Thornton Biology Research Program

Mandi RCCStudents majoring in Biology are encouraged to participate in hands on experiences in biological research. Research experiences provide enhanced comprehension of biological principles, a better understanding of science as a process and method of inquiry, and practical research skills. At Western State Colorado University, undergraduate research is valued and supported by the Thornton Biology Research Fund, an endowment gifted to the University by Jessie and Dan Thornton. 

It is possible for students to participate in all aspects of research including experimental design, field or laboratory work, data analysis, and in many cases, presentation of your research findings at scientific meetings or preparation of a publication.  In addition to learning how to conduct science, students engaged in undergraduate research are more likley to receive scholarships, awards, obtain jobs and internships, be accepted into prestigious Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) opportunties funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and qualify for and be accepted into graduate school. 

To get involved, students should discuss research ideas with a biology faculty member. Questions regarding the Thornton Program can be directed to Dr. Peter Gauss ( or Dr. Robin Bingham ( 

Research opportunities are available in diverse fields of biology, from molecular genetics to ecology, reflecting the varied interests of the faculty. Often, students work with a particular faculty member with the research focusing on the fasculty member's interests and on-going research.

Thornton Biology Research Program Components

Thornton Endowed Chair of Biology and Thornton Reassigned Time

Dr. Patrick Magee is the Director of the Thornton Biology Research Program and the Thornton Endowed Chair of Biology.  Dr. Magee received his M.S. (1989) and Ph.D. (1996) degrees from the University of Missouri in Wildlife Ecology and his B.S. degree from Colorado State University in Wildlife Biology (1986).  His research interests include the ecology of sagebrush ecosystems, avain responses to management and restoration of sagebrush, Gunnison Sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) conservation and ecology, and mammals of the Southern Rockies, with emphasis currently on the population ecology of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Dr Magee teaches approximately 20 credits annually and this load, paid for by the Thornton Fund, allows other biology faculty to use reassigned time to work with students on research projects.  Dr. Magee teaches wildlife ecology and conservation, ornithology, mammalogy, Colorado Ecoregions, and general ecology. Dr. Magee is on sabbatical leave for the 2013-2014 academic year. 

Thornton Biology Laboratory Coordinator

Amy Honan was hired in 2010 as the new Biology Laboratory Coordinator.  This position is funded in part by the Thornton Fund and provides personnel for major logistical efforts associated with the freshman biology labs.  The coordinator supervises teaching assistants, schedules vans, preps labs, facilitates the development of lab manuals, works closely with faculty on lab development, and teaches labs.  Further, the coordinator assists with other classes and generally coordinates the organization and care of supplies and equipment within the department.  Ms. Honan received her M.S. Degree from San Francisco State University in Mycology in 2006 and is a Western State College Chemistry alum from the class of 2002. 

Thornton Faculty Research and Development Program

This Thornton funded program provides faculty stipends to supervise undergraduate research in summer months or to develop external grant proposals that would enhance the research rich environment in the Natural and Environmental Sciences Department at Western State Colorado University. 

Angela FiorettiThornton Research Grants Program

Since 1993, the Thornton Research Grants Program has provided $1.8 million in funding for 160 research projects.  In student directed projects, students write a research proposal on a topic of their interest in collaboration with a biology faculty member with expertise in the topic and the student may request a Thornton Research Award of up to $3,000.  In addition, funds may be requested from the Thornton Research Grants Program for equipment, supplies and travel for research projects.  Other students may be involved with research projects that are faculty directed.  In these projects, the faculty member typically writes the research proposal and students are eligible for a Thornton Research Assistantship.  These projects are usually tied to the primary research program of the faculty member and provide students with an apportunity to learn about science and the specific topic of the study. 

Requests for research project funding are accepted by the Thornton Biology Research Committee annually on October 1, December 1, and March 1. Proposals are due at 4:00 pm the day of the deadline.  A proposal includes the Thornton Research Grants Program Funding Request (see below) and a full grant proposal written in scientific style including a title, author bi-line, author affiliations, abstract, introduction, methods (including study area if appropriate), expected results, literature cited, a budget (including contributions from other sources and in-kind contributions) and buget rationale, a time line for the project, and student transcripts if relevant.  An electronic copy of the proposal (as one document) should be submitted to Dr. Peter Gauss ( . The Thornton committee will review proposals and notify applicants within 1-3 weeks. After approval, applicants must submit a signed hard copy of the proposal to the Thornton Program Director.

    or more information contact a biology faculty member or Dr. Peter Gauss (970-943-2094, .