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Chair Assistant Chair Graduate Coordinator Secondary Education Administrative Assistant

Dr. Casotti

Dr. Auld

Dr. Turner

Dr. Turner

Melissa Griffin

 The Department of Biology office is located in Room 175 on the first floor of Schmucker Science North.

News & Highlights Archive

2018 News

NSF Award Major Research Instrumentation Award

Dr. Jessica Sullivan-Brown (Biology) and Dr. Shawn Pfeil (Physics), along with two faculty members at Penn State Brandywine, were recently awarded a Major Research Instrumentation grant (MRI) ($462,940) from the NSF for an Olympus IXPlore SpinSR Confocal Microscopy System with TIRF capabilities. This imaging system will be housed in the Center for Microanalysis and Imaging Research and Training (CMIRT) facility at West Chester University and will enable researchers to perform cutting-edge research, provide transformative undergraduate research experiences and strengthen our already strong STEM pipeline. Examples of research projects include (1) studying how folic acid, an essential vitamin, affects embryonic development and (2) biophysical studies on the folding of a novel nucleic acid structural motif in the presence and absence of molecular crowding. Acquisition this microscope will expand teaching and outreach opportunities and ensure that the affordable high quality education offered at WCU prepares students for successful careers in the sciences.


Faculty Position available

Tenure-track ASSISTANT PROFESSOR position available either January or August 2019 depending on the successful candidate’s availability.  An earned doctorate in Cell & Molecular Biology or related discipline is required; candidate must be qualified to teach courses and/or labs in Cell & Molecular Biology, Molecular Genetics, and introductory level biology courses. The candidate may also be required to develop an undergraduate or graduate course in their area of expertise.
The establishment of an active, externally funded research program involving undergraduate and graduate students is expected. Applicants must successfully complete the interview process, including a teaching demonstration and a research seminar to be considered for this position.  
To apply, upload a cover letter, curriculum vitae, teaching philosophy statement, research statement, and all undergraduate and graduate unofficial university transcripts to the online application system by clicking here.  In addition, provide email addresses for three references when completing the application. Referees will automatically be sent an email with access to upload their letter of recommendation directly to the applicant tracking system.  For any questions, please contact Dr. Jessica Sullivan-Brown at
Review of completed applications begins on September 24th, 2018 and continues until the position is filled.  The filling of this position is contingent upon available funding. All offers of employment are subject to and contingent upon satisfactory completion of all pre-employment background and consumer reporting checks. Developing and sustaining a diverse faculty and staff advances WCU’s educational mission and strategic Plan for Excellence. West Chester University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. Women, minorities, veterans, and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply.





New Director of PreHealth Professional Program

The Pre-Health Professional Program (formally PreMed program) has a new Director, Dr. Donze-Reiner. She was awarded a PhD in Molecular and Microbiology from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. During her post-doctoral training she mentored 8 graduate and 4 undergraduate students in molecular biology techniques and authored 11 publications. Dr. Donze-Reiner joined the biology faculty in 2015 and teaches courses in Genetics and Molecular biology.  She has mentored 10 WCU undergraduates in gene expression analysis associated with disease and infestations of switchgrass, a potential biofuel source. She was also a Co-Editor for a special topic journal in Frontiers in Plant Science. She is currently an academic advisor for the Cell and Molecular Biology concentration, receiving three consecutive recognition awards for outstanding advising.  She has written a grant proposal partnering with colleagues at University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University, and Geisinger Healthcare System. If successful, WCU undergraduates will have the opportunity to apply for research internships that focus on training the next generation of scientists and clinicians in opioid addiction research.


New Faculty member

Dr. Michael Rosario’s training is in comparative biomechanics and computational modeling. By combining techniques in these fields, he asks questions regarding the mechanics of muscle-spring interactions. How do biological structures store the energy responsible for the fastest and most efficient movements in biology? How does elasticity affect the muscles that power these movements? In his graduate work, Dr. Rosario combined materials testing, micro-computed tomography, and computational modeling to understand energy storage in extremely fast mantis shrimp, capable of generating underwater strikes with accelerations up to 104 km/s in less than 3 milliseconds. As a postdoctoral fellow, he applied his knowledge to understanding the dynamics of rat and turkey muscle-tendon units and their ability to dissipate energy. At WCU, Dr. Rosario intends on continuing his work on rat muscle-tendon units by investigating the effects of exercises that require large amounts of energy dissipation. He is also looking forward to developing new research questions regarding the biomechanics of slower “spearing” mantis shrimp, which rely less on elastic mechanisms than other species.

Michael Rosario

Strange Survivors

Dr. Oné R. Pagán published the book: Strange Survivors: How Organisms Attack and Defend in the Game of Life. BenBella Books, 2018.

In the evolutionary arms race that has raged on since life began, organisms have developed an endless variety of survival strategies. In Strange Survivors, biologist Oné R. Pagán takes us on a tour of the improbable, the ingenious, and the just plain bizarre ways that creatures fight for life.

Strang Survivors: How Organisms Attack and Defend in the Game of Life

Biology Highlights 2018

Dr. S. Anne Boettger and L.M. Field (Biology student) published the paper, L.M. Field, W.R. Fagerberg, S.A. Böttger. 2018. Survey for the presence of a vitronectin–like protein in micro- and macroalgae and cyanobacteria. Journal of Phycology 54: 299-303.

Dr. Frank Fish, Kelsey Tennett, biology graduate student, and Dr. Anthony Nicastro, physics, published a research article, “Terrestrial locomotion of the northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris): limitation of large aquatically adapted seals on land?” in the Journal of Experimental Biology (2018) 221, jeb180117, dot: 10.1242/jeb 180117. The article was also co-authored with Dr. Daniel Costa of the University of California Santa Cruz.

McGraw JB and Chandler JL. 2018. Demographic hallmarks of an overbrowsed population state in American ginseng. Global Ecology and Conservation. DOI: 10.1016/j.gecco.2018.e00435.

Dr. Oné R. Pagán represented WCU at the 2018 International Planarian Meeting at the Morgridge Institute of Research, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He delivered a talk, “The adventures of a scholar: From flatworm pharmacology to popular science writing”, presented a poster, “A cholinergic compound as a behavioral indicator or planarian brain regeneration”, and chaired a student workshop, “From twitter to tome: Science communication”.

Dr. Frank Fish, contributed a chapter, The Physics of Flukes, to the edited book Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend, which won the William Mills Prize that is given to the best polar book over a two year period.

Dr. Frank Fish made a presentation with co-authors graduate students, Danielle Adams and William Gough, titled “Control of the flexibility of cetacean flukes for high efficiency propulsion” at the 8th World Congress of Biomechanics in Dublin, Ireland, July 8-12, 2018, he was a co-author on a presentation “The performance of a sea lion’s foreflipper as a static wing” with Dr, Megan Leftwich of George Washington University at the  8th World Congress of Biomechanics, Dublin, Ireland, July 8-12, 2018.

Dr. Fish was a co-author on the paper “Disentangling the relation between the planform shape and swimming gait in cetacean propulsion” with Dr. Keith Moored of Lehigh University, which was published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, DOI: 10.2514/6.2018-2914

Dr. Jen Maresh was awarded a grant from the Elise Triano Biology Research Fund in support of her project, “Detecting the eco-evolutionary responses of mesopredators to release from top-down control.” This award will fund a pilot study with two WCU undergraduate students to detect evidence of the ecological ascension of mesopredators in North American wildlife communities as a response to the extirpation of apex predators.

Dr. Jen Maresh presented a paper entitled “Predictors of metabolic rates in aquatic mammals” at the 98th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists at Kansas State University on June 26, 2018. The paper was co-authored by PhD student Chris Law and Dr. Dan Costa of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Dr. Ammon Corl of the University of California, Berkeley.

Koch, K.G., Donze-Reiner, T., Baird, L.M., Louis, J., Amundsen, K., Sarath, G., Bradshaw, J.D. and Heng-Moss, T., 2018. Evaluation of Greenbug and Yellow Sugarcane Aphid Feeding Behavior on Resistant and Susceptible Switchgrass Cultivars. BioEnergy Research, pp.1-11.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, published the article, Experimental measurement of dolphin thrust generated during a tail stand using DPIV in the journal Fluids 2018, 3, 33; doi:10.3390/fluids302003. The article was co-authored with Dr. Terrie Williams of the University of California Santa Cruz and Dr. Timothy Wei of the University of Nebraska.

Dr. John M. Pisciotta was awarded a $10,000 grant from PepsiCos Zero Impact College Sustainability Fund. For this project, researchers will build and test a novel solar photovoltaic mini-split HVAC system designed to partly offset conventional energy usage at the WCU Office of Sustainability.

Dr. Oné Pagán delivered the 2018 keynote talk of the WCU Chapter of Sigma Xi Society on April 24: The adventures of a scholar: From flatworm pharmacology to popular science writing.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, presented an invited seminar, Biomimetics and the development of advanced technologies from charismatic marine megafauna at the American Museum of Natural History SciCafe in New York City on May 2, 2018.

Dr. Schedlbauer published the following article: Schedlbauer, J.L., N. Fetcher, K. Hood, M.L. Moody, & J. Tang. 2018. Effect of growth temperature on photosynthetic capacity and respiration in three ecotypes of Eriophorum vaginatum. Ecology & Evolution 8 (7): 3711-3725.

Dr. Jennifer Chandler was awarded a Provost Research Grant for her project Consequences of age-based vs. size-based harvest criteria on the sustainability of the American ginseng trade. The purpose of this work is to bridge the gap between science and policy by identifying size-based harvest criteria that are biologically meaningful and conservation oriented, that are easily measured by harvesters, and that are verifiable by authorities.

Dr. Frank Fish published the article, Kinematics of swimming of the manta ray: three-dimensional analysis of open-water maneuverability, in the Journal of Experimental Biology (2018) 221, jeb166041, dot:10.1242jeb.166041. The article was co-authored with Dr. Allison Kolpas and Dr. Andrew Crossett (Mathematics), Michael Dudas from the West Chester diving shop, Dudas Diving Duds, Dr. Keith Moored from Lehigh University, and Dr. Hilary Bart-Smith from the University of Virginia.

Accelerated B.S./M.S. student Jason Miller, under the supervision of Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer, was awarded a 2018 Pennsylvania Academy of Science Research Grant to study how edge effects influence soil carbon cycling at forest edges in a thesis project titled, The influence of edge effects on soil carbon storage and CO2 efflux in temperate deciduous forests of southeastern Pennsylvania.

Dr. Frank Fish co-authored the article, Morphology of the core fibrous layer of the cetacean tail fluke, with William Gough (biology graduate student) in the Journal of Morphology, 2018, DOI: 10.1002/jmor.20808. Additional co-authors included Dylan Wainwright of Harvard University and Hilary Bart-Smith of the University of Virginia. Dr. Fish also presented an invited seminar, Lessons from charismatic marine fauna: Biomimetic applications for the development of advanced technologies, to the Department of Biology and Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington on March 23, 2018.

Dr. Oné Pagán was interviewed by The Cool Science Radio show. To view the interview click here. He was also interviewed at the Ikonokast – A Science advocacy Podcast. The interview can be found here.

Dr. Oné R. Pagán published the book: Strange Survivors: How Organisms Attack and Defend in the Game of Life. BenBella Books, 2018.

Dr. Frank Fish published the book chapters “Locomotion. Terrestrial” Pp. 552-554 and “Streamlining” Pp. 951-954 in the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, Ed. 3. 2018 (W. F. Perrin, B. Würsig, and J. G. M. Thewissen, eds.) by Academic Press, San Diego.

Dr. Jen Maresh published the following book chapter: Costa, D.P. and J.L. Maresh. 2018. Energetics in Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, 3rd ed. (W.F. Perrin, B. Wursig, J.G.M. Thewissen, eds). Academic Press. Pp. 329-335.

Dr. Frank Fish presented the paper “Fluke flexibility during propulsion in neonate and adult humpback whales” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in San Francisco, CA, January 3-7, 2018. The paper was co-authored with Ramya Muthukrishnan, Henderson High School student, and Nan Hauser of the Cetacean Research Institute in the Cook Islands. In addition, Dr. Fish co-authored a presentation “Properties and functions of tendons in the cetacean peduncle” that was presented by Danielle Adams, biology graduate student, and Dr. Fish was co-authored a presentation “The role of flippers, flukes, and body flexibility in blue whale maneuvering performance” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in San Francisco, CA, January 3-7, 2018.

Our Primary Mission

The primary mission of the Department of Biology is to provide a high quality educational experience to both undergraduate and graduate students. This is achieved by maintaining small class sizes staffed by full-time faculty. Virtually all courses have a laboratory component, facilitating participatory learning. An integrated core curriculum is intended to strengthen the communication, quantitative and analytical skills of all biology majors. Several focused concentrations within the undergraduate curriculum offer options of either specializing for immediate employment upon graduation, or preparing for postgraduate education. 

Masters students receive training as biological scientists primarily for career advancement. Although most students come from the Delaware Valley region, their educational experience is intended to equip them well for careers anywhere. Biology majors are required to perform independent projects in many courses, and are encouraged to work closely with faculty in collaborative research. The combination of unusually broad course selection and individual attention allows students from very diverse backgrounds to excel within the program. A part of the department's mission is to participate in the process of scientific inquiry.

The department expects its faculty to engage in scholarly activity, and encourages research publication and the acquisition of extramural funding. Scholarship enhances the stature of the Department and University, adds exceptionally current information to lecture material, and has helped to secure technologically up-to-date laboratory equipment. The department's research environment also provides an ongoing framework into which graduate and undergraduate student research projects can beincorporated. A strong record of collaborative faculty-student research is one reason for the successful placement of most Biology Department graduates. 

The Biology Department serves the University by supporting coursework for other disciplines, principally in Nursing, Health, Kinesiology and the Forensic and Toxicological Chemistry program, and is actively involved in maintaining the high quality of the Preprofessional Program. The department is working closely with the School of Education in training Secondary school biology teachers, and is strengthening ties with other departments in environmental science. Department faculty serve the community as consultants to government, non-profit organizations, other schools and industry.

Biology Department Facilities

The Department of Biology occupies ~37,000 ft2 of classroom, office, and research space in Merion Hall and the adjacent Schmucker Science Center. The Biology wing of the Schmucker Science Center has undergone a complete renovation and was re-opened in time for the Spring 2004 semester. Teaching and research laboratories are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. The equipment available to students includes a single-side band microscope (the world's second), fluorescence microscopes, apparatus for video microscopy, cryostat, tissue culture equipment, liquid scintillation counter, gamma ray counter, patch clamping equipment, ion suppression chromatograph, and scanning and transmission electron microscopes. A fully equipped molecular biology laboratory, funded by the NSF includes equipment for RFLP, PCR, DNA sequencing, and in situ capabilities. Additionally, the department has field inversion electrophoresis equipment for DNA analysis.

Other facilities include: research and teaching greenhouses, a biosafety level 3 facility, a student computer laboratory with full multimedia capabilities, a GIS computer laboratory with a GPS first order community base station and mobile GPS units, the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies, the William Darlington Herbarium, the B. Harry Warren Ornithological Collection, and the largest collection of halophilic bacteria in North America.

The Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies consists of about 120 acres of woodland, old field, and wetland habitat located on the university's South Campus. Dedicated in 1973, the area was named for Robert B. Gordon, faculty member and chair of West Chester University's Department of Science from 1938-1963.

The William Darlington Herbarium (DWC) is the second oldest collection of preserved plant specimens in the United States. The collection is a highly regarded historical collection of specimens dated primarily from 1815 to 1860. Among the more than 20,000 specimens are those collected by such famous explores as Captain John Freemont, Thomas Nuttall, Sir William Hooker, C.S. Rafinesque, and George Englemann. The herbarium was started by Dr. William Darlington, a prominent West Chester physician, educator, banker, historian and botanist.

The B. Harry Warren Ornithological Collection contains approximately 2000 bird specimens dating back to the late 1800's

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