Student presenting her work to a professor at a Harlan Research Poster event


Amid a competitive funding climate, the Department of Biological Sciences is awarded millions of dollars in research grants every year. Students and faculty work together to find treatments for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, watch research projects grow in the greenhouse, preserve the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and uncover new species of dinosaurs.

Whether in the Gobi Desert or the mid-Atlantic,  biological fieldwork and exploration is happening across the globe. With connections to the Organization for Tropical Studies and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, students have access to tropical biology courses in Costa Rica and extensive museum collections here in the nation’s capital.


Biology Research by the Numbers 

2.8 Million Awarded in Research Funding


34 active funded research grants


100 peer-reviewed articles published annually, on average, by faculty





Undergraduate students in the lab

Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate students can begin research projects early in their studies and continue for multiple years, building strong mentoring relationships with faculty members along the way. Student research often culminates in poster presentations, honors theses and awards.

Graduate student using a microscope

Graduate Research

Research forms the backbone of graduate study, and generally falls under two areas: Cellular and Molecular Biology and Systematics, Evolution and Ecology. Many biology graduate students see their work published, and some present research at national conferences.

professor in the greenhouse

Faculty Research

Between creating a Zika vaccine, tracking the effects of global warming, charting evolutionary history and discovering new species, our distinguished faculty stay busy. Students are encouraged to reach out to faculty members about research projects that interest them.


Research in Action

Senior biology major Alison Pagalilauan (left) and senior physics major Ujwal Kumar

Getting Creative: Biology Student Continues Research From Home

Rising senior biology major Alison Pagalilauan was engrossed in her research on oanalyzing meta-genomic data from steam vent samples collected in Hawaii’s Kilauea East Rift Zone when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down campus. Since then, Pagalilauan has used an online interface to continue her research from her home in New Jersey.
Image of a ruler next to a fungi sample

New Study Reveals How Wood Decay Drives Carbon Cycle

Through a combination of lab and field experiments, Associate Professor of Biology Amy Zanne and a team of researchers have developed a better understanding of the factors accounting for different wood decomposition rates among fungi. Their findings reveal how deciphering fungal trait variation can improve the predictive ability of early and mid-stage wood decay, a critical driver of the global carbon cycle.

Ichosia Biotechnology

Biology Student Working on a Potential Replacement for Blood in the Transfusion System

Ichosia, a startup developed by sophomore microbiology major Lucas Vining-Recklitis with the help of three other students, is developing a genetically engineered red blood cell product for blood transfusions treatments.
research team working together

Save the Honeybees

Almost half of America’s bees have disappeared in just a decade, and the root of the problem is still uncertain. Assistant Professor of Biology Hartmut Doebel led a team of undergraduate research assistants on the case. The team zeroed in on one suspect: a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Ricky Zhu, a biology major and lead research assistant in Doebel’s lab, said that he and his fellow student researchers felt proud ownership over the work. “We nurture it. It’s our baby.”