Department of Natural Sciences

Welcome to the Department of Natural Sciences

The Department of Natural Sciences strives to help students develop a strong science background and critical thinking skills through meaningful experiences in and out of the classroom. The department aims to prepare students for productive professional careers or for entry into graduate or professional schools. Balancing an interdisciplinary science foundation, the department maintains allegiance to Christian values, including faith, stewardship, ethics, and social responsibility.

GWU’s Department of Natural Sciences offers two majors: biology and chemistry. Graduates from these programs receive comprehensive instruction in their discipline within the context of a Christian environment.

Bulldog Profiles

Students and alumni of the Department of Natural Sciences share perspectives on the culture of learning and achievement at Gardner-Webb. Click on a profile below to learn more about their stories.

Keely Ford '14, Biology

Keely Ford“Ever since I can remember, science has been my calling,” asserted Keely Ford ’14 of Morganton, N.C., who came to Gardner-Webb University to develop her skills in scientific research. “I primarily focused on wild life biology and ecology,” she added. “The ocean was my second home. From around 10 years old, I have been studying and learning more and more about marine life."

Her first semester at GWU, the professors in the Department of Natural Sciences recognized her aptitude in microbiology. They asked her to become the microbiology teaching assistant and she kept the position until she graduated. Under the mentorship of Dr. David Judge, professor of biology, she conducted her independent research project on the ostracod (small crustaceans) in GWU’s Lake Hollifield. The process gave her experience writing a proposal for a grant, presenting at a scientific conference and using the high-tech equipment.

After graduation, she was hired to work in the microbiology department at Baxter, a company in Marion, N.C., that manufactures medical products.

Read Keely Ford's full story.


Tavenner Black '12, Biology

Photo of Tavenner BlackWhen Tavenner Black (’12) says professors at Gardner-Webb University care about students, it’s not just a nice sentiment. It’s a statement based on fact and filled with gratitude for the science faculty, who offered additional classes to make sure she was prepared for medical school.

A pediatric resident at the University of Florida in Gainesville, she reflects on the significance of her undergraduate experience. “At Gardner-Webb, I had the opportunity to take classes like biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, anatomy and biochemistry, which are mandatory prerequisites for medical school,” she shared. “But I also had immunology, cell biology, and pharmacology—classes the professors organized and taught due to student interest. It was these extra classes that made the most difference and set me apart during my four years in medical school. I am so thankful to all of the people at Gardner-Webb for preparing me to thrive in a very demanding environment.”

The professors in the Department of Natural Sciences understood her busy tennis schedule and worked with her outside of the classroom to make sure she didn’t fall behind. They also encouraged her and provided additional learning opportunities. “Dr. Cathleen Ciesielski (former associate professor of biology) encouraged me to apply for the Women in Science scholarship given by GlaxoSmithKline,” Black elaborated. “I applied, and I was awarded the scholarship and had the opportunity to travel to the GlaxoSmithKline headquarters twice a year where I listened to lectures on new scientific discoveries. Dr. Ciesielski also encouraged me to run for president of the National Biological Honors Society. I ran, and I was named president during my senior year. She helped organize my letters of recommendation for medical school from the entire science department.”

While the academic foundation she received prepared her to succeed in medical school, she values the people of Gardner-Webb more than anything. “Whether it was my incredible teammates, the friends I made in classes, Coach Corn, or my professors, I always felt overwhelming encouragement and support,” she affirmed. "The people of Gardner-Webb became my second family, and they still are today.”

Read Tavenner Black's full story.


Taylor Ferrier '08, Biology and Chemistry

Photo of Taylor FerrierIn the remote northern reaches of Canada’s Ontario province, miles from the nearest service roads, Gardner-Webb University alumnus Dr. Taylor Ferrier has provided medical care. The residents in communities such as Moose Factory, Attawapiskat and Polar Bear Provincial Park are closer to the brilliant light shows of the aurora borealis than the comforts of a modern medical facility. But Ferrier has flown in to meet their health needs with the skills he has developed in his own life journey.

“It is here you are delivering care with everything you bring with you and your previous training,” Ferrier reveals about his work with Aboriginal communities near the Arctic Circle. “You need to be smart, safe and know how to help those who can be treated, triage others who need to be on an airplane right away and corral entire communities to work together to stay safe.”

For Ferrier, his path through medical education and into a health career has been about helping people, a theme he also experienced during his undergraduate degree studies in biology and chemistry at Gardner-Webb.

Ferrier felt incredible support from mentors in his science programs and across the entire campus. “Gardner-Webb’s greatest asset is that it is replete with a group of professors and staff who are invested in their students, want to see them excel and go to great lengths to see it happen,” Ferrier shares. “A program, course or even project is only as successful as the student and professor who mutually embark upon success together. What made my particular Gardner-Webb experience successful were the professors in the science department who fostered my eagerness, demonstrated willingness and supported a platform for my interests and career goals. It was not the lessons taught in the classrooms, albeit important, but the discussions that flowed from them.”

Ferrier entered medical school at the University of Ottawa in Canada’s capital and earned his Doctorate in Medicine. “It was there I studied endless nights, continued clinical research and worked in the most remote places nationally and internationally, as far as Austria working in both Munk and local major hospitals,” Ferrier said.

Now in a post-graduate Family Medicine residency program with a focus on Emergency Medicine at the University of Toronto in Ontario, he wants to continue to develop his background and training to better serve people in semi-urban hospital and clinical settings, as well as global and rural communities with limited resources.

Read Taylor Ferrier's full story.