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Biology 101

7 reasons ‘the life science’ might be right for you

About 600 students are pursuing NIU undergraduate degrees in biology, which has long been among the university’s most popular areas of study – for more reasons than we could possibly count here.

But we certainly can hit some of the highlights.

Here are 7 reasons a biology major might be a great fit for you.

  • 1

    Students working in NIU's comprehensive greenhouse facility, comprised of three structures totaling 6,000 square feet.

    Biology is downright fascinating

    Plants, animals, people. DNA sequences, biotechnology, bioinformatics. It’s hard not to be excited by the study of life in all its forms—and we live in a day and age when some of the world’s most exciting discoveries and innovations are happening in the field of biology.

  • 2
    Immunology and Cancer Biology Research Lab

    Undergraduate students can work with faculty like Sherine Elsawa (right), conducting research in immunology, cancer biology and other health areas. 

    One (hyphenated) word: Pre-med

    One of the first questions many prospective students ask is: “Does NIU have a pre-med program?” The answer is yes. Roughly 30 percent of biological sciences majors are interested in going on to professional schools specializing in such areas as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and veterinary science. An undergraduate biology degree is a great start, and NIU’s Biomedical Science program will provide curriculum related to pre-professional health majors.

    (Added bonus: NIU and the University of Illinois at Chicago have an agreement that guarantees admission of talented NIU students into the prestigious UIC College of Pharmacy.)

  • 3
    Nachusa Grasslands research

    NIU professor Holly Jones (left) conducting research with students Heather Herakovich (center) and Angela Burke at the Nachusa Grasslands preserve near Dixon, Ill.

    Cool research opportunities

    Developing new antibiotics. Restoring a native Illinois prairie. Investigating cancer biology and potential new therapies. NIU students often work with professors on such research projects and even develop their own lines of research under faculty supervision. At NIU, you could have opportunities to participate in biology research in a wide variety of areas that also include molecular virology, evolutionary ecology, genomics and bioinformatics.

  • 4
    Cancer Biology and Molecular Physiology lab

    NIU Professor Barrie Bode (right) helps NIU students gain hands-on learning and research experiences.

    Awesome professors

    The Department of Biological Sciences boasts award-winning educators with a diverse mix of interests. While working to fight disease, stop extinctions, improve crops and save the environment, they take our students along for the ride of their lives, never losing sight of NIU’s top priority: student career success.

  • 5
    NIU Study Abroad in Madagascar

    NIU students learn first-hand about primate biodiversity, extinction, forest fragmentation and conservation in Madagascar with faculty Mitchell Irwin and Karen Samonds

    Study Abroad

    Hey, biology is the study of life, so you have to get out and live a little. Our biology students often study abroad at Oxford, in Madagascar, on islands of the Pacific and in other areas of the world.

  • 6
     Applied Biosystems Real-Time PCR

    Students gain experience in the classroom and labs at NIU to prepare them for internships with top companies. 


    We know internships lead to student career success, and opportunities abound—typically more than we can fill. One-third of our biology majors or more choose to take advantage of internships. They include learning experiences at hospitals, veterinary clinics, national parks, county forest preserves and companies such as Baxter, Monsanto, Abbott Laboratories and Eli Lilly.

  • 7

    Student career success

    Our students’ successes speak for themselves. Here’s a sampling of what recent graduates of our program are doing now.

    • Emily Virgin - pursuing a Ph.D. at Utah State.
    • Therese Millet -veterinary school, University of Illinois
    • Kolver Matos - dental school, Marquette University
    • Alicia Jones - pharmacy school, Midwestern University
    • Manas Chug - dental school, University of Michigan
    • Haley Blackburn - pharmacy school, University of Illinois Chicago
    • Steve Szlembarski - medical school, Midwestern University
    • Casey LaBarbera - dental school, Marquette University
    • Will Widick - veterinary school, University of Illinois
    • Hannah Savage – Ph.D. program, University of Texas
    • Matt Schnizlein – Ph.D. program, University of Michigan
    • Rajpal Kullar  - pharmacy school, University of Illinois Chicago

Interested in learning more about biology at NIU? Visit the Department of Biological Sciences .