UWRF biology department receiving increased recognition

Posted September 16, 2015

The biology department at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls is seeing increased recognition due to the recent grants and awards it has received.

Over the last few years the biology department and faculty have received numerous awards and grants that have helped the department gain recognition from both other UW System schools and from students. For example, the biology department received the 2014 Regents Teaching Excellence Award, which is only given to one department in the entire UW system.

Professor Mark Bergland, chair of the biology department, said that getting awards is not something the department purposely strives to do.

“We just try to do a good job and, if you do a good job, then eventually good things just come your way,” Bergland said.

The department has also received a handful of grants over the last few years that have helped fund multiple research programs. One of the most recent grants was for testing a sustainable beekeeping model that will evaluate the overwintering capabilities of small beehives called nucleus colonies. The project is headed by biology professors Brad and Kim Mogen.

One of the key reasons for the recent success the department has had, according to Bergland, is due to a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute a few years ago that helped freshman get into undergraduate research, which has led to an increase in admissions this year.

“The reason why we continue to get so many majors is probably mainly because there’s so much demand for people trained in our discipline,” said Bergland. “It sure doesn’t hurt to have an award-winning department.”

The recent success of the biology department has also has affected the College of Arts and Sciences. For Dean Brad Caskey the recognition the biology department has gained has made it a destination program for students.

“Our fame, so to speak, continues to grow in the region and people are understanding that we not only have a very strong basic science curriculum, but especially in areas like biomedical training,” Caskey said.

Caskey gives credit to the biology faculty.

“What really separates them in some ways are the faculty excellence,” Caskey explained. “That core faculty is really what drives it.”