Hands-On Learning in Biology


Whether in the Los Angeles area or abroad, biology majors have a wide variety of opportunities to help make discoveries in real-world settings while pursuing their scientific passions and preparing for a successful career.

To learn more about internships for biology majors, visit the Weingart Center for Career and Professional Development.

Cancer cellsResearch Experience for Undergraduates

Lung cancer has fewer mysteries to hide behind thanks to Joshua Lopez. The biology major and aspiring doctor spent two summers at City of Hope, one of the nation’s leading cancer research and treatment centers, studying the disease on the genetic level. He also gained first-hand experience in the operating room, where he observed his mentoring physician at work—thanks to his REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates).

REUs offer top science and math majors like Joshua the opportunity to spend the summer learning advanced research methods and preparing for graduate-level work. Whittier biology students secure their spots in competitive programs, with the help and mentorship of the College’s professors.

The experiences are well worth it—from exposure to advanced techniques and instruments to working in collaborative teams on challenging projects. Students also benefit from researching alongside their REU mentors, as they expand their knowledge and experience analyzing data for both presentations and further study.

“It was definitely a rewarding experience," Joshua said. "I learned a tremendous amount working in the clinic and lab. The research led me to being published on papers, and gave me the opportunity to present at a national conference. The list of benefits these programs provide go on and on.”

Pre-Health Shadowing

Thanks to Whittier College’s Health Professions Shadowing program, students have opportunities to see what professionals really do in their fields. Students watch health professionals at work, ask questions as time permits, and can—if the professionals agree—repeat their visit. The professionals pass on their enthusiasm and feedback, enabling students to make informed career choices.

Medical schools where Whittier graduates have been accepted include UCLA, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Davis, University of Southern California, Georgetown University, Harvard University, New York University, Stanford University, Tufts University, Vanderbilt University, and Yale University, among many others.

For more information, contact professor Hector Valenzuela.

A student looking at mangrove plants in China during a biology research trip.Study Abroad

Every year, 90,000 birds—many of which are of global conservation concern—take refuge in the marshes and mudflats of Hong Kong’s Mai Po wetlands. It’s in this rich wetland—one of the most important in the world—that Whittier students have the amazing opportunity to conduct self-designed research projects in order to understand how this habitat, and others like it, work.

Students enrolled in Water and Food: An Exploration of Hong Kong spend May Term in both the wetlands and urban Hong Kong, where they work with an elementary school that hosts a certified organic rooftop garden. The service-learning opportunity gives Whittier students a view of the unique solutions to the problem of land-use planning and food security, in a city where land isn’t cheap.

Led by professor Cheryl Swift, students leave the trip with a deeper understanding of the world’s challenges—and the ways they can help solve them.