Biological and Chemical Sciences

Majors in Biology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Take up a science and gain a solid foundation in the fundamentals: the study of life and matter. Develop your interests in a specific field and focus your learning through hands-on, specialized courses that move from the classroom to the laboratory to the outside world to explore the question of how nature works.

female students in a science lab
Science lab using microscopes
Female student measuring in a lab
students taking notes during lab
Male student in a lab
Biological and Chemical Sciences

The program is designed for students looking for breadth in the sciences who may not be planning to immediately follow their degree with focused graduate study in chemistry or biology. It allows for a broader  track that will prepare students for work as, for example, veterinary technicians or laboratory assistants.

Offered as a major leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree.


Students choosing this major will specialize in courses in genetics, ecology, or anatomy and physiology, as well as molecular and cellular biology and ecological and behavioral biology. This strong foundation in biology is complemented by related courses in mathematics and chemistry.

Offered as a major leading to a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree; also available as a minor.


Students choosing this major will take core courses in chemical analysis and organic chemistry, advanced courses in physical and inorganic chemistry and instrumental analysis, with related courses in calculus and physics. Elective courses pursue topics like biochemistry, solid state chemistry and others that allow for focus on areas of individual interest.

Offered as a major leading to a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree; also available as a minor.

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Students choosing this major will take core courses in both biology and chemistry, ultimately specializing with courses in biochemistry and molecular biology. Advanced courses pursue topics that allow for focus on areas of individual interest.

Offered as a major leading to a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree.

Start with what you know and go from there.

Students who go into the sciences at Wells often bring with them a curiosity they've held throughout their lives. Wondering about the habits of the squirrels and birds and bugs outside your window? Take a course in ecology. Interested in the nanoworld or the way LED light bulbs work? Explore solid state chemistry. Want to know how to keep your pets healthy? Get on track to study veterinary medicine. Interested in studying the chemical effects of acid rain? Take a course in chemical analysis. Or you can learn what makes YOU tick through human physiology and anatomy courses. We'll help you learn all about the makeup of life—from atoms to cells to plant and animal ecosystems to the Earth's atmosphere and beyond.

Our professors make these complicated systems accessible and fun, and they'll give you the knowledge and the encouragement to create your own projects and discover new interests—to find something you like and strike out on your own. Wells students frequently bring in ideas that they find fascinating—whether the topic is invasive species on campus (how did they get here, and what are they doing?), patterns of evolution and reproduction in large organisms, the ways that your body's proteins code for different attributes through the DNA, or the many functions of bone marrow. The questions you're interested in will help guide your experience.

Science happens everywhere

That experience starts in your first year with introductory courses covering the basics and helping you sort out which fields, topics, and methods appeal to you. From there, you'll begin to focus your studies in, for example, the outside world, cellular biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, genetics, or another field. Discover your strengths and use them to plan for your future. Throughout your experience you'll be amazed at the ways that the fields of chemistry and biology intertwine and influence each other—you can bet you'll be taking classes in both in order to strengthen your understanding of each.

Wells' science professors design laboratories that are approachable, relatable, and based on real-world practices and problems. Rather than simply learning a principle and testing it, you'll have a chance to participate in discovery labs—an open-ended method that approaches a practical scientific scenario, answers questions, examines meaning, focuses on solutions, and encourages you to take an active part at each stage.

There are countless opportunities to open yourself up to scientific discoveries, to ask different questions, and in the end, to see the world in a whole new way.

Internship Opportunities

Internships are a great way for students interested in scientific fields to determine whether or not they would like to pursue careers in medicine, research, or public policy. These opportunities give students preparation for career work and allow networking with professionals in a field. A few students choose to hold their internship right at Wells, working directly with a faculty member here on a specialized research or laboratory project.

Some recent Wells internships took place at:

  • Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Suitland, MD
  • National Cancer Institute, Genetics Branch, Bethesda, MD
  • Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY
  • Oakland Zoo, Oakland, CA
  • Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, FL
  • Cornell University Large Animal Clinic, Ithaca, NY
  • New England Aquarium, Boston, MA
  • Syracuse University Department of Chemistry, Syracuse, NY
  • Upstate Veterinary Hospital, Saratoga Springs, NY
  • Canandaigua Wine Co., Canandaigua, NY
  • U.C.L.A. Medical Center (neurosurgery), Los Angeles, CA
  • Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, Aurora, NY

Hands-on Learning

In addition to internships, other hands-on learning opportunities such as the Summer Faculty Research program, tutoring, or studying abroad for academic credit mean that all students have the chance to do meaningful work at Wells and with other organizations and institutions while earning their degree. Wells also has a partnership with the Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom Project: the U.S.S. Haendel "Floating Classroom" docks at the Wells boathouse so that students in biology, ecology, environmental science, and other classes can spend time on the water, doing hands-on marine biology work.

The National Science Foundation funds Research Experiences for Undergraduates. Completing a summer REU will look great on your resume as you apply for further education or research-related jobs after Wells—not to mention the important personal experience and memories you'll gain. Although competitive, many Wells science majors have been awarded an REU to conduct primary research at another institution over the summer.

The Senior Capstone Project—required for every student but different for every major—finds students in the sciences working on a relevant and interesting project that they choose, plan, and complete with helpful advice from faculty. Our faculty in chemistry and biology are constantly refining this process to best prepare students for their careers after graduation. Expect that before you receive your diploma, you'll have firsthand experience working with other scientists, talking back and forth about what you're doing, adjusting your process based on the advice and expertise of others, writing about your work, and presenting papers for an audience.

Academic conferences provide an additional place for Wells students to present original research and learn about current areas of research. Wells sends students each year to the National Council on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), a national interdisciplinary academic conference that recognizes some of the top research and creative work by undergraduates. Wells science students are consistently among those chosen by our own faculty and the NCUR committee for participation. Our faculty also takes students to the Sigma Xi conference, a student-focused conference for scientific and medical research, and the Senior Capstone class also attends the regional Rochester Academy of Sciences meeting. These give students experience and skills attending and presenting at scientific research conferences.

Some individual student research projects from the last few years that have been presented at NCUR examined:

  • the effects of caffeine on embryonic cardiovascular development
  • the ability of different strains of yeast to slow the growth of spoilage organisms in beer
  • the effects of ethanol on the circadian rhythms of fruit flies
  • maps of phosphatases in order to find ways to prevent damaged cell proliferation

What comes next?

Recent graduates of the program are now working as research associates, laboratory technicians, dietitians, pharmacists, veterinarians, marine biologists, genetics counselors, physicians assistants, and in many other professional roles; others are furthering their educations in graduate school programs such as Harvard Medical School, Cornell University, Georgetown University, the University of Tennessee, Stony Brook University, the University of Washington, SUNY Binghamton and Buffalo, the University of Illinois, Texas A&M University, and Strong Memorial Hospital.

"I can still remember my freshmen orientation, the games we played, my orientation and peer leaders, and my first friends that I met and we are still friends till this day."

Ariel Adams '16
Psychology Major, Collegiate President, Prodigy Step Team Captain
Blaire Van Valkenburgh
The Wells College Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa is pleased to announce the 2015 Visiting Scholar lecture, given by vertebrate paleobiologist Blaire Van Valkenburgh of UCLA. The talk will take place at 5:00...
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Program Faculty
Christopher Bailey
Professor of Chemistry
Jaclyn Schnurr
Professor of Biology and Environmental Science
Science, Wells, & You

All while hiking through the grass in the woods for botany or dissecting specimens for zoology, campus life at Wells College has a whole lot in store for Biology majors. Venturing out of the classroom, students gain the opportunity to voyage on Cayuga Lake on the interactive Floating Classroom. The weekly Science Colloquium Series brings professional guest speakers campus to present their cutting-edge scientific work. The Center for Sustainability and the Environment also gives students space to study, broaden their curiosity, and ground their scientific study in important research through internships and conversations with a variety of visiting scholars.

Chemistry majors are active participants in both the classroom and the laboratory, exploring and discovering how nature works at the atomic and molecular level. Modern equipment and engaging experimentation are a part of every class. Professors introduce students to developing fields such as nanochemistry, green chemistry, medicinal chemistry, and more. Cross-registration at Cornell University gives students the ability to experience a variety of learning strategies and the chance to broaden their horizons off-campus.

Students choosing the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major explore areas which are at the interface of Biology and Chemistry. Wells' science professors will challenge you to expand your horizons and support you as you apply what you have learned to new situations. Working as a Teacher's Assistant or certified tutor allows you to help your fellow students, increase your confidence and knowledge of your major, and take a sense of responsibility on campus. Students also travel each year to present their work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research or the Rochester Academy of Sciences. Recently, several students have even remained on campus over the summer to engage in research with their professors.

Our mission is for every student to think critically, reason wisely and act humanely as they cultivate meaningful lives. On our beautiful lakeside campus, students gain the knowledge, skills and experience to create their own unique path.

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