Jan 30, 2023  
USC Catalogue 2018-2019 
USC Catalogue 2018-2019 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

Biological Sciences

Return to: USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences  

The Department of Biological Sciences has research faculty with specialties in four disciplines: human and evolutionary biology, marine environmental biology, molecular and computational biology, and neurobiology. A diversity of upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses permits biology majors to choose an emphasis in any of these four disciplines. (See the Neuroscience  section of the catalogue for descriptions of the graduate degree in Neuroscience). The department offers both BA and BS degrees in Biological Sciences and an honors program in which a student can earn either a BA or a BS degree in Biological Sciences with Honors. The department also offers both BA and BS degrees in Human Biology and a BS in Quantitative Biology. The BS in Biochemistry is offered as a joint program with the Department of Chemistry. The honors program is available to students who maintain a GPA of 3.5 in the sciences and who have completed their freshman year. The honors program includes research opportunities, seminars and thesis preparation courses. Applications for the Honors Program are available in Allan Hancock Foundation (AHF), Room 105A. Undergraduates in biological sciences have the opportunity to become involved in laboratory or field research by taking research courses for some of their elective units. Minors are offered in biotechnology, computational biology and bioinformatics, human movement sciences, marine biology, and natural science.

At the graduate level, the department offers challenging degree programs that lead to a PhD in Integrative and Evolutionary Biology; Marine Biology and Biological Cceanography; Molecular Biology; and Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. The department also offers progressive MS degrees in Marine and Environmental Biology and Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry.

Allan Hancock Foundation Building 107
(213) 740-2777
FAX: (213) 740-8123
Email (undergraduate programs):
Email (graduate programs):
Website: dornsife.usc.edu/bisc


Chair: Douglas G. Capone, PhD


University Professor and ARCO/William F. Kieschnick Chair in the Neurobiology of Aging and Professor of Gerontology, Biological Sciences, Anthropology and Psychology: Caleb E. Finch, PhD

University Provost Professor of Neurology, Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences: Steve Kay, PhD (Neurology)

University Professor and Milo Don and Lucille Appleman Professor of Biological Sciences and Professor of Biological Sciences and Psychology: Larry W. Swanson, PhD

University Professor and USC Associates Chair in Natural Sciences and Professor of Biological Sciences, Computer Science and Mathematics: Michael S. Waterman, PhD

Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and Ester Dornsife Chair in Biological Sciences: Norman Arnheim*, PhD

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Biochemistry, and Chemical Engineering & Materials Science and Dana and David Dornsife Chair in Chemistry: Arieh Warshel, PhD (Chemistry)

William and Julie Wrigley Chair in Environmental Studies and Professor of Biological Sciences: Douglas G. Capone, PhD

USC Associates Captain Hancock Chair in Marine Science and Professor of Biological Sciences: David A. Caron*, PhD

James E. Birren Chair in Gerontology and Professor of Gerontology and Biological Sciences: Kelvin Davies, PhD (Gerontology)

Elizabeth Garrett Chair in Convergent Bioscience and Provost Professor of Biological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Physiology and Biophysics, Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Pediatrics, Radiology and Ophthalmology: Scott Fraser, PhD

McCulloch-Crosby Chair in Marine Biology and Professor of Biological Sciences: Jed A. Fuhrman*, PhD

Wrigley Chair in Environmental Studies and Professor of Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences: Kenneth Nealson, PhD (Earth Sciences)

Robert D. Beyer (‘81) Early Career Chair in Natural Sciences and Associate Professor of Physics, Biological Sciences and Chemistry: Moh El-Naggar*, PhD (Physics and Astronomy)

W. M. Keck Provost Professor of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and Biological Sciences: Andrew McMahon, PhD (Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine)

Provost Professor of Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Neurology, Physiology & Biophysics, and Chemical Engineering & Materials Science: Ray Stevens, PhD

Provost Professor of Ophthalmology, Neurology, Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences, Radiology, Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences: Arthur Toga, PhD

Gabilan Distinguished Professor in Science and Engineering and Professor of Biological Sciences: Susan Forsburg, PhD

Paxson H. Offield Professor of Fisheries Ecology and Professor of Biological Sciences: Dennis Hedgecock, PhD

Gabilan Distinguished Professorship in Science and Engineering and Professor of Biological Sciences: Judith Hirsch, PhD

Gabilan Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences: Carly Kenkel, PhD

Gabilan Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and Earth Sciences: Naomi Levine, PhD

Gabilan Distinguished Professorship in Science and Engineering and Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering: Jill McNitt-Gray, PhD

Gabilan Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences: Lindsey Schier, PhD

Gabilan Distinguished Professorship in Science and Engineering and Professor of Bioligical Sciences: Lorraine Turcotte, PhD

Professors: Frank Alber, PhD; Jan Amend, PhD (Earth Sciences); Oscar M. Aparicio, PhD; Donald Arnold, PhD; Christopher Boehm, PhD; David Bottjer*, PhD (Earth Sciences); Sarah Bottjer, PhD; Lin Chen, PhD; Xiaojiang Chen, PhD; Vadim Cherezov, PhD (Chemistry); Irene Chiolo, PhD; Pinchas Cohen, PhD (Gerontology); Casey Donovan, PhD; Suzanne Edmands, PhD; Steven Finkel, PhD; Henryk Flashner, PhD (Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering); Myron F. Goodman, PhD; Zach Hall, PhD (Cell and Neurobiology); Albert A. Herrera*, PhD; David Hutchins, PhD; Dale Kiefer, PhD; Chien-Ping Ko, PhD; Peter Kuhn, PhD; Michael Lieber, PhD (Pathology); Emily R. Liman, PhD; Valter D. Longo, PhD (Gerontology); Chi H. Mak*, PhD (Chemistry); Donal T. Manahan, PhD; James W. Moffett, PhD; Sergey Nuzhdin, PhD; John A. Petruska, PhD; Carolyn Phillips, PhD; Michael Quick, PhD; Remo Rohs, PhD; Sergio Sañudo-Wilhelmy, PhD; Richard Simerly, PhD (Medicine); Craig Stanford, PhD; Cornelius W. Sullivan, PhD; Fengzhu Sun, PhD; John Tower, PhD; Alan Watts, PhD

Associate Professors: Liang Chen, PhD; Sean Curran, PhD (Gerontology); Matthew Dean, PhD; Rosa Di Felice, PhD (Physics); Ian Ehrenreich, PhD; Robert Girandola, PhD; Andrew Gracey, PhD; Joseph G. Hacia (Biochemistry and Molecular Mecidine); John F. Heidelberg, PhD; Yan Liu, PhD (Computer Science); David D. McKemy*, PhD; Matthew Michael, PhD; Matthew Pratt, PhD (Chemistry); Andrew Smith, PhD; Eric A. Webb, PhD; Chao Zhang, PhD (Chemistry); Wiebke Ziebis, PhD

Assistant Professors: James Boedicker, PhD (Physics); Mark Chaisson, PhD; Dion Dickman, PhD; Stacey Finley, PhD (Biomedical Engineering); Christoph Haselwandter, PhD (Physics); Bruce Herring, PhD; Samuel Andrew Hires, PhD; Scott Kanoski, PhD; Vsevolod Katritch, PhD; Fabien Pinaud, PhD

Professor (Teaching): Karla B. Heidelberg, PhD

Professor (Research): James Hicks, PhD

Associate Professor (Teaching): Kurt Kwast, PhD

Associate Professors (Research): Linda Duguay, PhD; Feixue Fu, PhD; Le Trinh, PhD

Assistant Professors (Teaching): Christa Bancroft, PhD; Oliver Rizk, PhD; Bruce Yazejian, PhD

Assistant Professors (Research): Peter Calabrese, PhD; Phuong Pham, PhD

Master Lecturer: Gudrun Floyd, MS

Lecturers: Stephanie Bogart, PhD; Nancy Castro, PhD; Tamara Espinet, MS; Raffaella Ghittoni, PhD; Michael Hadjidaniel, PhD; Grayson Jaggers, PhD; Refael Levi, PhD; Gioia Polidori Francisco, PhD

Emeritus Professors: Michael Appleman, PhD; Robert Baker, PhD; John Callaghan, PhD; Richard Deonier, PhD; William O. McClure*, PhD; Russel Zimmer, PhD

*Recipient of university-wide or college teaching award.

Undergraduate Degrees


Advisement in the Department of Biological Sciences is required each semester. First semester freshman and transfer advisement takes place during orientation. Advisement in all remaining semesters takes place during the pre-registration period. The undergraduate coordinator forwards advisement appointment information each semester to all students in biological sciences and biochemistry.

Pre-Medical and Other Pre-Professional Preparation

The department offers specially planned courses within the biological sciences to prepare students for admission to professional schools (medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, occupational therapy, physical therapy, pharmacy, optometry, public health), paramedical sciences (medical technology, physician’s assistant, clinical and public health microbiology, clinical biochemistry), naturalist and environmental positions in the public and private sectors, jobs in industry (biotechnology), and graduate study (basic biological and biomedical fields). With the proper selection of courses under the guidance of the Department of Biological Sciences and the USC Rossier School of Education, the BS degree satisfies the California requirements for secondary school teaching in the life sciences.

Honor Society

The Department of Biological Sciences offers membership in Phi Sigma, a national honor society, to selected biology majors (Alpha Alpha Chapter at USC.) Phi Sigma is devoted to the promotion of research and academic excellence in the biological sciences. Students with a GPA above 3.0 who have interest in research and have completed core requirements for the first two years in biological sciences are eligible. Major activities range from presentation of papers by members and lectures by outside speakers to field trips, laboratory demonstrations and joint research projects. 

Maymester Courses on Catalina Island

The Biological Sciences Department in conjunction with the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies (WIES) sponsors 4-week Maymester programs at USC’s Phillip K. Wrigley Marine Sciences Center (WMSC) on Santa Catalina Island. The Maymester courses focus on conservation biology, animal physiology, aquatic microbiology and field techniques in marine biology and biological oceanography. These courses are open to all biology majors as well as students in other departments and other institutions with a strong biology background. Students are primarily in their junior or senior years and may participate in any of the courses offered.

All the courses are taught by USC faculty and supported by USC graduate student teaching assistants. The classes are specialized to take advantage of the unique facilities and setting of Santa Catalina Island.

Students live on Catalina Island for the entire length of the course. Rates for room and board at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center are comparable to those on campus. For those wishing to return to the mainland on the weekend — free transportation is provided each Friday to leave and each Monday to return.

For more information, students should contact the instructor(s) for the course of interest. Additional information can also be found at dornsife.usc.edu/wrigley/education/.

Minor in Craniofacial and Dental Technology

For a complete listing of course requirements, see the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC .

Minor in Biotechnology

The Marshall School and the departments of biological sciences and chemistry in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences jointly offer the minor in biotechnology. This minor brings essential knowledge in the basic sciences together with the corporate skills needed in a rapidly growing industry. The minor is especially well suited for the business, biology, chemistry or engineering student seeking a career in business and/or the biomedical/bio-technical sciences. See Biotechnology Minor  for a list of required courses.

Graduate Degrees

Degree Programs in Biological Sciences

The graduate programs in biology provide education and training of biologists interested in living systems ranging from cellular to ecosystem levels of organization, investigated by laboratory or fieldwork. Courses and faculty research interests allow a multidisciplinary approach. A number of additional research areas are provided by adjunct faculty from other institutions, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Students develop the ability to formulate and test hypotheses, integrating information and concepts in the completion of a dissertation (PhD). A qualifying exam committee is formed for each student during the first year to develop a particular program of course work and research, and to evaluate the student’s progress. Specific information about the options in biological sciences can be obtained by requesting information brochures or online at dornsife.usc.edu/bisc.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in a natural science (preferably biology) from an accredited four year college or university, or in mathematics or engineering; required background courses include organic chemistry, general physics and mathematics through integral calculus. Applicants are evaluated by their transcripts and GPA; scores on the GRE General Test; three letters of recommendation; and a statement of interest. A faculty member must serve as initial sponsor and adviser for admission to marine biology and biological oceanography (MBBO) and integrative and evolutionary biology (IEB). Applicants who are accepted but judged to have minor deficiencies are expected to correct them within the first year.

Degree Requirements

These degrees are awarded under the jurisdiction of the Graduate School. Refer to the Requirements for Graduation  section and The Graduate School  section of the catalogue for general regulations. All courses applied toward the degrees must be courses accepted by the Graduate School.

Molecular and Computational Biology

This program is designed to train the participants intensively in the concepts and experimental methodologies of molecular biology and biochemistry. The subject matter is organized in an integrated fashion (lectures, seminars and laboratory) to present fundamental information on the biochemistry, biophysics, genetics and development of cells from a variety of different organisms. Primary emphasis is on the relationship between structure and function at different integrative and functional levels. The program offers a PhD in Molecular Biology and a PhD in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. Molecular and computational biology (MCB) students are required to complete at least two laboratory rotations in their first year. Applications may be accessed online at dornsife.usc.edu/bisc/mcb/.

Admission Requirements

Applicants are expected to have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a cognate area such as biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, bacteriology, computer science, or bioinformatics. Undergraduate work should include a basic course in biology, basic physics, physical chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry and calculus. Students who are deficient in any of these may be required to correct the deficiency during the first two years of graduate study. Courses taken to correct these deficiencies are usually not credited toward the degree. The student must submit letters of recommendation from at least three faculty members who can evaluate the promise of the student for graduate work and independent research. The applicant must take the GRE General Test prior to acceptance.

Degree Requirements

These degrees are awarded under the jurisdiction of the Graduate School. Refer to the Requirements for Graduation  section and The Graduate School  section of this catalogue for general regulations. All courses applied toward the degrees must be courses accepted by the Graduate School.


    Bachelor’s DegreeMinorMaster’s DegreeDoctoral Degree


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