Biology

Biology

Biology is one of PUC’s most popular programs. It is also one of the most academically rigorous, with test scores and grad school acceptances that put it at the top nationwide. Whether preparing for a future in research, education, medicine, dentistry, or ecology, a degree in biology can open up many possibilities.

Fast Facts

1

The B.S. in biology exceeds all requirements for entry into medicine and veterinary medicine.

2

PUC biology seniors scored above the 99th percentile on the Major Field Test (MFT), which is nationally normed.

3

Modern laboratory equipment allows students to perform their own experiments in current fields such as immunology, molecular genetics, and cancer biology.

4

Department museums include extensive collections of mammals, birds, insects, and plants.

5

Students take many courses that take them outside the classroom. The department teaches classes at the college’s Albion Retreat and Learning Center on the Mendocino Coast, and has traveled as far away as Brazil for tropical biology courses.

Careers

  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Veterinary science
  • Optometry
  • Pharmacy
  • Physical therapy
  • University & secondary education
  • Environmental policy
  • Water management
  • Wildlife management
  • Public Health
  • Biology Professor

Tropical Biology in Brazil

Students experienced incredible biodiversity along the Amazon River during a tropical biology course that took place over spring break in conjunction with a medical mission trip.

Q&A: Chloe Dillon’s “Wild” Internship

Chloe Dillon

Chloe Dillion, a biology/pre-veterinary medicine student, answered a few questions about her summer internship with Sierra Wildlife Rescue:

Tell us about your internship.
My internship is with Sierra Wildlife Rescue, a volunteer based organization in El Dorado County that focuses on rehabilitating animals with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. At Sierra Wildlife I am simply known as an intern, which doesn't sound prestigious but has marvelous experiences.

How did you hear about it?
I was feeling desperate one weekend when I realized that my summer was looking unproductive. In order to get into veterinary school, you need a substantial amount of animal experience. Thank goodness for the internet and good ol' Google search. I was relieved and ecstatic when I discovered that Sierra Wildlife Rescue was right near my home.

What is your average day?
Because Sierra Wildlife is a multifaceted organization, my days can drastically vary. There are specific people in charge of various animal species, so it depends on who I contact and choose to work with. This "internship" becomes plural depending on how many programs I take on, keeping me plenty busy! On some days I go to the Sierra Wildlife headquarters and work in the baby bird nursery, where I care for newly born chicks to fully mature birds. On other days, I work under Dave Cook, a veteran of the Sierra Wildlife program. For 11 years, he has been focused on fawn rehabilitation. When I spend the day at his facility, I have the opportunity to hold adorable fawns during feeding and IV sessions, stand in on their veterinary visits, and I have the gratification of seeing them grow and learn to feed themselves. It will be bittersweet when I see them released back into the wild.

“These internships not only look great on veterinary college applications, but they also remind me that I really am following my dream.”

What makes this internship fun or interesting?
The animals, no doubt! Every day, I can expect something new and different. I never know what little furry or feathered critter is awaiting me, or how many! Just the other day we had a juvenile red tailed hawk come into the baby bird nursery, and it was breathtakingly beautiful. I was beyond pleased that I got to hold and care for such a beautiful creature. Knowing that I can choose from any of the various animal care branches greatly broadens my experience and keeps things exciting. I am currently in contact with a woman who focuses on raptor (birds of prey) care, and will hopefully care for some raptors, squirrels, chipmunks and possibly coyotes soon!

What's the most challenging part of your internship?
The most challenging part for me is when an animal is lost, or is non-salvageable due to extreme injury. Often if a bird's leg is broken severely, or a fawn is torn up from an attack or had the misfortune of meeting barbed wire, it is more beneficial or humane for the animal to be euthanized. Although it's necessary to be prepared for decisions like these in this line of work, it is never easy.

What knowledge and skills are you learning?
Besides general animal care and feeding, I am getting to see some of the medical side of things. Thus far I have learned about the administering of various medications and care of broken limbs. Alongside the beauty of medical care, I love obtaining general knowledge of different species. It allows me to become more conscious of the wildlife that lives in my area, and it's always better to know what you're talking about!

How will this experience help you toward your career goals?
Because I aspire to be a wildlife veterinarian, it's incredibly necessary that I submerse myself in these kind of experiences. These internships not only look great on veterinary college applications, but they also remind me that I really am following my dream. Helping wildlife in my area has been immensely rewarding and has solidified my aspiration to become a successful and knowledgeable animal doctor. I just learned that I secured another internship, this time at the Folsom Zoo. Now I will be responsible for helping care for zoo animals in addition to my current work. I can't even begin to express my excitement. These internships are making my dream all the more real.

Alum Mindy Nelson: Defining the 99.9th Percentile

While PUC ranked in the 99th percentile, Mindy’s individual score was in the 99.9th percentile of students nationwide.

Mindy Nelson

PUC graduate Mindy Nelson was eager to take on a new challenge she would face after she graduated. This outstanding student took the knowledge she’s gained in her biology studies and her in-field experience to the prestigious veterinary program at the University of California Davis.

When asked if PUC has prepared her for this step, her response is immediate. “Absolutely,” Mindy says. “I think that my science background here will make the transition to vet school much easier.” The classes she’s taken have, although focused on human medicine, prepared her as they “cross the border into animals as well.” The Major Field Test for biology, a comprehensive exam required of all graduating biology majors and consisting of 150 multiple choice questions, tests both laboratory and field knowledge, diagrams, and experimental skills. While PUC ranked in the 99th percentile, Mindy’s individual score was in the 99.9th percentile of students nationwide.

Her extensive experience in veterinary clinics also gave her the edge she needed to make it into the competitive program. “At UC Davis, their average accepted student has about three thousand hours of shadowing a vet,” Mindy says. With 2,600 hours when she applied, Mindy’s advantage came from the number of places she got her hours, working full-time every summer at several different veterinary clinics since she graduated high school.

She worked at both a small animal clinic in Ukiah, Calif., where her family currently lives, and a horse surgery and sports medicine hospital in Kentucky. The clinic in Ukiah exposed her to many tasks, such as surgery prep, vaccinations, and x-rays. She also got to practice business skills as she made appointments and handled billings and client appointments. The hospital in Kentucky was a different experience, as she participated in surgeries, ultrasounds, and anesthesia practices. Additionally, she was able to ride along with a vet on thoroughbred farms, where they conducted ultrasounds, gave uterus cultures and antibiotic treatments, and administered hormones. She was also able to spend time with a racetrack vet and a horse show vet.

Mindy advises other students on the same career path to “get your experience hours as soon as you can. You don’t have to have a 4.0 [GPA] to get in, but you do need to show that you’re dedicated. They look for a student who understands the profession and who has put in the time.”

Mindy hasn’t set her post-Davis plans in stone, as internships and residency are optional for vet school, but she would like to apply for internships after she finishes the program.

“I'm definitely looking forward to the actual school part of vet medicine, but I know there will be plenty of stressful times in the future when I question why I'm putting myself through this,” Mindy says. “It is great to have had hundreds of hours of ‘highlights’ to look back on to remind myself what it's all about.”

Research in Paraguay: PUC Professor is Fulbright Scholar

Floyd Hayes

In an active, creative biology department that emphasizes field experience — both for students and teachers — Pacific Union College professor Floyd Hayes is one example of leadership in research and life learning. Hayes recently returned from a trip to Paraguay as a 2012-2013 Fulbright Scholar. From September 2012 to December 2012, the zoologist taught an undergraduate course in ornithology at the National University of Asunción in San Lorenzo, Paraguay. Hayes also co-taught a 10-week undergraduate course in environmental management at the San Carlos University in the capital city, Asunción, the country’s largest city.

“It was fun to return [to Paraguay],” says Hayes. The biology professor is familiar with the country, having spent three years in Paraguay as a vertebrate biologist for the U.S. Peace Corps, based in the National Museum of Natural History of Paraguay. Hayes conducted his doctoral research on the birds of Paraguay, and his wife Marta is a Paraguayan citizen. He is also fluent in Spanish.

Hayes believes his previous experience in the country gave him a competitive edge over other applicants for the prestigious award. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Approximately 1,100 American professors and professionals traveled abroad as Fulbright Scholars during 2012-2013.  Hayes is the third professor from Pacific Union College to have earned the prestigious international award.

“I am especially grateful to God for the opportunities of traveling and living in South America.”

Hayes experienced his “most auspicious day of birding ever” during one important diplomatic birding trip. “A police escort with flashing lights led a five-vehicle caravan, including the Mexican, French and American ambassadors, plus armed body guards and news reporters,” Hayes recalls. The American Embassy sponsored the excursion, for which Hayes was a bird guide, accompanying colleagues from Guyra Paraguay, a nongovernmental conservation organization in Paraguay. “What fun!” says Hayes.

Hayes also presented the results of his research at two scientific meetings organized by Guyra Paraguay. He enjoyed his professional duties, but especially appreciated the chance to travel to different parts of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, usually in the company of his wife Marta. Together, the two observed and photographed a formidable amount of wildlife diversity, including caimans, whales, sea lions, elephant seals, guanacos, penguins, rheas and toucans.

Hayes’ trip to South America is not the only example of his international experience. He also taught biology at Caribbean Union College (now University of the Southern Caribbean) and the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. In St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Hayes worked as a wildlife biologist for the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Hayes has also been the editor in chief of Journal of Caribbean Ornithology since 2005.

On the PUC campus, Hayes is especially appreciated for the research he conducts with students. One of his advisees, Dustin Baumbach, calls Hayes “an amazing mentor, someone I could strive to be like, both as a person and in the field of biology. He was an amazing teacher that really took the time to make sure his students understood what he was teaching.”

“Becoming a Fulbright Scholar was the most satisfying professional experience of my life,” Hayes says. “I am eternally grateful for the support of PUC’s administration and my colleagues in the biology department, and especially professor Aimee Wyrick, who taught one of my courses during my absence. And, of course, I am especially grateful to God for the opportunities of traveling and living in South America, and providing for our safety and well being.”