Department Head Message
Biology, the study of life, truly represents the most challenging and exciting frontier in science. At the beginning of this new millennium we find that the most fundamental and important questions in biology are centered on the organism and the interaction of organisms amongst themselves and the environment. Because all of life was created through evolutionary processes, evolution is the unifying principle by which we understand the how, when, and why questions about life. Molecular biology and genetics have brought to bear a host of powerful tools to ask questions about the development and physiology of organisms as well as an avalanche of genomic sequence data to spur our efforts to understand the phylogenetic relationships of organisms and to identify the genetic totality of life.
Biology is just beginning the grand synthesis to understand life from DNA to ecosystems. In this new phase, past divisions and subfields of biology are quickly giving way to multidisciplinary and multitechnical approaches to complex questions such as how memory is stored and retrieved, what makes a cat a cat and a dog a dog, how a species can thrive in the deepest oceans, and why some plants change their growth form to seek out light and others plants rigidly follow a single growth pattern. In the past, answers to these questions could only be speculated upon and were investigated at different levels independently. Now new tools allow biologists to investigate these multilayered questions from the gene to the organism and beyond to species and ecosystems. For us it is no longer enough to be a geneticist or a physiologist or an ecologist. To answer the most profound questions about life will require us to be biologists.
We strive to offer the most intellectually stimulating environment possible for our faculty, post doctoral fellows, and students through the research and educational opportunities afforded by the Department of Biology and the various other life science units at Penn State. This web site will introduce you to our research programs and educational opportunities.