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, MedTox Laboratories, and many others. 

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

Research and Discover

Field Research

Learn outside the classroom

At a mid-size school like St. Ambrose, our undergraduate Biology majors have the opportunity to conduct experiments and research in various field locations surrounding the Quad Cities, including Nahant Marsh (featured in these photos).

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. Click here to search our study abroad programs. 

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.

We are one of few universities in Iowa offering Peace Corps Prep, a program that can make you a stronger candidate for volunteer positions within the Peace Corps or other service programs. You'll gain skills and a cultural worldview that employers value and best of all, most students can earn the certificate - awarded by the Peace Corps - without taking extra courses. Peace Corps Prep is a competitive edge that sets you apart and broadens your opportunities, no matter what path you choose. Click here to learn more.

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. Read about the award-winning company he launched and the impact he's making on the world. 
  • 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, PhD, Assoc. Professor and Chair

Neil Aschliman, PhD, Assoc. Professor
Dale Broder, PhD, Asst. Professor
Matt Halfhill
, PhD, Professor
Bill Hixon, PhD, Professor
Kirk Kelley, PhD, Professor
Joseph Ly, Lab Coordinator
Shannon Mackey, PhD, Assoc. Professor
Brenda Peters, PhD, Professor
Dennis Tarasi, PhD, Asst. Professor
Mike Vitalini, PhD, Assoc. Professor
Anita Zahs, PhD, 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 - Biology Major

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. 

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

Plan to Graduate - Biomedical Science Concentration

Biomedical Science 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

Undergraduate Scholarships

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). The SAU school code is 001889.

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.)

First-Year Scholarships

Amounts are for first-year students entering St. Ambrose in the 2019-20 academic year. There is no need to apply for the scholarships or grants below; students automatically are eligible if they meet specific criteria. The Admissions Office calculates the award amount by using unweighted high school GPA and ACT/SAT scores.

Your scholarship will automatically renew each year of your undergraduate studies, for up to four years, as long as you maintain satisfactory progress toward an undergraduate degree, a minimum 2.0 GPA, and remain a full-time student. 

On Campus (Merit-Based Scholarships)

Trustee Scholarships
Criteria: unweighted 4.0 GPA and minimum 30 ACT or 1390 SAT score
Award: $23,000 per year and invited to compete for a full tuition scholarship

Presidential Scholarships
Criteria: minimum unweighted 3.8 GPA and 28 ACT or 1310 SAT score
Award: $20,000 per year

Academic Scholarships
Criteria: based on unweighted GPA and ACT/SAT score
Award: $14,000 per year, $15,000 per year, $16,000 per year or $17,000 per year

University Grants
Criteria: based on unweighted GPA and ACT/SAT score
$12,000 per year

On Campus (Additional Institutional Scholarships)

Fr. Welch Alumni Scholarships
Criteria: parent is a St. Ambrose graduate
Award: $1,000 per year

Fr. Menke Catholic Parish Scholarships
Criteria: member of Catholic parish in the Diocese of Davenport
Award: varies

Freeman Pollard Diversity Awards
Criteria: diverse student
Award: $1,000/year

Off Campus (Merit-Based Scholarships)

Academic Scholarships
Criteria: based on unweighted GPA and ACT/SAT score
Award: $11,000 per year, $12,000 per year, $13,000 per year or $14,000 per year

University Grants
Criteria: based on unweighted GPA and ACT/SAT score
Award: $10,000 per year

Off-Campus (Additional Institutional Scholarships)

Fr. Menke Catholic Parish Scholarships
Criteria: member of Catholic parish in the Diocese of Davenport
Award: varies

Freeman Pollard Diversity Awards
Criteria: diverse student
Award: $500 per year

Transfer Scholarships

Amounts are for transfer students entering St. Ambrose in the 2019-20 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.


Phi Theta Kappa
Criteria: awarded to all Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society members transferring from a community college
Award: $14,000


Transfer Academic Scholarships
Criteria: based on GPA
3.5-4.00 GPA $13,000 
3.0-3.49 GPA $12,000
2.5-2.99 GPA $11,000 
2.0-2.49 GPA $9,000 

Out-of-State Grants
Criteria: non-Iowa resident
Award: $2,000 per year

Fr. Welch Alumni Scholarships
Criteria: parent is a St. Ambrose graduate; on-campus students only
Award: $1,000 per year

Dual Admission Scholarships
Criteria: participant in SAU/community college dual admission program
Award: $1,000 per year

Freeman Pollard Diversity Awards
Criteria: diverse student
Award: $1,000 per year on-campus; $500 per year off-campus

Federal and State Aid

Federal Pell Grant
Criteria: based on financial need; file FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1
Award: $6,095 maximum

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
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
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

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

Fine Arts Scholarships

How do I qualify for a fine arts scholarship? 
Scholarships are awarded based on performance and ability in art, music and theatre. Review the various requirements below:

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.


Ashley Nelson

Bachelor of Science in Biology,Class of 2014

We have roughly 150 biology majors, which means our faculty can give students personal attention and guidance. Many of our undergraduate programs are intentionally designed to give you an exceptional foundation for medical programs. We do all we can to help you explore – and reach your goals – just as we did with Ashley.

See My Story

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!