The Major

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MAJOR

All students majoring in biology complete eight biology courses and a year of chemistry (Chemistry 121, 123, 126; or Chemistry 125, 126; or Chemistry/Biology 125, 126). In April 2013, the Biology Department implemented curriculum revisions that changed the biology major requirements; the chemistry requirement remains the same. Students in the Class of 2017 will complete the new major, while students in the classes of 2014, 2015, and 2016 have the option of completing either major; requirements for both majors are provided below.

Major Requirements as of April 2013 (open to students in the classes of 2014, 2015, 2016; required for biology majors starting with the class of 2017)

The eight biology courses include a foundation course, at least one course from each of four core categories, and at least one level III biology course. Two additional courses are elective courses.

Foundation Course

The biology major begins with Biology 150: Evoluntionary Foundations of Biodiversity. This course establishes the evolutionary and genetic foundations of life’s biodiversity, and establishes the laboratory and scientific communication skills upon which subsequent courses build. Students planning to major in biology should take this foundation course first; students who decide to switch to a biology major should take this foundation course at the time of their major decision.

Core Categories

Students must take one course from each of the four core categories. Please consult the course descriptions for which courses count towards each course category.

  1. Ecology. Ecology is the study of the interactions between organisms and their environments. These interactions are studied at a variety of scales or levels of biological organization from individuals to populations, communities, ecosystems, landscapes, and the entire biosphere. Through ecology, students can better understand interconnections in the natural world, and become more aware of their role in sustaining the biodiversity and ecosystem services that benefit all life on earth.
  2. Cell Biology. Cells are the basic units of life, and understanding the structure and function of cells, their organelles, and their processes is central to understanding modern biology. Through a course in this category, students will obtain a comprehensive overview of cellular structure and function, for example cellular compartments, macromolecular structures, and life processes such as energy and material flux, cell division, and control mechanisms.
  3. Genetics. Genetics examines relationships between genotype and phenotype in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms from classical and molecular perspectives. Through a course in this category, students will explore gene structure, inheritance and expression. Through genetics, students discover the ways in which the field of genetics is interdisciplinary, research-based, and relevant to the world today.
  4. Comparative Organismal Biology. Courses in this category study life at the tissue, organ system, and individual levels of organization. Students will broaden their knowledge of a group of organisms (e.g., plants) or of a universal biological phenomenon (e.g., reproduction). Courses in this category approach the content through comparisons across multiple taxa.

Level III Biology Course

Every biology major takes at least one level III course in the department. Our level III course offerings vary greatly in topic and in type of student work, yet they all share aspects such that each student has an opportunity to experience sophisticated, independent, iterative work in biology. Students in a directed research course will practice sophistication in experimental design and practice, independence in their investigation, and iterative toubleshooting. Students in a non-laboratory investigative course will practice sophistication in evaluating the primary literature, as well as independence in assembling and synthesizing ideas from that literature. Not all level III biology courses meet this requirement. For example, Biology 394 (internships credit) does not count toward the biology major, and thus this requirement. Students should consult catalog descriptions for each level III course.

Elective Courses

Students complete their biology major with two elective courses. Any Biology course can count as an elective with the following exceptions:

  • Only one independent study (Biology 298) and one independent research (Biology 396 or Biology 398) can count toward the major.
  • Internships (Biology 294 or 394) do not count toward the major. Biology 294 and 394 can only be taken P/N.

In addition to courses designated as biology, the following courses can count as biology electives:

  • Chemistry 379: Biochemistry I
  • Neuroscience 239: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychology 238: Biopsychology
  • other courses as approved by petition (including a rationale that clearly explains proposed course’s place in the student’s biology major) to the department.

General Considerations for the Major

  • No more than two level I biology courses, including Biology 150, and AP or IB credit may count toward the major.
  • Of the six courses counting toward the major that must be graded C or above, at least four must be at level II or III.
  • Students wishing to count for the major a course taken abroad or at another institution must consult with the chair for approval before taking the course.
  • While programs leading to graduate work are planned on an individual basis, most programs require students to have completed two or more quantitative courses (mathematics, statistics, or computer science), two courses in physics, and at least four courses in chemistry. Students intending to enter graduate or professional school are encouraged to consult with the biology faculty to plan a course of study appropriate for the postgraduate program.
  • Students pursuing a secondary school science education teaching license with a life science speciality should consider completing the biology major including Biology 123 or 243 as one of their electives. Additional courses are required as specified by the Education Department. Interested students should consult faculty in the Education Department.
  • All of the level II and III courses in Biology have prerequisites. Please consult the course descriptions below for this information.
PREVIOUS Major Requirements (open to students in the classes of 2014, 2015, 2016)

For students in the class of 2016 or earlier electing to complete the previous major, the eight biology courses must include: four core courses that emphasize cell/molecular biology (Biology 125 or Chemistry/Biology 125-127), biodiversity and evolution (Biology 126), genetics (Biology 233), and ecology (Biology 261); one course that focuses on a group of multicellular organisms (Biology 242, 247, 248, 251, 252, 266, or 275); one level III Biology course; and two elective biology courses. The integrated chemistry-biology sequence (Chemistry/Biology 125, 126, 127) may be taken in lieu of Biology 125, and Chemistry 125 and 126. Only one independent study (Biology 298) or independent research (Biology 396 or Biology 398) can count toward the major; internships (Biology 294 or 394) do not count toward the major. Biology 294 and 394 can only be taken P/N. Of the six courses counting toward the major that must be graded C or above, at least four must be at level II or III.

In addition to courses designated as biology, the following courses can count as biology electives:

Chemistry 379: Biochemistry I
Exercise Science 375: Physiology of Exercise
Neuroscience 239: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience or Psychology 238: Biopsychology

or other courses as approved by petition to the department. For two non-biology courses to count, they must be from different departments or programs. No more than three level I biology courses, including Biology 125 and 126, and Chemistry/Biology 127, may count toward the major. Only Biology Department courses (including independent research) may count toward the level III requirement.