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 the Biology major, Prof. Shaun Brinsmade (firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-687-6549).
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.
All majors in the department will fulfill the University Integrated Writing Requirement by completion of the coursework in the major. Students will gain exposure and instruction in Foundations of Biology, the Gateway course in the major, and upper-level coursework. No additional coursework is necessary.
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-103/113)
- 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-104/114)
- First-year seminar (BIOL-101)
- 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). This is a year-long course worth 0.5 credits each semester.
- BIOL-103/113 Foundations in Biology I with laboratory (5 credits)
- BIOL-104/114 Foundations in Biology II with laboratory (5 credits)
Gateway and Intermediate-level distribution courses: Students must select one course from both distribution areas, 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, fall)
- BIOL-151 Biochemistry (4 credits, spring)
- BIOL-180 Ecology (4 credits, fall)
- BIOL-185 Evolutionary Processes (4 credits, spring)
- Gateway Course
- BIOL-191 Biology Gateway (4 credits, spring)
- Elective courses, at least two courses must be numbers greater than 350:
- Students may elect to take both courses in a distribution area (one is the minimum).
- Courses are offered for majors with a BIOL prefix, with the following exceptions:
- BIOL-194 is only for Biology of Global Health majors
- BIOL-195, select the appropriate section for non-neurobiology majors
- All 200 level Biology courses apply only to college elective and not to the Biology major
- See the undergraduate bulletin for course descriptions and pre-registration information for a list of upper division courses offered each term.
- At least two courses must be upper-division courses, numbered greater than 350, to build upon the intermediate distribution courses. Plan ahead to ensure that prerequisites are met.
- Research Tutorial (BIOL-340) may be taken for 3 credits.
- RISE. RISE stands for Research Intensive Senior Experience and is a pair of optional courses. This is a selective course, requires a faculty mentor's approval, 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 Director of the Biology major 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
Virtually every subdiscipline of Biology builds on expertise and perspective gained from studying another scientific discipline at a foundation level. Biology majors are therefore required to take two additional science courses to deepen their knowledge and to acquire a wider scope on Biology.
- 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, 2 courses selected from these courses (in consultation with a faculty advisor):
- CHEM-115 Organic Chemistry I
- CHEM-116 Organic Chemistry II
- COSC-051 Computer Science I
- COSC-052 Computer Science II
- PHYS-101 Principles of Physics
- PHYS-102 Principles of Physics
- PHYS-151 Mechanics
- PHYS-152 Electromagnetic phenomena
- STIA- 227/228 Environmental Geoscience
3. RISE - Research Intensive Senior Experience
RISE is an option for Biology majors.
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, by taking research tutorial for three credits.
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 may find primary research among department faculty- or faculty in other units across the university. If the primary faculty 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.
Research Tutorial: BIOL-300 or BIOL-340 (students may enroll in only one of these courses)
RISE: (6 credits total)- BIOL-341 (fall) and BIOL-342 (spring) RISE