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Undergraduate Program

biology

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Undergraduate Program Description

The Biology Department considers a basic understanding of biological systems to be an essential skill in our increasingly technological society and offers a range of courses for both biology majors and non-majors. Courses are designed to promote scientific literacy and a sophisticated understanding of complex biological systems. Our courses introduce students to life at various levels of organization, with topics ranging from the molecular basis of cellular function, to the coordination of organ systems in the physiology of organisms, to the interactions of organisms with each other and the environment. The importance of research and experimentation in biology is stressed throughout the curriculum, which includes both lab courses and research experiences.

The Biology Department Offers the Following Degrees:

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology is a structured program for biology majors who are interested in pursuing those aspects of the field that require a strong background knowledge in physics, chemistry, and mathematics and for students who want to fulfill premedical/predental requirements.

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Biology is a flexible program that can prepare students for graduate school in the life sciences or can be integrated with other areas, including law, ethics, history, sociology, computer science, and management. The B.A. provides a solid foundation in biology, but allows more flexibility in course selection by removing some of the chemistry and quantitative requirements that characterize the B.S. program. Thus, students in the B.A. program can either add more depth and focus around a sub discipline or have more breadth, either within the biology curriculum or by taking advantage of the B.A. elective options. Students should note that, unlike the B.S. program, the B.A. program does not fulfill medical school admission requirements.

The Biology Department offers a Minor in Biology and also co-sponsors a B.S. degree in Biochemistry together with the Chemistry Department. The Biochemistry degree is described separately in this Catalog.

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Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A) Program Requirements

  • BIOL2000 Molecules and Cells (3 credits)
  • BIOL2010 Ecology and Evolution (3 credits)
  • BIOL2040 Investigations in Molecular Cell Biology (3 credits)
  • One course from Category A: Genes and Genomes (3-4 Credits)
  • BIOL3150 Introduction to Genomics
    BIOL3190 Genetics and Genomics
    BIOL4170 Microbial Genetics

  • One course from Category B: Organismal and Systems Biology (3-4 credits)
  • BIOL3030 Introduction to Physiology
    BIOL3210 Plant Biology
    BIOL4320 Developmental Biology
    BIOL4330 Human Physiology with lab
    BIOL4590 Introduction to Neuroscience

  • One course from the “Advanced Experience” list—a minimum of 2 credits
  • For the B.S.: Additional electives numbered 3000 and above to reach a minimum of 30 Biology credits for ALL Biology courses. A complete listing of Biology courses is available on the departmental website.
  • For the B.A.: Additional electives numbered 3000 and above to reach a minimum of 33 credits for ALL Biology courses. (Nine credits can be from the B.A. elective list available on the departmental website.)

Advance Experience courses include undergraduate research, research lab courses, and smaller classes involving the primary literature and data analysis. Courses fulfilling this requirement are available on the Biology Department website. Note: While independent undergraduate research courses can be taken over several semesters for credit, only 3 of these credits can be applied toward the 30 required credits for the Biology major (B.A. or B.S.). Students using undergraduate research to fulfill the Advanced Experience requirement and/or to have the 3 credits applied to the Biology major must complete at least two semesters.

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Co-requisite Courses for the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Program

Chemistry (15-16 credits)

General Chemistry I and II with Labs (CHEM1109–1110, CHEM1111–1112)
Organic Chemistry I with Lab (CHEM2231–2232)
Organic Chemistry II with Lab (CHEM2233–2234) OR Biological Chemistry (BIOL4350) OR Biochemistry I (CHEM4461)*

*Premedical students should check medical school programs and/or the premedical office for specific requirements regarding organic chemistry and biochemistry.

Quantitative Requirements: Mathematics, Physics, and Computer Science (four course equivalent 6-18 credits)
  • Calculus I (MATH1100)
  • Calculus II (MATH1101) OR Biostatistics (BIOL2300 or equivalent)
  • Two additional courses from the following list:
  • PHYS2100 Physics I (calculus) with Lab
    PHYS2101 Physics II (calculus) with Lab+
    BIOL2300 Biostatistics (or another department-approved course in statistics)
    BIOL5080 Algorithms in Computational Biology*
    BIOL5240 Computational Foundations of Bioinformatics*
    BIOL5290 Biomolecules: Driving Molecular Forces*
    CSCI1101 Computer Science I
    CSCI1102 Computer Science II
    MATH1101 Calculus II
    MATH courses numbered 2000 or higher+

*BIOL4350, CHEM4461, BIOL5080, BIOL5240, and BIOL5290 cannot be used to satisfy both a co-requisite and a biology elective.
+Requires Calculus II

Note: Biology majors in the Premedical Program take Physics I and II with Labs and should consider adding a statistics course.

Calculus Placement
  • Calculus I requirement is satisfied by completing MATH1100 or with an AP score of 4 or 5 on the AB exam or a score of 3 on the BC exam
  • Calculus I and II can be satisfied by completing MATH1101 or with an AP score of 4 or 5 on the BC exam
  • Calculus II (or the AP option) and Biostatistics can both be applied to the four course requirement, but each course can only be applied once.

Note: Biology majors typically begin and/or complete calculus courses during the freshman year.

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Co-requisite Courses for the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Program (8-12 credits)

  • General Chemistry I and II with Labs (CHEM1109–1110, CHEM1111–1112)
  • Calculus I (MATH1100)

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Course Sequencing

All students should complete BIOL2000 Molecules and Cells as soon as possible. A generalized course sequence is shown below. Because there are several possible progressions through the major, depending on long-term goals, students are strongly urged to consult with their academic advisor.

Freshman/Sophomore Courses

BIOL2000 Molecules and Cells
BIOL2010 Ecology and Evolution
BIOL2040 Investigations in Molecular Cell Biology (prerequisite BIOL2000 and CHEM1109–CHEM1111)*
BIOL3030 Introduction to Physiology
BIOL3040 Cell Biology
BIOL3210 Plant Biology

Sophomore/Junior Courses

BIOL3150 Introduction to Genomics (prerequisite or concurrently BIOL2040)
BIOL3190 Genetics and Genomics (prerequisite or concurrently BIOL2040)
BIOL4010 Environmental Biology
BIOL4140 Microbiology
BIOL4170 Microbial Genetics (prerequisite BIOL2040)
BIOL4350 Biological Chemistry (prerequisite Organic Chemistry I)
BIOL4400 Molecular Biology
BIOL4450 Animal Behavior

Junior/Senior Courses

BIOL4200 Introduction to Bioinformatics
BIOL4260 Human Anatomy with lab
BIOL4320 Developmental Biology (prerequisite BIOL3040 or BIOL4400 or equivalent)
BIOL4330 Human Physiology (prerequisite BIOL3030 or BIOL3040)
BIOL4570 Principles of Immunology (requires course work in cell or molecular biology beyond BIOL2000)**
BIOL4590 Introduction to Neuroscience (prerequisite BIOL3040)
All other 4000 level biology courses (some carry prerequisite course work beyond BIOL2000)

Senior Courses

5000 level courses. Most of these courses have multiple prerequisites.

Prerequisites

*BIOL2040 Investigations in Molecular Cell Biology is a prerequisite (or concurrent enrollment) for all of the genetics and genomics courses, and for many of the upper level electives.

**Many 4000 and 5000 level biology courses require additional course work beyond BIOL2000 in areas of cell or molecular biology. BIOL3040 (Cell Biology), BIOL3210 (Plant Biology), BIOL4140 (Microbiology), and BIOL4400 (Molecular Biology) all provide coverage in these areas at an intermediate level. 

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Advanced Placement Programs for the B.A. and B.S. Degrees

Students who received a score of 5 on the AP exam in their senior year of high school and wish to consider advanced placement may enroll in BIOL3040 in place of BIOL2000. Freshman should enroll in BIOL2010 first semester (there is no AP substitution for BIOL2010), and take BIOL3040 in the second semester, if they wish to continue with the AP substitution for BIOL2000.

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Biology Honors Program

Students apply for the Biology Honors Program during the spring semester of their junior year. To be eligible for the honors program, students must have a minimum science GPA of 3.2 and be working on an independent research project under the mentorship of a biology faculty member. Applications for the program include a description of the research project and a letter of support from the student’s faculty mentor. During senior year, students in the honors program continue their research project, write a thesis describing their research, and participate in a 1-credit thesis seminar. All students in the honors program present their research at Undergraduate Research Day and give an oral presentation open to all members of the Biology Department.

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Information for First Year Students: Biology Majors and Others Considering a Major in Biology

Biology majors in the regular B.A. and B.S. programs are advised to enroll in BIOL2000 Molecules and Cells and BIOL2010 Ecology and Evolution their freshman year. Freshmen are also advised to enroll in CHEM1109/CHEM1110 General Chemistry (with corequisite Labs) and Calculus I or II, depending on their AP scores. First-term AP students will enroll in BIOL2010 Ecology and Evolution. Second term, students using the AP option will enroll directly in BIOL3040 or they can continue with the regular program by enrolling in BIOL2000 Molecules and Cells. Freshman who have completed BIOL2000 and AP students can take the 3-credit biology laboratory during the second semester of their freshman year, if space is available.

Freshman who are interested in biology but feel unprepared to go directly into BIOL2000 or simply want to “try out the discipline” should consider enrolling in BIOL1100 General Biology. This one-semester Core course is designed for non-majors, and will introduce students to the basics of cell structure and function. Students should see an advisor regarding concurrent enrollment in General Chemistry. BIOL1100 satisfies the Natural Science Core but cannot be applied to the Biology or Biochemistry major. 

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Information for Study Abroad and Summer Programs

With Department approval, students may apply ONE course taken either abroad or during a summer session to their biology elective requirements. To be considered as a possible substitute for a biology elective, a course must be a second level course; that is, it must have published biology prerequisites and not be an introductory level course or a course intended for professional study or for non-biology majors. As an exception, students studying abroad for two full academic semesters may apply two courses taken abroad to the biology elective requirement.

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Research Opportunities for Undergraduates

Research is a fundamental aspect of undergraduate training in the sciences, and the Biology Department actively encourages interested majors to take advantage of the undergraduate research programs that are available. There are two distinct options for engaging in research activity.

Option 1: Students do research in the laboratory of a Biology Department faculty member, or at an off-site laboratory with departmental approval. Most students begin research in late sophomore or junior year. Undergraduate research can be taken for course credit over multiple semesters and during their senior year students are encouraged to write a senior research thesis. Exceptional students may apply to enroll in BIOL4921 Advanced Independent Research, a 12-credit commitment over the two semesters of their senior year. If the research is of sufficient quality, these students may be designated a Scholar of the College which will appear on the student’s official transcript.

Option 2: The Department offers a number of research lab courses where students build technical skills in the context of an ongoing research project. These one-semester courses are taught by Biology faculty and focus on their current area of research. Students have full access to dedicated lab space throughout the semester and present their data at the departmental Undergraduate Research Day.

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Requirements for a Minor in Biology

Required Courses*:

BIOL2000 Molecules and Cells (3 credits)
BIOL2010 Ecology and Evolution (3 credits)

Elective Courses*: Choose additional courses and labs from the following list to bring the total Biology credits to 18. Three of the courses must be at least 3 credits each.

  • Any Biology lecture or lab course 3000 level or above that can also be applied to the Biology major
  • BIOL2300 Biostatistics (or another approved statistics course)
  • BIOL2040 Investigations in Molecular Cell Biology

*Some biology courses have pre-requisites, which will not count toward the 18 credtis required for the minor.

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Information for Non-Majors

Non-majors may fulfill their Natural Science Core requirements through the introductory majors courses (BIOL2000 or BIOL2010) or one of several university Core courses offered for non-majors by the department. Non-majors interested in pursuing careers in the allied health professions should enroll in BIOL2000 Molecules and Cells and BIOL3030 Introduction to Physiology. In a subsequent year, students will take the one-semester, 3-credit investigative laboratory to fulfill the lab requirement for medical school or other health-related programs. They may wish to take additional biology courses either required or desired for a specific pre-professional course of study. Additional information about preparation for the allied health professions is available online at www.bc.edu/premed.