The Millsaps College Biology Department fosters an appreciation for and curiosity about the living world and biological processes, an understanding of how current and historical scientific knowledge was acquired, and the ability to apply knowledge and skills to new questions. With a biology degree, you will be well prepared to enter graduate school, professional schools (such as medical school, dental school, or pharmacy school), or to enter immediate employment after graduation.
Laboratory research opportunities are offered in molecular and cell biology, genetics, microbiology, and developmental biology. Many students perform biomedical research at the nearby University of Mississippi Medical Center. Field research opportunities are offered in ecology, evolutionary biology, and conservation biology, both locally and in the American Southwest. The College's field station at Kaxil Kiuic Biocultural Reserve in Yucatán, Mexico, also offers opportunities for research.
B.A., Mississippi College; M.S., University of Southern Mississippi; Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine
"When I was a child, I was only content when I was outside, in the woods, listening to birds, searching for snakes and bugs and whatever else I might find under a dead log. When I was finally lured back into the house in the evening, my parents were inundated with questions of why and how: “Why are ladybugs red? How do toads make their croaking sound? How are bluebirds blue and red birds red?” As an adult, I am still most happy when I am outside, admiring the biological world, but as a cell biologist and geneticist, I have the opportunity to search for answers to the questions that still come. These days those questions may have more to do with why I can ride my bicycle for miles and miles at a moderate pace, but a short sprint completely exhausts me, or why the prothonotary warbler that nests in yard art on my porch every year chooses that over the nest box I’ve provided for him.
"I teach Histology, Genetics, and Introductory Cell Biology, all of which provide avenues to explore what to me are some of life’s most interesting questions. Every biological question can ultimately be traced to cells, to molecules, to genes or phenomena that influence genes. Introductory Cell Biology allows me the opportunity to share with students the fascinating world of photosynthesis and how my perennial flower garden emerges each year from what looks like nothing to plants six feet tall, within a few months. In Histology, we discuss different muscle types and how Olympic sprinters have the majority of one type while marathoners have a different type, and why these muscle types are structured so beautifully for the functions they perform. Genetics allows it all to make sense—life’s processes, structures, colors, and even behaviors are deeply rooted in our genes and the expression of them. I count myself as fortunate to have the opportunity to continue questioning and to share those questions, and some of the answers, with students."
B.S., Long Island University; Ph.D., The University of North Carolina
B.A., University of Northern Colorado; M.S., West Texas A&M University; Ph.D., East Carolina University
"Born and raised in Colorado, I was consumed with the outdoors and became captivated by the diversity and beauty of the living things around me. I wanted to know what these organisms were, why there were so many, how they got here, why they behaved certain ways... In my never-ending quest to answer these questions (and much to my parents’ dismay!), I would collect snakes, frogs, bugs, and other critters and bring them home so I could observe their behaviors and learn everything possible about them. But let’s be real, I also brought them home so I could scare my sister! I imagine that this is what most little boys do and perhaps I was supposed to “grow out of it”, but I never did!
"Spiders have fascinated me for as long as I can remember, and in fact, my first memory is of a spider eating a fly! I still cannot describe in words the excitement and wonderment I felt as I watched this intelligent and daring little arachnid stalk its much more agile prey, calculating every move, before pouncing and enveloping the insect in its venomous grasp! More than 35 years later, I feel the same sense of awe every time I see this happen! It shouldn’t be a surprise that I am now a biologist that studies the diversity, evolution, and conservation of – you guessed it – spiders!
"I teach courses in zoology, arthropod biology, evolution, and field biology where I try to instill in my students a sense of curiosity and appreciation for all living things. It is most gratifying to go into the field, be it for a quick hike along the Pearl River here in Jackson or a three-week trek into the deserts and mountains of Arizona, where I can share my interests and show my students that they too can build a career out of their childhood passions! If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life!"
B.A., Illinois Wesleyan University; Ph.D., Loyola University of Chicago
Beth Hussa's main interests, both in teaching and research, involve the most diverse organisms on the planet: the microbes. More specifically, she is focused on the way microbes interact with a wide variety of other organisms, ranging from microscopic worms (called nematodes) to humans. There are a multitude of fascinating scientific questions to ask regarding these relationships. Are the microbes beneficial or harmful? What do the microbes do differently in each case? What does the microbe need to do to maintain these relationships, and how are these factors regulated?
Beth's passion for teaching arose from the multitude of mentoring opportunities she experienced throughout her own education. She came to realize that there is nothing more satisfying than inspiring students to embrace and explore the wonders of the natural world. Her students get to learn science as science is done: through synthesis and application of concepts both in lecture and laboratory settings.
B.S. University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Ph.D. 2008 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.A., University of Miami; M.S., Vanderbilt University; Ph.D., Clemson University
Debora Mann serves as chair of the Biology Department and director of the Environmental Studies Program. She currently teaches Botany, Ecology and Environmental Studies Seminar, as well as a science a course for non-science majors, Explore the Natural World. In May she teaches a course for both science majors and non-science majors in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. After visiting Quito on the mainland of Ecuador, her class travels on a 16-passenger vessel for a week, exploring various islands of the Galapagos archipelago and the surrounding marine reserve.
Whether at home or abroad, Mann enjoys exploring the world of living things with her students. She explains, "There is so much to learn about the organisms whose lives are playing out all around us. It's a three-and-a-half-billion-year-old legacy on which we all depend and yet understand so little about."
B.S., Millsaps College; Ph.D., University of Southern Mississippi
Dr. Will Selman came to the Millsaps Biology department in 2016 after six years of working as a Research Biologist at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Louisiana. In this capacity, he contributed to response/recovery efforts associated with the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill; served as a team member to reintroduce Whooping Cranes back to their historic range in Louisiana; worked with private, academic, and governmental agencies to solve complex conservation issues; and researched numerous wildlife species. His research focuses on (1) understanding vertebrate life history and ecology and (2) using this information to guide conservation and management decisions on population, species, or community levels. He uses ecological and natural history data to answer hypotheses related to disturbance ecology, thermal ecology, population connectivity, reintroduction ecology, and impacts of natural or anthropogenic stressors on reptile, amphibian, or avian populations. He hopes to develop local research projects in the Jackson area as well as projects at Kaxil Kiuic, the Millsaps Biocultural Preserve in Yucatan, Mexico.
His teaching interests closely mirror his research interests, so that one complements the other. As a field biologist, he values experiential learning and believes it is essential to understand ecological concepts or organisms. When students use the five senses to experience their environment, this solidifies the topics discussed in lecture. Such classroom experiences could come through taking field trips, identifying specimens, class field projects, and learning field techniques. He currently teaches Zoology and Wetland Ecology in the Biology Department, and he hopes to teach other field or wildlife-related classes in the future.
He is an Associate Editor of the international journal Herpetological Conservation and Biology, a member of the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist group, and an advisor for the American Turtle Observatory, a non-profit organization devoted to identifying and conserving North America’s most important landscapes for freshwater turtles.