The Major in the Biology of Global Health will address the biology behind todays' global health concerns, combining strengths from across the Georgetown campus in infectious and genetic disease research with interdisciplinary work in economics, policy, law, ethics etc. The major in the Biology of Global Health will include coursework and research spanning the basic sciences - genetics, biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, evolution, ecology, mathematics and computational sciences - while also integrating perspectives from policy, economics, ethics, law and sociology.

For questions on this major, consult your academic advisor or the Director of the Biology of Global Health major Prof. Heidi Elmendorf (202-687-9883;

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 a degree in this major.

Application for the major will occur in the second year.

AP- and IB-credit in the Biology of Global Health

The Department of Biology accepts one of the following: the AP Exam in Biology, the AP Exam in Environmental Biology, or the IB Higher-level Biology exam. 

  • 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 major 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 major 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 will receive 2 credits of upper division electives that will count towards the major and will receive the equivalent of a 4-credit nonmajors courses (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-103/113)
  • First year seminar (BIOL-101)
  • General Chemistry with laboratory (CHEM-001/009)
  • Mathematics (which course depends on background and goals; typically Math-035)
  • 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-104/114)
  • General Chemistry with laboratory (CHEM-002/010)
  • Mathematics (typically Math-040)
  • General Education (two courses): language, English, History, Philosophy or Theology
Courses in the upper years
  • Second year, Spring term - BIOL-194 Gateway: Biology of Global Health 
  • Fourth year, Fall term - BIOL-401 Senior Seminar

Program for Biology of Global Health Majors

1. Biology Courses (total of 42 credits)
Required core courses

(16 credits): 

  • BIOL-101 First-year seminar (1 credit; PF). 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 (5 credits)
  • BIOL-104/114 Foundations in Biology II (5 credits)
  • BIOL-194 Gateway: Biology of Global Health (4 credits) (Spring semester)
  • BIOL-401 Senior Seminar (1 credit; P/F) (Fall semester)
Elective courses in Biology

(26 credits) Students must take at least 1 course in each of the following 3 sections.  Students may take Thesis Tutorial (BIOL-300/340) for up to up to 3 credits as well as RISE for 6 credits to count as electives.

Students should be aware that courses marked below with an asterisk (*) are designated as "bin" courses within the Biology major and may be required pre-requisites for upper-level courses within the cluster. Further information on this is available in the individual course descriptions.

Cell and Molecular Cluster

  • *BIOL-151 Biochemistry (4 credits)
  • *BIOL-152 Genetics (4 credits)
  • *BIOL-170 Developmental Cell Biology (4 credits)
  • BIOL-203 Seminar: Inquiry into Foundations of Biology (3 credits)
  • BIOL-352 Human Genetics (3 credits)
  • BIOL-359 Dynamic Processes in Biological Physics (3 credits)
  • BIOL-379 Genomics and Bioinformatics (3 credits)
  • BIOL-388 Microbial Genomics
  • BIOL-390 Molecular Biology (3 credits)
  • BIOL-391 Structural Biology of Cell Signaling (3 credits)

Ecology and Evolution Cluster

  • *BIOL-180/181 Ecology with lab (4 credits)
  • *BIOL-185 Evolutionary Processes (4 credits)
  • BIOL-253 Plants and Society (3 credits)
  • BIOL-255 or BIOL-320 Forest Ecology (4 credits)
  • BIOL-360 Molecular Evolution (3 credits)
  • BIOL-365 Conservation Biology (3 credits)
  • BIOL-367 Population Genetics (3 credits) 
  • BIOL-368 Global Climate Change Ecology (3 credits)
  • BIOL-386 Ecological Analysis (4 credits), if you fulfilled the applied statistics requirement below with BIST-505 or MATH-240 
  • BIOL-422 Modeling Biological Populations

Host and Disease Cluster

  • *BIOL-175 Mammalian Physiology (3 or 4 credits)
  • BIOL-195 Neurobiology (4 credits)
  • BIOL-358 Immunology (3 credits)
  • BIOL-364 Microbiology (4 credits)
  • BIOL-369 Cell Biology of Cancer (3 credits)
  • BIOL-371 Virology (3 credits)
  • BIOL-372 Introduction to Parasites (3 credits)
  • BIOL-377 Endocrinology (3 credits)

Total credit requirements: 42 credits of Biology courses

2. Additional Courses Required
Additional Chemistry and Mathematics
  • CHEM-001/009 and -002/010 General Chemistry with laboratory (10 credits total)
  • CHEM-115/117 Organic Chemistry I with Laboratory (5 credits)
  • MATH-035 Calculus I (4 credits)
  • MATH-040 Probability and Statistics or MATH-140 Introduction to Mathematical Statistics (4 credits)
  • BIOL-384 BGH Statistics (3 credits; this course is the same as BIST-505) or MATH-240 Applied Statistical Methods (3 credits) or BIOL-386 Ecological Analysis
Interdisciplinary Perspectives - Students must choose two courses.

Courses are grouped by topic. Students can take any two courses.

Please note that these course offerings are constantly changing and that this is only a representative list. Check with the Director of the BIGH major for approval of additional courses. 
Please also note that courses offered in SNHS and STIA may have limited enrollments for BIGH majors.  Be sure to include alternates in your course requests.
Also; these are considered "corollary" courses meaning that you can count the same course for both your BIGH major and also as either a core requirement course or a course for a minor. 


  • HESY-355 Health Law and Ethics
  • PHIL-105 Bioethics 
  • PHIL-111 Ethics: Beginning/Ending Life
  • PHIL-132 Issues in Public Health
  • PHIL-138 Ethics: Climate Change (requires permission of instructor)
  • PHIL-353 Life, Death, and the Law II
  • STIA-356 Global Health and Ethics

Applied Health Challenges

  • BIOL-363 Health Disparities
  • HSCI-359 Translation Health Science Internship, summer abroad
  • INTH-202 Maternal/Child Health: Developing Countries
  • INTH-250 Comparative Health Systems
  • INTH-406 Disease Control
  • INTH-443 HIV/AIDS: Who Will Live? Who Shall Pay? What Can Be Done?
  • INTH-444 Global Patterns of Disease
  • INTH-445 Globalization & Healthcare
  • INTH-449 Health in Conflicts, Crises, Disasters
  • STIA-405 AIDS in Africa
  • STIA-447 Women's Health & Human Rights
  • WGST-235 Women's Health in the 21st Century 

Communications Intersections

  • BIOL-230 Science Pedagogy [by permission of instructor]
  • BIOL-265 Genetics and Disability
  • INTH-142 International Health Promotion
  • INTH-350 Anthropology and Health
  • MARK-234 Marketing for Public and Nonprofit Organizations
  • STIA-352 Journalism in Science, Environment and Health

Policy and Economics

  • BIOL-361 Science and Society: Grand Challenges
  • BIOL-362 Shaping National Science Policy
  • HESY-170 Health Care Systems Economics
  • HESY-201 Politics of Health Care
  • HIST-332 Politics of Disease in Europe
  • INTH-408 Poverty and Health: Ensuring Access to Pharmaceuticals in Developing Countries
  • INTH-410 Political Economics of Health/Development
  • INTH-411 Political Economics of Health/Development in Asia, summer abroad
  • STIA-322 Global Health Systems and Politics
  • STIA-355 Global Health and International Migration
  • STIA-445 Senior Seminar: Politics of International Health
  • STIA-449 Health in Conflicts, Crises, and Disasters
  • STIA-463 Innovative Systems: Science/Technology/Health 

Environment and Energy

  • ECON-475 Environmental Economics
  • GOVT-354 Environmental Politics
  • HESY-470 Environmental Sustainability Healthcare: Issues and Challenges
  • HSCI-332 Health Impacts of the Environment
  • INTH-401 Ecology of Global Hunger
  • INTH-440 Health, Environmental Issues, and Development
  • STIA-379 Energy & Environment in China
  • STIA-441 GIS in Environment and Health
  • STIA-448 Health and the Environment

3. RISE - Research Intensive Senior Experience

RISE is an option for Biology majors. RISE is conducted over two semesters in the senior year and is awarded a total of six credits (three credits each semester). However, students may begin research earlier, generally in the third year and in the summer between the third and fourth years. By enrolling in research tutorial (BIOL-300/340) Students are encouraged to apply to GUROP for transcript acknowledgment and funding for research prior to the senior year; students may not receive credit and payment for research within the same semester.

Students enroll in BIOL-341 and BIOL-342 in their senior year. Students may find primary research among department faculty- or faculty in other units across the university. If the primary faculty mentor is not from the Biology department, the student must also find a co-mentor from among department faculty. Students register for the Research Tutorial or RISE section of their department mentor.