Biology News


Biology Majors Luke Taylor '15 & Gianna Seeland '15 Present their Research at Argonne National Laboratory!

 Argonne Scott Argonne present 

On Friday November 1st Biology students Luke Taylor and Gianna Seeland gave a presentation entitled “Testing Microsatellite Primers for the Collared Aracari – a Neotropical Bird Species” at the 23rd Annual Argonne Symposium for Undergraduates in Science, Engineering and Mathematics. The talk was based on the research that these two students (along with Zack Schoppen, who was not able to attend the symposium) conducted with Dr. Rod Scott during the summer 2013 Wheaton in Costa Rica Program.

The Argonne Symposium takes place at the Argonne National Lab in Lemont, IL each year and draws a large number of undergraduate research students and their mentors from all over the Midwest area. This year, there were about 100 research presentations representing various scientific disciplines, and some presenters came from as far away as Missouri and Nebraska.

In addition to giving their presentation, Luke and Gianna (along with Dr. Scott) were able to tour parts of the Argonne National Lab and to hear about research and educational opportunities that take place there regularly.


Welcome Dr. Jovanka Koo!

Vanya KooThe Biology Department welcomes Dr. Jovanka Koo as our microbiologist and immunologist faculty member. Dr. Koo earned her Ph.D. from the University of Washington Seattle and completed two Postdoctoral Fellowships: one at Weill Cornell Medical College and the other at Northwestern University.

Dr. Koo is primarily interested in how bacteria regulate gene expression. She uses a model bacterium to understand the molecular mechanism of how small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) turn genes “on” and “off.” One of the specific goals in Dr. Koo’s research is to identify genetic factors that control the expression and stability of previously identified sRNAs and their targets.

When not doing research, Dr. Koo’s interests include traveling with her husband, running, serving at her church, spending time with family and friends, and baking.

We are excited to have Dr. Koo on faculty in the Wheaton College Biology Department!


Summer Adventures of Biology Students & Faculty

Dr. Scott and 5 Wheaton Students Summer Research Adventure in Costa Rica

 Costa Rica Farm  turtle  Toucan

Dr. Rod Scott had a unique opportunity to collaborate with 5 Wheaton students (Rachel Jagrowski, Lily Quiroa-Crowell, Zack Schoppen, Luke Taylor, and Gianna Seeland) and various Costa Rican Biologists this summer as he traveled and taught with the Wheaton in Costa Rica Spanish Language program. Scott and his students used a new laboratory space on the campus of the Whitworth University Costa Rica Center to do their lab work. They initiated two new projects in conservation genetics – one using molecular markers to study population dynamics in a tropical bird called the Collared Aracari, and another using molecular “barcoding” to study phylogenetic relationships among species and subspecies of tropical squirrels. During the trip Scott also made other connections that could lead to new research projects in the future – these include a possible study related to diagnosing diseases in tropical honey bees, and a project to assess the amount of genetic variation present in an iguana population that is maintained at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua.


Valerie Lam, '15 Enjoys BIOL 243 Class in the Black Hills!Valerie

Photo credit to Dr. Kristen Page

The Black Hills was a transformative experience I never expected to have. I signed up for Bio 243, thinking it would be a nice way to get the class done during the summer so I would have more room in my schedule for other classes I would like to take. A few weeks before the trip, I remember being nervous of having boatloads of work I would have to complete. I thought I would be lectured at in the classroom for 8 hours a day and studying until 3 in the morning for tests.  None of those things happened. Our classroom was really all outdoors. Dr. Page rarely lectured in the classroom and had us doing field work outside all the time. We were making observations about the surroundings and learning about the relationships within ecosystems. I realized, driving back from the Western Trip, I was asking questions about everything I saw outside even through the van window. Why was the lichen more orange at the top of the mountain and more green at the bottom? Why were there more Ponderosa Pines at the Black Hills than at Yellowstone? I would have never even noticed these things before the trip. What I really appreciated the most from the experience though was understanding more about being a steward of God's Creation. Dr. Page made us aware of the many reasons why we do need to care for His Creation. Through this class, I am able to look at nature with a whole new perspective, not only appreciating it but also realizing that I need to care for it though the daily and long term decisions I make. I never expected to take so much from a summer course. Being able to have all this while building relationships with my friends was really a blessing from God.


Michael Mawhorter, Senior Biology Major, Researches at Lerner Research Institute

Michael summer 2013I returned this summer to the lab where I have spent the past two summers at Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute. Each summer I have been a part of the lab I've had the opportunity to do something different, and this summer was no exception. I had the chance to organize and carry out a real-time reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) experiment from start to finish, with the goal of identifying changes in how genes are expressed before and after one kind of cancer treatment. I got to work alongside full-time members of the lab as I learned the necessary techniques, and I was given the freedom to work independently after being brought up to speed. This real-world research experience has helped bring classroom biology to life. I look forward to bringing all that I've learned back to the Wheaton Biology Department!


Taylor Clemens, Sophomore Biology Major, Worked at the Crop Science Department of the University of Illinois

Taylor ClemensThis summer I worked for the crop science department of University of Illinois. I was maintaining their vegetable garden and also assisted in a weed experiment. We studied three different types of weeds (thistle, red-root pigweed, velvetleaf) and either sprayed it with Round-up or chopped it with a machete. In October, the weed section of the crop science department will test to see if any of the seeds of the weeds we sprayed or chopped germinate. It was a great opportunity for me since I want to go into agriculture when I'm done with college. I learned a lot about plants and agriculture in general. I met a lot of contacts at U of I as well as seed companies such as KWS. It also showed me what I will be able to do with a biology major. It was a great summer in general. 


Dr. Ray Lewis attends the 10th International Phycological Congress this Summer

 Ray conference 1  Ray Conference 2

Dr. Ray Lewis went to the 10th International Phycological Congress in August in Orlando, Florida, to give a presentation on research conducted with Wheaton College biology students. The presentation, “Detecting Salinity Ecotypes in Gametogenesis in the Kelp Alaria marginata,” was coauthored by Jinhee Jo, Jennifer Lee, and Taylor Kohlhepp, based on research these students conducted in the laboratory of Dr. Lewis. While at these meetings, Dr. Lewis also met many colleagues, both new and old, and developed new ideas for research and new collaborative projects. In this photo, he is talking with longtime colleague Dr. Charles Yarish of the University of Connecticut.

Wheaton College Greenhouse Grows 1st Ever Juicy Pineapple!

pineappleWho would have ever guessed that from just planting the crown of a pineapple, 18-24 months later biology students and faculty would be eating its fruit!

Biology majors, Jeremy Foster and Rachel Livingston obtained instructions about how to grow a pineapple, from Lab Associate Coreen Ogilvie. Rachel and Jeremy explained that, “The fruit itself took 6 months to grow and the plant probably took 12-18 months to grow from the origianl pineapple top. At the beginning of the summer the pineapple was tiny, but by July, it was large and ready to be picked!”

Jeremy, Rachel and Dr. Ray Lewis, Biology Department Botanist, celebrated the first ever biology greenhouse homegrown pineapple eating ceremony with students and faculty. The pineapple smell was wonderful and it was so juicy it almost melted in our mouths.

Jeremy and Rachel will try to grow another plant from this pineapple and will continue to take care of the original plant to see if it will produce more pineapples in the coming months!

Congratulations Jeremy and Rachel for growing the 1st ever Wheaton College Greenhouse Pineapple!

Congratulations to Biology Majors Ryan Lau ‘15, Rebecca Newbrander  ‘15, and Alex Petrie for Receiving the Health Scholars Scholarship for the 2013-2014 academic year.

The Health Scholars Scholarship is a highly competitive award that attracts applicants from multiple majors. Sophomores, juniors and seniors are encouraged to apply. Among the selection criteria taken into consideration is science GPA, overall GPA, student essays, credit hours completed and completion of certain science classes.

RyanDuring six-weeks this summer, Ryan Lau will have the opportunity to serve God through a medical mission trip to Cochabamba, Bolivia. "This will be an amazing chance for me to combine the three things that I am most passionate about: ministry, medicine, and Spanish. Through observing and aiding in various medical procedures, I hope that God directs me in how I may apply my future medical career to the mission field.” 


RebeccaRebecca’s summer internship at a hospital in Central Asia confirmed God’s calling on her life to serve Him as a medical missionary.  Following graduation from Wheaton and medical school, Rebecca plan’s to pursue service in a developing country.  Rebecca’s passion is to minister to the whole person, meeting spiritual as well as physical and emotional needs.




Through mission trips to the Dominican Republic and volunteering at Bolingbrook Christian Health Center, Alex Petrie has been exposed to both domestic and foreign underserved populations. “I don't yet know to which area I have been called to serve, but I feel that it is my desire as well as my responsibility to reach out to the needy as Jesus did. I plan to serve impoverished people groups by using my passion for medicine and becoming a physician.”



Congratulations to Biology Major Ryan Lau ‘15, for Receiving the Sugarbaker Scholarship for the 2013-2014 academic year.

RyanRyan Lau ’15, Biology Major was awarded the The Sugarbaker Scholarship (four years of financial support—2 at Wheaton and 2 at a medical school). The Sugarbaker award is based on factors including a resume, personal statement, and a faculty letter of evaluation.

As Ryan Lau continues to seek God’s plan for his medical vocation, The Lord is definitely presenting incredible opportunities to refine and prepare Ryan for his future. “During six-weeks this summer, I will have the opportunity to serve God through a medical mission trip to Cochabamba, Bolivia. This will be an amazing chance for me to combine the three things that I am most passionate about: ministry, medicine, and Spanish. Through observing and aiding in various medical procedures, I hope that God directs me in how I may apply my future medical career to the mission field. 

My career goals are ultimately to have a practice in an urban city in the United States where I am able to provide medical attention to underserved areas while also volunteering my time and skills at multiple free-clinics. Along with my domestic practice, I also wish to partner with various medical mission organizations that provide both relief to people in need of medical attention and instruction to local medical providers in order to enable them to help their own people. Ultimately, I desire to be fully open to the work of the Lord in my missionary and medical work and to follow God's plans for me.”


Biology Students Build PCR Machine!

 build PCR 4  Build PCR 1  Build PCR 2  build PCr 3

One of the big events in Dr. Scott's research lab this year involved taking steps to make one aspect of his research, the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) more "global". Dr. Scott's students, Erik Swanson, Tim Chung, Luke Taylor, and Nahayo Esperant actually built a PCR machine that Dr. Scott will take to Costa Rica this summer. The machine, which arrived in many separate pieces, was purchased for only $599 form a company called "Open PCR" whose goal is to make this important technique more accessible to a wide range of scientists, educators, and students. Scott will use the machine with 5 biology students who will conduct research with him as part of the "Wheaton in Costa Rica" program. Scott hopes that after this summer the PCR machine may be taken "on the road" to other locations that are visited by Wheaton biologists in the future.