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.

A minimum of nine biology courses (five required and four electives) and three cognates exclusive of lab credit, all at C- or better are required to complete a major in biology. None of these courses may be completed Credit/No Credit.

A. Biology Core Requirements:

  • Evolution and Genetics with Lab - BIOL 112
  • Form and Function with Lab - BIOL 123
  • Ecology and Conservation with Lab - BIOL 224
  • Cell and Molecular Biology with Lab - BIOL 246
  • Senior Seminar - BIOL 490 (partial credit portions spread across Fall, Winter and Spring terms during senior year)

B. Elective courses:

A minimum of four biology electives are required to complete the major in biology. All except Course 1 must be taught by a Kalamazoo College faculty member. Eligible electives are as follows and may be completed in any order:

  • Course 1: course at 200-level or above, or one unit from the following outside sources:
  • One unit from a 2 unit biology research SIP with thesis
  • Study Abroad course in biology
  • Dual enrollment or transfer course in biology
  • Course 2: lab course at 300-level or above
  • Course 3: lab course at 300-level or above
  • Course 4: lab or non-lab course at 300-level or above

Biology majors are encouraged, but not required, to complete their Senior Individualized Project in biology.


C. Three cognates:

Natural Basis of the Living World: Biology rests upon foundations created by other natural sciences; all Biology majors will engage with another STEM discipline.

One unit from any of the following departments/programs:

Computer Science
Environmental Science

Human Context of Biology: Biology is a human enterprise, and the conduct and interpretation of science depend on much broader contexts. Our majors will engage with material in the social sciences and humanities in order to better understand these broader, social contexts.

One unit from any of the following departments/programs:

Anthropology and Sociology
Community and Global Health
Critical Ethnic Studies
Economics and Business
Political Science

Modes of Expression: Biology has a strong aesthetic component—from how we appreciate and measure nature, to how we communicate our findings and inspire others to learn. In order to enhance and deepen these connections, our majors will engage with the arts and literature.

One unit from any of the following departments/programs:

Art/Art History
Studio Art
Theater Arts

Graduate and Professional Program Preparation

Certain career tracks in biology, including medical, professional, and graduate schools, may require additional courses from other departments. For example, most medical schools require applicants to have taken Physics and Organic Chemistry, and many graduate programs in organismal and ecological biology require Biostatistics. Majors should consult with the Director of Careers in Health and Medicine and/or a member of the Biology Department when planning courses.

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


Can AP/IB units count as biology electives?
No. AP/IB biology credit no longer counts toward the biology major but may receive general college elective credit if the exam score meets college criteria.

Can AP/IB units, or transfer units, count as cognates?

Can one class fulfill multiple biology cognates?
No. If a course is cross-listed between two cognate areas, students may choose which single cognate it fulfills. This choice can be changed retroactively.

Can partial units be combined to count as a cognate?

Can classes taken on study abroad fulfill cognate requirements?
Yes. If a study abroad course is already accepted by an on-campus department or program as part of its requirements, then that course can be counted as taken in that department or program.

Is Organic Chemistry still a pre-requisite for Cell & Molecular Biology?
No, but it is still a pre-requisite for Biochemistry.


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.