What is a Biologist?
The field of biology is vast. From ecology and genetics to anatomy and neuroscience, biology majors are interested in studying life to discover its variety and characteristics.
This curiosity and desire for learning by doing is embraced by professors who mentor their students and engage them in challenging research and professional development opportunities outside the classroom.
Molecular Biology: This specialization is all about the study of molecules such as DNA, RNA and proteins. Students interested in the health professions often get degrees in this specialization and this includes, but is not limited to, pre-medicine, pre-veterinary, pre-dental, pre-physician assistant, genetic counseling, and other health specialties.
Environmental Biology: This specialization focuses on organisms and their relationships to each other and their environments. Students pursuing careers in ecology, environmental biology, botany, zoology, natural resource management, etc. would take this track.
General Biology: This specialization covers the widest scope of biology, with courses from across the discipline. All biology degrees prepare students for graduate and professional schools, work in laboratories and other scientific endeavors, and teaching (with appropriate certification).
Because of our size, we are able to offer individualized attention in our classes and labs. Professors take a personal interest in their students and assist them in securing internships with other universities or companies in various industries. These relationships are critical for students wanting to apply to graduate or medical schools.
All TLU Biology degrees now include a semester of research, because we believe that to be trained in science means that you need to be exposed to the "doing" of science in the form of scientific research. Biology students are encouraged to take advantage of faculty-mentored undergraduate research opportunities. Every senior participates in a capstone project that may include an original research project, a poster presentation and an oral presentation that is presented at our Student Academic Symposium in the spring.
Courses students might take include: Biodiversity, Biological Systems, Anatomy & Physiology, Genetics, Microbiology, Neuroscience, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Immunology, Cell Biology, Evolutionary Biology, Plant Biology, and Aquatic Biology.
Majors also take courses in chemistry, math, and physics to better understand the full scope of biology and how these areas work together.
Outside of the Classroom
Internship & Research Opportunities
The biology faculty believe that completing an internship or research experience helps students to learn more about biology, develop professional skills and an understanding of biology-related careers, while enhancing their applications for jobs and graduate and professional schools. The faculty maintain a network of contacts in various medical schools, graduate schools, and hospitals that enable us to find appropriate internships for our students.
Motivated students will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of internships or research fields to help establish their professional career. We work individually with the students to ensure their success.
TLU Biology Majors Have Had Internships At:
- Guadalupe Regional Medical Center
- UT School of Public Health
- Various medical and dental clinics
- Veterinary clinics
- San Antonio Zoo
- Texas Parks and Wildlife
- San Antonio Medical Center
- UT Health Science Center - San Antonio
- Texas A&M University - Graduate School - Department of Bioengineering
- Joint Admission Medical Program
- Public high schools (biology education)
Careers in Biology
All biology majors develop a broad knowledge of biology and take supporting courses in chemistry, physics, and statistics. All students develop skills in:
- using the scientific method,
- using laboratory techniques,
- reviewing scientific papers,
- presenting scientific information both orally and in writing,
- effectively analyzing and presenting numerical information in graphs
Students in the molecular biology track develop advanced skills in laboratory techniques, while students in the environmental biology track develop advanced skills in field techniques and identification of animals and plants.
Pre-Med or Health-Related Pre-Professional Programs
- Occupational Therapy
- Physician Assistant
- Physical Therapy
- Veterinary Science
- wildlife biology
- fisheries biology
- plant ecology
- natural resources
- conservation biology
- state certification for grades 8-12 life sciences
Business and Industry
- pharmaceutical industry
- environmental consulting
- health care administration
Students can be hired for the summer as paid biodiversity researchers through our grant-funded program at this large ranch only 15 minutes from Seguin. Students document the flora and fauna of the ranch and can develop independent projects to present at scientific meetings. Students can continue their research during the academic year as paid research assistants.
Research & Seminars
Students can participate in research projects with faculty members either during the semester or during the summer. Recent projects include:
- Stress-response pathways in bacteria (microbiology/molecular biology)
- Aquatic macroinvertebrates of a spring-fed spring (environmental biology/zoology)
- Isolation of ethanol-producing bacteria for producing biofuels (cell/molecular/microbiology)
- Vascular plants and lichen survey of a local ranch (environmental biology/botany)
- Effects of spinal decompression therapy (biomedical)
- Distribution and abundance of rare mayfly in a nearby lake (environmental biology/zoology)
- Analysis of data from a local school district on relationships between physical fitness and academic achievement (public health)
- Water quality monitoring in a local stream (environmental biology)
- Seasonal changes in mayfly abundance at Lake McQueeney (environmental biology)
- Evolutionary changes in soil bacteria (microbiology)
- Creation of a porcine model for diabetes (physiology)
- Epidemiology and characterization of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (microbiology)
Some majors do research in the TLU chemistry department during the summer and are often double-majoring in biology and chemistry.
Off-Campus Summer Research
- Programmed cell death in dinoflagellates (marine biology/cell biology)
- Effects of nanoparticles on bacteria of Galveston Bay (marine biology/molecular biology)
- Effects of hyperosmolarity on Vibrio bacteria (marine biology/cell biology)
- Effects of maternal nutrient restriction on mammalian development (physiology)
- Biochemical properties and hemostatic function of plasma-derived vs. recombinant fibrinogen (molecular biology/physiology)
- Maternal and fetal insulin-like growth factors (physiology/molecular biology)
- Role of sensory nerves in the vasoconstrictor response to local cooling in humans (physiology)
- Investigation of a genetic bottleneck in the California treefrog (genetics/environmental biology)
- Mercury in marine fish in the Gulf of Mexico (environmental biology/chemistry)
Biology Seminars provide students and faculty an opportunity to learn about the latest research in biology, as well as an opportunity to present their own research and ideas. All biology seniors present a 15-minute seminar in their last year at TLU.
Seminars are usually held at 1 pm on Fridays in Moody Science 101.
Central and South America
Students interested in tropical biology and environmental studies can participate in our trips to the beautiful countries of Central and South America. Over the past decade, we have been to Ecuador, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Mexico. Most trips last about two weeks in May.
These short study abroad opportunities are ideal for students who have not been out of the U.S. before, or those who may not have time or money for longer semester programs. Many of our students have described their travels to Central and South America as a highlight of their college experience. We usually travel with two TLU faculty members and about 10-12 students.
In June 2015, students traveled to Costa Rica to study tropical ecology and nonprofits. During the 11-day trip, we experienced the rainforests and learned about how nonprofits work to enhance the environment of Costa Rica. The tropical ecosystem proved very photogenic and brought to life everything the students studied in class the months before. While exploring Carrerra National Park, Savegre and Hacianda Baru, students spotted crocodiles, monkeys, amazing birds such as the resplendent quetzal, the elusive blue morpho butterfly, the dreaded fer-de-lance, two- and three-toed sloths, lizards, tropical and highland plants, and more. For the BIOL 379 Tropical Ecology course, we hiked almost 60 miles led by local guides through lowland tropical forests in and around Uvita, mountain trails in the Talamanca Mountain range and all the way up to the tropical highlands at 11,000 feet elevation at the Cerro de la Muerta park. As part of the Geography 379/Social Entrepreneurship 379 Nonprofits & NGOs, the group heard from Amy Work from GEOPORTers about the role of GIS in Escuela Verde School’s environmental community projects and then volunteered their time trash mapping to help her group find the cause and solutions to excess trash effecting the environment in Bahia.
In May 2013, nine TLU students and two TLU faculty traveled to Belize to study tropical ecology and environmental science. The first part of our adventure was spent on the remote island of Calabash Caye in the center of the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the Americas. Calabash Caye is located in the Turneffe Atoll, which recently was designated as a marine reserve by the government of Belize. The reef is known for its diversity of marine life and for a high density of American crocodiles, which we observed at night. We snorkeled in a variety of reefs and mangrove habitats and saw dozens of species of fish and invertebrates. The second part of our trip was spent on the mainland, and included visits to a community-sponsored sanctuary for howler monkeys and horseback riding in the jungle. We stayed at a lodge at the foothills of the scenic Maya mountains. The lodge is located adjacent to a 3000 acre reserve of primary rainforest. We observed toucans, parrots, boa constrictors, leaf-cutter ants, and many more species of rainforest animals. We also learned about the ancient Maya, and visited one of their sacred caves and the largest Maya city in Belize.
In May, 2010, we traveled to Ecuador, one of the countries with the highest biodiversity on Earth. In one day, one can travel from glaciated mountaintops to lowland rainforest. After a day of exploring the beautiful colonial city of Quito, we drove up to Cotopaxi to observe high-elevation habitats of the Andes. Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world, and we could certainly feel the lack of oxygen as we hiked at 15,000 feet above sea level. We then moved down into the mountain cloud forests on the east side of the Andes where we stayed at an awesome hacienda near Banos for a few days. Next, we descended into the Amazon basin to explore lowland tropical rainforest along the Napo River. On our way back to Quito we stayed at the thermal springs in Papallacta. During our trip, we played soccer with local kids, visited a gold-plated cathedral, ate local foods, planted some trees, visited an animal refuge, and continually soaked in the fascinating culture of Ecuador.
Pre-Professional Health Programs
TLU and University of Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio have memorandums of understanding (MOU) as part of UIW's Health Professions Pathway.
Students interested in pre-professional health programs often major in Biology, Biochemistry, or Chemistry, although pre-professional students can come from any major. TLU offers pre-professional programs in the following professions:
- Occupational Therapy
- Physician Assistant
- Physical Therapy
- Veterinary Science
Students interested in pursuing careers in these programs work with members of TLU's Health Professions Committee for individualized advising.