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Sciences at Eckerd

Center for Molecular and Life Sciences

“My Eckerd experience gave me the confidence to stand in front of the world’s experts and deliver powerful and interesting speeches.”
- Johnny Wardman ’07, Volcanologist

To be good at science requires many things – curiosity, problem-solving, teamwork, knowing your way around a lab – and most of these can be taught. Confidence however, can only be earned.

Thanks to outstanding faculty who invite students into their labs as well as their lives, Eckerd turns out some of the most confident science graduates anywhere.

One built the world’s first quantum machine, called 2010’s “Breakthrough of the Year” by Science Magazine. Another now supervises graduate research at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. A third received a 2011 Growing Green Award from the National Resources Defense Council for her efforts to encourage responsible farming in her home state of Missouri.

Why study science at Eckerd?

Top on the list of reasons to study science at Eckerd is the pleasure of reporting for class in the new 55,000-square-foot James Center for Molecular and Life Sciences. Spacious and light-filled, the Center is designed to foster interaction between students, professors and departments. Here under the guidance of Ph.D. professors, you’ll use state-of-the-art instrumentation usually reserved for graduate students.

Other features that make our science program stand out include:
  • Professors who are passionate about teaching and mentoring students;
  • A sub-tropical setting with easy access to a variety of habitats;
  • An innovative curriculum that emphasizes hands-on experience;
  • Paid research positions during freshman year and summers; and
  • Study abroad on land and at sea in Australia, Costa Rica, Kenya, the Galapagos Islands and many other locales.

Faculty Research

Faculty who are focused on teaching and mentoring but also engage in research keep their fingers on the pulse of their disciplines and, at the same time, are able to provide opportunities to involve students in meaningful research projects that contribute to our knowledge about the world.

Brooks GreggGregg Brooks, Ph.D., Professor of Marine Sciences and Geosciences, joined Eckerd’s faculty  two decades ago. He has published more than 40 peer-reviewed articlesand secured more than $10 million dollars in research funding. In addition to leading off-campus courses around the world, he offers a broad array of marine geology courses on campus. His current research projects include recent sedimentary development of Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the BP oil spill.

Flaherty DeniseAssociate Professor of Biology Denise Flaherty, Ph.D., maintains a vigorous research laboratory with Eckerd students. Together they use roundworms to understand the developmental, reproductive, molecular physiological stress and neuromuscular impact of several conditions including pesticide exposure. Professor Flaherty is the recipient of the 2011 Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teacher Award.

Hastings DavidDavid Hastings, Ph.D., Professor of Marine Science and Chemistry, studies geochemical indicators of global climate change in the ocean. He is a member of the Oil Spill Academic Task Force, a consortium of scientists and scholars assisting the state of Florida and the Gulf region in responding to and studying the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In early 2013, Professor Hastings was one of 25 First Responders to receive the STEM Catalyst Collaborative Partnership Award given by ARCS FoundationTampa Bay. Known for wielding a chainsaw on stage to impress upon seniors the importance of preserving our natural environment, Professor Hastings is the recipient of the 2012 Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teacher Award.

Debure KellyKelly Debure, Ph.D., Professor of Computer Science, developed a unique software program that enables biologist to identify dolphins—the dolphins in our coastal waters—from photographs of their dorsal fins. That software is now in use around the world. The DARWIN program (Digital Analysis and Recognition of Whale Images on a Network) was funded by a $200,000 National Science Foundation grant. Professors Debure and Stephen Weppner, and Dean of Faculty Suzan Harrison, were part of a team that obtained nearly $600,000 of NSF funds for the Quantitative Excellence in Science and Technology (QuEST) Scholars program which facilitates the academic success of transfer students who enter Eckerd intending to major in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. 

Forys BethBeth Forys, Ph.D., Professor of Biology and Environmental Science, is interested in protecting and recovering endangered species. She is often in the news providing commentary on the protection of waterbirds that nest on beaches and ones currently nesting on the flat, gravel rooftops of Tampa Bay-area buildings. She works with Eckerd students and Audubon Society volunteers to map local colonies and nests of these species using computer mapping, study what is killing them or causing them to stop nesting, and trying to work with local governments to fix these problems. Professor Forys is the recipient of the 2010 John M. Bevan Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership Award.

Grove DavidAs the former chair of the Natural Sciences collegium, Professor of Chemistry David Grove, Ph.D., was instrumental in identifying the needs and developing the vision for the new science building. He and colleague Assistant Professor of Chemistry PolinaMaciejczyk have worked with Eckerd students and Eckerd alumnus Guy Bradley of the Tampa Bay Research Institute on a project designed to identify small molecules, synthetic drugs, natural products and combinations thereof capable of killing cancer cells. Professor Grove is the recipient of the 2009 John M. Bevan Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership Award.

Meylan PeterPeter Meylan, Ph.D., Professor of Biology and Marine Science, studiesthe evolutionary history, ecology, and conservation biology of amphibians and reptiles, especially turtles. He hasoverseen various projects designed to study and track sea turtles in the Caribbean and Atlantic. Closer to home, he works with Eckerd students and the Eckerd Herpetology Club on studies of freshwater turtles of the Rainbow River, a spring near Dunnellon, Florida.

Sharp KotyKoty Sharp, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology and Marine Sciences, studies coral symbiosis with bacteria. Her interests are centered on the microbial ecology of awide range of marine invertebrates, including corals, sponges, tunicates, bryozoans, and bivalves. In many ways, the health of these organisms is an indicator of the overall health of our oceans. Koty’s lab focuses on the microbial ecology of benthic marine invertebrates, especially corals and reef organisms. Her work on characterizing the bacteria that live on healthy corals and sponges is helping us to understand how environmental changes, like global warming and pollution, affect the health and resilience of our precious coral reefs.

Smith NancyNancy Smith, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Marine Science and Biology and Chair of the Natural Sciences collegium, specializes in marine invertebratezoology, ecological parasitology, marine ecology, biological invasions, and the evolution of life histories.  She has worked with a local business, New Nautical Coatings, on a project to develop environmentally friendly anti-fouling paints by screening and testing many of their samples for effectiveness in deterring fouling organisms.  Since her data showed that one of their paint products, which had the lowest concentration of copper, was highly effective, she developed a partnership with Janssen PMP, the Preservation and Material Protection division of Janssen Pharmaceutica in Belgium.  They have since developed a number of novel, metal-free and environmentally safe marine antifouling agents, including the product ECONEA.  

Thompson JoelProfessor of Marine Science Joel Thompson, Ph.D., has conducted extensive research in twelve states and two foreign countries, including in marine environments in the Bahamas, and in astrobiology for NASA in California. His current research focuses on the role of bacteria in precipitating carbonate minerals in aquatic environments, marine and freshwater microbialites, and whiting events.

Weppner StephenProfessor of Physics Stephen Weppner, Ph.D., joined Eckerd’s faculty in 1997. His theoretical research consists of modeling the scattering of nuclei that occur in atom smashers around the world. Professor Weppner recently took over as the lead faculty adviser for Eckerd’s winning Ethics Bowl Team.


Eckerd Colleges offers a variety of courses of study in the sciences including:
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Environmental Studies
  • Geosciences
  • Marine Science
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Pre-Health (Pre-Med)
  • Pre-Veterinary Medicine
  • Engineering and Applied Science (Dual Degree Program)

Click here to learn more about Academic Majors and Minors.

Beyond the Lab

Eckerd faculty and students take their expertise into the community at the annual St. Petersburg Science Festival, and middle school students are invited to participate in the Summer Science Splash Camp at Eckerd, funded in part by the II-VI Foundation. The public is invited to attend many science-related presentations throughout the year, including the Student Research Symposium each spring.

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