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Welcome to the Department of Biology

Department of Biology in McCollum Science Hall
Students selected to attend the 2016 National Council on Undergraduate Research conference in Asheville, NC.
Class sizes are small and taught by faculty.
The Department of Biology provides advanced lab experiences using the newest technology.

Welcome to the Department of Biology

Biology at UNI is a Great Place to Prepare for a Career in Medicine

In 2015, the acceptance rate of UNI students into the University of Iowa College of Medicine was the highest of all the Iowa Regent's Institutions.

Biology is a Great Major for those Wishing to Pursue Careers in Medicine

Data from the University of Iowa College of Medicine show that 73% of the 2015 entering class had a degree in the Biological Sciences ( At Des Moines University School of Medicine, the most common undergraduate degree majors are Biology and Chemistry (

Biology at UNI is a Great Place to Prepare for a Career in Dentistry

Many colleges and universities around the country offer pre-professional programs for the health sciences, such as the Biomedical Emphasis in Biology at UNI. Students enrolled in these programs usually do well when admitted to a dental program (

Biology at UNI is a Great Place to Prepare for a Career in Physical Therapy

For the Des Moines University Physical Therapy Program, the most common undergraduate majors are Biology, Psychology and Exercise Science ( At The University of Iowa, the most popular undergraduate majors of pre-PT students are Human Physiology, Biology, and Psychology (

Biology at UNI is a Great Place to Prepare for Top Flight Masters and Doctoral Programs

  • UNI Biology students also pursue a variety of Ph.D. and Master's programs and have attended the following institutions:
    • University of Northern Iowa
    • University of Iowa
    • Iowa State University
    • Harvard University
    • Stanford University
    • Florida State University
    • Texas A&M University
    • University of Minnesota
    • University of Cincinnati
    • University of Wisconsin
    • University of Missouri
    • University of Kansas
    • University of Arkansas
    • University of Texas
    • University of Akron
    • University of Nebraska
    • University of Auckland – New Zealand

Biology at UNI Offers Students a Wide Array of Out of Classroom Possibilities

  • Biology students have outstanding internship possibilities:
    • Seattle Aquarium • Henry Doorly Zoo
    • United States Navy • NASA
    • Integrated DNA Technologies • Walt Disney World
    • National Aquarium • AmeriCorp
    • Hormel Institute • United States Senate
    • Univ. of TX M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
    • Sea World • Pioneer • National Institutes of Health

Biology at UNI Offers Students a Wide Array of Opportunities Beyond the State of Iowa

  • UNI Biology students have participated in National Student Exchange:
    • University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau
    • University of Kentucky
    • University of Rhode Island
    • Oregon State University
    • University of Virgin Islands, St. Thomas
    • University of Montana
    • Montana State University

. . . and Around the World

  • UNI Biology students have participated in Study Abroad:
    • South Africa • Australia
    • Turkey • France • England • Taiwan

Alumnus, Dr. Dave Swanson, Demonstrates the Use of Ultrasound with Local Anesthesia

Dr. Dave Swanson Demonstration in the Biology Dept.Dr. Dave Swanson, UNI Alum, was on the UNI campus on April 20th to perform a demonstration on the use of ultrasound and the need for anatomical knowledge in the placement of local anesthesia. Dr. Swanson performed ultrasound on a student volunteer to show students and faculty in attendance where local anesthesia is placed for specific procedures and why learning the anatomy of these areas is so important to anesthesiologists. These ultrasound images were projected on the big screen in Lantz Auditorium, allowing the entire audience to view the images. Further, Dr. Swanson and our very own Mary McDade made use of our synthetic cadavers (syndavers) to point out the anatomical landmarks shown in the ultrasound images. The images from the syndavers were projected onto two big screen monitors on either side of the room. This allowed the audience to compare the ultrasound images to the anatomical structures of the syndavers simultaneously. This was an outstanding opportunity for students to obtain "real life" uses of what they are learning in their anatomy courses and was motivational for them in their pursuit of a health related career. Dr. Swanson remained after the demonstration to interact with faculty and students. The event was so successful that Dr. Swanson and the UNI Department of Biology are already in the planning stages for a similar event next year.

Emily Van Laar, 2016 Alumni in Residence, Presentation to Faculty and Students

Fighting Cancer: A UNI Graduate's Perspective on Education, Research and CareersFighting Cancer Powerpoint Presentation

Emily Van Laar is currently the Director of Clinical Strategy Oncology at Medscape. She works to identify and develop medical education strategy for hematology, oncology and supportive care. Emily is a 1997 UNI graduate in biology, with a chemistry minor. The summer after her junior year at UNI, Emily participated in a summer research program hosted by the University of Texas in Houston, performing breast cancer research, which cultivated her interest in a career in oncology. Prior to her current position, Emily headed up the medical education department for a drug developed to treat a blood disorder being studied in patients with leukemia and other cancers for MGI PHARMA, INC., a biopharmaceutical company in Bloomington, Minn. She holds a Master of Science degree in cancer biology from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Science and has developed a breast cancer database that helps researchers choose the appropriate models in which to use their studies.

Department Snapshots

Contact Us:

Dr. David Saunders, Department Head
University of Northern Iowa • Department of Biology • 144 McCollum Science Hall • Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0421
Tel: (319) 273-2456 • Fax: (319) 273-7125
Sandi Ingles, Office Coordinator • Email: