Engagement Opportunities

 The Biology Department highly encourages students to take advantage of the many opportunities for scholarly and professional engagement occurring outside the classroom. Collectively, these options may be referenced as “High Impact Practices” across campus and could involve any Southwestern student.

Biology majors sampling environmental DNA in search of non-native apple snails in San Antonio.

Biological Honors Society - Beta Beta Beta

The Delta Alpha Chapter of Tri-Beta at Southwestern University provides resources and support to the work of student biologists at Southwestern. First-year students can apply to be Associate Members and then apply for Regular Membership after meeting the criteria of a certain grade point average and completion of the first year sequence of Biology. Dr. Gonzalez  serves as the main faculty mentor for this group, although all the Biology faculty work to support the work of this very active organization. Tri-Beta also contains a subgroup of members focused on pre-health professions including medical, dental and physical therapy and another on graduate school.

Undergraduate Research (on or off-campus)

Many members of the Biology Department have research programs dedicated to conducting research with students, both as a teaching demonstration of scientific skills but also as part of the process of scholarship. The scientific process clearly includes presentation and peer review and we enjoy mentoring our students in these processes. In terms of writing and critical thinking, collaborative research can result in some combination of the following outcomes:

  • Presentation of research (oral or poster presentations) at the SU RCWS (see above) ;
  • Research done with faculty may earn credit hours in the Department of Biology;
  • Presentation (oral or poster) at the Texas Academy of Science meeting or other regional and/or national scientific meetings; and
  • Eventual publication of a peer-reviewed scientific publication

    Research options occur in different forms depending on the faculty. Some faculty participate in a university-wide program of summer research (SCOPE  - Summer Collaborative Opportunities and Experiences) while others create their own tailored arrangements. If interested in the research process, start a conversation with individual professors about their research programs:

Off-campus Research (REUs and similar programs)

REU stands for Research Experiences for Undergraduates , a signature program of the National Science Foundation which offers several opportunities across the country. In addition, a number of medical schools, study-abroad programs, research institutes, and other universities offer REU-like independent research opportunities for students. Students can learn more about these opportunities by talking with faculty or following announcements sent to the Biology list-serve ( ). 

SU Research and Creative Works Symposium (SU-RCWS)

An annual symposium modeled after a typical academic conference where Southwestern students present the results of their research and creative works.

Study Abroad

The Biology Department encourages as many of its students as possible to study abroad and experience the global nature and reach of science.  The Office of Study Abroad and International Student Services can serve as your first point of contact or you can talk with your academic advisers.  The Biology Department Faculty have also assembled lists of programs in Biology and Health Studies to help narrow the vast number of choices to programs that work well with the Southwestern curriculum and our students.

Check them out:

Pre-vetted Biology Study Abroad Options

Pre-vetted Health Studies Study Abroad Options

Did you know??  Dr. Burks will be one of the faculty leading the SU London semester in Fall of 2022 !  She can’t wait to travel again. Feel free to contact her directly for information about London.


Students can incorporate internships for credit as part of their Biology degree with the permission of the department. Inquire with Dr. Ben Pierce and check out the additional resources provided by the Office of Internships within the Center for Integrated Learning.

Pre-Med and Allied Health Professional Programs

The Pre-Med and Allied Health Committee may have a further list of additional programs that include shadowing medical professions or volunteering with local hospitals.  Email Dr. Maria Cuevas and/or check out all the resources available for pre-med, dental, vet, PA, PT, Nurse Practitioner and more on their website.

King Creativity Grants

Several biology majors have been successful in obtaining King Creativity Grants to support their interests outside the classroom. The King Creativity Fund empowers students to pursue projects that stretch disciplinary boundaries or combine traditional academic methods with new approaches. Past projects from biologists include creating a portfolio of microscope images (titled Finding Beauty in Disease ), exploring the intersection between art and science  and doing research on the health of the San Gabriel River .

Civic Engagement

As one option, consider SMArTeams - Science and Math Achiever Teams - which pairs college students one-on-one with local elementary students to conduct a project of inquiry during each semester.  The Team meets at Southwestern on Monday afternoons (5 - 6 pm) and opportunities exist for SU students to get involved. For questions, contact Dr. Romi Burks  or Dr. Sarah Brackman  in the Office of Civic Engagement.