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You’re that person

  • who hasn’t lost your childhood fascination with all things furry, winged and creepy-crawly
  • who wants to learn everything you can about living things and how they interact with each other and the environment
  • who seeks answers to questions about the vast diversity of life forms – from viruses to iguanas to humans to blue whales
  • who dreams of changing the world by caring for your piece of the planet

Undergraduate research

You can study biology anywhere. What sets Bethel College apart:

  • Hands-on experience: You won’t have to wait until your senior year to get into the lab and work with state-of-the-art scientific instruments – it starts with the introductory classes.
  • Emphasis on mentoring: Small class sizes mean your professors (scholar-scientists, not teaching assistants) know you. And the STEM Learning Community pairs upper-class science students with beginning ones.
  • Senior capstone: Since you start out with lab and field experience, you’ll be well prepared for the senior research project required of all science majors.

Far afield

Bethel offers several unusual settings for field research, including some that take advantage of its unique location within the tallgrass prairie ecosystem.

  • prairie restoration sites – on campus and near campus
  • biennial Tropical Biology field trip during interterm
  • study abroad options that include the Galapagos Islands
  • a developing cooperative relationship with UNICACH, Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas (Mexico)
And speaking of well-traveled – check out what some of our Bethel biology alumni have done with their degrees.
A note on “Natural Sciences”

If you don’t want to commit to a single field of science, the Natural Sciences major is an option – available only by request at the end of your sophomore year and subject to approval by the department chair. You must complete at least 18 upper-level hours in one of the sponsoring departments: athletic training; biology; chemistry; computer science; mathematics; physics; or psychology.

Want to talk more with faculty and current students? Schedule a campus visit.

Already visited campus, but want to come back to interview for a science or STEM scholarship? Schedule an interview.



In recent years, biology students have conducted internships at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita; Children’s Hospital, Kansas City, Mo.; Colon Cancer Research Center, University of Kansas, Lawrence; the Nature Conservancy, California; the University of Minnesota; and the Harvard University Forest in Massachusetts. Students have also done medical research at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

Long known for its focus on environmental sciences, Bethel’s biology department manages two native prairie tracts of land: a rare 80-acre Sand Prairie Natural History Preserve just minutes from campus as well as the 80-acre Broadie Prairie Preserve in the Kansas Flint Hills (the largest expanse of original tallgrass prairie left on the continent). In spring 2007, tallgrass prairie and oak woodland restoration studies were established immediately east of the Bethel campus. For years, biology faculty and student collaborators have studied plant communities, soils, small mammals, birds, snakes and amphibians within these prairie tracts. Biology students have numerous opportunities to conduct hands-on research in these long-term prairie projects.

Undergraduate research is requirement for the sciences at Bethel College, including biology. As a biology major, you’ll design and complete a year-long research project in your senior year to complete the degree. Some examples of student senior seminars from recent years are:

  • Colon Cancer Risk in High-BMI Patients
  • Population Genetics of Eastern Moles (Scalopus aquaticus) in North Newton
  • Physiological and Cognitive Effects of Active Cooling on Heat Stress in Firefighters: Forearm and Hand Immersion and Cold Towels
  • Macroinvertebrate Biotic Index (MBI) Assessment: A Comparison of Sites Upstream, Within and Downstream of Towns along Three Central Kansas Waterways
  • A Cure for Paralysis: The Zebrafish Study

Study Abroad

Bethel College offers a month-long Tropical Biology travel course to Costa Rica. The objectives of the course are:

  • to broaden an understanding of and experience with biological diversity through field study within several tropical ecosystems;
  • to introduce the student to the ecological structure and dynamics of rainforests, dry forests and marine coastal ecosystems;
  • to learn about some current research in tropical ecology;
  • to learn about environmental problems in the tropics and efforts to solve them;
  • to gain an understanding and appreciation of the culture and societal aspirations of the people of Costa Rica.

This course is offered alternate years during January interterm and meets the Common Ground requirement in Cross-Cultural Learning. Prerequisite: one semester of organismal biology (BIO 110, 125, 130 or equivalent).

For more information about the next scheduled trip, contact Jon Piper.

  • Roughly half of Bethel biology and natural science majors go on to earn a Ph.D. or an M.D. degree.
  • Nearly all (85 percent in a recent survey) Bethel biology majors find employment in a biology-related career.

Post-graduate careers include:

  • medicine
  • physical therapy
  • dentistry
  • veterinary medicine
  • biomedical research
  • conservation/environmental work
  • high school science teaching
  • college/university professor

Notable Alumni

Aaron Topham – ’14
Aaron took a different turn with his career after obtaining a biology degree from Bethel. Topham currently works as an exceptions accountant for Koch Industries in Wichita.
Rodger Nugent – ’04
Roger has put his liberal arts education to work as the founder and owner of a set of computer repair stores in the Harvey County area.

Summer Science Institute

The Summer Science Institute takes place annually on campus, generally in the first full week of June. The institute offers high school students who have completed grades 10-12 opportunities for research investigation in multiple areas of science, including biology, psychology, mathematics, chemistry and computer science. Students study fascinating and challenging topics that high school courses typically do not cover, with a focus on learning how to do research through close interaction with faculty. Bethel students can gain practical experience in science instruction and lab supervision as Summer Science Institute staff.

Major requirements for Biology: 47 hours (30 hours in biology, 16 upper level, plus 17 hours supporting courses in mathematics and the physical sciences).

Major requirements for Biology teacher licensure: 38 hours (21 hours in biology, 8 hours in supporting courses in chemistry and 9 hours required licensure courses) plus completion of General Education requirements for teacher licensure and professional education requirements.

Minor requirements for Biology: 18 hours, including at least three upper-level courses.

The biology curriculum provides a broad-based preparation for graduate study, secondary teaching and programs in medical science and environmentally oriented professions.

A Natural Sciences major is an option if you do not want to commit to a single field of science. This major is available only by request at the end of the sophomore year and must be approved by the department chair. You must complete at least 18 hours in one of the sponsoring departments (athletic training, biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, physics and psychology); 18 hours must be upper-level from the departments listed.

Jean Woods

Assistant professor of biology

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.