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Biology Facilities

Biology students at Butler University will get the benefit of graduating having experienced a number of both basic and advanced laboratory techniques within a variety of diverse fields of study. You will not find any “dry” theoretical laboratory sections or extensive use of teaching assistants at Butler; everything is hands-on with the instruction and guidance of the Biology faculty members.

Within the first year of the major, Biology students will already have experience with gel electrophoresis, DNA isolation, restriction enzyme digests, PCR, bacterial transformation, bioinformatic analysis, spectrophotometry, SDS-PAGE, cell culturing, light microscopy, immunofluorescence, sterile technique, and HeLa cell culturing. Several upper-level electives also offer the opportunity for multiple mammalian dissections, which may be especially relevant for those interested in a medical or veterinary field.

Cell Biology Lab (GH 160)

This lab is equipped with three Class II Type A2 biosafety cabinets, two CO2 incubators, and two inverted phase-contrast microscopes for use in animal cell culture. Students in the BI 220 Cell and Molecular Biology Fundamentals course have the exciting opportunity to learn sterile culture techniques as they grow human cervical carcinoma cells (HeLa cells) and carry out investigations of the effects of plant extracts on the survival of these cells. In addition to culturing HeLa cells in the lab, students read and discuss The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a book by Rebecca Skloot describing the personal story of Henrietta Lacks, the African-American woman from whom this first immortalized cell line was derived. Because sterile technique and cell culture are widely used in many types of research, this experience lays a solid groundwork for students interested in pursuing additional research experiences both on campus and beyond. Additional work within this lab includes spectrophotometry, enzymatic functionality assays, SDS-PAGE, immunofluorescent staining, and multiple forms of microscopy.

Cell Biology Lab

Fluorescence Microscopy Suite (GH 292)

The department houses three compound fluorescence microscopes, as well as a stereomicroscope with red and green fluorescence filters. Research students and faculty utilize these microscopes, as do students in BI220 Cell and Molecular Biology Fundamentals, BI460 Cell and Molecular Neurobiology, BI433 Advanced Cell Biology, BI430 Animal Development, and other upper division courses.

Fluorescence Microscopy Suite

Friesner Herbarium (GH 070)

The Friesner Herbarium is a systematic collection of over 100,000 dried, pressed and preserved plant specimens. The Herbarium, third largest in the state, grew out of the personal collections of Dr. Ray C. Friesner, Professor and Chair of the Botany Department, 1920-1952. Many students and other Butler faculty have contributed plants through the years. The specimens, with their carefully documented labels, comprise a reference library on historical distribution, habitats, and timing of flower and fruit production. The collection's voucher specimens serve to verify plant identification.

Although the Herbarium contains plants from around the world, the collection emphasizes plants of Indiana (about 46% of the entire collection). The collection has samples of 96% of the approximately 2500 taxa of native Indiana plants. Multiple specimens are present for most plants, providing more information than single drawings or photographs from books to assist in learning what a plant looks like. Most of our collections are from the first half of the 1900s and now constitute documentation of Indiana's historical vegetation. They also provide information on the habitat (e.g., woods, swamp, prairie) where plants were collected and would likely be found again.

The collection is of great value to professional botanists and students, faculty, and staff from Butler's Department of Biological Sciences use the Herbarium as a reference. In addition, the Herbarium holdings are available to enrich teaching and laboratory exercises for students in biology classes. The Herbarium also hires several students per year to assist with various projects.

Be sure to visit our Herbarium Specimen Digital Image Collection which contains 30,000 images and data of our Indiana specimens. 

Continuing efforts are underway to collect images of all of our Indiana holdings. Check out the Indiana Plant Atlas (IPA) with its thousands of photos of live plants and is a botany resource for plant enthusiasts, professionals, students and teachers. The IPA provides a source of information for each species, including the distribution within the state using historical and recent data. It also works on mobile devices and tablets.

The Herbarium is open to the public by appointment. Call Marcia Moore 317-940-8302 or to arrange a visit.

Visit the Herbarium's website for information about the Butler Tree WalkTree IdentificationSpring Wildflowers, and Butler Prairie, as well as many links to other Indiana botany and science sites.

Friesner Herbarium

Greenhouse (GH 035)

The Butler University Greenhouse is located behind and attached to Gallahue Hall. It includes over 400 species in a wide array from tropical to desert plants. The tropical plants include orchids such as Cattleyas and Cymbidiums, primitive species such as cycads and Psilotum and flowering trees such as banana, loquat, Hibiscus and Magnolia. The desert room includes numerous species of cacti. For example, there are several large Century plants and an Opuntia cactus that originally grew on the LBJ ranch in Texas. The greenhouse collection also includes of course quite a few popular houseplants such as Peperomia, Diffenbachia, spider plants, Jade plants and the ever popular Philodendron. There are also several species of Bromeliads ("airplants") and ferns.

Many of the plants are used for study and research in the botany and biology laboratories. Some of the plants are the subjects for research by the botanists of the Butler University Biology Dept.

The greenhouse is maintained by Dr. Philip Villani. The temperature, under automatic control, is maintained at 74 degrees during the daytime and 60 degrees at night. The lights are on during the day but go off automatically during the early evening hours. The plants need to rest at night too!

For further information or tours, contact Dr. Philip Villani 317-940-8334, or e-mail


Microbiology Laboratory (GH 002)

Equipped with two laminar flow hoods, multiple incubators, and 24 compound light microscopes, this BSL2 currently serves the laboratory sections of BI 325 (Principles of Pathogenic Microbiology), BI 438 (Microbiology), and BI 440 (Molecular Virology). Students are able to learn and experience sterile technique, cell culturing, organismal and structural staining, microbial microscopy, and a variety of clinically-used procedures such as antibiotic-susceptibility tests and organismal identification experiments. Additional equipment/techniques commonly used includes fluorescent microscopy, spectrophotometry, and an array of physiological tests used to examine microbial populations. This laboratory allows the Biology Department to train over 200 students a year in both basic and advanced techniques used throughout the field of microbiology, including the health care and research settings.

Microbiology Laboratory

Outdoor Facilities

Butler University, although less than five miles from downtown Indianapolis, includes diverse habitats as well as its landscaped central campus. From the back of Gallahue Hall, a stairway and bridge take you directly to the towpath of the Indianapolis Water Company Canal. Take the towpath to the left and look to the right for access to the White River trail. Cross the towpath and go straight ahead to find the Butler Prairie. View the interactive campus map.

The Butler University Prairie was established in 1987 by the Holcomb Research Institute. Located between the Indianapolis Water Company Canal and the White River, the prairie serves as an outdoor laboratory for Butler ecology courses, as a public educational resource, and as a natural area for birds and wildlife. A flier describing the prairie, including flowering dates of its species, is available. Flowering dates and pictures are also available on the Prairie website. For more information or to arrange a tour, contact Dr. Emily Gillespie, director of the Friesner Herbarium, at 317-940-9413 or

Directly adjacent to the Prairie, you will find Butler University’s Center for Urban Ecology Farm. You can purchase fresh produce, schedule a tour, and simply learn more about how to build sustainable agriculture within an urban environment.

Or, follow the towpath to the right towards a bridge leading to the Holcomb Gardens. From the Gardens, several paths lead uphill into the Butler Woods and to the Holcomb Pond.