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Because of the exceptional circumstances relating to COVID-19, courses taken during Winter and Spring Quarters 2019-20 and any quarter in academic year 2020-2021 as CR/NC (or S/NC) will count towards the Biology major degree requirements and they will NOT impact the limited number of CR/NC units that are currently in place.

The Biology Undergraduate Major

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60-Level introductory courses
Bio Foundations courses (80-level)
Lab courses
Breadth courses
Checklists and forms

Overview of the Biology Major

60-level Introductory Courses for Freshmen and Sophomores

Although no longer required, the 60-level Biology courses serve as the starting point for the major. These interactive courses cultivate excitement about Biology and build the intellectual, quantitative and communication skills required to succeed in the major. 60-level Biology courses have no prerequisites. 

BIO 60: Introduction to Problem Solving in Biology: Why is Lyme disease spreading? How does HIV become drug resistant? How do other animals affect our disease risk? In BIO 60 students will examine actual case studies to experience how different scientific approaches are used to battle infectious disease. They will evaluate information presented in the popular media and the scientific literature, and will directly participate in the scientific process through hands-on collection, documentation and analyses of authentic scientific data. Students will cultivate their scientific curiosity by discovering the natural world with a Foldscope, the ‘origami paper microscope’ ( Students will build critical thinking skills by creating hypotheses, and designing experiments that pertain to problems in infectious disease. Students will work in teams to expand their thinking and will practice communicating science to different audiences.

BIO 61: Science as a Creative Process:  What is the process of science, and why does creativity matter? Students will delve deeply into the applicability of science in addressing a vast range of real-world problems. This course will cover how to ask a well-posed question, how to design a good experiment, how to collect and interpret quantitative data, how to recover from error, and how to communicate findings. Course topics will include experimental design, statistics and statistical significance, formulating appropriate controls, modeling, peer review, and more. The course will incorporate a significant hands-on component featuring device fabrication, testing, and measurement, using the Arduino microcontroller and electronic sensors. The final assignment will be to develop and write a scientific grant proposal to test a student-selected myth or scientific controversy. Although helpful, no prior experience with electronics or computer programming is required.

BIO 62: Microbiology Experiments: Microbiology is a major foundation of all modern biology.  Many aspects of experimental strategy, logic, and analysis originated in the fields of bacterial genetics and physiology.  In BIO 62, we will use prokaryotic biology to review fundamentals of molecular biology and energetics, and in lab work we will work with experimental design and data interpretation.  Research on prokaryotes has greatly expanded through genomic and population analysis, and we will use these approaches to ask questions about the hidden worlds around and inside us: the microbiome.

BIO Foundations Courses for Sophomores and Juniors

In the next step of the curriculum, students engage with fundamental areas of Biology through a set of six Bio Foundations courses, which cover key foundational disciplines of Biology. Students will take five of the six Bio Foundations courses depending on their area of emphasis within the major. These courses will delve into these fundamental areas of Biology and further build students’ skills in critical scientific thinking, reading the literature, and scientific communication.

Bio Foundations courses to be offered starting 2017-18, each worth 4 units:

  • BIO/BIOHOPK 81 – Ecology (Main Campus: Autumn; Hopkins)
  • BIO 82 – Genetics
  • BIO 83 – Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • BIO 84 – Physiology
  • BIO 85 – Evolutionary Biology
  • BIO 86 – Cell Biology

The general Biology major allows students to choose five out of the six Bio Foundation courses. Specialized fields of study will require specific Bio Foundations courses, with the remaining courses to be selected by the student, to a total of five. For those courses offered on both the main campus and at Hopkins Marine Station, students may fulfill their requirements at either campus. 

The 80-level Bio Foundations courses must be taken for a letter grade. Questions about the Foundations courses can be submitted to Waheeda Khalfan.

Two inquiry-based lab courses

These courses provide hands-on exposure to scientific methodology and experimental design. They are inquiry-based, and allow students to hone their scientific thinking and lab skills by conducting real biology research. All students, even those who pursue honors, are required to take two lab courses, designed to give a grounding in both lab research and in field research: 

  1. BIO 45, Introduction to Laboratory Research in Cell and Molecular Biology
  2. One of the following:
  • BIO 46: Introduction to Research in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • BIO 47: Introduction to Research in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • BIOHOPK 47: Core Laboratory in Plant Biology, Ecology and Evolution
  • BIOHOPK 175H: Marine Science and Conservation in a Changing World

Breadth Courses

Courses in Chemistry, Math, Physics, and Statistics will be required, and will vary by track.

Only one breadth course in Chemistry, Math, Physics, and Statistics may be taken credit/no credit.

Additional Elective courses in students' area of interest and/or Field of Study

Upper level courses are offered in more specialized areas of Biology, many of them are seminar-style courses that provide opportunities to explore in depth the scientific literature and to develop ideas for novel areas of research. Students have the option of pursing a general Biology major, or fulfilling specific requirements to pursue a specialized field of study. Each of the specialized fields has a unique combination of course requirements/recommendations as indicated in the appropriate advising handout. The fields of study are:

  • Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Computational Biology
  • Ecology and Evolution
  • Marine Biology
  • Microbes and Immunity
  • Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Neurobiology

For all fields of study, one elective course may be taken credit/no credit.


Students are required to take one of the Biology university-approved WIM courses. Several of these options can also count toward the electives requirement. WIM must be taken for a letter grade when available. 


Honors is an optional addition to the Biology major. Should students wish to complete the honors program, the requirements include: an approved honors proposal, 10 units of BIO 199/BIOHOPK 199H/BIO 199X in the same lab, a GPA of at least 3.0 for all courses taken toward the major (excluding research units), an approved honors thesis, and presentation of their work at the annual honors symposium. Students apply for honors two quarters prior to their anticipated graduation date (Spring grads apply in Autumn).

Checklists of Requirements by Field of Study

NOTE: Due to shelter in place orders, please submit all declaration forms to Teri Hankes at

IMPORTANT NOTE: Effective immediately, the BIO 60-series requirement will no longer be required for all current and future cohorts, i.e. the Class of 2021 and beyond. 

General Major

Biochemistry/Biophysics Track

Computational Biology Track

Ecology and Evolution Track

Marine Biology Track

Microbes and Immunity Track

Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Track

Neurobiology Track

Approved Out of Department Electives (applies to the general major and all fields of study)