Whether you dream of improving lives through health care, pioneering the next breakthrough in biotechnology, or teasing apart a food web in a vanishing rainforest, Biology at SAU will help you achieve that goal.

Our graduates work as doctors, dentists, veterinarians, and biologists at places including Pioneer Hi-Bred International and MedTox Laboratories. 

Ambrose Advantages

  • Student-Designed Experiments in all Laboratories
  • First-year Research Opportunities at a Local Marsh
  • Study Anatomy and Physiology with Human Cadavers

students in lab

students in lab

looking in microscope

Undergraduate Biology at St. Ambrose is rigorous, but you’ll benefit from close, professional interaction with faculty and learn how to think like a scientist.

Read Our Fact Sheet on the Biology Program

More Information on the Biology Program

What will I learn?

Biology is a broad major that can prepare you for a variety of positions and post-graduate study programs. In fact, 90% of our students go into healthcare.

Introductory courses provide a strong foundation in the major sub-disciplines of Biology. From day one, you begin training to think like a Biologist, learn how to ask interesting questions, design well-constructed experiments, analyze data, and draw appropriate conclusions. 

Upper-level courses include Biological Literature and Communication, Cell and Molecular Biology, Ecology, Evolution, and Genetics. You will acquire an in-depth understanding and appreciation for sub-disciplines in the field. Our rigorous curriculum prepares you well for your future endeavors; graduating Biology majors consistently score above the national average on the Major Field Test in Biology. 

If you are pursuing a career in the health sciences, you get the unique opportunity to study Anatomy and Physiology with human cadavers. This rare undergraduate experience gives you an advantage in medical school, dental school, or other health science fields.

You can also take short-term study abroad courses in Marine Biology in Belize, Tropical Biology in Ecuador, or Mountain Biology in the French Alps with St. Ambrose Biology faculty.

What are my unique learning opportunities?

Our department faculty cares about your academic success and personal goals, and because we have roughly 150 biology majors, we can and do give our students personal attention and guidance.

We created a biomedical sciences concentration that provides you with the necessary coursework, skills and knowledge to enter a number of highly sought-after research and professional medical programs. In fact, our anatomy and physiology courses use cadaver dissection-based labs, making SAU one of the few universities in Iowa to offer this type of undergraduate experience. We've designed a strong curriculum and give you opportunities that support your goals; just ask our graduates, 90% of whom go into healthcare.

In each laboratory course within the biology major, students design and implement their own experiments. You will analyze the data and present your findings in both written lab reports and oral PowerPoint presentations. These student-led, inquiry-based laboratory experiments help you gain valuable critical thinking and communication skills that can be applied to any profession.

Are your joining SAU as a first-year student? Consider enrolling in our Field Biology Research Learning Community - Inquiry in Action - which takes the lab to one of the few remaining urban wetlands near the Mississippi River, Nahant Marsh. The Integrated Statistics and New Student Seminar courses give you the support you need for generating strong experiments and presentations, and you get to present your research to the Ambrosian community at the end of the semester.

Deepen your learning by joining Biology Club or our Biology Honor Society, Beta Beta Beta. You can also work closely with faculty while participating in Biology Lab Prep Works.

Pre-Health Profession Education at SAU

The Biology Department at SAU provides a strong foundation in the life sciences, which can prepare you for a variety of healthcare careers.

As a Biology major, you develop critical thinking skills, read and interpret primary scientific literature, design experiments and analyze data to answer questions about the living world. This also allows you to understand the complexities of the human body: how it works, what it needs, how it can be harmed, and how to fix those ailments using modern medicine.

Our Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, coupled with General Education courses and a Biomedical Sciences Concentration, provides you with the courses necessary for admission to many graduate programs in the health sciences.

Click here to learn more about our Pre-Health Professions courses of study.

What are some possible job outcomes?

There are many career and graduate school opportunities for Biology graduates, including: 

  • research and development positions;
  • healthcare jobs in human or veterinary medicine, physician assistant, physical therapy, dentistry, pharmacy, allied health, and more;
  • research and teaching/outreach with colleges and universities, state and federal government, zoos and aquariums, museums, conservation agencies, and more;
  • non-research education at schools, museums, zoos, national and state parks;
  • communication and marketing employment in publishing, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, software, government, non-profit organizations;
  • legislation-related careers in law, government, or advocacy organizations.
What have alumni of this program done?
  • Gabriel Price '16 is currently earning his doctorate (Ph.D.) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology. He is studying the effects of invasive earthworms on soil microbes and plant communities in the Midwest.
  • Meghan Ward '10, who graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2014, is currently employed as a DVM at Countryside Veterinary Service. She supplemented her biology major with a minor in chemistry.
  • Laura Sass '09, who graduated from The University of Iowa College of Dentistry in 2015, is currently employed as a DDS at Community Health Care, Inc. in Iowa. She also minored in chemistry.

Amy Blair, Assoc. Professor and Chair

Neil Aschliman, Assoc. Professor
Matt Halfhill, Professor
Bill Hixon, Professor
Kirk Kelley, Professor
Joseph Ly, Lab Coordinator
Shannon Mackey, Assoc. Professor
Brenda Peters, Professor
Mike Vitalini, Assoc. Professor
Dylan Weese, Assoc. Professor
Anita Zahs, Visiting Asst. Professor

Degree Requirements

Bachelor of Science in Biology (30 credits)

Read course descriptions in the online course catalog

†BIOL 199 General Biology I: Foundation of Living Systems
BIOL 200 General Biology II: Functioning of Living Systems
BIOL 201 Diversity of Living Systems -or- BIOL 251 Fundamentals of Microbiology
BIOL 300 Biological Literature and Research
BIOL 301 Cell and Microbiology
BIOL 303 Genetics
BIOL 307 Ecology
BIOL 348 Evolution
†CHEM 105 General Chemistry I (1-4 credits)
CHEM 106 General Chemistry II (1-4 credits)
CHEM 207 Organic Chemstry I
CHEM 209 Organic Chemistry Lab
†MATH 171 Elementary Functions
†STAT 213 Applied Statistical Reasoning for the Sciences

Choose one:
†PHIL 207 Ethics
†PHIL 310 Bio-Medical Ethics
†PHIL 311 Environmental Ethics
†THEO 110 Introduction to Moral Issues
or another course approved by the department.

Optional Concentrations: Pre-Health and Secondary Education

Courses below are taken in addition to the major requirements, unless indicated otherwise.

Biomedical Science (Pre-Health Professions):

†MATH 191 Calculus and Analytic Geometry I

Select eight credits from:
BIOL 230, 232, 211/251 or an approved course;

Choose either:
EXPL 201 + advisor approval OR both BIOL 401 and BIOL 402;

Choose either:
Both CHEM 208 and 210, OR CHEM 319;

Choose either:
Both PHYS 203 and PHYS 204, OR both PHYS 251 and PHYS 253.

Secondary Education:

CHEM 110 Laboratory Safety

Please consult your advisor for additional requirements.

† satisfies a general education requirement

Plan to Graduate

By following this outline, you have a plan to graduate with a Biology degree within four years - plus room to tackle another interest.

This plan assumes the student has not taken three years of foreign language in high school. Click to see the BS in Biology with a Biomedical Sciences Concentration

Major in Biology

Some courses have prerequisites. Consult the online course search or course catalog for more details.

First Year

BIOL 199/L 4 BIOL 200/Lab General Biology II - Functioning of Living Systems 4
ENGL 101 English Composition 3 Oral Communication (COMM 129, 132, 203, 228 or 329) 3
MATH 171 Elementary Functions 3 THEO 4
NSS 101 New Student Seminar 1 IL 101 Information Literacy 1
KIN 149 Wellness Concepts 1 KIN Activity 1-2
Foreign Language 101 3 Foreign Language 102 3
15 17-18

Second Year

FALL CreditsSPRINGCredits
BIOL 201/L Diversity of Living Systems 4 BIOL 251/L Fundamentals of Microbiology  4
CHEM 105/L General Chemistry I 4 CHEM 106/L General Chemistry II 4
STAT 213 Applied Statistics 3 Elective 3
Social science 3 PHIL/THEO 3
Elective 3 Kinesiology 1-2
17 15-16

Third Year

FALL CreditsSPRINGCredits
BIOL 300 Biological Literature & Research 3 BIOL 303/L Genetics 4
CHEM 207 Organic Chemistry I 3 Ethics (PHIL 207, 310, 311 or THEO 110) 3
CHEM 209 Organic Chemistry Laboratory I 1 Humanities# 3
300-level Philosophy/Theology 3 Writing Intensive course 3
Creative Arts 3 Elective 3
Elective 3  
16 16

Fourth Year

FALL CreditsSPRINGCredits
BIOL 307/L Ecology  4 BIOL 301/L  4
Humanities#  3 BIOL 348/L Evolution 4
300-level elective 3 300-level elective 3
300-level elective 3 Elective 3
13 14

#=Humanities courses must be from two different departments

Biomedical Sciences Concentration

Some courses have prerequisites. Consult the online course search or course catalog for more details.

Year One

BIOL 199/L 4 BIOL 200/L 4
ENGL 101 English Composition 3 Oral Communication (COMM 129, 132, 203, 228 or 329) 3
MATH 171 Elementary Functions 3 CHEM 106/L 4
CHEM 105/L 4 MATH 191 4
NSS 101 New Student Seminar 1 IL 101 Information Literacy 1
15 16

Second Year

FALL CreditsSPRINGCredits
BIOL 230/L Human Anatomy and Physiology I 4 BIOL 232/L Human Anatomy and Physiology II 4
CHEM 207 Organic Chemistry I 3 CHEM 208 Organic Chemistry II 3
STAT 213 Applied Statistics 3 CHEM 210 Org. Chem. Lab II 1
CHEM 209 Org. Chem. Lab I 3 BIOL 251/L Fundamentals of Microbiology 4
KIN 149 1 Foreign Language 102 3
Foreign Language 101 3
17 15

Third Year

CHEM 319 (Opt. CHEM 320) 3 (1) BIOL 199, BIOL 200 or 201, CHEM 106 4
PHYS 203/L College Physics I 4 PHYS 204/L College Physics II 4
BIOL 300 Biological Literature & Research 3 Creative Arts 3
Humanities# 3 Ethics 3
PHIL/THEO 3 Social Science 3
Total 17 Total 17

Fourth Year

BIOL 307/L Ecology 4 BIOL 301/L Cell and Molecular Biology 4
Writing Intensive course 3 BIOL 348/L Evolution 4
300-level elective 3 300-level elective 3
Humanities# 3 PHIL/THEO 300-level 3
Theology 3 KIN fitness 1
Total 16 Total 15

#Humanities courses must be from two different departments.

*The Concentration in Biomedical Science requires students to complete either CHEM 208/10 or CHEM 319. Students preparing for careers in medicine are advised to take both courses, which also fulfills the requirements for a Non-Teaching Minor in Chemistry.


Scholarships and Grants

For academic/merit-based awards, eligible students are matched to the qualifying award; some of them are listed below.

For need-based support, eligibility is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

You may also qualify for a scholarship or grant due to your talent in the fine arts or athletics. Give us a call or send an email so we can get to know you and find the best package for you. (You're also encouraged to seek outside scholarships and begin that search early.)

Institutional scholarships (2018-19)

To receive an institutional grant or scholarship students must meet specific criteria, and some may require a certain GPA to stay eligible. There is no need to apply for these; students automatically are eligible if they meet the criteria.

The Admissions Office calculates the award amount by using high school GPA and ACT/SAT scores.

Ambrose Scholar
For First Year, on-campus residents only. Straight As on high school transcript and a minimum 30 ACT score. Applicants who meet Ambrose Scholar criteria will be invited to compete for a full tuition scholarship for $@{17-18-Tuition}.

Trustee Scholar
$22,000/year - For First-year, on-campus residents only. Unweighted 3.8 GPA, 28+ACT. May be offset by state and/or federal aid if eligible.

Academic Scholarship
$14,000-17,000/year - Based on GPA and ACT/SAT score

University Grant
$12,000/year - Based on high school GPA and ACT/SAT score

Additional Awards

If you want to apply for any of the scholarships below, contact the Admissions Office.

Fine Arts Scholarships
Award based on performance and ability in art, music, or theatre. Includes the Michael Kennedy Theatre Scholarship. Audition or portfolio required.

Athletics Scholarships
Award varies. Based on performance and ability. Marching Band scholarships available. See below.

Freeman Pollard Minority Scholarship
$1,000 for on-campus students; $500 for off-campus. For accepted minority students.

Diocese of Davenport Catholic Parish Scholarship
Award varies. For First Year students only who are recommended by their parish pastor in the Diocese of Davenport. Recommendation to be completed by your pastor available here (pdf).

Father Welch Alumni Scholarship
$1,000/year. For on-campus students only whose parent is a St. Ambrose graduate.

Athletic Scholarships

As a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), St. Ambrose can award athletic scholarships to student athletes. These scholarships allow you to earn a college education while competing in the sport that you love. At Ambrose, we embody that value of developing both the mind and body.

How do I qualify for an athletic scholarship?
You must first be eligible to play a sport at St. Ambrose. You can read about those qualifications here. The NAIA also has a complete website on how to register for eligibility at

Transfer Scholarships

Amounts are for transfer students entering St. Ambrose in the 2018-19 academic year.

St. Ambrose scholarships are awarded for fall and spring semesters only and renewable up to 120 credits of undergraduate study, which includes credits transferred to St. Ambrose from prior attendance. For example: If you transfer in with an AA/AS degree, you would receive a scholarship for two additional years at St. Ambrose.

For questions about any of the awards below, give our friendly Financial Aid Office a call at 563-333-5775.

Institutional Aid

Guaranteed Minimum Scholarship Award 

based on GPA (Grade Point Average)
3.5-4.00 GPA: $12,000 per year scholarship award
3.0-3.49 GPA: $11,000 per year scholarship award
2.5-2.99 GPA: $10,000 per year scholarship award
2.0-2.49 GPA: $8,000 per year scholarship award

Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society

Criteria: Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society membership
Award: $12,500/year for new transfer students, renewable each year up to eight semesters, including transfer hours. Scholarships awarded for fall and spring semesters only. GPA is based on 4.0 scale.

Out-of-State Grant

Criteria: non-Iowa resident
Award: $2,000/year

Fr. Welch Alumni Scholarship

Criteria: parent is a St. Ambrose graduate; on-campus students only
Award: $1,000/year

Freeman Pollard Diversity Award

Criteria: accepted diverse student
Award: $1,000/year on-campus; $500/year off-campus

Athletics Scholarship

Criteria: performance and ability
Marching band scholarships also available
Award varies

Fine Arts Scholarship

Criteria: performance and ability in art, music, theatre
Audition or portfolio required
Award varies

Dual Admission Scholarship

Criteria: participant in SAU/community college dual admission program
Award: $1,000 maximum

Fr. Menke Catholic Parish Scholarship

Criteria: attend Catholic parish in Diocese of Davenport; on-campus students only
Award varies

Federal and State Aid

Federal Pell Grant

Criteria: based on financial need; file FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1
Award: $5,920 maximum

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FESOG)

Criteria: based on financial need, priority to Pell Grant recipients. File FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1.
Award: $400 maximum

Federal Work Study Award

Criteria: based on financial need. File FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1
Award: $1,850

Iowa Tuition Grant

Criteria: based on financial need, Iowa residents only. File FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1, deadline July 1.
Award: 5,650

Carver Scholarship

Criteria: Iowa resident and entering junior, visit for eligibility details, deadline April 1.
Award: $7,600 maximum

Outside Scholarships

There are many opportunities to receive scholarships from outside sources, here are a few websites to begin researching your options:

Another tip: Next time you're on campus, check out the bulletin board outside Bee Central where we post more flyers and applications for outside scholarships.

Apply Visit Info


Amy Blair, PhD, Chairperson

Biology Department
Lewis Hall, 2nd floor
518 W. Locust St.
Davenport, IA 52803

So, what's next?

Are you ready to take the next step? St. Ambrose offers more than 60 programs and 27 athletic teams and sports to join on campus. Become an Ambrosian today!