It was a busy year, one that’s slipped by, with our attention focused on completing and moving into the Biology Building.

But that’s not all that’s been happening — we’ve kept going on the other parts of being a comprehensive research and teaching department. We continue to take in record numbers of undergraduate students (about 450 first-years in fall 2017). We serve as a gateway for launching careers in the life sciences at Colorado State. After four to five years, we graduate about 300 students as biological science or zoology majors; the other 150 students transfer to other programs in the life sciences. Altogether, we have 1,550 students, the most in any single program at Colorado State. We’re not only numerous, but our students are also accomplished: 125 of our biological sciences majors and 55 zoology majors are in the University Honors Program. Biology installed a Tri-Beta Honors Society this fall with 109 inaugural members. We feature the great accomplishments of a few of our students in this newsletter.

We also continue strong research programs in biology, focusing in the areas of plant molecular biology, ecology and evolution, and animal physiology and development. Our research funding is among the highest for a department at Colorado State, with  about $6M in annual expenditures from externally funded research grants. Notable successes this year are for Associate Professor Graham Peers in photosynthesis by single-celled algae as a means of improving biofuels, Associate Professor Shane Kanatous to study physiology and ecology of extreme diving by leopard seals in Antarctica, Assistant Professor Dan Sloan (grants from National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health) to study evolution of plant genomes, and Assistant Professor Tai Montgomery to study cellular regulation via small RNA molecules.

Our faculty also gain recognition locally, nationally, and internationally. Two faculty received the highest honors bestowed on faculty at Colorado State, Professor Alan Knapp as a University Distinguished Professor, and Associate Professor Kim Hoke as a Monfort Professor. In national awards, Professor Greg Florant was recognized by the National Institutes of Health for his great contributions toward promoting students who are underrepresented in STEM disciplines.  Professor Diana Wall continues to be recognized for her pioneering work on ecosystems in extreme environments in her studies of nematode worms in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica (see below).

But given our preoccupation with new Biology Building, I want to speak more directly about why we built it. In the end, this place is about the people who work here and the students whose training and development as scientists depends on having state-of-the art facilities in which to work and study. We were purposeful in building a campus destination for all who wish to be moved by the grandeur of this view of life. Four themes emerge:

– Community and belonging: How we identify with each other and with the natural world gives us the focus to inspire and be inspired.

– Advising and mentoring: Our building is designed to be a beacon, helping our students to discover pathways to success.

– Instruction: Science is an apprenticeship business; students learn to be scientists only by working with scientists.

– Research: We are privileged by the opportunity to follow the evidence where it leads, to new knowledge and insight, and to share it. Discovery begins here.

Mike Antolin, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair

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