introduce a life sciences subdiscipline in depth. In addition to Harvey Mudd courses, students may draw upon the extensive course offerings at Pomona College, the Keck Science Department of Claremont McKenna, Pitzer and Scripps colleges, the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences, and the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

Joint Major in Chemistry and Biology

Important opportunities are emerging at the interface of chemistry and biology. The Joint Major in Chemistry and Biology provides an organized framework in which students will be able to appreciate the biological context of their research questions and master the chemistry fundamentals that underlie the properties and reactions of biomolecules. Students interested in the Joint Major, which is administered by the Departments of Biology and Chemistry, should contact the Chairs of Biology and Chemistry.

Environmental Biology

Harvey Mudd College is part of a consortium that enables Harvey Mudd students to participate in the Semester in Environmental Science (SES) at the Ecosystems Center of the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts. This semester-long program emphasizes interdisciplinary, inquiry-based approaches to the in-depth study of both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. BIOL171 HM  and BIOL173 HM  are only offered as part of this program. Students interested in this program should contact Professor Catherine McFadden for information and applications. The Department of Biology also participates in the Harvey Mudd Center for Environmental Studies, which coordinates research and other activities in environmental studies. For more information, contact Professors Stephen Adolph or Catherine McFadden.

Mathematical and Computational Biology Major

Applications of mathematics and computer science are vital to many areas of contemporary biological and medical research, such as genomics, molecular modeling, structural biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, epidemiology, neurobiology, and cancer treatment. Students interested in the connections between biology, computer science, and mathematics may pursue the Mathematical and Computational Biology major, which is jointly administered by the departments of Biology, Computer Science, and Mathematics. For more information contact Professors Stephen Adolph, Eliot Bush, Lisette de Pillis (Mathematics), or Ran Libeskind-Hadas (Computer Science).

Health Professions

An excellent pre-medical preparation can be obtained at Harvey Mudd. In fact, the College’s emphasis on the humanities, social sciences, and the arts is a valuable asset for pre-medical studies. While there is no specific pre-medical curriculum, a pre-medical program can be arranged through any of the majors, if supplemented by appropriate biology and chemistry course work. Most medical schools require, as a minimum, one year of physics and biology and four semesters of chemistry, including organic chemistry. Students interested in medicine or related fields, such as dentistry or veterinary medicine, should contact the pre-professional coordinator, Professor James Eckert (Physics).


The biology department is housed in the F.W. Olin Science Center, which provides exceptionally well-equipped teaching and research laboratories to support our curriculum. The Robert J. Bernard Biological Field Station, located directly across the street from Harvey Mudd College, is the natural laboratory for field biology courses and student-faculty research. Automated DNA sequencing is carried out at the adjacent Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.


Areas available for student-faculty research within the department include behavioral ecology, biochemistry, cellular and developmental biology, molecular genetics, population biology, physiological ecology, biomechanics, animal locomotion, tissue engineering, neuroscience, animal behavior, molecular systematics, bioinformatics, mathematical ecology, computational genetics, and molecular evolution. Students wishing to pursue research prior to their senior year may enroll in BIOL161 HM /BIOL162 HM  or BIOL197 HM /BIOL198 HM . Summer research positions are also available. Contact the Department of Biology research coordinator, Professor Dan Stoebel, for details and applications.

Course Descriptions



Joint Major