Monday, December 17, 2012

End of Fall Semester

Fall semester is over, and the holiday break is here.  It’s been a very busy fall, with another large class of first-year biology majors taking our Introduction to Ecology and Evolution course (BI 151), which was modified somewhat as we build on our partnership with the neighboring Army National Guard base to provide valuable ecological information for the management of their forest area.

The fall edition of Biology Matters, our e-newsletter, was completed and is now linked to our Departmental web site.  In addition, the fall edition of the Saint Michael’s magazine ran a nice article featuring Professor Mac Lippert and his student research program (“Biology Biographies”) and also includes summer research by Professors Declan McCabe, Adam Weaver, Valerie Banschbach, and Peter Hope and their students (“Summer at St. Mikes”).

The next few weeks will be a welcome break for many of us – BUT on December 29 Professors Peter Hope and Scott Lewins will be taking a group of 12 students to Costa Rica for a Tropical Ecology field course lasting 12 days.  To keep up with their progress, check out their blog.

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year….

Thursday, October 18, 2012

National recognition for Matt Hajdun

Congratulations to Matt Hajdun (Biology major, class of 2005), who received a Milken Family Foundation Award on October 15.  The Milken Awards acknowledge excellence in teaching, and are seen by some as the “academy awards” of the teaching profession.  Matt has been a teacher at Champlain Elementary School in Burlington for several years; he first taught at orphanage in Honduras and then in a bilingual inner city school in New Britain, Connecticut before coming to Burlington.  This link shows some local coverage of the big news.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Honoring alumna

On Friday, September 28, returning alumna Dr. Tracy Romano (Bio major from class of 1986) was inducted to the SMC Academic Hall of Fame at the annual Fall Convocation.  Dr. Romano is the Executive Vice President for Research and Zoological Operations at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut.  Her research background and interest focuses on marine mammals, particularly beluga whales.  While on campus, Dr. Romano had lunch with officers of our chapter of Beta Beta Beta (national Biology Honor Society) and also had an after-lunch open forum during which she discussed how her commitment to studying marine mammals led her from St. Mike's to her current position, which includes studies of how the immune system of belugas responds when the whales are under stress.  It was great to hear about the work going on at the aquarium, and also with wild belugas in the arctic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gone Fishin'....

During the first week of August, I took a small news crew from Channel 5 (WPTZ) fishing in Malletts Bay.  With fishing as a back drop,  we discussed the potential impacts of the spiny water flea on the Lake's food web and fishing.  The spiny water flea is a predatory zooplankton that is not yet in Lake Champlain but may soon find it's way in from the Champlain canal or Lake George - both of which are connected to Lake Champlain.    Watch the news report...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Course planning for fall

If you are one of our incoming BIology majors - Congratulation!  We look forward to seeing you.  Here is some advice on planning for fall courses.  

Much of what follows is directed toward incoming Biology majors, but there is some important information for Biochemistry and Pre-Pharmacy majors as well.  (If you are planning to major in Biochemistry and have any questions, please contact Dr. Alayne Schroll,  If you are planning to major in Pre-Pharmacy, please contact Dr. Ari Kirshenbaum,,  if you have any questions.)

·        Please attend one of the summer registration days if you can; they are scheduled for July 13, 17, and 20.  We will have someone from the Biology Department available to assist incoming Biology majors with course selection and discuss our program if you wish.
·        All first semester Biology majors (and also those majoring in Biochemistry or Pre-Pharmacy) 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 a “Pre-Med” or similar “Pre-Health” course of study, regardless of their 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 quite strong – so to help ensure that all students who need these courses get into them, we will make an effort to register you 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, because you have indicated Biology, Biochemistry, or Pre-Pharmacy as your intended major, we will do our best to place you into BI 151 and CH 110.  However - if you have changed your mind or believe that we have made a mistake and you do not intend to major in Biology, Biochemistry, or Pre-Pharmacy, 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 or Biochemistry as their intended major will not be placed into these courses.  Therefore, if you know someone planning to attend St. Mike’s and pursue one of these programs but who has not let us know of their intent, please mention to them that you got this message, and that they should contact the registrar’s office (Katherine Orthman, and declare one of these majors – it is the best way to maximize the likelihood that they will get into these courses and get off to a good start in these majors. (note – anyone receiving this email is already on our list of intended Biology, Biochemistry, or Pre-Pharmacy majors)

·        A note regarding Math requirements: Biology majors are required to take two semesters of math, with at least one of those being calculus. 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 placement 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. 16-17 of your New Student Guide.
o   If you have any questions regarding the options for Calculus this coming fall or the calculus placement test, please contact Dr. George Ashline ( of the Math Department. 

I look forward to seeing you either later this month or in the fall.

Doug Facey (, Chair
Biology Department

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Congratulations to Rich Centore

Congratulations to Rich Centore (SMC '03), who recently had a research paper published in Molecular Cell, a higly respected journal in the field.  The article, Spartan/C1ord124, a Reader of PCNA Ubiquitylation and a Regulator of  UV-Induced DNA Damage Response, was published in the June 8 issue. Rich is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Ceter at Harvard Medical School; Rich was also featured in an alumnus profile in our Spring 2010 edition of Biology Matters, our e-newsletter.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What's New ??

Find out - the Spring 2012 Biology Matters e-newsletter has updates, along with profiles of some students and alumni, and some information about summer activities.  Follow the link, to find out what's new....

Friday, April 27, 2012

Students recognized

Each year, many of our Biology majors are inducted to various honor societies in recognition of their outstanding accomplishments in academics and research. This spring, we are pleased to recognize the following inductees:

Phi Beta Kappa: Kristen Cowens, Allen Hubbard, Bridget Levine, Karri Makinen

Beta Beta Beta (Tri-Beta): Stephanie Bacon, Max Brenner, Anne Burnham, Kayla Carnell, Kristen Cowens, Anna Fetterolf, Courtney Gannon, Laura Ostrout, Kelsey Velie, and Sara Williams. The following graduating seniors had been inducted in the past - Amy Blackey, Gabrielle Buczek, Christopher Dustin, Emma Fox, Jacob Girard, Michael Herring, Spenser Johnson, Bridget Levine, Tom Perekslis, Janel Roberge, Ian Sullivan, Jake Withee.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society: Alli Bleil, Kristen Cowens, Jake Girard, Bridget Levine, Stephanie Locke, Tom Perekslis, Janel Roberge, Ian Sullivan


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hartnett Endowment Ignites Ecosystem Recovery Research

The John C. Hartnett Endowment was established in 2000 by Paul A. Lachance, Ph.D. (’55) and Therese Lachance to honor Professor Emeritus John C. Hartnett (’43) for his dedication to excellence in teaching and his outstanding influence on biology and other students at St. Michael’s College for forty-four years. The endowment provides funds to support student-faculty research opportunities, and when the endowment was first established there were very few funding sources to support student research - especially full-time research for the summer. Therefore, the Hartnett Endowment became a very important means of supporting summer research students for quite a few years.

Thanks to the support of our generous alumni, the Hartnett Endowment has grown considerably. In addition, in more recent years our faculty and students have had success in attracting other funding sources to support summer research, thereby increasing the overall amount of summer research activity in the Biology Department, but without drawing heavily on the increasing funds in the Endowment. This year, however, the Hartnett Endowment will provide a huge boost in kicking off a new research initiative in the Biology Department.

For several years, our Biology Department has had a cooperative research relationship with Camp Johnson, the Army National Guard facility adjacent to our campus. The Camp Johnson property supports the largest remaining stand of sandplain forest in Vermont, a forest community that thrives in sandy, low-nutrient soils and that requires regular fires to be sustained. As part of the long-term management plan, some sections of the Camp Johnson sandplain forest were burned in the mid to late 1990s. Each fall for the last six years, our students taking BI 151 (Introduction to Ecology and Evolution) have studied plants and invertebrates in both the burned and unburned sections of the forest to see how they differ.

In a new research initiative made possible by support from the Hartnett Endowment, a new section of the forest will be burned in spring of 2013. This not only will provide an outstanding research opportunity, but it also will benefit the management and maintenance of this rare forest community. To provide background information needed for future studies of forest recovery, Devin Latremore (’14), Nicholas Salvas (’15), Jennifer Labrenz (’13), and Aerielle Matsangos (’15) (in photo, left to right), and will be working with professors Valerie Banschbach and Peter Hope in the summer of 2012 to study the plant and invertebrate communities in areas to be burned in 2013 and in adjacent sections of the forest. In addition, our first-year students taking BI 151 in the fall of 2012 will also be providing critical foundation data in preparation for the burn.

This new research initiative, which includes collaboration among the St. Michael’s Biology Department, Camp Johnson, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and The Nature Conservancy, will provide a living laboratory of sandplain forest recovery right next door – something that students and faculty will be studying for years, and perhaps decades, to come.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thank You... the many accepted students and their families who came to visit us this past Monday (Feb 27). We had a great crowd, filling a large function room, and with lots of good questions on a wide range of topics - internship opportunities, pre-health advising, study abroad, career preparation, the basic biology curriculum, general academic advising....things that you should be asking before making a decision on where to attend college in the fall. For more information about our program, please visit the Biology Department Website.

I also appreciate the fact that several of you took advantage of some time at the end of the day to visit our department, look around, and ask some more questions before you left campus. Thanks for your interest in St. Mike's - and best wishes wherever you decide to go in the fall. I hope that we will see some of you here.

For those who were not there - have no fear! There are additional Accepted Student Academic Days on March 7 and March 26, and also Accepted Student Open Houses plannd for April 14 and 21. If you'd like more information, please contact the Admissions Office.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Anna Michael ('07) now in veterinary practice in Minnesota

I just received this piece of exciting news about Anna Michael, who graduated from the SMC Biology program in 2007, went to veterinary school at the University of Minnesota, earned Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine and Masters of Public Health degrees, and has now taken over a veterinary clinic in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes".

Congratulations and best wishes to Anna !!