Biology Department Facilities

Our Life Sciences Building was erected in 1970 and contains 45,926 square feet of floor space. The Biology Department occupies most of the second, third and fourth floors of the building and includes six teaching laboratories, five lecture rooms, faculty offices, and numerous auxiliary areas. The Department has extensively renovated some of the teaching laboratories to better accommodate the integration of lecture and laboratory course components and to facilitate collaborative work among students. The lab spaces on the second floor are devoted to faculty and student research. Each faculty member has a separate research laboratory housing equipment pertinent to her/his area of expertise. In addition, there is a fully equipped darkroom, a large walk-in temperature-controlled chamber, a small shop, an aquarium room, autoclave and tissue culture rooms, a microscope suite, and several environmental chambers. The Department also houses a fish collection containing some 200,000 specimens. The Biology Department greenhouse located on the roof of the building opened in January 1971. It serves as a repository for a variety of plant species used in both teaching and research laboratories.  All classrooms, laboratories, and offices are wired for internet access, and the building has wireless internet access as well.

Department Facilities at a Glance

  • Microscopy facility, including phase contrast and fluorescent-capable microscopes  [View a gallery of microscopic images of transgenic fish]
  • Autoclave and tissue culture facilities
  • Large walk-in temperature-controlled chambers
  • Molecular biology equipment including thermal cyclers and a computerized gel scanner
  • Aquarium showcasing local freshwater species 
  • Six teaching laboratories
  • Eight research laboratories
  • Fish collection containing approximately 200,000 specimens
  • Greenhouse and herbarium

The Greenhouse

The Biology Department greenhouse opened in January 1971. It serves as a repository for a variety of plant species used in both teaching and research laboratories. Two permanent beds were made by pouring concrete curbs on the floor, permitting the creation of an aquatic garden, as well as a terrestrial planting bed.

It is possible to tour the greenhouse; contact any of the Biology Department faculty members to arrange a visit. Also, we would be pleased to share cuttings from those plants in the greenhouse that can be propagated.

The Kevin F. Murphy Memorial Garden

During his junior and senior years as a biology major at Roanoke, Kevin Murphy was a greenhouse assistant. His love of plants led him to spend many extra hours caring for the greenhouse. We still have several plants in our collection that he donated. Upon graduation, he continued his botanical training with graduate courses, and became Gardener for the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C. He began his own landscaping business shortly before his tragic death. Friends and former classmates established a greenhouse fund in Kevin's memory. Major donations by Kevin's parents and other members of his family allowed us to set up a perpetual Kevin F. Murphy Memorial Fund, to purchase needed botany references for the library and to purchase new plants for the greenhouse.

With Kevin's family and many of his friends in attendance, we dedicated the Kevin F. Murphy Memorial Garden on April 23, 1984, as a living and loving tribute to Kevin's memory.


The purpose of Roanoke College's freshwater aquarium is both aesthetic and educational. Fishes with a wide range of morphologies and ecologies illustrate the diversity of the fishes of Virginia. The interaction of morphology and ecology can be observed during feeding time illustrating specific feeding adaptations of fishes. Bright breeding colors and bony tubercles show the power of sexual selection during the spring. Particular care has been taken in the selection of species that are likely to be found in together in local streams helping to recreate a local stream ecosystem for observers. Our aim for this conspicuous display is also to pique interest in streams and the species that inhabit them. Initially set up in 2001, the aquaria are cared for by both students and professors and continue to evolve in their inhabitants.


It’s A Bug’s Life for Prospective Biology Major

It’s A Bug’s Life for Prospective Biology Major

Basic human instinct tells most to fear bugs, and most people don’t have the inclination to do research on the very creatures that send a shiver down their spines. Firebaugh’s instincts told her differently, and she is spending much of her time at Roanoke College researching the critters about which she is passionate.

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