Wilkes University

Overview of Biology Department

The Wilkes Biology Department has developed a national reputation for our ability to successfully prepare young students for advanced programs in medicine, science, and other professional programs.

Photo of Dr. Miachael SteeleMost notably, we were recently recognized among 42 of the top undergraduate science programs in the country with a $1 million grant from the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute to support our program.

Below are the names of our faculty and staff, and a brief synopsis of our program. Please explore our website and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.


Michael A. Steele, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Biology
H. Fenner Chair of Research Biology
Wilkes University

Overview of Biology and Health Sciences Department

  • William Biggers, Ph.D. (Associate Professor—invertebrate zoology)
  • Ned Fetcher, Ph.D. (Faculty Associate, Program Coordinator for WIESS—plant ecology)
  • Linda Gutierrez, M.D. (Research Associate Professor—pathology, cancer biology)
  • Lisa Kadlec, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor—developmental genetics)
  • Valerie Kalter, Ph.D. (Associate Professor—mammalian physiology)
  • Kenneth Klemow, Ph.D. (Professor—plant ecology, plant taxonomy, medical botany)
  • Kenneth Pidcock, Ph.D. (Associate Professor—microbiology)
  • Michael Steele, Ph.D. (Chair, Professor—evolutionary, behavioral ecology)
  • Jeffrey Stratford, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor—avian ecology, conservation biology)
  • William Terzaghi, Ph.D. (Professor—plant physiology, molecular biology)
  • Maria Bianco, M.S. (Budget Director)
  •  Debra Chapman, M.S. (Educational Specialist, Health Science Advisor)
  • Silvia Elias (Laboratory Supervisor)
  • Mary Lou Gillespie (Administrative Assistant)
  • Constance Dombroski, M.S. (Director, Health Sciences and Student Success Center)
  • Jenny Singer (Administrative Assistant)
  • Ryan Marino, B.S. (Research Assistant)
  • Shealyn Marino, B.S. (Research Assistant)
  • Ghislain Rompré, Ph.D. (Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Associate)
  • Zenaida Lopez-Dee, Ph.D. (Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Associate) 

Overview of the Wilkes University Biology Program

A challenging but supportive program that provides both breadth and depth in its curriculum

  • Dr. Teragazi with a biology student.The Biology Department provides a broad education in the sciences, not unlike many other private institutions, but one that is greatly enhanced by a rigorous and diverse suite of research, leadership, internship, and service opportunities.
  • Students are held to a high level of responsibility, but, amid the rigor and high expectations, the department provides a supportive and encouraging environment consistent with the University’s mission.

A national reputation in preparing students for doctoral (Ph. D.), medical programs (MD and MD/PhD) and other health-related professions

  • Approximately 30% of all students in the institution’s 75-year history continued their educations in such programs.
  • In the past 15 years, we have maintained a  >90.1% acceptance rate to medical schools while simultaneously fostering a steady increase in the number of our students pursuing advanced degrees at top-tier graduate programs (e.g., Princeton, Stanford, U. Penn). 

Numerous recent achievements that have helped distinguish our program as a leading undergraduate science program in the country. Such successes include:

  • A biology program that, in addition to providing outstanding curricula, is most notably recognized by its mentoring of students in cutting-edge research
  • A two-fold increase in biology faculty and staff over the past eight years
  • Numerous external research grants from the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, and several other agencies (>$4 million in the past 7 years), all of which have helped to expand opportunities for undergraduate research
  • A continuous and expanding emphasis on investigative approaches in the classroom and laboratories which has been significantly enhanced by outside funding
  • An emphasis on student ability to use advanced technology and to develop the cognitive skills needed for identifying, refining and answering research questions

State-of-the-art teaching, research equipment and facilities. Including:

  • Biology student performing research.A genomics research center, a molecular biology suite, and an additional bio-molecular research facility..
    • Two greenhouse facilities for student and faculty projects
    • A bio-informatics suite, supported by a grant from the PA Department of Education
    • Access to more than seven field research sites where faculty and students work on environmental, ecological, and animal behavior research
    • A state-of-the-art-animal facility for both research and teaching needs

A dynamic summer research program for undergraduates. This program:

  • Provides a full research salary and free housing on campus 
  • Supports up to 24 full-time research students per summer
  • Provides opportunity to conduct research at off-campus sites. Students and faculty, for example, have recently traveled to Costa Rica, Purdue University, and Yale University for collaborative research.
  • Provides opportunity for students to accompany faculty to scientific conferences and present their research findings. Students and faculty have recently traveled to Mexico, China, Hawaii and numerous other locations within the U.S.
  • Provides opportunities to co-author scientific publications with faculty

In 2008, The Biology Department was recognized by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute with a 4-year, $1-million grant to support undergraduate research and new and innovative curricula for biology majors.