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Facilities & Affiliates

Biology Department

Swenson Science Building

Our Facilities

The Department of Biology is primarily housed within the Swenson Science and Life Science Buildings on the UMD campus.

Swenson Science Building

The Swenson Science Building (SSB) was named for James I. Swenson and Susan Swenson, of the Swenson Family Foundation. Jim Swenson was a 1959 chemistry graduate who completed a research project on peat as an undergraduate at UMD. Generous gifts from foundations and private individuals made construction possible. Many donors are recognized on the honeycomb wall of the SSB atrium and in the naming rooms. The building currently hosts the Department of Biology and the Department of Chemistry.

The Department of Biology developed six teaching laboratories in SSB for courses in General Biology, Cell, Genetics, Physiology, Molecular, and Microbiology courses. The laboratories were designed to integrate modern experimental methods and state of the art instrumentation to encourage teamwork, meet all safety regulations, and to allow for the expansion of undergraduate research.

There are 12 research laboratories for faculty in the Department of Biology along with several shared rooms for specialty research support, which include cold, tissue, variable temperature, radioisotope, aquaria, and equipment rooms.

Outside of the building there are four dominant architectural features that give it a unique sense of place.

  • The pond is a biological experimental site for students and faculty that houses stands of wild rice and transient waterfowl. The pond also serves as an integral part of the storm water handling system.

  • The outside of the building was modeled to resemble a ship pulling into the harbor.

  • The spiral staircase outside casts a shadow of the double helix found in DNA.

  • The Wild Ricing Moon sculpture stands 70 feet high next to the building and was designed by Minnesota artist John David Mooney.

Life Science Building

The Life Science Building was originally constructed to house the Department of Biology laboratories, offices, a greenhouse, and a stockroom. An addition was added to the building for two large lecture halls as well as a greenhouse to host expanding research and teaching demands.

A $15.2 million renovation project, which obtained Silver Leed Certification, began in 2006 and the Life Science Building reopened in fall 2007. The building is currently shared by the Department of Biology and College of Pharmacy.

The Department of Biology established six teaching laboratories on the third floor of the Life Science Building for Biology and Society (a non-major biology course), Anatomy, Animal and Plant Diversity, Ecology, Mammalogy, Ornithology, Entomology, and Plant Taxonomy.

For more information on building resources, please visit Building Resources.


The Department of Biology works with many different units within the Swenson College of Science and Engineering, the University, governmental organizations, and private companies and organizations. A few of the units that the department works with are listed below.