Course Program for Biology of Global Health Majors

The Major in the Biology of Global Health (BGH) addresses the biology behind today’s global health concerns, combining strengths from across the University in disease research with interdisciplinary work in economics, policy, law, ethics, etc. The (BGH) major includes coursework and research spanning the basic sciences – genetics, biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, evolution, ecology, mathematics, and computational sciences – while 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. Steven Singer (202-687-9884;

Program for majors

The Biology of Global Health program is described in detail below in the following sections:

  • Biology Courses (required and elective), Additional Science Courses and RISE. Completion of all requirements is necessary to obtain a degree in this major.
  • 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.
  • Application for the major will occur in the second year.
  • Note that it is not possible to major in Biology of Global Health and also minor in Public Health (SNHS).

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 the AP Environmental Sciences Exam (but not both) 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 (but not both) will receive 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 will receive 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.  Variation is quite common, however, and students are encouraged to look at the sample curricular paths to find one that best fits their own situation.

Fall term: 

  • Foundations in Biology I with laboratory (BIOL-103/113) OR Foundations in Biology II with laboratory (BIOL-104/114)
    • Note that both Foundations I and Foundations II are offered in both Spring and Fall Semesters and can be taken in either order.
  • First-year seminar (BIOL-101)
  • General Chemistry with laboratory (CHEM-001/009)
  • Mathematics (which course depends on background and goals; typically MATH-035 [Calculus-1])

Spring term: 

  • Foundations in Biology I with laboratory (BIOL-103/113) OR Foundations in Biology II with laboratory (BIOL-104/114)
  • General Chemistry with laboratory (CHEM-002/010)
  • Mathematics (typically MATH-040 [Probability and Statistics])
  • General Education (one or two courses): language, English, History, Philosophy or Theology
Courses in the upper years
  • BIOL-194 Gateway: Biology of Global Health

Program for Biology of Global Health Majors

1. Biology Courses (total of 39 credits)

Required core courses

(15 credits):

  • BIOL-101 First-year seminar (1 credit; P/F). 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)

Elective courses in Biology

(24 credits) Students must take at least 1 course in each of the following 3 clusters.  Students may take Thesis Tutorial (BIOL-340) for up to up to 3 credits as well as RISE (BIOL-341/342) for 6 credits to count as electives.

In addition to the courses listed, students can also take one or more 1-cr modular courses; these offerings change frequently.

Cell and Molecular Cluster

  • BIOL-151 Biochemistry (4 credits)
  • BIOL-152 Genetics (4 credits)
  • BIOL-203 Seminar: Inquiry into Foundations of Biology (3 credits)
  • BIOL-359 Dynamic Processes in Biological Physics (3 credits)
  • BIOL-363 Cell Biology (3 credits)
  • BIOL-373 Developmental Biology (3 credits)
  • BIOL-374 Genome Instability and Human Disease (3 credits)
  • BIOL-379 Genomics and Bioinformatics (3 credits)  (cannot also count for the math requirement below)
  • BIOL-388 Microbial Genomics
  • BIOL-390 Molecular Biology (3 credits)
  • BIOL-426 Architecture and Dynamics of the Nucleus (3 credits)

Ecology and Evolution Cluster

  • BIOL-180/181 Ecology with lab (4 credits)
  • BIOL-185 Evolutionary Processes (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 credits)
  • BIOL-195 Neurobiology (4 credits)
  • BIOL-358 Immunology (4 credits)
  • BIOL-362 Infection and Immunity (3 credits)
  • BIOL-364 Microbiology (4 credits)
  • BIOL-369 Cell Biology of Cancer (3 credits)
  • BIOL-371 Virology (3 credits)
  • BIOL-377 Endocrinology (3 credits)
  • BIOL-394 Genomes, Disability and Health (3 credits)

Total credit requirements: 39 credits of Biology courses

2. Additional Courses Required (27-28 credits)

Additional Chemistry and Mathematics

  • CHEM-001/009 and -002/010 General Chemistry with laboratory (10 credits total)
  • MATH-035 Calculus I (4 credits)
  • MATH-040 Probability and Statistics or MATH-140 Introduction to Mathematical Statistics (4 credits)
  • BIOL-384 Epidemiology & Public Health (3 credits) or BIOL-418 Experimental Design and Analysis for Biologists (4 credits) MATH-240 Applied Statistical Methods (3 credits) or MATH-325 Biostatistical Methods (3 credits) or ECON-121 Economic Statistics (3 credits) or BIOL-379 Genomics & Bioinformatics (3 credits) or COSC-030 Intro to Computer Science: Python (3 credits) or  HESY-184 Introduction to Epidemiology (3 credits)

Interdisciplinary Perspectives – Students must choose two courses (6 credits).

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

Two important facts to note:

  • The interdisciplinary perspective  course offerings are constantly changing and this is only a representative list. Check with the Director of the BGH major for approval of additional courses.
  • Courses offered in SNHS and STIA may have limited enrollments for BGH majors.  Be sure to consider alternates when planning course requests.
  • Note that courses that are numbered BIOL-2xx count as interdisciplinary perspective courses for BGH majors.

Also these are considered “corollary” courses meaning that one can count the same course for both the BGH 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-267 Global Health History
  • BIOL-269 Global History of the Plague
  • BIOL-363 Health Disparities
  • HSCI-359 Translation Health Science Internship, summer abroad (3 credits will be awarded as interdisciplinary perspectives credit and 3 credits of research tutorial will count as Biology elective credit)
  • 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 

  • 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-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 Biology department faculty. Students register for the Research Tutorial or RISE section of their departmental mentor.

BGH majors are eligible to be part of RISE & Teach.  Applications will be solicited prior to pre-registration in the spring term of the third (junior) year.