Requirements for the Major in Biology

Consonant with the experiential-learning focus of the K-Plan and motivated by the biology department mission, our emphasis on an empirical approach to biology creates an environment in which students develop a strong foundation in biology. We encourage our students to ask and seek answers to probing questions, interpret primary literature, design and perform experiments, and make original observations of biological phenomena. The developmental progression from introductory core courses through upper-level electives prepares students well for the challenges of carrying out their Senior Individualized Projects, presenting results of those projects at our annual Diebold Symposium, and then continuing their education or seeking employment after graduation.

Number of Units

  • A minimum of nine biology courses (five required and four electives) and four cognates exclusive of lab credit, all at C- or better are required to complete a major in biology.
  • Among biology electives, at least three must be at the 300 level or higher, two of which must be a lab course. Other than BIOL 112 and BIOL 123, students may not count 100-level courses towards units required for the major.
  • Biology majors are encouraged to complete their Senior Individualized Project in biology.
  • The biology department will accept for credit in the major a maximum of one unit from the following sources:
    • AP/IB credit (if score on Biology AP exam is 4 or 5, or score on IB exam is 5 or above)
    • Study Abroad course in biology
    • Dual enrollment or transfer course in biology
    • A SIP in biology

Required Courses
BIOL 112 Evolution and Genetics with lab
BIOL 123 Form and Function with lab
BIOL 224 Ecology and Conservation with lab
BIOL 246 Cell and Molecular Biology with Lab
BIOL 490 Functioning as a Biologist

Four cognates:
CHEM 110 (Chemical Composition and Structure), CHEM 120 (Chemical Reactivity), and CHEM 210 (Organic Chemistry I) as well as one of the following courses: CHEM 220 (Organic Chemistry II) or MATH 261 (Biostatistics). Because BIOL 246 requires Organic Chemistry as a prerequisite, CHEM 110, CHEM 120, and CHEM 210 must be completed before enrolling in BIOL 246.

Comprehensive Examinations
Senior biology majors are required to take a written comprehensive examination as part of BIOL 490.

Related Concentrations

Students interested in the following concentrations should refer to the full program descriptions and requirements provided in this catalog.

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Biological Physics
  • Community and Global Health
  • Environmental Studies
  • Neuroscience

Biology Courses for Nonmajors

All biology courses at the 100 level are open to nonmajors without prerequisite. Courses we offer for nonmajors have goals consistent with those for the biology curriculum focused on majors. To attain those goals, general education courses directed primarily at students not majoring in biology should help students:

  • Appreciate, understand, and engage in the process of doing science.
  • Evaluate validity of scientific communications. For example, our students should be able to read, understand, and evaluate any New York Times article, especially those in the Tuesday Science Times.
  • Be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Learn that science is a fascinating human endeavor, applicable to everyday life.