Students outdoors on a biology field trip.


Gain research experience and practical knowledge in the classroom, the laboratory and the field as you prepare for a successful career in conservation, physiology, genetic research, medicine and other health-related fields.

Why Study Biology at USD?

As a biology major at USD, you will develop research and critical thinking skills as you learn about a range of important topics in science, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, stem-cell research, advances in medicine and genetically modified organisms. You have the option of tailoring the program to fit your unique interests in biology by choosing to specialize in human dynamics – allowing you to make your USD degree the ideal launching point for your career. Your professors are experts who want to help you unlock unique opportunities; you can look forward to gaining real-world research experience with faculty in their labs or in the field. 

This rich background in science will position you for success as you apply to medical or other professional health schools or prepare for careers in conservation, ecology, biotechnology, genomics and neurobiology. Follow your passion for science and learn about the living world as a biology major.

Degrees & Offerings

Biology (B.S.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

Gain a strong understanding of biological sciences and how it affects the world around us. Discuss topics like climate change, biodiversity, human dynamics and more.

Biology: Human Dynamics (B.S.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

Biology (B.S.) with Secondary Education Certification

  Vermillion Main Campus

If you are passionate about biology and also want to teach, you can complete the biology degree along with the appropriate teaching certification courses. There is also an option to major in secondary education with a specialization in biology.

Biology (B.S./M.S.)

Accelerated Program
  Vermillion Main Campus

Earn a master's degree while completing your bachelor's degree. Apply to and begin the master's program after completion of 90 undergraduate credit hours. This accelerated one-year path to earning your master's does not require a thesis and is available with an optional conservation and biodiversity specialization.


  Vermillion Main Campus and Online

Gain a foundation in biology through classes and labs that expand your understanding of cell biology, heredity, molecular genetics, ecology, animal and plant structure and function, and more. This minor pairs well with a variety of majors, including sustainability, psychology, neuroscience and physics.

Program Details






Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.

Student Opportunities

As a student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.
The Biology Club is for all students interested in the field of biology. The purpose of the club is to make more people aware of conservation efforts, have speakers highlight jobs attainable with a biology degree and help students get connected to research projects. The club also hosts a variety of events and is involved in educating school kids about science and nature.

Our research is organized into three general areas:

  • Molecular biology
  • Stress physiology
  • Conservation biology

Each of these programs includes highly active faculty with specialized research labs supporting these programs.

In addition to individual labs there are several newly renovated shared facilities listed below, including a brand new animal care wing.

  • Genomics Facility
  • Molecular Biology Facility
  • Ecology and Conservation Facility
  • Proteomics/Neurobiology Facility
  • Collections Facility

Additionally, the Department of Biology collaborates with the Sanford School of Medicine and students frequently have access to additional instrumentation (SEM, confocal microscope, etc.).

If you are interested in getting involved in research, visit with a professor to find out how you can participate in new and exciting opportunities.

Departments & Facilities

Explore the departments, facilities and centers that contribute to your education in biology.
Biology academics standing in water holding a net


Research, explore and experience the study of life from the molecule to large biomes in the Department of Biology.

Overview of the Missouri River

Missouri River Institute

Located along the free-flowing Missouri National Recreational River, the Missouri River Institute explores the natural and cultural resources of the river through its focus on research, education and outreach.

Faculty & Staff

Get to know the faculty and staff in the Department of Biology. Our faculty are experts in their field, contributing research and scholarship in amphibian declines, physiological and biomedical systems,  landscape ecology, riparian ecosystems, geospatial analysis, environmental effects on phenotypes, fish ecology, metabolomics and more.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Jacob Kerby

Jacob Kerby

Bio Image for Faculty Member Christopher Anderson

Christopher Anderson

Associate Professor


Functional Morphology, Biomechanics, Herpetology
Bio Image for Faculty Member Hugh Britten

Hugh Britten

Associate Chair, Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Mark Dixon

Mark Dixon

Bio Image for Faculty Member Yohaan Fernandes

Yohaan Fernandes

Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Cathy Ganschow

Cathy Ganschow

Program Assistant I
Bio Image for Faculty Member Ranjeet John

Ranjeet John

Assistant Professor


remote sensing, ecology, rangeland/crop monitoring
Bio Image for Faculty Member Karen Koster

Karen Koster

Chair-Anthropology & Sociology


Plant Physiology, Cell Biology
Bio Image for Faculty Member Laura Dixon

Laura Dixon

Bio Image for Faculty Member Andrea Liebl

Andrea Liebl

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Omera Matoo

Omera Matoo

Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Lynn Riley

Lynn Riley

Bio Image for Faculty Member Cliff Summers

Cliff Summers

Bio Image for Faculty Member David Swanson

David Swanson

Dir of Research-MO River Inst
Bio Image for Faculty Member Jeff Wesner

Jeff Wesner

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Beate Wone

Beate Wone

Bio Image for Faculty Member Bernard Wone

Bernard Wone

Associate Professor
Students doing field research outdoors.

Incredible Research Opportunities

At USD, your education goes beyond the textbook. 

Many biology students take advantage of research experiences in our professors’ labs, exploring topics such as neurobiology, biomechanics, bubonic plague, fetal alcohol syndrome and the conservation of endangered dragonflies. Several of our students assist USD medical school professors on their research. These students go on to present their findings at scientific meetings and co-author publications, and they often end up pursuing careers in research.
Student Danielle Brown analyzing research work.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Graduate with a degree – and so much more.

Studying biology at USD will set you on a path toward a successful career in a range of fields, such as research, medicine, conservation and dentistry. Our expert faculty will work closely with you as you progress through your educational career and pursue your future goals. Here you'll get hands-on research experience, and you'll find opportunities to collaborate with your peers. Our department even offers an accelerated master's program for exceptional students looking to start an advanced degree early. You have an impactful and exciting career ahead of you, and it starts at USD.
A student cutting food.

Classes That Spark Your Curiosity

As a biology major, you'll take exciting and innovative classes that inspire you to ask big questions and find the answers. From a popular animal behavior lab on campus to a newly-introduced field ecology course in Kenya, the classes offered through the Department of Biology are designed to spark your curiosity and expand your knowledge of our world. 

Surprisingly Affordable

USD offers low tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students, as well as scholarships, financial aid and employment opportunities to help make your education even more affordable.

Undergraduate Tuition & Costs

Learn more about tuition and fees for undergraduate students and see how your out-of-pocket costs at USD compare to those at other colleges and universities. Visit the Undergraduate Tuition & Costs Detailed page for program specific costs and fees. 

Financial Aid

Navigating options for how to pay for college can be challenging, but you are not alone. The Office of Financial Aid will work with you and your family to explore how you can make your college education even more affordable.


USD awards nearly $9.5 million in scholarships each year. View our scholarships to see which ones you may qualify for and how you can apply.

Hear from a USD Alum

Success story Carrie Eckert smiling.
The biology department staff was very supportive. Afterwards, I worked at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado, Boulder before being recently recruited to lead a new synthetic biology group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee. My base education in biology and training in a research lab prepared me for graduate school and beyond.

Carrie Eckert

B.S. Biology '99
Synthetic Biology Research, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge, TN

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