Chair’s Message -  Department of Biological Sciences

Welcome to the web pages of the Department of Biological Sciences at University of the Sciences. It is a great pleasure to greet prospective students, current students, alumni, and friends. As the University of the Sciences continues to grow and develop, so too does our department. We added two new research-intensive members to our permanent faculty from searches conducted last academic year:

Dr. Jason Heindl joined our faculty in August of this academic year. Dr. Heindl earned his BA in Biology at Amherst College and his PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Harvard University. His postdoctoral studies were conducted at Indiana University. His research area is in Prokaryotic Developmental Biology using Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a plant pathogen that causes crown gall disease, as his model system. His teaching will focus on microbiology and microbial development.

Dr. Margaret (Maggie) Pearce joined our faculty in November of this academic year. Dr. Pearce earned her BSc in Biochemistry from Le Moyne College and her PhD in Pharmacology at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Her postdoctoral studies were conducted at Stanford University. Her research area is how protein aggregates, such as those involved in Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease, move between different parts of the brain. She uses fruit flies as the model system for these studies. Her teaching will focus on neurobiology, cell and molecular biology and genetics.

We have expanded our research-oriented faculty as we provide our undergraduate students with more and diverse opportunities to do faculty-mentored research projects. Inquiry-based research and data analysis help all students, even if they choose not to pursue science or research after graduating. Our research-intensive faculty members also provide training opportunities in our graduate programs, where students devote longer, sustained periods of time to training, learning to do cutting-edge research.

This past year, we were excited and honored to join the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s SEA-PHAGES program, offering our students an authentic research experience in their freshman year.  In the fall semester of 2015,  our inaugural class isolated, purified, and characterized their own novel bacterial viruses from soil samples they brought from home.  They obtained electron microscope images of their viruses, named them, and submitted their findings to the scientific community at the national database.  Two of the 15 newly isolated virus genomes were sequenced and in the spring semester, our freshmen students are annotating them, using bioinformatics software to identify genes and gene functions.  Two of our students presented these results at the  8th Annual SEA-PHAGES Symposium at the Janelia Research Campus.  This year-long research experience has been so rewarding for both our students and our faculty, that we are expanding the program for the 2016-2017 academic year to include 40 first-year students providing them with this exciting first-year research experience.

If you are a prospective undergraduate student, I encourage you to examine our learner-centered curriculum and the coursework and laboratory offerings that make it so outstanding. Our new Bachelor of Science degree program in Biomedical Sciences continues to draw students who are interested in crafting a personalized degree in the health concentration of their choice. Also pay attention to the courses of study to major in biology, microbiology, environmental science and medical laboratory science, as well as our integrated program in forensic science that can lead to a certificate of field specialization. Lastly, please examine our faculty web pages to discover the breadth and depth of their interests and the research opportunities in our faculty labs. If you are interested in becoming a new undergraduate or graduate student in our biological sciences program, please see admission information on our main USciences website.

Finally, I invite all the alumni of our department to tell us where you are now and what made your education “one-of-a-kind” at USciences. Drop us an email at And whether you are a current student, an alumnus or a friend of our department, please visit our presence on  Facebook and “like” us or leave a comment about the many events and activities that are routinely updated there.

All the best,

Peter B. Berget, PhD
Professor and Chair
Department of Biological Sciences