Course Program for Biology Majors Who Will Graduate in 2021 and Later

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. Jennifer Fox (

Program for majors

The program is described in detail below in the following sections:

Biology Courses (required and elective), Additional Science Courses, 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 in 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 or IB credit in Biology
  • Students who receive a score of 5 on the AP Biology Exam or on the AP Environmental Sciences Exam will receive 4 upper division elective credits, 2 of which will count towards the major.
  • Students with a score of 4 on the AP Biology Exam or on the AP Environmental Sciences Exam will receive 3 upper division elective credits, 1 of which will count towards the major.
  • Students with a score of 6 or 7 on the IB Higher-level Biology Exam (but not Standard Level) will receive 4 upper division elective credits, 2 of which will count towards the major.

Courses in the first year

Normally, the first year includes biology, chemistry, mathematics and general education courses:

Fall term: We recommend 3-4 courses and seminar, for a total of 15-16 credits.

  • Foundations in Biology I with laboratory (BIOL-103/113) or Foundations in Biology II with laboratory (BIOL-104/114)
  • First-year seminar (BIOL-101; 1 credit)
  • 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: 15-17 credits

  • Foundations in Biology II with laboratory (BIOL-104/114) or Foundations in Biology I with laboratory (BIOL-103/113)
  • General Chemistry with laboratory (CHEM-002/010) 
  • Mathematics (unless requirement is completed)
  • General Education (one course): Language, English, History, Philosophy, or Theology

Programs for majors

1. Biology Courses
Required core courses

(23 credits):

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)
  • Important Note: Foundations of Biology I and II are both offered in the spring and the fall and may be taken in either order. Both courses are also offered in the summer as well.

Gateway and Intermediate-level distribution courses: Students must select one course from each distribution area, but may take both courses if they wish. The second will count as a Biology elective course. These transition courses should be completed by the end of the junior year. 

  • Molecules 
    • BIOL-152 Genetics (4 credits, fall) 
    • BIOL-151 Biological Chemistry (4 credits, fall or spring) 
  • Populations
    • BIOL-180 Ecology (4 credits, fall)
    • BIOL-185 Evolutionary Processes (4 credits, spring)  
  • Gateway Course 
    • BIOL-191 Biology Gateway (4 credits, spring) ​
Elective courses

(17 credits):

  • Elective courses
    • Students may elect to take both courses in a distribution area (one is the minimum). The second course counts as a Biology elective course (the first course in a distribution area counts as a required core course).
    • 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
      • Only one 200-level course in the Biology department counts toward the major.
      • See the undergraduate bulletin for course descriptions and pre-registration information for a list of upper-division courses offered each term.
    • At least 6 credits 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. 
    • Note: A small number of courses are restricted to the specialized majors or require permission of instructor to enroll.  Be sure to check these carefully.  
  • RISE. RISE stands for Research Intensive Senior Experience and is a pair of optional courses (BIOL-341 and BIOL-342).  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 15 credits of upper division electives from the list approved for that concentration.

Total credit requirements: 40 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 foundational level. Biology majors are therefore required to take additional science courses outside the Biology department 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 credits total)
  • Science electives, 3-5 credits selected from these courses (in consultation with a faculty advisor): 
    • CHEM-115 Organic Chemistry I
    • CHEM-116 Organic Chemistry II
    • COSC-010 Introduction to Computer Science – Python
    • 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 Environmental Geosciences  

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 researched 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 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. 

Research Tutorial: BIOL-340 (students may enroll in this course once for credit, either spring or fall)

RISE: (6 credits total) – BIOL-341 (fall) and BIOL-342 (spring) RISE