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Botany and Zoology

These two fields of biological science are centered on organism-based studies.  Such research ranges from behavioral interactions of individual organisms within populations to the structure and function of complex communities. The primary aim of botanical and zoological studies is to understand how organisms survive and reproduce within the limits imposed by the current or past environments.  Such research can be at refined scales, such as microscopic observation of the smallest organisms, to broad scales, such as unraveling earth history through examination of fossil remains. Students focusing on botanical or zoological studies typically receive training in cell biology, anatomy, physiology, embryology, genetics, conservation science, ethology, ecology, and evolution. This background can be used as a springboard to further training in medicine or graduate education.


 A degree in Botany can follow one of two tracks.  The track in Cell and Molecular Biology is designed for those interested in using their undergraduate experience for careers in medically-related professions or for a graduate career in medical or molecular sciences. The track in Ecology and Evolution is designed for those interested in graduate training in plant diversity.

 A degree in Zoology can follow one of four tracks.  For those interested in using their undergraduate training for immediate employment, the track in Conservation and Biodiversity is designed to prepare students for jobs in government and private conservation organizations or the environmental consulting industry.  Three tracks are offered for those interested in preparing for advanced education.  The Cell and Molecular Biology track is designed for those interested in medical-related training (medical or pharmacy school), the Pre-Vet track is designed to prepare students for entry into Vet School, and the Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior track is designed for those interested in graduate education.

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Marine Biology

Marine Biology is an increasingly important area of study, if for no other reason than more than 70% of the U.S. population lives within a one hour drive of the coast; indeed, more than 60% of the world population lives within 60 km of the coast.  The human impact on the coastal zone, and deeper waters are of critical concern.

Marine biology graduates go on to careers in academic research in ecology and evolution, cell biology and physiology, fisheries studies and biological and physical oceanography.  There are many alternate potential careers for marine science graduates, including aquaculture, state environmental regulation, waste water and coastal zone management, marine animal care and management, environmental consulting and marine pharmaceutics.  Marine biology careers are discussed at Careers & Jobs in Marine Biology & Oceanography and

Students in the Auburn University Marine Biology Program receive background in a wide range of biological science topics preparatory to study at coastal marine labs.  Academic effort during the first three years develops a strong, general background in biological science, which has been shown to be the most effective preparation for studies in marine science.  In addition, all students must complete 16 credits of study at a nationally recognized, accredited program of study at a marine lab.  Most students in this major spend at least one summer at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.  The second summer session may be pursued at Dauphin Island or at any of  more than 120 U.S. marine labs, depending on the student's specific interests.  Auburn students have studied at marine labs in Washington State, Oregon, California, Texas, Mississippi, Florida, North and South Carolina, Massachusetts, and Maine.  At the marine labs, students have considerable freedom with regard to their choice of marine topics, including such topics as biological and physical oceanography, marine geology,  invertebrate zoology, marine mammal biology, ichthyology, marine coastal ecology,  the physiology of marine organisms, neurobiology, cell biology, developmental biology, marine pollution studies, coastal marine management and evolution.

Auburn also has a student-run Marine Biology Club that is specifically for undergraduate marine biology majors, and meets regularly each semester. They also plan field trips to the coast and other marine-related activities. Visit their website at:


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Molecular Biology

The field of molecular biology is centered on the study of biomolecules such as DNA, RNA and protein and their function in biological systems.  This field bridges the area between biochemistry and genetics.  Typically the research focus is interdisciplinary, focusing on fundamental properties from the study of gene structure, regulation of gene activity, to the behavior of genes in disease or the biotechnical applications of recombinant DNA technology to better our lives and society.

The primary aim of the Molecular Biology degree is to provide students with an understanding of the universal principles that apply to all organisms at the molecular level.  Students typically receive training in microbiology, cell biology, genetics, recombinant DNA, biochemistry, and development.  The core of the degree program is one year of independent study during which the student is expected to engage in a directed research project with a faculty mentor.  In addition, students are brought together in a group setting to read and present current research topics through undergraduate seminar.  Typically students who receive a degree in molecular biology are prepared for entry-level jobs in industry, university research, or medical schools.  Moreover, the curriculum provides students with solid academic training to seek entry into graduate programs as well.

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Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa and unicellular algae.  Microorganisms play a major role in medicine, the environment and industry. While they are the causative agents of many infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, influenza and AIDS, they also produce antibiotics and vaccines. Their benefits, however, far outweigh their harmful activities. In the environment they play a significant role in the geochemical cycling of carbon, sulfur and nitrogen. We also depend upon microbes to recycle sewage and wastes and to breakdown oil spills. In industry, we harness their metabolic capabilities to produce foods such as cheese, alcoholic beverages, processed meats, pickles, soy sauce, sauerkraut, and bread. Chemicals and enzymes derived from a variety of microorganisms are used to manufacture various products used by humans. Microorganisms are the cornerstone of modern biotechnology and genetic engineering.  They have been genetically manipulated to produce therapeutics such as insulin, growth hormone, and interferon, as well as engineer pest resistance into plants. They are also playing a significant role in the sequencing of the human genome.

Students graduating with a B.S. in Microbiology may find employment in academic laboratories or in a wide range of industries.  Students can also elect to go on and obtain advanced graduate degrees in the field.  Microbiology also provides a strong foundation for medical or veterinary school.  Some students may elect to combine microbiology with a second field such as business or journalism and develop careers in sales, regulatory affairs or science writing.

There are no tracks in the Microbiology major, however a number of elective courses are available to students to allow them to explore their individual interests in microbiology.

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