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Biological Sciences


The scholarly endeavors of the Biological Sciences faculty, staff and students as manifest by our courses and research activities define us as a broad-based department, spanning molecules and cells to tissues and organisms to populations and ecosystems. Courses and research opportunities are available in Biochemistry, Structural Biology and Biophysics, Cell Biology, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Computational Biology, Evolutionary Biology, Ecology, Developmental Biology, and Neurobiology. The undergraduate curriculum leads to three possible majors:

Biological Sciences

This major (BioSci) is designed for the student seeking a broad base in the biological sciences, for advanced training in biology, biotechnology, or medicine.

Ecology, Evolution & Organismal Biology

This major (EEOB) is designed for the student seeking a foundation for advanced training in ecology, evolutionary biology, conservation and environmental biology, or related sub disciplines.

Molecular & Cellular Biology

Molecular & Cellular Biology (MCB) 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 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. degrees at prestigious institutions, may enter the Honors program. The Honors program provides a strong independent research experience as well as critical thinking and scientific writing skills. Students with a 3.4 GPA in courses that count toward the major qualify. A minimum of eight hours must be completed in Honors Research (BSCI 4999) and a written Honors Thesis must be defended through oral presentation.

2016 Honors Theses include:

Ravi Chintapalli, “The Analysis of Anopheline Mosquito Wing Accessory Pulsatile Organ Pysiology”

Sam Erlinger, “Determining a non-canonical role of COPI via ubiquitin sorting signals”

Marlene Heberling, “The Membrane Binding Domain of Bid Mediates its Metabolic Function”

Ariel Helms, “Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator and mouse pancreatic β-cells”

Sean King, “Evolution of secondary metabolism in microbial eukaryotes”

Conor McMann, “The Search for Circadian Rhythms in Wild Bacteria”

Sesha Myneni, “Role of the CopN Scc3 Complex in the Transition from Translocator Secretion”

Alexandra Ruff, “Characterization of Olfactory Dependent Processes in the Florida Carpenter Ant Camponotus foridanus using volatile Orco Agonists”

Lauren White, “The role of FAK and Src kinases in the ECM organization of Cancer Associated Fibroblasts”

Anna Zhou, “Regulation of zebrafish retina regeneration by miR-216 and Dot 11”

Justin Yeh, “The role of Golgi-derived microtubules in vesicle fusion at the Golgi”

Undergraduate Publications

A number of students participating in our many opportunities for independent research produce work that is published in leading scientific journals. Examples can be found at: as.vanderbilt.edu/biosci/undergraduate/publications.php

Other Special Opportunities

Significant independent research is encouraged for all students, not just Honors students. The majority of our majors participate in independent research for 1 to 3 years for credit towards the major and/or within summer research programs:

After Vanderbilt

Michael Pritchett (2013) Medical school at University of Kansas.

Emily Bain (2014) Graduate student at University of Washington.

Marilyn Claire Cato (2014) Graduate student at University of Michigan.

Lyla Kotsch (2015) Graduate student in Vanderbilt Masters of Accountancy Program.

Dacia Boyce (2013) Graduate student at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Grace Coggins (2014) Graduate student in Pharmacology Graduate Program at University of Pennsylvania.

Weihan Chen (2013) Medical school at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

Sushma Boppana (2014) Graduate student in University of Alabama-Birmingham MD/PhD program.

Carolyn Foley (2011) Medical student at the Univeristy of Oregon.

Martha Holingsworth Elmore (2013) Graduate student at Harvard University.

Heather Estby (2013) University of Minnesota Medical School.

Lauren de la Parte (2014) London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Zhongyang Cao (2013) Ph.D. student at University of Chicago.

Jacqueline Palma (2008) University of Arizona School of Dentistry.

Aaron Noll (2012) Vanderbilt University Medical School.

Ima Paydar (2008) Washington University School of Medicine.

Alex Commanday (2013) Baylor College of Medicine.

Jenni Qi (2012) Graduate student at University of California-San Francisco.

Samantha Skains (2011) Law student at Tulane Law School.

Anna Talage (2013) Graduate student at Johns Hopkins University.


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. Exciting research questions in these areas are addressed in our labs by undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and our faculty. Specific research interests of individual faculty can be found on the department website (vu.edu/biosci).


Alicia Goostree
Department of Biological Sciences
VU Station B 351634
Nashville, TN  37235
(615) 936-3651

Biological Sciences Website