The biology curriculum structures learning based on the scientific process of discovery: observation, interpretation, experimentation, analysis and the formation of new hypotheses. Through exploration of recent developments in the broad range of biological fields, students examine details in the context of basic principles. Students experience the dynamic nature of biological science by participating in laboratory work and research projects that form the backbone of the program. The curricular design offers many choices to students, allowing non-majors to explore any one field of biology in depth or to examine biology in the context of human issues having sociological, economic and political importance, such as health care, biotechnology and the environment.
Introductory and foundation courses are offered at the 100-level. These consist of BIOL 109Y-110Y, the year long introductory lab sequence and BIOL 115 and 116, Energy and Information in Living Systems.
Upper-level courses are offered at the 200 and 300 levels. Courses at the 200 level are designed for sophomores and juniors who have completed at least part of the introductory-level curriculum. Reading assignments include textbooks, primary literature and other advanced sources. Courses at the 300 level are designed for juniors and seniors who have completed the entire introductory-level curriculum and at least one 200 level course. Primary literature and other advanced sources form a substantial portion of the reading, and extensive student-directed work is expected.
In addition to the biology major, major programs in biochemistry and in molecular biology are available. These programs combine work in biology and chemistry to prepare students for graduate work or employment entailing research on the molecular basis of biological systems. Information on course requirements for these major programs is detailed in the biochemistry and molecular biology section.
Non-majors can choose innovative topical courses that approach biological issues in a human context (BIOL 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107). These courses are designed for students with minimal backgrounds in biology. The foundation courses — BIOL 115 and 116 — allow more in-depth study. Several courses also serve the interdisciplinary concentration in environmental studies.
For students considering medical, dental, nursing or veterinary postgraduate programs, there is usually a requirement of a minimum of two semesters of biology with the corresponding laboratory work. BIOL 115 and 116 plus the laboratory sequence BIOL 109Y-110Y satisfy this requirement.
Students can involve themselves in the department through the Biology Student Advisory Group, which meets with the chair and faculty members, or as employees ranging from laboratory teaching proctors to research assistants.
Majors are encouraged to participate in the department through research with faculty members and by their active role in hiring faculty, suggesting curriculum changes, inviting seminar speakers and planning social events.
In order to fulfill the diversification requirements for upper-level courses, biology majors will need to take at least one upper-level lecture course in each of the following three categories to graduate:
We strongly encourage majors to take at least one year of mathematics and physics. Students planning graduate studies in any area of biology should also include organic chemistry. We encourage majors to seek opportunities for independent research with faculty members, through Research in Biology (BIOL 385, 386) honors research and the Summer Science Scholars Program.
The Senior Exercise for all biology majors consists of a detailed analysis of a research field, focusing on a critique of a particular research article. In addition, all majors must attend a specified number of guest lectures in the Biology Seminar Series and take a standardized assessment exam.
Many courses and labs are offered in alternating years, so care should be taken in planning the major to suit individual goals. The following list indicates which courses are normally taught on alternating-year schedules. Please note that the schedule can vary from these guidelines; students should consult the department chair or course instructor if particular courses are needed.
The Honors Program in biology is an exciting opportunity for students to perform research in collaboration with a faculty member of the Department of Biology. Prior to enrollment in senior honors, students are expected to complete at least one semester of Research in Biology (BIOL 385, 386), although two semesters are recommended, and participate in the Summer Science Scholars Program. Students must have an overall GPA of at least 3.33 and a GPA of 3.33 in biology.
The following courses are cross-listed in the biology department to satisfy natural-sciences diversification:
ENVS 112 Introduction to Environmental Studies
MATH 258 Mathematical Biology