The History of the UNM Department of Biology

Biology courses have been taught at UNM since 1892, three years after the university was founded. From our initial courses in Physiology, Botany and Zoology, to our first listing in the 1896–1897 catalog, through our present programs, the Biology Department has grown stronger, adding its first faculty members in 1913,  appointment of our first female department Chair in 1923 (Helen Murphy), awarding the first M.S. degree in 1928, and the first Ph.D. degree in 1952. This was also the year that Dr. Edward Castetter, for whom our present building is named, joined the department as Professor and Chair. During his 29-year tenure, the first Ph.D. was conferred (1952), our curriculum and our graduate program expanded, and the number of faculty quadrupled. During the 1960s, under the leadership of Dr. Loren Potter, our teaching and research programs continued to grow in size and sophistication and our number of faculty doubled, culminating in the construction of the new wing of Castetter Hall, subsequently named the Potter Wing in recognition of Dr. Potter’s 14-year commitment as chair to Biology.

Today, the Biology Department is one of the largest Arts & Sciences departments at UNM with 41 faculty, over 80 staff, ~100 graduate students, and 1300 majors, and has made an outstanding contribution to furthering knowledge and understanding through basic research as well as helping thousands of students achieve their potential. Our outstanding faculty publish in many high-profile professional journals and the department has published more than 3,400 peer-reviewed articles since 1972.

Recollections by Dr. Loren D. Potter, Chair, 1958–72

As Gathered by Dr. Donald W. Duszynski, Chair, 1982–92

The College of Arts & Sciences: A Centennial History, 1889–1990 by Dr. Donald W. Duszynski, Chair, 1982–92