Biology Department

The breadth of modern biology is reflected in the more than seventy courses that are offered by the Biology Department. Courses span the whole range of student engagement from intensive laboratory-only offerings that start in second-year to small fourth-year seminars where the focus is on refining communications skills. Students have the freedom to focus on a particular sub-discipline (e.g., genetics, animal behaviour) or receive a broad education that touches many areas of biology.

What You’ll Learn

In Biology, the emphasis is placed on developing critical thinking and communications skills, expertise in experimental design and a strong foundation in data analysis. Depending on the area of concentration, more specific skills acquired include the ability to assess ecosystems, identify flora and fauna, effectively implement tools of molecular biology and microscopy and gain experience with the use of analytical instrumentation.


The breadth of courses on the Biology curriculum prepares graduates for a wide range of research career (testimonial) in the public and private sectors. Many of our graduates also go on to professional programs in medicine, dentistry, law and teaching.

Distinguishing Features

Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Led by Tom Haffie, a 3M National Teaching Fellow, faculty in our department strive for excellence in undergraduate teaching and learning. Whether it is engaging 800 students in a first-year course by using cell phones or small-fourth-year offerings that focus on community-based group projects, Biology instructors employ novel and innovative approaches to help students learn more effectively.

Unique Modules

The Department of Biology offers thirteen different modules in a wide range of biology disciplines. Here we highlight just two of these modules:

Honors Specialization in Genetics – This module reflects one of the core research strengths of the Department. Students take a range of courses focused on gene structure, function and regulation that introduce modern ‘omic’ approaches (e.g., genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics) that are taught using a range of animal, plant and microbial systems. Related topics such as genetic engineering and developmental genetics form the basis of additional courses.

Honors Specialization in Biodiversity and Conservation - Students in this module will gain an understanding of the forces that are shaping Earth’s ecosystem, including the impact of climate change on biological diversity. Capstone courses in biodiversity science and restoration ecology, as well as opportunities to do field research, are highlights of this module. Graduates will be prepared to pursue a diverse array of careers from basic research to public policy in a range of fields that are particularly pertinent in today’s rapidly changing world.

Field Courses in Unique Locations

As a Biology undergraduate, you will have an opportunity to do a research project in an exotic location and get credit for it. The Department of Biology at Western is a member of the Ontario Universities’ Program in Field Biology, which offers about 30 different field courses each year for academic credit. Examples of recent offerings include Rainforests and Reef Biology in Costa Rica; Tropical Marine Biology in Belize; Forest Ecology in the Adirondacks; Field Ornithology in Virginia; and Tropical Biodiversity in Ecuador.