All Biology majors graduate proficient in research and go on to work on the forefront of research, innovate, educate, and make a difference through science in action, working in fields such as cell and molecular biology, virology, microbiology, animal behavior, botany, and ecology.

Success By The Numbers


Placement of 2022 Grads

Our 2022 graduates found success in employment or in graduate school within 6 months of graduation.

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Real World Opportunities

Biology and Environmental Science students participate in community-engaged projects and internships during their undergraduate, studies, giving them the skills and diverse experiences that are most desirable for employers and graduate school admission.

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Hands-On Research

Each academic year, over 80 students conduction research with faculty and/or care for organisms in our labs. Students are encouraged to participate in research opportunities starting in their first year.

Degree Requirements


By the time a student has completed a major in Biology or Marine Biology, s/he is expected to be able to demonstrate the following competencies:

  1. formulate a scientific question or problem
  2. design a properly controlled experiment or field study that tests a clearly-stated hypothesis
  3. evaluate evidence critically and quantitatively, and apply this knowledge to novel situations.
  4. effectively communicate scientific knowledge orally, graphically, and in writing
  5. conduct a search of peer-reviewed print and electronic resources relevant to a research project in the life sciences
  6. understand the role of macromolecules in cellular processes
  7. understand the relationship between the structure and function of cellular components
  8. understand the relationship between the structure and function of major organ systems
  9. understand the mechanisms of physiological homeostasis
  10. describe cellular and physiological adaptations that have evolved in a variety of phyla
  11. understand the key discoveries of modern biology (including molecular biology and bioinformatics)
  12. understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of inheritance
  13. understand the species concept and the factors affecting biodiversity
  14. describe the patterns and mechanisms of evolution
  15. understand how phylogenetic relationships among taxa are determined
  16. describe the patterns and mechanisms of population distribution, growth and regulation
  17. understand the flow of matter and energy through natural systems from the molecular to the ecosystem level
  18. describe interactions among biotic and abiotic factors in natural systems
  19. understand the life history strategies of organisms
  20. describe the major global biological communities and biomes
  21. understand significant interactions and dependencies between human and natural systems

The Marine and Natural Sciences building is equipped with advanced laboratory research space along with an Aquatic Diagnostic Laboratory and a greenhouse. The facilities house advanced research instruments including real-time PCR machines, fluorescence and confocal microscopes, cell culture facilities, and a flow cytometer. Our researchers use model organisms including bacteria, yeast, round worms, fruit flies, amoeba, and zebrafish, and also study terrestrial and marine microbes, invertebrates, desert plants, and macroalgae. 

Customize Your Studies

Learn About Health Professions Advising

A student doing research in a Biology labAre you interested in a career in the health professions and want more information on developing your studies toward professional preparation? Our interdisciplinary team of Faculty Health Profession Advisors help students chart individualized pre-Health paths including Pre-Medicine, Pre-Dentistry, Pre-Pharmacy, Pre-Veterinary Medicine, and more. Visit Health Professions Advising for resources on how you can explore your options for health professions pathways.

Explore Health Professions Advising

Earn a Pharm.D. in Seven Years  

Instead of taking eight years to get a Pharm.D., the 3+4 Biology-Pharm.D. dual degree program enables students to earn a B.S. in Biology at RWU and a Pharm.D. from the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in only seven years. 

Learn from Faculty Experts

Headshot of Chris BurtnerDr. Christopher Burtner
Assistant Professor of Biology 

Research Interests: Biology of aging; Stem cells and gene therapy; CRISPR gene editing; Molecular biology; Translational biomedicine. 

Student Opportunities: CRISPR gene-editing and transcriptional-activation in yeast and C. elegans; Identification of genetic pathways involved in regulating longevity; Effect of longevity- promoting pathways on neurodegeneration. 

Dr. Avelina EspinosaHeadshot of Avelina Espinosa
Professor of Biology 

Research Interests: Novel therapies to manage amebiasis; Molecular microbiology; Origin and evolution of anaerobic pathways; Evolution/science literacy. 

Student Opportunities: Identification and testing of natural and synthetic anti-amebic drugs; Mechanism of action of anti-amebic drugs; Using protists as models for exploring the impact of climate change; Scientific assessments of student/faculty views on evolution, science and anti-intellectualism movements. 

Headshot of Marcie MarstonDr. Marcie Marston
Professor of Biology 

Research Interests: Coevolution of bacteria and viruses; Diversity and distribution of marine viruses; Viral genome evolution. 

Student Opportunities: Evolution of viral virulence; Isolation and identification of marine viruses; Kinetics of viral infection; Viral genome evolution; Horizontal gene transfer of viral genes. 

Alumni Share Their Experiences

Headshot of Mary D'Angelo “Undergraduate research at Roger Williams University changed my entire educational experience. It taught me a lot more about my field, and it is why I got into my Ph.D. program.” 

Mary D’Angelo '21
Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo


A headshot of Callie Sullivan"I knew I wanted to work in genetic counseling, which has a very large biology component. My senior year, I worked in Dr. Chris Burtner’s lab on genetics, which made me love doing research and inspired me to look for research jobs specifically."

Callie Sullivan '22 
Research Technician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston


Intern with Prestigious Organizations 

As a Biology major, you can gain real-world experience through an internship, which often leads to full-time employment. Our students intern at organizations including:

  • Pfizer, Inc.
  • Amgen
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • The Rhode Island Department of Health
  • Save the Bay
  • Audubon Education Center

Research As Early As Your First Year 

A student doing research in a Biology lab

Undergraduate research is integrated into the Biology curriculum, with opportunities for students to earn academic credit for doing research, to develop proposals and compete for small grants to fund their projects, and to present their findings at regional, national and international conferences. Projects in the Biology department address questions of evolutionary biology, molecular biology of aging and the design of antimicrobial drugs.

Recent projects include: 

  • Genetics and evolution of marine viruses  
  • Biotechnology of anti-amebic drugs  
  • Ecotoxicology of heavy metals  
  • Developmental genetics  
  • Molecular genetics of aging and longevity  
  • Evolution of photosynthetic pathways in plants  
  • CRISPR gene editing  
  • Soil invertebrates 

Ways to Get Involved 

Multicultural STEM Alliance 

The Multicultural STEM Alliance aims to strengthen the sense of community among students of color in STEM majors at RWU by offering activities, mentorship, and networking opportunities at and outside of the university.