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Contact Biology  


730 South Church Street
West Chester, PA 19383 

Phone: 610-436-2538 


Department Chair Assistant Chair Graduate Coordinator Administrative Assistant

Dr. Casotti

Dr. Auld

Dr. Turner

Melissa Griffin

 The Department of Biology office is located in Room 175 on the first floor of Schmucker Science North.  Faculty office hours for Fall 2019 .

News & Highlights Archive

2019 News

Job Advertisements

Temporary Faculty

Join a vibrant campus community whose excellence is reflected in its diversity and student success. West Chester University's Department of Biology is hiring a part time (<12 hours in class per week, plus 5 office hours) temporary faculty member starting January 2019 to teach laboratories in our undergraduate courses. Courses that we regularly need coverage in are laboratories in General Biology (BIO 110), and Human Anatomy and Physiology I (BIO 259) and II (BIO 269).

Applications materials should include a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and three letters of reference. Include email addresses for referees in the application system. The system will automatically email the referee and provide instructions for uploading the letter. Materials should be submitted online at Application deadline is December 15, 2019. Application review will begin on September 30, 2019. Questions regarding the position should be sent to Dr. Giovanni Casotti at Developing and sustaining a diverse faculty and staff advances WCU's educational Mission and Strategic Plan, Building on Excellence. West Chester University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. Women, minorities, veterans, and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply. All offers of employment are subject to and contingent upon satisfactory completion of all preemployment criminal background checks.


Tenure-track ASSISTANT PROFESSOR (Immunologist)

Tenure-track ASSISTANT PROFESSOR (Immunologist) position available starting August 2020. An earned doctorate in Immunology, Microbiology or related discipline is required. The successful applicant must be qualified to teach Immunology Lecture and Lab, Microbiology Lab and General Biology Lab and may be required to develop upper division and/or graduate courses in his/her area of expertise.

Establishment of an active, externally funded research program that involves undergraduate and graduate students is expected. Applicants must successfully complete the interview process, including a teaching demonstration and a research seminar.

To apply, upload a cover letter, curriculum vitae, teaching philosophy statement, research statement, and all undergraduate and graduate unofficial university transcripts to the online application system.

Provide email addresses for three references. These referees will automatically be sent an email link to upload their letter of recommendation directly to the applicant tracking system. For additional details, contact Dr. John M. Pisciotta at and indicate “Immunologist search” in the subject line.

Review of completed applications will begin on October 1st, 2019 and continue until the position is filled. Filling of this position is contingent upon available funding. All offers of employment are subject to and dependent upon satisfactory completion of all pre-employment background and consumer reporting checks. Developing and sustaining a diverse faculty and staff advances WCU’s educational mission and strategic plan. West Chester University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. Women, minorities, veterans, and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

Antibody and Antigen


 Major Awards

Dr. Jessica Sullivan-Brown (Biology) and Dr. Shawn Pfeil (Physics), along with two faculty members at Penn State Brandywine, were recently awarded a Major Research Instrumentation grant (MRI) ($462,940) from the NSF for an Olympus IXPlore SpinSR Confocal Microscopy System with TIRF capabilities. This imaging system will be housed in the Center for Microanalysis and Imaging Research and Training (CMIRT) facility at West Chester University and will enable researchers to perform cutting-edge research, provide transformative undergraduate research experiences and strengthen our already strong STEM pipeline. Examples of research projects include (1) studying how folic acid, an essential vitamin, affects embryonic development and (2) biophysical studies on the folding of a novel nucleic acid structural motif in the presence and absence of molecular crowding. Acquisition this microscope will expand teaching and outreach opportunities and ensure that the affordable high quality education offered at WCU prepares students for successful careers in the sciences.


Dr. Jennifer Chandler was awarded a USDA grant from the APHIS Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program entitled, Assessing the impact of Spotted Lanternfly on forest species in the Mid-Atlantic Area, ($98,923).  


New Faculty members

Dr. Sean Buskirk will be joining the Department of Biology as an Assistant Professor in August 2019. His research interests center on microbial evolution and the adaptive potential of microbial genomes. The Buskirk Lab will use experimental evolution – the continual propagation of an organism under well-defined conditions – as tool to study the molecular basis of microbial traits. His teaching responsibilities will include General Microbiology (BIO 214) and Pathogenic Microbiology (BIO 314).

Dr. Buskirk received his Ph.D in Infectious Diseases from the University of Georgia ('14) and his B.S in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Penn State University ('08). As a postdoctoral researcher studying microbial evolution, he trained under Dr. Vaughn Cooper at the University of New Hampshire and Dr. Gregory Lang at Lehigh University.

Sean Buskirk

Dr. Jessica Sowa earned her PhD in Human and Molecular Genetics from Baylor College of Medicine, and completed her postdoctoral work in host-pathogen interactions at the University of California San Diego. She is interested in understanding how the innate immune system has evolved to detect and defend against intracellular infections. In her postdoctoral work she investigated mechanisms of virus detection and regulation of the innate immune response in the nematode C. elegans. She intends to expand on this theme in her lab at WCU by studying the host response to viruses and other intracellular pathogens as well as identifying novel natural pathogens of nematodes.  Dr. Sowa will begin a new position as an Assistant Professor of Biology at West Chester University in August 2019.

Dr. Sowa

 Biology Highlights 2019

Dr. Eric Sweet coauthored the following article: Lachance,V., Wang, Q., Sweet, ES., Choi, I., Cai, CZ., Zhuang, XX. Zhang, Y., Jiang, J., Blitzer, RD., Bozdagi-Gunal, O., Zhang, B., Jia-Hong Lu, JH., and Yue, Z. (2019) Autophagy protein nrbf2 shows reduction in alzheimer's brains and modulates memory and amyloid-beta homeostasis in mice. Mol Neurodegener.

Dr. Eric Sweet coauthored the following article: Kana, V., Desland, FA., Casanova-Acebes, M., Ayata, P., Badimon, A., Nabel, E., Yamamuro, K., Sneeboer, M., Tan, IL., Flanigan, ME., Rose, SA., Chang, C., Leader, A., Le Bourhis, H., Sweet, E., Tung, N., Wroblewska, A., Lavin, Y., See, P., Baccarini, A., Ginhoux, F., Chitu, V., Stanley, ER., Russo, SJ., Yue, Z., Brown, BD., Joyner, AL., De Witte, LD., Morishita, H., Schaefer, A., and Merad, M. (2019) CSF-1 controls cerebellar microglia and is required for motor function and social interaction. J Exp Med. 10, 2265-2281

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, co-authored a paper titled “Scaling of swimming performance in baleen whales” in the Journal of Experimental Biology, volume 222, DOI: 10.1242/jeb.204172 (2019).

Dr. Michael Rosario was interviewed by the Journal of Experimental Biology to give his experience as an early-career researcher.

Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer and Biology graduate student Sarah Polohovich presented the poster, Current and future carbon storage capacity in a southeastern Pennsylvania forest, at the Northeastern Ecology Conference held on September 28th at the Lacawac Sanctuary and Biological Field Station.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, published the article “Swimming turned on its head: Stability and maneuverability of the shrimpfish (Aeoliscus punctulatus)” in Integrative Organismal Biology 55: E57-E57 (2019)

Biology undergraduate student Samantha Silverman presented a poster titled “Probability of spotted lanternfly capture depends on life stage and band type” at the Northeastern Ecology Conference at Lacawac Sanctuary. Samantha was supervised by Dr. Jennifer Chandler.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, co-authored a paper, “Bio-inspired robotic dog paddling: kinematic and hydro-dynamic analysis” in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics 14(6): DOI: 10.1088/1748-3190/ab3d05 (2019).

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, hosted the ONR MURI Review Meeting, “Hydrodynamics of Non-Traditional Propulsion Bio-Inspired Flexible Propulsors for Fast Efficient Swimming: What Physics Are We Missing” at West Chester University, September 24-25, 2019.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, and Abigail Downs, biology graduate student, presented a talk, “Tuna tendon and turning and tail stand fluke flexibility”, at the ONR MURI Review Meeting, “Hydrodynamics of Non-Traditional Propulsion Bio-Inspired Flexible Propulsors for Fast Efficient Swimming: What Physics Are We Missing” at West Chester University, September 24-25, 2019.

Together with colleagues working in the Florida Everglades, Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer co-authored the following article: Zhao, J., S.L. Malone, S.F. Oberbauer, P.C. Olivas, J.L. Schedlbauer, C.L. Staudhammer, & G. Starr. 2019. Intensified inundation shifts a freshwater wetland from a CO2 sink to a source. Global Change Biology 25:3319-3333,

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, co-authored a paper “Water entry impact dynamics of diving birds” that was published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics (2019)

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, and Dr. Maura Sheehan, health emeritus, presented a paper “Biomechanics of Different Dog Breeds on Land and in Water” in a symposium “The Dog-Human Connection: Evolution, Morphology and Behavior” at the 12th International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology (ICVM12) in Prague, Czech Republic on July 23, 2019.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, co-authored an article entitled, “ How smooth is a dolphin? The ridged skin of odontocetes” in Biology Letters 15: 20190103 (2019).

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, co-authored a paper with Danielle Adams, biology graduate student, entitled, “Odontocete peduncle tendons for possible control of fluke orientation and flexibility” in the Journal of Morphology (2019) DOI: 101002/jmor.21033

Dr. Teresa Donze-Reiner was awarded the Research in Mathematics and Sciences Award entitled, Analysis of genetic variants associated with psychiatric disorders ($7,000). This work will be done in collaboration with Drs. Anita Foeman and Bessie Lawton in the Department of Communication at WCU and Drs. Richard Crist and Benjamin Reiner in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Teresa Donze-Reiner was awarded the College of Science and Mathematics Diversity Grant entitled, Are Human Skin Microbiome Racial? ($5,000) This work will be done in collaboration with Associate Dean, Dr. Vishal Shah.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, co-authored a paper "Toward a bio-inspired variable-stiffness morphing limb for amphibious robot locomotion." in the 2019 2nd IEEE International Conference on Soft Robotics (RoboSoft), pp. 704-710. The paper was co-authored with Dr. Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio of Yale University.

Dr. Frank Fish, presented a talk "Investigating sea lion locomotion as the basis for shape changing UUVs" at the ONR Bio-Inspired Autonomous Systems Review held in Arlington, Virginia on May 16, 2019. The talk was presented with collaborators Dr. Megan Leftwich of George Washington University and Dr. James Tangorra of Drexel University.

Dr. Frank Fish, presented an invited seminar “Engineering animals: Bio-inspiration from charismatic marine megafauna” to the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University on April 26, 2019.

Dr. O.R. Pagán was interviewed Utah’s Public Radio show “Undisciplined”.

Dr. O.R. Pagán published the paper: The brain: a concept in flux. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2019 Jun 10;374(1774):20180383. This paper is part of a special issue of the journal on the topic of ‘Liquid brains, solid brains: How distributed cognitive architectures process information’, based on the proceedings of a working group at the Santa Fe Institute, New Mexico.

Dr. Frank Fish presented an invited seminar “Biomimetics and the development of advanced technologies from charismatic marine megafauna” to the Department of Biology of the High Point University, High Point, NC on April 12, 2019.

Biology undergraduate student Sarah Polohovich and graduate student Jason Miller presented posters describing their forest carbon cycle research at the recent Pennsylvania Academy of Science Annual Meeting. Both students were supervised by Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer.

Frank Fish presented a talk "Moment of inertia influences spin-leap performance by cetaceans” at the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic marine Mammal Symposium (SEAMAMMS) at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., March 29-31, 2019.

Dr. Frank Fish presented the invited seminar "Bio-inspiration from charismatic marine megafauna: What animals can teach us in the development of new technologies" to the Department of Integrative Biology of the University of California Berkeley on March 11, 2019.

Dr. Oné Pagan published the book chapter, Cotinine as a Possible Allosteric Modulator of Nicotine Effects in Various Models. In: Neuroscience of Nicotine: Mechanisms and Treatment. Edited by Dr. Victor Preedy. Academic Press.

Dr. Jen Maresh and Dr. Larry Udell (Philosophy) received a WCU Campus Sustainability Research and Creative Activity Award for their project, “Moving into Living Spaces, Not Landfills.” Funds from this award will be used in support of an initiative to reduce the amount of “waste” removed during student Move Out Day by providing students alternative, simple options for diverting suitable household items towards recycling or re-sale to incoming students. This will be a collaborative effort among many members of the WCU community that brings the university closer to its Climate Action Plan’s Zero Waste goals while simultaneously providing a service to incoming students with financial need.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, co-authored the paper, “Body flexibility enhances maneuverability in the world’s largest predator.” in Integrative and Comparative Biology pp. 1-13, doi:10.1093/icb/icy121, 2018.

Dr. Oné R. Pagán was invited to serve as a panelist after the showing of the documentary film "My love affair with the brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond", sponsored by Philly pod of 500 Women Scientists, December 29, 2018. Article.

Fish, F. E. A tale of a dolphin tail: As told by a fish. (Presented to North County Men’s Shed Association, West Palm Beach, FL, January 9, 2019.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, with co-author Dr. Anthony Nicastro presented a talk, “Spin-leap performance by cetaceans is influenced by moment of inertia” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL, January 3-7, 2019.

Dr. Fish was also a co-author with Dr. Maura Sheehan, emeriti professor of health, and former biology graduate students Danielle Adams, William Gough, and Kelsey Tennett on the presentation, “Differential weight support in dogs” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL, January 3-7, 2019.

Dr. Fish was a co-author with Abigail Downs, biology graduate student, and Allison Kolpas, mathematics, on the presentation, “Turning performance by bluefin tuna: Novel mechanism for rapid maneuvers with a rigid body” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL, January 3-7, 2019.

Dr. Fish was a co-author with Danielle Adams, former biology graduate student, on the presentation “Properties and function of tendons in the peduncle of odontocetes”  presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL, January 3-7, 2019.

Dr. Fish was co-author with William Gough, former biology graduate student, on the presentation “Comparative kinematics and hydrodynamics of mysticete cetaceans: Morphological and ecological correlates with swimming performance” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL, January 3-7, 2019.

Dr. Fish was also a co-author on the presentations, “Evaluating airship drag as a predictor of baleen whale drag” and “Computational fluid dynamics study of baleen whale drag” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL, January 3-7, 2019.

Dr. Fish presented an invited seminar, “A tale of a dolphin tail: As told by a fish” to North County Men’s Shed Association, West Palm Beach, FL, January 9, 2019.

Stratton, C., A. Kolpas, & J. R. Auld. 2018. Optimal mating strategies for preferentially outcrossing simultaneous hermaphrodites in the presence of predators. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 80:2652-2668. 

Auld, J. R. 2018. The effects of diet and mating system on reproductive (and post-reproductive) lifespan in a freshwater snail. Ecology & Evolution 8:12260-12270.


Our Primary Mission

The primary mission of the Department of Biology is to provide a high quality educational experience to both undergraduate and graduate students. This is achieved by maintaining small class sizes staffed by full-time faculty. Virtually all courses have a laboratory component, facilitating participatory learning. An integrated core curriculum is intended to strengthen the communication, quantitative and analytical skills of all biology majors. Several focused concentrations within the undergraduate curriculum offer options of either specializing for immediate employment upon graduation, or preparing for postgraduate education. 

Masters students receive training as biological scientists primarily for career advancement. Although most students come from the Delaware Valley region, their educational experience is intended to equip them well for careers anywhere. Biology majors are required to perform independent projects in many courses, and are encouraged to work closely with faculty in collaborative research. The combination of unusually broad course selection and individual attention allows students from very diverse backgrounds to excel within the program. A part of the department's mission is to participate in the process of scientific inquiry.

The department expects its faculty to engage in scholarly activity, and encourages research publication and the acquisition of extramural funding. Scholarship enhances the stature of the Department and University, adds exceptionally current information to lecture material, and has helped to secure technologically up-to-date laboratory equipment. The department's research environment also provides an ongoing framework into which graduate and undergraduate student research projects can beincorporated. A strong record of collaborative faculty-student research is one reason for the successful placement of most Biology Department graduates. 

The Biology Department serves the University by supporting coursework for other disciplines, principally in Nursing, Health, Kinesiology and the Forensic and Toxicological Chemistry program, and is actively involved in maintaining the high quality of the Preprofessional Program. The department is working closely with the School of Education in training Secondary school biology teachers, and is strengthening ties with other departments in environmental science. Department faculty serve the community as consultants to government, non-profit organizations, other schools and industry.

Biology Department Facilities

The Department of Biology occupies ~37,000 ft2 of classroom, office, and research space in Merion Hall and the adjacent Schmucker Science Center. The Biology wing of the Schmucker Science Center has undergone a complete renovation and was re-opened in time for the Spring 2004 semester. Teaching and research laboratories are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. The equipment available to students includes a single-side band microscope (the world's second), fluorescence microscopes, apparatus for video microscopy, cryostat, tissue culture equipment, liquid scintillation counter, gamma ray counter, patch clamping equipment, ion suppression chromatograph, and scanning and transmission electron microscopes. A fully equipped molecular biology laboratory, funded by the NSF includes equipment for RFLP, PCR, DNA sequencing, and in situ capabilities. Additionally, the department has field inversion electrophoresis equipment for DNA analysis.

Other facilities include: research and teaching greenhouses, a biosafety level 3 facility, a student computer laboratory with full multimedia capabilities, a GIS computer laboratory with a GPS first order community base station and mobile GPS units, the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies, the William Darlington Herbarium, the B. Harry Warren Ornithological Collection, and the largest collection of halophilic bacteria in North America.

The Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies consists of about 120 acres of woodland, old field, and wetland habitat located on the university's South Campus. Dedicated in 1973, the area was named for Robert B. Gordon, faculty member and chair of West Chester University's Department of Science from 1938-1963.

The William Darlington Herbarium (DWC) is the second oldest collection of preserved plant specimens in the United States. The collection is a highly regarded historical collection of specimens dated primarily from 1815 to 1860. Among the more than 20,000 specimens are those collected by such famous explores as Captain John Freemont, Thomas Nuttall, Sir William Hooker, C.S. Rafinesque, and George Englemann. The herbarium was started by Dr. William Darlington, a prominent West Chester physician, educator, banker, historian and botanist.

The B. Harry Warren Ornithological Collection contains approximately 2000 bird specimens dating back to the late 1800's



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