2011-2013 Undergraduate Catalog

The Department of Biological and Physical Sciences

Dr. Stan Wiatr, Chairperson
Sci 139, (406) 657-2031

Anatomy & Physiology:  Castles
Biochemistry:  Lewis
Botany:  Khaleel, Wiatr
Cell & Molecular Biology:  Butler, Toenjes
Ecology/Zoology:  Barron
Earth Science/Geography:  Suits
Geography:  Anderson
Inorganic Chemistry:  Tayer
Organic Chemistry:  Dillman
Analytical Chemistry:  Marlow
Physics:  Snyder, Wiles
Professors Emeritus:  Elliot, Grant, McRae, Schoenthal, Zwick

Sciences at MSU Billings

Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Earth Science are core programs in the sciences at MSU Billings.  Biology is the study of living organisms.  Biologists study interactions among and within organisms in order to understand processes characteristic of life.  Chemistry, Physics and Earth Science are physical sciences exploring the composition, structure, properties and interactions of matter.  Chemistry is the study of differences and similarities of elements in order to understand how they interact to produce diverse molecules.  Physics examines the properties of atoms and laws governing the makeup of matter.  Earth Science is the study of minerals and soils, their origin, change, and distribution. Geography is an all-encompassing discipline that foremost seeks to understand the Earth and all of its human and natural complexities—not merely where objects are, but how they have changed and come to be.


Science faculty at MSU Billings encourage undergraduate students to participate in research.  Every student is given the opportunity to explore a research problem in the sciences under the guidance of a faculty sponsor.  Faculty conduct research in molecular genetics, microbiology, animal physiology, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, topics in laser spectroscopy, plant physiology, plant systematics,
geology, and ecology and evolution.  Active involvement in research with faculty is an important part of student success in the sciences at MSU Billings.

Undergraduate Degrees and Majors

Bachelor of Arts
Major:  Biology

Bachelor of Science
Major:  Biology
Options:  Environmental Science, Medical Laboratory Science, Teaching Licensure
Major:  Broadfield Science
Option:  Teaching Licensure
Major:  Chemistry
Option:  Teaching Licensure

Minors:  Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Geography, Physics

Teaching Minors:  Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Geography, Physics

Pre-Professional Programs:  Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Pre-Engineering, Veterinary Medicine

Associate of Science Programs of Study in:  Allied Health, Environmental Science, Pre-Engineering.

Program Outcomes

Programs offered through the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences share many outcomes.  Upon program completion students will:

  • Understand the basic principles and laws governing our world and have a global awareness of their discipline.
  • Demonstrate basic competency in laboratory, field and computer skills related to the sciences.
  • Be familiar with accessing and interpreting the scientific literature.
  • Be proficient in written and oral communication in the sciences.
  • Understand scientific methodology, and conduct scientific investigations using it.
  • Be prepared to participate in professional activities.

Career Opportunities

Most students who graduate from MSU Billings in the sciences typically receive a Bachelor’s degree in Biology or Chemistry.  In some instances our graduates directly enter the job market.  For example, our Biology and Chemistry teaching licensure programs allow students to enter the teaching profession with appropriate expertise and licensure to teach in Montana.  Our new program in Medical Laboratory Science will allow students to achieve national certification for a career in clinical/medical laboratory science.  Students seeking jobs with private industry, state (e.g. Fish, Wildlife & Parks) or federal (e.g. FBI) agencies have also been successful.  Alternatively, many of our graduates choose to continue their training beyond a four year undergraduate program.  They have been accepted in professional programs in the health sciences (medical, dental, pharmacy & veterinary medicine) and major university graduate programs leading to a master’s degree or Ph.D. in Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

Advising Information

Academic advising for all freshmen Arts and Sciences majors is initially provided through the Advising Center on campus.  Science majors are then assigned a faculty advisor in the Sciences with expertise matched to their interest.  Students meet with their faculty advisor each semester to review their progress and make any changes required for a complete and accurate Plan of Study to satisfy program requirements in a timely manner.  Faculty advisors also work with students to explore internships, cooperative education placements and opportunities in research to enhance the student’s academic program.  In addition, faculty advisors provide assistance in selecting elective courses which support the student’s interests, career plans and Plan of Study.  Students are ultimately responsible for meeting degree requirements, and science faculty at MSU Billings believe very strongly that academic advising is a vital component to ensuring student success.


Biology programs available at MSU Billings include (1) the Biology Major (2) the Biology Minor, and (3) the Biology Teaching Minor.  The biology major also has several options and plans of study to allow students to specialize in an area of interest.  The biology curriculum is designed to provide biology students with the opportunity for the best possible undergraduate education in biology.  In addition to the transmission of factual information, the biology curriculum places emphasis on the development of critical thinking skills in contemporary areas of biology.  This is accomplished through a combination of lecturing, experimental laboratory exercises, independent learning by data analysis, research and field projects, seminars, incorporation of extensive writing, library research, and use of computers in data analysis.

MSU Billings’ program in biology begins with a two-year core curriculum emphasizing the broad scope of biology through coursework in biological principles, biological diversity, cell biology and genetics.  Other required advanced courses and electives are taken in the junior and senior year.  While building a solid foundation in biology, the program allows students to match their interests with professional requirements.

Students in biology at MSU Billings have an opportunity to focus on specific areas in biology through a variety of options and plans of study.  Options available to students include Environmental Sciences, Biology Teaching Licensure, and Chemistry Teaching Licensure.  The Environmental Sciences Option offers in-depth specialization to include an area of biology having regional and global importance.  Specialization in biology is possible with the choice of an appropriate plan of study and in consultation with the faculty advisors who can provide students with the best educational experience at MSU Billings.

All students in the Biology program also take a Capstone seminar course in their senior year.  This course is designed to ensure a standard of excellence in knowledge of basic biological concepts, and integration of those concepts with other areas in Science.

A maximum of five semester credits of BIOB 490, 492, 494, 495, and 498 can be applied to the BA or BS degree as unrestricted biology electives.  Excess credits earned in these courses may still be applied to graduation as unrestricted electives.


Chemistry programs at MSU Billings include (1) the Chemistry Major (2) the Chemistry Minor and (3) the Chemistry Teaching Minor.  Students taking the first two years in a chemistry program will have a well-rounded background in organic and inorganic chemistry.  Students majoring in chemistry will receive additional training in physical chemistry, quantitative chemistry, instrumentation, biochemistry and advanced organic or inorganic chemistry.

The chemistry program is designed to be flexible enough to meet individual interests of students and comprehensive enough to be competitive nationally.  A chemistry major can expect to find employment in private, state, or federal laboratories ranging from research and development to quality control.  Course selection and/or selection of a minor can open additional choices in other fields such as biology, geology, business, or health sciences.  Graduate education is encouraged as an avenue to expand career opportunities.

Earth Science

Earth Science programs available at MSU Billings include (1) the earth science minor with an emphasis in Geology and (2) the Earth Science Teaching Minor which covers a broader field of the earth sciences leading to teacher licensure.

The Earth Science Minor with a geology emphasis provides opportunities for study in the areas of:  landform development, igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, crystallography, earth history, earth structures, and independent research.  Students completing this program may find employment in the geological, engineering and environmental areas as well as employment as interpreters with park systems, nature centers and museums.

The Earth Science Teaching Minor provides opportunity for study in a broader area of earth sciences including geology, meteorology and astronomy.  This broader field of study leads to an earth science teaching endorsement in the State of Montana.  Students completing this track of study would be predominantly employed by educational systems.

Broadfield Science

The Broadfield Science program offers students a broad-based foundation in the sciences through coursework in Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science and Physics.  The program provides graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary to qualify for positions requiring a broad-based foundation in all sciences.

The Broadfield Science Degree with Teaching Endorsement is especially attractive to students interested in teaching science because they will have a strong foundation in biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics.  With additional Professional Core requirements met for teacher licensure, students entering this program would be regarded as “highly qualified” according to national standards, and thus qualify for K-12 teaching opportunities in broadfield science.


Geography programs available at MSU Billings include (1) a Geography Minor and (2) a Geography Teaching Minor.

Students seeking a Geography Minor will be provided with an opportunity to study the phenomena, events and physical properties on the Earth’s surface, including their interrelationships with human beings.  Students in the program will learn specific geographic techniques and their applications to regional, national and global levels.  Technical skills in mapping, computer applications and survey research will be presented. Students completing this program may find employment with planning, interpretative and governmental agencies.

The Geography Teaching Minor will provide education majors with the necessary skills to obtain a teaching endorsement in geography.  The student will be provided with an opportunity to study both the physical and cultural aspects of geography.  However, the greater emphasis is on the cultural aspects of geography and their application to educational instruction.  Students completing this program would be prepared to seek employment in regional, state and federal educational programs.


Physics programs available at MSU Billings include (1) the Physics Minor, (2) the Physics Teaching Minor, and (3) the Pre-engineering program.  Physics is the study of matter, energy, and their interactions; this includes all physical structures and phenomena.  Experiments and observations in physics have shown that the operation of the universe at all levels is based on a few fundamental laws.  The study of physics is the study of these laws and their applications.

Requirements for the pre-engineering program and physics teaching minor are listed under the Pre-Professional Program and College of Education sections, respectively.  It is recommended that chemistry teaching majors complete their teaching minors in physics, since many high schools require the teaching of physics and chemistry by the same individual.  Chemistry and math majors should also consider a minor in physics.

Medical Laboratory Science Program

Students wishing to become medical/clinical lab scientists may choose the Medical Laboratory Science option in the Biology Program.

Additional credits are required because a fifth year of clinical experience is required in this program.  Professional training programs approved by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS, www.naacls.org) are 12 months in duration.  In the fourth year, students apply for an internship consisting of 37 credits of clinical experience during the summer, fall, and winter semesters in an approved training program at one of the following institutions:  MSU Bozeman; University of North Dakota, Grand Forks; Sacred Heart School of Medical Technology, Spokane, Washington; The Colorado Center for Medical Laboratory Sciences, Aurora.  Upon completion of the internship, students will be qualified to take a national registry examination administered by the American Society for Clinical Pathologists or the National Certification Agency.

For additional information, contact Dr. Rhonda Dillman at (406) 657-2031 or rdillman@msubillings.edu.

Pre-Medical Sciences

Students interested in professional programs in medical sciences such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, physician assistant, physical therapy and pharmacy must obtain a Bachelor’s degree in preparation for most of these professional programs.  No specific undergraduate major is required for most of these health professions, but a strong academic background in biology and chemistry is expected for admission to these programs.

Medical science programs look for students who are well-rounded.  Individual plans of study can be designed in consultation with a faculty advisor to provide the student with the maximum opportunity for pursuing goals.  Students seeking admission to a medical science program apply to an appropriate professional school before graduation from MSU Billings.  Biology and Chemistry faculty assist and advise the student in arranging these applications.

NEXT: Bachelor of Arts Degree Major in Biology

Facebook icon
Flikr icon
Instagram icon
Twitter icon
YouTube icon
MSUB mobile app icon
A-Z Index: A | B |C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
1500 University Drive | Billings, MT 59101 | 406.657.2011 | 800.565.6782 | © 2010 Montana State University Billings | webmaster@msubillings.edu