Research plays a major role in the Biology Department’s curriculum. Both Biology Department faculty and students actively pursue research on a variety of topics. Furthermore, all biology majors conduct independent research on a topic of the student’s choosing, utilizing state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.
Students researching plant biology have opportunities to study a broad range of topics including population dynamics, pollination biology, community ecology, ecological genetics, and plant physiology. Students receive training that integrates field and laboratory techniques to address research questions. Hillsdale students studying plant biology can work with local plant populations in Slayton Arboretum, at the G.H. Gordon Biological Station in northern MI, or grow plants in the lab and greenhouse.
Plant biology research is led by Christopher D. Heckel.
Developmental Genetics at Hillsdale College focuses on genetic mechanisms that regulate cell polarity in the developing Drosophila eye. Cell polarity is fundamental to many aspects of cell and developmental biology, and it is implicated in differentiation, proliferation, and pattern formation in diverse organisms. The Drosophila eye is an ideal experimental model system for the identification of cell polarity’s role in organ and tissue development. This research lies in the integration and application of genetics and developmental biology.
Developmental Genetics research is led by Dr. Sang-Chul Nam.
Behavioral ecology is the study of animal behavior in the context of natural environments and ecosystems. As part of this research, students conduct research at the G.H. Gordon Biological Station to study the effects of environment and habitat on animal behavior.
Behavioral ecology research is led by Prof. Angelica Pytel.
Microbiology / Molecular Biology
Microbiology and molecular biology at Hillsdale College focus on the study microorganisms, including bacteriophage, bacteria, yeast, and Rhodobacter sphaeroides (a photosynthetic bacterium). Students working on these projects learn how to grow microorganisms in culture, prepare and sterilize media, and isolate and purify nucleic acids.
Microbiology research is led by Dr. Francis Steiner.
Aquatic Ecology & Palaeoecology
Aquatic ecology and palaeoecology research at Hillsdale College focuses on identifying patterns that contribute to understanding how abiotic factors influence biological communities at multiple scales of resolution. As part of this research, students conduct excavations of sediment cores and fossils in the Great Lakes region.
Research in the Aquatic Ecology & Palaeoecology Laboratory is led by Dr. Anthony Swinehart.
Research in molecular ecology with a conservation emphasis involves applying genetic techniques to address cross-cutting issues, such as population structure, mating systems, movement patterns, and population trajectories. Students learn wildlife conservation techniques, population genetics, and molecular phylogenetics, as well as gaining experience with many field techniques.
Molecular ecology research is led by Dr. Jeffrey Van Zant.
Research in the virology laboratory is focused on dissecting the molecular mechanisms of virus replication and exploring the interactions between viruses and their host cells. Research utilizes a diversity of molecular, genetic, cell biology, and biotechnology techniques. Since all studies involving viruses must be carried out in the context of living cells, the virology laboratory houses a state-of-the-art facility to grow and maintain eukaryotic cells in culture.
Field research at the G.H. Gordon Biological Station
The G.H. Gordon Biological Station encompasses nearly 700 acres of upland forest, meadow, regenerating tallgrass prairie, various types of wetland, a 50-acre lake, a trout stream, and two experimental forest plots. Indoor facilities include biology and chemistry labs, and simulated stream environments. It is a world-class natural laboratory for student and faculty research in conservation, field and behavioral ecology, and sustainable resource management. Students study everything from spiders to salamanders to snapping turtles. Since 2011, almost 30 BioStation research students have published their research in professional scientific journals — a rare and crowning achievement for an undergraduate.
Research at the BioStation is led by Dr. David Houghton.