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Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology

Biological sciences is a broad-based department, spanning molecules and cells, tissues and organisms, and populations and ecosystems. Courses and research opportunities are available in a range of subjects, including biochemistry, structural biology and biophysics, cell biology, genetics, molecular biology, developmental biology, neurobiology, parasitology, immunology, computational biology, systems biology, genomics, evolutionary biology, ecology, and conservation biology. Students can choose from three majors:

  • Biological Sciences (BioSci). This major is designed for students seeking a broad base in the biological sciences, in preparation for advanced training in biology, biotechnology, or medicine.
  • Ecology, Evolution & Organismal Biology (EEOB). This major is designed for students who plan to pursue advanced training in genomics, systems biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, conservation and environmental biology, or related sub-disciplines.
  • Molecular & Cellular Biology (MCB). This major is designed for students with specific interests in the molecular and cellular aspects of biology, with a focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms of life processes. The major is designed to provide a strong background for students with career interests in biological and biomedical research or in medicine.

Honors Program

Students with a strong interest in basic research, including those who wish to pursue graduate studies leading to the Ph.D. or the combined M.D./Ph.D. degree at prestigious institutions, may enter the Honors program. The Honors program provides a strong independent research experience as well as training in critical thinking and scientific writing. Students must have a 3.3 GPA overall and a 3.4 GPA in courses that count toward the major. The program requires a minimum of eight hours of Honors Research (BSCI 4999) and the oral defense of a written Honors thesis.

2019 Honors theses include:

  • Amanda Sun, “Determining the Function of Rm62 in Dislodging R-Loops”
  • Eliot Forster-Benson, “Using Gene Intolerance to Discover Novel Significance in Disease Related Proteins”
  • David Fei-Zhang, “BCAR3 Partners with EGFR Tyrosine Kinase through its SH2 Domain to Promote Colorectal Cancer Metastasis”
  • Marissa Huggins, “Impact of Metabolic Stress on the Formation of the Synctiotrophoblast Layer of the Placenta”
  • Tara Mack, “The Relationship Between Genetic Risk for Anorexia Nervosa and Body Mass”
  • Megan Mitchell, “Effects of Geographic Overlap and Genetic Distance on Oscine Song Divergence”
  • Jack Rong, “Rif1 and DNA Replication”
  • Faith Rovenolt, “The Impact of Coinfection Dynamics on Host Competition and Coexistence”
  • Levy Sominsky, “Elucidation of the Role of Cytochrome bd In Biofilm Development and Antimicrobial Sensitivity”

Undergraduate Publications

Many of our students who conduct independent research produce work that is published in leading scientific journals. See the biological sciences website for examples.

Other Special Opportunities

The department encourages significant independent research for all students, not just Honors students. Most of our majors conduct independent research for 1 to 3 years, either  for credit towards the major or within summer research programs. See our website for details.

After Vanderbilt

Our majors go on to a variety of career, including Ph.D. study, medicine, pharmacy, and industry. Examples include:

  • Zack Ely (2018): Ph.D. graduate student at MIT
  • Yannan Huang (2018): medical student at University of Cincinnati
  • Ty Bortoff (2017): Ph.D. graduate student at University of Washington Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center
  • Jarrod Shilts (2017): Ph.D. graduate student at Sanger Institute
  • Nicholas Diab (2017): M.D./Ph.D. student at Yale University
  • Josh Eggold (2015): Ph.D. graduate student at Stanford University
  • Grace Coggins (2014): Graduate student in pharmacology at University of Pennsylvania
  • Emily Bain (2014): Ph.D. graduate student at University of Washington
  • Mary Claire Cato (2014): Ph.D. graduate student at University of Michigan
  • Saul Siller (2011): M.D./Ph.D. resident in anesthesiology at Yale University
  • Daniella Buscarriollo (2011): Radiation oncologist, Boston, MA


The aggregate research and teaching interests of the faculty cover many areas of biological sciences. Focused areas of research include biological clocks, genome maintenance, small RNAs, protein trafficking, vector biology, symbiosis, social evolution, microbiomes, speciation, brain asymmetry, synapse formation and plasticity, organelle formation, cell migration, and touch, visual, and olfactory sensory systems. Undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and our faculty all address exciting questions in these areas through work in our research labs. See the department website for more information on individual faculty’s specific research interests.


Department of Biological Sciences
Phone: (615) 936-3651

Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology Website