Department Chair: Patrick Hart, Ph.D.


Professor Emeritus:

  • Leon Hallacher, Ph.D.
  • Don Hemmes, Ph.D.
  • William Mautz, Ph.D.


Associate Professors:

Assistant Professors:


Biology is the study of living things and encompasses many areas of study including:

  • biochemistry: the study of the complex chemical composition and chemical activities of living things;
  • botany: the study of plants;
  • cell biology: the study of structures and activities of individual cells;
  • ecology: the study of relationships between living things and their environment;
  • microbiology: the study of living things too small to be seen with the unassisted eye;
  • molecular biology and genetics: the study of inherited characteristics and the molecular basis of their inheritance and function;
  • zoology: the study of animals.


The mission of the Department of Biology is to provide students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo with sound and rigorous training in the biological sciences. The program emphasizes hands-on, individualized learning for students and active faculty research with opportunities for students to participate.

Program Goals

  • Outcome 1 (Knowledge): Demonstrate mastery of core concepts in Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Outcome 2 (Knowledge): Demonstrate mastery of core concepts in Ecology and Evolution
  • Outcome 3 (Application): Develop analytical and hypothesis testing skills to address biological problems.
  • Outcome 4 (Analysis): Acquire proficiency with quantitative concepts, statistical analyses, and graphical presentation of data
  • Outcome 5 (Communication): Develop skill in written and oral interpretation, synthesis, and presentation of data
  • Outcome 6 (Application): Develop skill in the use of basic laboratory and field equipment for biological science and laboratory safety

Goals for Student Learning in the Major

The Biology program trains students in a wide variety of biological disciplines ranging from ecology, evolution, and conservation biology to cell and molecular biology. Two degree options (Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science), prepare students for the job market or graduate school in biological sciences, as well as for professional schools of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, nursing, physical therapy, veterinary medicine, and other health-related programs. The program also provides the scientific background to teach biology at the intermediate and high school levels.

Students in all tracks acquire a thorough grounding in the major topical areas of biology, including:

  • Cell Biology—biochemistry and cell organelle processes, macromolecules, enzyme activity and regulation, and cell-cell communication;
  • Molecular Biology and Genetics—molecular genetics, including DNA replication and mutation, gene structure, regulation of gene expression, bacteriophages and viruses, and genetic engineering;
  • Organismal Biology—diversity of organisms, including anatomy and physiology, phylogenetic relationships, classification, morphology, life histories, and general biology of all life forms; adaptations of organisms to habitats; and origin of life;
  • Population Biology, Evolution, and Ecology—natural selection and adaptation, population genetics, patterns of evolution, origin of life, population ecology, community ecology, ecosystems, and human impacts.

Biology majors also acquire analytical skills for applying scientific methodology to problems, hypothesis testing, and an understanding of the limitation of science as a way of knowing. They develop proficiency with quantitative concepts and familiarity with units of measure, statistical analyses, and the graphical and tabular presentation of data. They will also develop skill in oral and written presentation of scientific information.

Non-biology majors who fulfill part of their General Education requirements with a Biology course will gain an appreciation of modern biology to apply to understanding of current societal impacts of biology such as advances in biomedicine, environmental issues, and biological evidence in jury proceedings.

Special Aspects of the Biology Program

The two degree options available to undergraduates interested in studying biology are the Bachelor of Arts in Biology and the Bachelor of Science in Biology. A Biology minor is also available. Students in the BS program have two tracks from which to choose: the “Cell, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences Track” or the “Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology Track.”

Instruction includes classroom, laboratory, and field experiences emphasizing the unique environment of Hawaiʻi. Majors may have the opportunity to work on research projects directed by the faculty.

All Biology majors complete a capstone seminar course. They research an issue in the biological sciences, organize the material, and make a critical oral presentation with illustrations. This presentation is reviewed by faculty and student peers and evaluated for the quality of scientific preparation, delivery, and audiovisual aids.

Students also complete one or more senior-level laboratory courses that qualify for Writing Intensive credit. In these courses they write a series of laboratory reports demonstrating their ability to perform experiments and to organize, analyze, and interpret the quantitative results of experimental work.

BIOL 101 General Biology (3) and BIOL 101L Gen Biol Lab (1) are courses for non-majors and not credited toward a major or minor in Biology.

Advice for Biology Majors

  • Meet with your faculty advisor each semester before registering.
  • Take chemistry courses your freshman year. They are prerequisites for many required biology courses.
  • Pay attention to all course requirements for your major. Find your track below.
  • When planning, pay attention to course prerequisites and how often courses are offered. (see the Course Listings section of this catalog).
  • Remember that you must meet all requirements to graduate, including general education courses; writing intensive courses; Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific courses; and enough upper level courses (see the Baccalaureate Degree Requirements section of this catalog).