Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Oles are doers, and that fact is borne out in our work in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.


A collaborative, interdisciplinary, and investigative approach.

Pictured: Bifan Chen

We take a collaborative interdisciplinary, and investigative approach to learning and research, applying science and mathematics as part of the solution to every major global issue from climate change to world hunger, bioterrorism and the cure for cancer.

Rank #3

for our science lab facility according to the Princeton Review

Top 10

of PhD earners in mathematics/statistics, chemistry, and biology


of students participate in experiential learning opportunities that include internships, research or community-based work study



  • Core curriculum ranges from molecules to ecosystems
  • Student focus on elective courses in area(s) of interest
  • Research experiences begin in the first biology course and continue throughout the major
  • Field research in the St. Olaf natural lands and Weaver Dunes in Southern Minnesota, to India and Costa Rica
  • Breadth of our courses and faculty expertise are reflected in the concentrations and area of studies we support: neuroscience, environmental studies, biomolecular science, mathematical biology, and education
  • American Chemical Society-approved major
  • Multiple entry points, depending upon background and interest
  • Early hands-on access t0 research facilities and equipment, providing documented experiences and opportunities to earn publication
  • Active learning pedagogies, including team-focused and “flipped” upper-level courses
  • Active student St. Olaf Chemistry Society group providing opportunities to host seminar speakers, socialize with professors, and share the excitement of doing chemistry with local school groups


  • Introductory courses designed for first-year students exploring the major
  • Rigorous general physics curriculum combining theory and experimentation
  • Student-centered orientation
    • designed to develop the skills of thinking like a physicist, working from fundamental principles
    • computer programming and simulations, hands-on experiments, Newtonian mechanics in a modern context, and relativity and particle physics
  • Opportunities for cutting-edge research with faculty
    • robotics, micro/nanotechnology, biophysics, atomic physics, many-body dynamics, and phase transitions
  • Strong support for engineering and applied physics
    • student teams work on design problems from regional businesses
  • After St. Olaf: Students go on to graduate school and a wide variety of careers in engineering, technology industries, architecture, medicine, teaching, and more


  • One of the country’s largest undergraduate mathematical sciences programs, and a top undergraduate origin of Ph.D.s
  • Mathematics, statistics, and computer science programs cooperate to link our disciplines to each other and beyond
  • Opportunities for disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, internships, and overseas study, including two programs in Budapest
  • Support for a wide range of student interests resulting in customized individual majors
  • Welcoming atmosphere, with social activities, clubs, and many beyond-the-classroom opportunities
  • Center for Interdisciplinary Research (CIR) engages students in interdisciplinary, collaborative research with collegiate or non-profit partners
    • In past projects, students have investigated operon pairs in the tuberculosis genome, the impact of hospital closings on surrounding hospitals, college admissions yield models, and voting trends in Reconstruction-era Alabama


St. Olaf’s Computer Science (CS) curriculum offers a breadth-first introduction to CS and develops the analytical thinking skills needed for later courses. Starting with the first course, the program emphasizes a hands-on approach to teaching, which emphasizes learning intellectual concepts through concrete exercises. The courses span national expectations for CS curricula, and the CS program embraces its liberal arts context in the organization of its major, its emphasis on teamwork and communication skills, its involvement in interdisciplinary projects, and its distinctive, integrated interest in ethical issues in software design.

Whether you major in CS or simply take a course or two, you will gain the thinking skills, ethical analysis, empowering concepts and learning experiences that will prepare you to make lifelong contributions to the 21st century world.

  • Courses in the major cover the breadth of the discipline from natural science to social science aspects, from cells to society, and everything in-between
  • Research in the laboratory, the library, and in the field through internships in clinical and community settings
  • Strong emphasis on the science of psychology—research is important at all levels of the discipline, from proposing theories to explaining behavior, to developing effective clinical therapies, to designing the internal structure of organizations

Interdisciplinary Teaching and Research

Interdisciplinary Concentrations ►

Biomolecular Science, Environmental Studies, Mathematical Biology, Neuroscience, and Statistics

Interdisciplinary Facilities ►

Classrooms and laboratories designed for interdisciplinary teaching and collaboration, providing excellent faculty-student research spaces, flexible and technology-rich classrooms, and environmental integrity

Faculty ►

Faculty interests cross traditional disciplinary boundaries.
Active research programs in biochemistry, biophysics, biopsychology, mathematical biology, environmental chemistry, materials science, and applied statistics

Conversations and Learning Communities ►

Integrated Introductory Chemistry and Biology (CH/BI) takes a student cohort through three linked courses that emphasize connections between the disciplines.

The Science Conversation is a sophomore-level program that integrates knowledge, experience, and beliefs in the exploration of big ideas, such as the origins of life, the significance of knowledge, and the nature of free will. The Science Conversation is designed to inspire students intellectually and prepare them to engage with important issues as future citizens, scientists, and policy makers.

Liberal Arts Context ►

Natural sciences and mathematics (NSM) faculty teach courses that meet general education requirements for non-science majors, first-year writing courses, off-campus programs, and interdisciplinary courses with faculty in other disciplines.

NSM students and faculty are actively involved in research. Students’ earliest experiences often take the form of complex projects in lab courses and progress to student-faculty collaboration as students become engaged in projects that capture their interest.

About Regents Hall for Natural Sciences

Regents Hall combines flexible and technology-rich teaching spaces with shared laboratories to promote cross-disciplinary dialogue.

A Green Building ►

  • Designed and constructed with a goal of obtaining the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification.
  • LEED emphasizes state-of-the-art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

Designed for Interdisciplinary Studies ►

  • Encourages interaction among the science disciplines by intermixing formal and informal gathering spaces, student study spaces and offices throughout the facility.
  • Classrooms, labs and offices are all arranged according to purpose instead of departmental affiliation, meaning that many of the teaching and research spaces can be shared between fields.

Key Features ►

  • The building’s center features a beautiful glass atrium with views out in three directions. A number of informal gathering spaces extend learning beyond the classroom and laboratory.
  • The building has a greenhouse, an accessible green roof, a science library, and a second floor café where students and faculty may mingle.
  • Provides flexible-seating classrooms, tiered lecture rooms, integrated/shared teaching and research spaces while consolidating the disciplines of biology, chemistry, physics, psychology and mathematics.
  • The design incorporates specialized spaces for anatomy/neuro-anatomy and animal facilities, and laboratories for optics, computational physics, physiology, genetics, microbiology/immunology, synthetic and analytical chemistry and biochemistry.

Recent Graduates — Representative Graduate and Medical Schools

Recent Graduates — Representative Employers


Watch Isaiah Scharen


Studio Art Major
Physics Major

Watch Brynna


Studied Abroad Multiple Times
Physics Major

Watch Branden


Biology, Chemistry, and Biomolecular Sciences Major
Ph.D. in molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology & Genetics