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The Undergraduate Major in Biology

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The major begins with a variety of introductory courses related to the different fields of Biology. Students will begin taking these courses, exploratory lab courses, and a selection of additional breadth courses in Chemistry, Math, Physics, and Statistics during their first two years. Advanced elective courses will be taken in the remaining two years. Although not required for any field of study, most Biology undergraduates choose to engage in at least one quarter of research in a lab on campus. Many go on to complete independent research that culminates in an Honors thesis and presentation. More information about the requirements for the B.S. Biology are included here.

BIOFoundations Courses (80-level)
Generally taken by sophomores and juniors

In the next step of the curriculum, students engage with fundamental areas of Biology through Bio Foundations courses, which cover key foundational disciplines of Biology. Students will take anywhere from 2-4 Bio Foundations courses depending on their subplan 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.

Each Bio Foundations course is offered for 4 units:

  • BIO 81 – Ecology 
  • 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 any four out of the six Bio Foundation courses. Specialized fields of study will require specific Bio Foundations courses, please review each subplan for the specific number and 80-series courses required. 

The 80-level Bio Foundations courses must be taken for a letter grade. 

Inquiry-Based Lab Courses (40-level)
Recommended to be taken sophomore year

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. Lab courses are designed to give a grounding in both lab research and field research. Please review each subplan for the specific number and list of required lab requirements.

Some lab courses include:

  • BIO 43,  Introduction to Laboratory Research in Neuronal Cell Biology
  • BIO 45, Introduction to Laboratory Research in Cell and Molecular Biology
  • BIO 46: Introduction to Research in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (WIM course)
  • BIO 47: Introduction to Research in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (WIM course)
STEM Courses
A variety of Chemistry, Math, Physics, and Statistics courses are required

Courses in Chemistry, Math, Physics, and Statistics will be required. Although specific requirements will vary by subplan, students can expect to take the following courses:

  • 1-6 courses in Chemistry
  • 1-3 courses in Math
  • 2-4 courses in Physics
  • 1 course in Statistics

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

Elective Courses (100-level and above)
The specific number of elective requirements will vary by subplan

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 develop ideas for novel areas of research. Students have the option of pursuing a General Biology major or fulfilling specific requirements to pursue a specialized field of study. The specific number of elective requirements will vary by subplan.

General Biology and students who choose a subplan will take a unique combination of course requirements as outlined in their specific area. The fields of study are:

All students may take one elective course credit/no credit. 

Elective courses can include additional Biofoundations, foundational lab, and 100-level Bio courses. Also included are out-of-department STEM courses from an approved out-of-department electives list, which will include most 100-level courses in STEM subjects as well as some lower-level courses. Capstone units: a maximum of 7 units of BIO 196-199/X may be counted towards the electives.

Senior Capstone Experience
Students majoring in Biology will be expected to choose one of the capstone options no later than the start of spring quarter in their junior year of study.

Important note: All undergraduates matriculating as first-year students in 2021-22 or later and graduating in AY 2024-25 or later must complete a capstone. Transfer students who enter AY 2022-23 or AY 2023-24 and plan to graduate in AY 2024-2025 or later will also be required to complete a capstone.  

The capstone requirement in Biology may be fulfilled via one of four options. 

Option #1 - Honors in Biology

To pursue honors, students must submit an honors petition in the fall of senior year, complete at least 10 units of BIO 199/X or BIOHOPK 199H(Undergraduate Research), have a GPA of 3.0 or higher at the time of graduation, and present their honors thesis at the departmental Achauer Honors Research Symposium and through the Biology Virtual Showcase website.

Option #2 -  The Senior Reflection in Biology

Students interested in expressing their personal interests in biology via creative or artistic forms (such as writing, music, fine arts, performing arts, photography, film, or new media) may enroll in The Senior Reflection (BIO 196A, B, and C; all three courses are required for this track). A written proposal on the creative process and scientific significance of the selected topic is generated in the fall (BIO 196A). During the winter quarter in Bio 196B, weekly workshops support the development, production, and refinement of each project. In spring (BIO 196C), projects are finalized and curated for an exhibition, which is held at the end of the quarter. Students are also required to write a final reflection essay.

Option #3 - Independent Capstone in Biology

Students who wish to conduct an independent, individually-designed capstone project may enroll in the Senior Synthesis. Such individually-designed projects might involve research internships, business internships, travel-based study, teaching, or other forms of community service. Examples of possible products of these individually-designed capstones include the production of a teaching or business plan, a film or podcast, or a public education campaign. Students in this track will take three courses: BIO 199A, BIO 199B, and BIO 199C.

Option #4 - Approved Out-of-Department Capstone

Students may also fulfill their capstone requirement via other approved capstone programs or honors programs, provided that the student’s specific program or project contains a substantial amount of biological relevance or content. Students who wish to use this track must submit a petition to the Biology Undergraduate Studies Committee prior to the spring quarter of their junior year.

Writing in the Major (WIM)
1 designated writing intensive course is required

Students are required to take one of the Biology university-approved WIM courses. WIM courses can overlap with other requirements.

Students can choose from the following options:

  • BIO 46
  • BIO 47
  • BIO 127
  • BIO 168
  • BIO 196A
  • BIO 199A
  • BIO 199W


Older Catalog Degree Requirements

2021-2022 Checklist of Requirements

2020-2021 Checklist Requirements