Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays

With the fall semester behind us, I'd like to wish everyone the best for the upcoming holidays and new year. Our fall was quite busy, with well-attended admissions events in October and November, both of which included a Biology Department Open House.

Read about some of our other recent news and activities in the Fall 2011 edition of Biology Matters, our e-newsletter, which is now available.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Another chance...

This Saturday, November 12, is another Fall Academic Preview Day. Please come to campus and check us out - we've got a lot to offer. The Biology Department will hold an "Open House" after the Department presentations in the late afternoon to provide an informal opportunity to visit our facilities, see what we're all about, and speak with some students and faculty. We hope to see you there...

You can also learn more about us through our Biology Department web page. There you can link to a short YouTube video featuring recent alumni talking about their SMC experience within our program. You can also look at where some of our alumni are, and the careers that they've entered. And you can link to our e-newsletter, Biology Matters which we publish each spring and fall.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Who goes there?

Guest Blogger: Professor Declan McCabe

How can biologists efficiently collect enough observations to draw conclusions about mammal abundance or diversity in a habitat? This is exactly the problem my students and I tackled in the Saint Michael's College Community Ecology course in the last two weeks. Attempting to observe shy mammals can be disappointing, particularly when moving through a habitat as a group of 20. Instead, our approach was to record mammal footprints at track stations.

Our track stations included a layer of powdered black chalk to blacken the feet of the mammals and a sheet of sticky contact paper to collect each chalky print. All of this was sheltered from rain in a plastic tunnel-shaped structure with an opening at one end. Students determined which habitats to study and we left several track stations in each habitat. We convinced the mammals that walking through chalk and onto contact paper was a good idea by baiting the stations with peanut butter or dog biscuits.

We recorded a total of 355 visits to our 31 track stations over a two week period. We have indeed confirmed that the campus is a grey squirrel and chipmunk haven! Prints were also left by skunks, raccoons, muskrats, and mice. One of the stations with rather smudged prints also contained several black hairs. Microscopic scale patterns on the hairs confirmed our suspicions that the nocturnal visitor was a skunk. Perhaps most interesting, the traps set by the Winooski River were visited by mink; perhaps many mink, or perhaps just one extremely well fed mink with a deep fondness for peanut butter and dog biscuits.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Come and Visit!

Fall is a great time to come and visit - and we've got lots to show you.

It is beginning to feel a bit more fall-ish these days - shorter days and cooler nights.... a few leaves starting to turn colors. And another sign of the season - visitors, and lots of them. High school students with their parents, touring the campus, stopping in to visit, talking and emailing us with questions about our programs. And we love it - students doing their homework and looking closely into potential colleges..... looking for the right match, the place that "feels right".

If you are interested in learning more about us - please visit our Bio Department web page. There you can link to a short YouTube video featuring recent alumni talking about their SMC experience within our program. You can also look at where some of our alumni are, and the careers that they've entered. And you can link to our e-newsletter, "Biology Matters" which we publish each spring and fall.

Consider visiting during one of upcoming Academic Preview Days (October 8 and November 12)- contact our Admissions Office for more information. And on both of those dates, we plan to have a Bio Department "Open House" at the end of the afternoon's planned events. So stop by, meet some of our students.... and make yourself feel at home.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

BIOLOGY is number 1!

That's right - we are the number one declared major among incoming first-year students at Saint Michael's. Our program has been growing each year, and for the fall of 2011 we welcome 80 new Biology majors! As in the past, we continue to offer a broad selection of courses, dedicated faculty, personal attention, and strong success by our graduates. For more information, please visit our Biology Department webpage.

If you are among the new arrivals at St. Mike's - please stop by our table on Saturday morning, August 27 (9:30 to 10:30) during the Majors Fair in the gym.

If you are currently in high school and thinking of majoring in biology, please come to visit and ask us about our program. Our Admissions Office has Academic Preview Days planned for October 8 and November 12. If you come to one of these preview days, please plan to visit our Biology Department Open House on the third floor of the Cheray Science Hall at the end of the afternoon scheduled events.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Valuable Information for New Students

Welcome to incoming Biology majors! We look forward to meeting you this fall in classes, but before that it might be helpful to give you a bit of advice regarding registration for fall courses.

• Please attend one of the summer registration days if you can; they are scheduled for July 8, 12, and 15. We will have someone from the Biology Department available to assist you with course selection and discuss our program if you wish.

• All first semester Biology majors (and also those majoring in Biochemistry) should take BI 151 (Intro. Ecology and Evolution) and CH 110 (Chemical Structure, Bonding, & Reactivity). This is also true for anyone who plans to pursue our Pre-Pharmacy major, or a “Pre-Med” or similar “Pre-Health” course of study, regardless of your intended major. These courses will put you on the right track for future course work in these fields. The demand for these introductory courses in Biology and Chemistry is often quite high – so to help ensure that all students who need these courses get into them, we will make an effort to register all students who have declared Biology or Biochemistry as their intended major for these courses before the summer registration days. This will make your summer registration day go more easily, as you will already have these two courses in your schedule.

• Therefore, if you have indicated Biology or Biochemistry as your intended major, we will do our best to place you into BI 151 and CH 110. However - If you initially indicated Biology or Biochemistry as your intended major and have changed your mind and therefore do not want BI 151 and CH 110 in your first semester, please contact Katherine Orthman ( in the registrar’s office. We can drop you from those courses, and you will have more flexibility in your course selection for the first semester, and also allow more space in these courses for students who need to take them.

• Anyone who has not indicated Biology, Biochemistry, or Pre-Pharmacy as their intended major will not be placed into these courses. Therefore, if you intend to pursue one of these courses of study, or a Pre-Med/Pre Health program, I strongly suggest that you contact the registrar’s office (Katherine Orthman, and declare one of these majors – it is the best way to maximize the likelihood that you will get into these courses and get off to a good start in these majors.

A note regarding Math requirements: Biology majors are required to take two semesters of math, with at least one of those being calculus. However, Biology majors are not required to take Calculus in the first year, but some students choose to so that the Calculus that they had senior year in HS is still fresh. However – Biochemistry majors should take Calculus in their first semester.

o If you took AP Calculus and got a 4 or 5 on the AP exam, you will get credit for Calculus 1 (MA 150) and are eligible to take Calculus 2 (MA 160). If you took a non-AP Calculus I course in high school (or do not yet know your AP score) and did well in the course, you may also be eligible to take Calculus 2 in the fall and should contact Dr. George Ashline ( of the Math department if you would like to register for Calculus II in the fall.

o The Math Department offers sections of Elements of Calculus (MA 130), Calculus 1 (MA 150) and Calculus 2 (MA 160) that can be scheduled along with BI 151 and certain sections of CH 110 for the coming fall semester.

o If you are planning to take introductory Calculus (either MA 130 or MA 150) at Saint Michael’s as an incoming Biology and Biochemistry majors, then you should take the on-line Calculus readiness test (see link) that was mentioned to you in an earlier notice. This will help you determine your preparation for introductory Calculus. If you successfully completed a Calculus I course in high school, then you need not take the Readiness test. Calculus 2 is not required for the Biology major - however, some graduate programs, including some medical schools, like to see it. Calculus 2 is required for the Biochemistry major.

o Please note – If you plan to take Calculus 2 (MA 160) this coming fall, then we will then try to schedule you for BI 151 and the appropriate sections of CH 110 that will allow you to take Calculus 2. (You would be eligible for Calculus 2 if you anticipate receiving credit for Calculus 1, or you successfully completed a Calculus I course in high school and feel comfortable with those concepts).

o Information about choosing the right math course is available on pp. 17-18 of your New Student Guide.

o If you have any questions regarding the options for Calculus this coming fall or the calculus readiness test, please contact Dr. George Ashline ( of the Math Department.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Biology Faculty Honored

At the Saint Michael's Senior Awards luncheon (May 13), which is part of the pre-commencement activities of the College, three Biolgoy Department faculty were honored by the senior class.

Professors Mark Lubkowitz and Donna Bozzone each received Class Appreciation awards for their outstanding commitment and service to the students and broader community of Saint Michael's College. In addition, the 2011 Yearbook was dedicated to Professor Doug Green.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's the news?

.... check it out for yourself. The Spring 2011 edition of Biology Matters, our departmental e-newsletter is now available. Read about some of what we've been up to, including student and alumni profiles. We publish Biology Matters twice a year over the last several years - to see previous issues, please go the the Index page.

For additional informatino about the Biology Department, please check out our web page.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Biology Majors Earn Honors

Tri-Beta Inducts New Members

The Saint Michael's College chapter of Beta Beta Beta (National Biological Honor Society) inducted 15 new members on Friday, April 1 in the Pomerleau Alumni Center: Amy Blackey, Heidi Chapman, Jacqueline Cronin, Leah Damon, Christopher Dustin, Katherine Gregorits, Spenser Johnson, Matthew Jordan, Stephanie Locke, Katherine McGrath, Kaitlyn O’Donnell, Sydney O’Saben, Steven Paula, Janel Roberge, and Amanda Willette. Earlier this spring, Tri-Beta elected its officers for next academic year: Janel Roberge (President), Heidi Chapman (Vice President), Michael Herring (Secretary), Tom Perekslis (Treasurer), Steven Paula (Historian), and Jake Girard (Public Representative).

Dr. Pam Carroll (SMC class of 1985) was the guest speaker at the induction. Earlier in the afternoon, Dr. Carroll, who is currently the Head of Research at the Belfer Institute of Applied Cancer Science at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, gave a research presentation on “Conquering the Complexity of Cancer” and talked to interested students about her path after St. Mike’s, offering advice on what lies ahead after graduation. Dr. Carroll was also inducted as an alumni member to the SMC chapter of Beta Beta Beta, along with honorary inductee SMC President Dr. Jack Neuhauser.

Check out the new website for the SMC Tri-Beta chapter!

A Bumper Crop of Biology Students Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa this Year
Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and largest academic honor society, was founded on December 5, 1776, by five students at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA. It was the first society to have a Greek letter name and to introduce the essential characteristics of such societies: an oath of secrecy (discarded in 1831), a badge, mottoes in Latin and Greek, a code of laws, and an elaborate initiation ritual.

As the Gamma chapter of Vermont, Saint Michael’s is one of only three Vermont institutions to have Phi Beta Kappa chapters, along with the University of Vermont (Alpha) and Middlebury College (Beta). Of the 220 Catholic colleges in the country, only 20 have chapters, four of them in New England: Saint Michael’s, Boston College, Holy Cross and Fairfield.

While Biology majors have typically been well represented among the PBK inductees each year, there is a bumper crop this year. We are proud of the seven biology majors (Kaitlyn Begins, Derrick Cumberbatch, Maggie Ecker, Anna Gauthier, Matt Jordan, Jennifer Lermond, and Chelsea Myers), one biochemistry major (Jeff Dukette) and one biology minor (Amanda Willette), who will be inducted this year. While not a biology major, we are also proud of Sarah Brault, a psychology major and daughter of our Administrative Assistant, Denise Brault, who is also among the inductees this year. Given that a Chapter may induct only up to 10% of the senior class into PBK, it is a considerable honor to be chosen. The Induction Ceremony was held Friday, April 8th at 4:30 PM in McCarthy Recital Hall.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Remembering Doug Green

It is with great sadness that we report the recent death of Professor Doug Green, a highly respected and beloved member of the Saint Michael's Biology Department. Doug passed away on Friday, March 18 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He made a significant, positive impact on our campus and our department, and will be missed for a very long time. Our hearts ache..... A Facebook tribute page has been set up, so feel free to visit.

Doug's obituary follows...

DOUGLAS S. GREEN HUNTINGTON - Douglas S. Green passed away peacefully in the Vermont Respite House on March 18, 2011, having faced several years of health challenges with dignity and grace. He was born Jan. 30, 1953 in New York City, and he grew up in Florida, Texas, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and finally San Diego, Calif. Doug graduated as valedictorian from Saint Augustine High School. He earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Stanford University in 1975, and a Ph.D., also in biology, from Princeton University in 1980. Doug also earned a masters degree in Computer Science from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1986. Doug met his future wife, Donna Bozzone, in 1978 when she started her graduate work at Princeton. They married in 1982 and then gradually moved north living first in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. while Doug taught at Vassar and Donna completed her thesis. Next they moved to Massachusetts where Doug taught and studied at WPI and Donna did a post-doc at the Worcester Foundation. Finally in 1987, they made their last move and happily made their home in Vermont. Doug was a professor at Saint Michael's College, first in the computer science department and then in biology. Doug devoted his professional life to learning and teaching and was well respected and loved by his students and colleagues. He was even more devoted to his family. He has two daughters, Samantha was born in 1989 and Allison in 1993. No father was ever more over the moon about his children than Doug was about his daughters. Doug's life and the lives of his family, friends, students and colleagues were enriched by his many hobbies and interests: science fiction, gardening, wood-working, chess, astronomy, chess, puzzles of all kinds, biology, computer programming, robots, and especially playing guitar. An unrelentingly positive person, Doug remained a faithful fan of his San Diego Chargers and believed every season that they would win the Super Bowl "this year." In addition to his wife Donna, and daughters Samantha and Allison, Doug is survived by his father, Oscar and his wife Doris of Prescott, Ariz.; his sister, Linda Ybarra of Aberdeen, Wash.; brother, Kenneth of Italy; and brother, Steven and his wife Michelle of San Diego, Calif. He is also survived by his brother-in-law, William Bozzone and his wife Janet and their children, Stephen and Laura. Finally, he leaves behind his "adopted" family, Frank Vella and Kathleen Verville and their children, Laura, Christopher, and Michael. Doug was predeceased by his mother, Dorothy (Harding) Green. Our family would like to thank the wonderful members of the Saint Michael's and Huntington communities for their care and help. Also, we are grateful for the gentle care that Doug received from Dr. Thomas Roland, Jeanne Sheehay, the VNA, and the angels at the Vermont Respite House. Visiting hours will be held on Friday, March 25, 2011 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Ready's Funeral Home, Mountain View Chapel, 68 Pinecrest Drive, Essex Junction. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated, Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 2 p.m. in the chapel on the campus of Saint Michael's College. Gifts in Doug's name can be made to the Vermont Respite House or the Cancer Patient Support Program Emergency Fund at FAHC. To send online condolences, please visit

Friday, March 18, 2011

Planning for summer....

Yes - it is the time of year that many students are putting summer plans in place. This is spring break week at SMC - so many students have been home, where some are likely making or renewing contacts for summer jobs or internship at home.

It's also the time to secure summer research opportunities. Several deadlines just passed for students applying for funding to stay on campus for the summer and do research with our faculty - and notifications will be going our soon to those who were successful.

As one example of the kinds of research opportunities that we offer - Biology professor Mark Lubkowitz recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to be part of a multi-insitution research team investigating genetic control of carbohydrate movement in corn. This project will include hiring several research students each year for the next five years. Read more about Mark's Plant Genome Grant.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Guest Blog

A guest blog from Professor Mac Lippert about an alumna, Melissa (Meyer) Perry. Melissa graduated in 2001 with degrees in Biology and Elementary Education. At Saint Mike’s, she performed undergraduate research during the summer of 2000 under the direction of Mac Lippert, and was funded by the Dan Bean Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Since graduating Melissa taught middle school at Chester Academy in NH for 5 years. For two of the five years, she taught both math and science, and focused exclusively on math for the remaining three years. Melissa then taught math at Sanborn Regional High School for 3 years. This summer Melissa completed a Masters of Education, focusing on Technology in Education, at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Currently she is home with her kids, including a new baby. Melissa plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Math Education and is currently in the application process. Below is a picture of Melissa, her husband, SMC 2000 Computer Science graduate, Patrick Perry, and their children.

Monday, February 21, 2011

It's springtime...

.. well, not quite. But we did have some warm weather last week (sunny and high 50s), plus the days are noticeable longer. It's nice to drive in and home with daylight now. This time of year also means we will be seeing some seasonal migrations.... of prospective students and their families to our campus. So welcome!

I'll be meeting with some accepted students interested in biology on February 28, March 7, and March 28; and there are also Open House events planned for April 9 and 16.

If you are interested, please contact our Admissions Office. And, you might also be interested in the following...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Congratulations.... Dr. Mac Lippert (Nov 19 guest blogger) and SMC Bio alumni Ryan Larson and Nate Schoenly on the recent publication of some of their research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Lippert is the first author, with Ryan and Nate among the coauthors, on this collaborative research article titled "Role for topoisomerase 1 in transcription-associated mutagenesis in yeast".

Our biology faculty provide many research opportunities for students, some of which have resulted in students appearing as coauthors on professional research journal publications. In addition, faculty often bring their research students to professional conferences to present and discuss their research. These experiences are quite valuable for students wishing to go on to various professional or research-oriented graduate programs after leaving St. Mike's.

For more about the research opportunities in the Biology Department, visit our website, or issues of our e-newsletter, Biology Matters.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pura Vida!

A Report from the Tropical Ecology Course
By Prof. Valerie Banschbach


Pura Vida! That’s the Costa Rican expression for living life fully, immersed in every moment. That sums up the experience that the Saint Michael's College students (Jake Girard, Ian Sullivan, Emily Ogilvy, Jess Sprague, Corey Dolbeare, Mike Sprague, Bridget Levine, Sara Williams, Jeff Dukette, Chris Lavallee, Jake Withee, and Janel Roberge) and Professors Denise Martin, me, and Jonathan Leonard, had during our winter break trip to study ecology and conservation of the cloud forests and lowland rain forests of Costa Rica.

{PICTURE OF WHOLE GROUP, V. Banschbach’s camera}

As you might guess from our group photo in the lodge, the cloud forest at Monteverde, CR was a little chilly and damp. The cloud forest receives 20% of its rain as “horizontal rain”, i.e. clouds. The hummingbirds and the plants thrive on it and we saw plenty of super-sized examples! Students researched pollination biology of a hummingbird pollinated member of the plant family Acanthaceae, behavior of the trap-jawed meat-eating ant, Odontomachus sp., and the habitat preferences of bromeliads.



After our work at Monteverde, we took an interesting full-day road trip down from the mountains to our next study site, the Atlantic slope lowland rain forest at Selva Verde.
{PHOTO Mike Sprague, Bridget Levine and Jake Withee, taken by V. Banschbach}

When we arrived at the lower elevation rain forest site, it was a bit hotter, and like this basilisk lizard, we were ready for a dip in the water.{PHOTO OF BASILISK LIZARD, V. Banschbach}

At the Selva Verde rain forest reserve, students conducted projects on Heliconia sp. pollination, red-eyed tree frog behavior, ant lion prey capture, and bird foraging behavior.

At both study sites, we had excellent Costa Rican naturalist guides that helped us pack an enormous amount of learning about natural history, ecology and conservation issues into our 10-day trip. Of course, we also took a little time just to hang out and enjoy the experience.

{PHOTO OF MANTLED HOWLER MONKEY, taken by V. Banschbach}

And now we are back enjoying the snow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

It's time....

So, here I am, the Friday before classes begin. Trying feverishly to wrap-up the piles of administrative left-overs from last semester and get ready for Monday - the opening of the new semester.

Two of our faculty returned recently from our Department's Costa Rica study tour course, and it sounds as though everything went great. We hope to share some specifics and a photo or two with you in the near future.

We've got a good array of course options for our Bio major and minors this spring semester. In addition to the second semester of Intro Bio (BI 153) and Biological Reading & Writing (BI 205), both of which are required of all Bio majors, we've got Genetics, Molecular Biology, Developmental Biology, Animal Behavior, Human and Comparative Anatomy, Human and Comparative Physiology, and 3 sections of Senior Seminar (each with a different topical focus). For more information about our program check out our website.

For accepted prospective students and their families - please plan to come and visit at one of our accepted student open house dates - February 28, March 7, and March 28. I hope to see some of you there.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A New Beginning

Greetings, and Happy New Year to all. It's been a while since my last entry, but I decided to take a little blog-break over the holidays. I wish I could say that I went away to some exotic and exciting location, but alas, I've been here the whole time. Doing my best to get caught up on the many "left-overs" that were piled high on my desk (literally) and in my inbox (electronically). Administrative planning stuff, reports to complete, manscripts to review, more student recommendations to finish .... And now, even though that isn't done just yet, it's time to get ready for the new semester... supplies to be ordered, classes to plan, syllabi to complete.

We did have some nice lab tech upgrades over the break - new screens and ceiling-mounted projectors in the three teaching labs that didn't already have them. So that will be a nice feature for the future. But other than that, not much new to report at the moment - but in just over a week classes will be back in session. Then we're off and running.

So back to work....