The major in Biology is designed to educate students in both the breadth of subject matter encompassed by the biological sciences and the rapidly advancing knowledge at the forefront of this discipline. For questions on this major, consult your academic advisor or the Director of Undergraduate Studies (see Contact Us for the current director since this position rotates among the faculty).
Program for majors
The program is described in detail below in the following sections:
Biology Courses (required and elective), Additional Science Courses, Comprehensive Exam, and RISE. Completion of all requirements is necessary to obtain the major.
AP-credit in Biology
- Students who receive a score of 5 on the AP Biology Exam or on the AP Environmental Sciences Exam (but not both) will receive 2 credits of upper division electives that will count towards the 44 credits of biology courses and will receive the equivalent of a 4-credit nonmajors course (this is recorded as a College elective course).
- Students with a score of 4 on the AP Biology Exam or on the AP Environmental Sciences Exam (but not both) will receive 1 credit of upper division elective that will count towards the 44 credits of biology courses and will receive the equivalent of a 3-credit nonmajors course (this is recorded as a College elective course).
- Students with a score of 6 or 7 on the IB Higher-level Biology Exam (but not Standard-level Biology) will receive 2 credits of upper division elective that will count towards the 44 credits of biology courses and will receive the equivalent of a 4-credit nonmajors course (this is recorded as a College elective course).
Courses in the first year
Normally, the first year includes biology, chemistry, mathematics and general education courses:
Fall term: We recommend 4 courses and seminar
- Foundations in Biology I with laboratory (BIOL-103)
- First year seminar (BIOL-101)
- General Chemistry with laboratory (CHEM-001, -009)
- Mathematics (which course depends on background and goals)
- General education (one course): language, English, History, Philosophy or Theology
Spring term: 5 courses is the normal load
- Foundations in Biology II with laboratory (BIOL-104)
- General Chemistry with laboratory (CHEM-002, -010)
- Mathematics (unless requirement is completed)
- General Education (two courses): language, English, History, Philosophy or Theology
Programs for majors
1. Biology Courses
Required core courses
Introductory level courses
- BIOL-101 First-year seminar (1 credit). This course is required for first year students and is recommended for transfer students and those students who enter the program after the first-year (contact the department chair or your advisor).
- BIOL-103/113 Foundations in Biology I with laboratory (5 credits)
- BIOL-104/114 Foundations in Biology II with laboratory (5 credits)
Intermediate-level distribution courses: Students must select one course from each distribution area, but may take both courses if they wish. These transition courses should be completed by the end of the junior year.
- BIOL-152 Genetics (4 credits)
- BIOL-151 Biochemistry (4 credits)
- Cells and Systems
- BIOL-170 Developmental Cell Biology (4 credits)
- BIOL-175 Mammalian Physiology (4 credits)
- BIOL-180 Ecology (4 credits)
- BIOL-185 Evolutionary Processes (4 credits)
- Students may elect to take both courses in a distribution area (one is the minimum), otherwise select courses offered for majors with a BIOL prefix; a small number of courses are restricted to the specialized majors, require permission of instructor to enroll, or apply a portion of the credits to the major. See the undergraduate bulletin for course descriptions and pre-registration information for a list of upper division courses offered each term. Upper-division courses, numbered greater than 350, build upon the intermediate distribution courses; plan ahead to ensure that prerequisites are met.
- RISE. RISE stands for Research Intensive Senior Experience and is an optional course. This is a selective program and is a year-long commitment to research in a range of areas (see below).
Concentrations of study
Students interested in concentrating in a particular area of study may choose one of the following concentrations (students are not required to choose a concentration). A concentration requires selecting six of the upper division electives from one of the two lists.
To enable students to have an opportunity to explore the interface between biological sciences and other disciplines, biology majors can apply 1 credit (max) towards the degree requirements for selected courses. The Committee on Undergraduate Students and Studies must approve each course in advance and must approve applying the credit towards the major. See your advisor for additional details.
Total credit requirements: 44 credits of Biology courses
2. Additional Science Courses Required
- CHEM-001/-009 and -002/-010 General Chemistry with laboratory (10 credits total)
- MATH-035 Calculus I and either -036 Calculus II, -040 Probability and Statistics or -140 Introduction to Mathematical Statistics (8 credit total)
- Science electives, 8 credits selected from these courses (in consultation with a faculty advisor):
- CHEM-115 and -117 Organic Chemistry I and Laboratory
- CHEM-116 and -118 Organic Chemistry II and Laboratory
- COSC-030 Mathematical Methods of Computer Science
- COSC-051 Computer Science I (COSC-010 cannot be applied)
- COSC-052 Computer Science II (COSC-010 cannot be applied)
- COSC-150 Advanced Programing
- COSC-280 Introduction to Databases
- PHYS-101 Principles of Physics
- PHYS-102 Principles of Physics
- PHYS-151 Mechanics
- PHYS-152 Vibrations, Fluids & Waves
- STIA-102 Introduction to Environmental Science
3. RISE - Research Intensive Senior Experience
RISE is an option for Biology majors and replaces the senior thesis.
RISE is a commitment for two semesters and is intended to be selective. Research will be conducted over two semesters in the senior year and is awarded a total of six credits. However, students may begin research earlier, generally in the third year and in the summer between the third and fourth years.
The RISE options are research in the laboratory, field or computer-based, teaching biology at the high school level, or meta-analysis of data. Students choose from faculty in our department or outside of the department (although a departmental co-mentor must also be identified).
RISE - choose one of these (6 credits total)
- BIOL-341 (fall) and BIOL-342 (spring) RISE