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Frequently Asked Questions

biology department

Biology BS and BA Programs

1) What are the differences between the BS and BA programs?

The Biology BS program is a structured program that requires students to complete additional coursework in the physical sciences and mathematics (i.e., organic chemistry, calculus-based physics, and Calculus II).

The Biology BA program also has a solid foundation in biology, but allows more flexibility in course selection by removing some of the chemistry and quantitative requirements that characterize the BS program. Thus, students in the BA 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 BA elective options.

2) Do graduate programs prefer a Biology BS or BA degree?

The admission to graduate programs is not based on the type of degree, but rather on the preparation for their specific program. Since admission requirements vary by graduate program, we urge all students to contact the graduate programs in which they are interested for specific admissions requirements. Students in the Pre-Medical Program will typically complete the BS degree since this option automatically fulfills pre-medical requirements as part of the degree.

Advanced Placement

 3) Can I use AP Biology credits for my biology requirements?

Students who received a 5 on the AP Biology exam in their senior year of high school and wish to consider advanced placement may enroll in Cell Biology (BI 304) in place of Molecules & Cells (BI 200).

As entering freshmen, these students should enroll in BI 201 Ecology & Evolution during the fall semester (there is no AP substitution for BI 201) and then take BI 304 Cell Biology in the spring semester.

4) Can I apply AP Calculus credits towards the math requirement for the major?

The following are the general guidelines regarding how AP Calculus scores may be applied towards the quantitative requirements for the biology major.

First-year biology majors will typically take Calculus 1 or Calculus 2 in their freshman year, depending on their Advanced Placement scores. Freshmen should consult the guidelines below and also consult with a Math Advisor at First-Year Student Orientation.

  • Calculus 1 requirement is satisfied by completing MT 100 or an AP score of 4 or 5 on the AB Calculus Exam, or a score of 3 on the BC exam.
  • Calculus 1 and 2 can be satisfied by completing MT 101 or with an AP score of 4 or 5 on the BC exam.
  • Calculus 2 (or the AP option) and Biostatistics can both be applied to the four-course requirement, but each course can only be applied once.

Undergraduate Research

5) Where can I learn more about undergraduate research opportunities in Biology?

Please see further information about Undergraduate Research in the Boston College Biology Department.


6) Is it possible to complete an internship in Biology?

Biology Majors who wish to complete an internship for academic credit should fill out the Internship Approval Form and submit this to the Academic Advising Center.

If the internship is approved, students will be registered for a 1-credit, UN-course.

NOTE: This internship credit cannot be applied to the biology major requirements.

Study Abroad

 7) Can I balance studying abroad with the biology major?

There are two important things that biology majors should consider when planning to study abroad.

First, Biology BS majors need to plan how to fulfill their Introductory Physics requirement. Most students will study abroad during their junior year and this is also a time in the curriculum when BS majors are completing their Physics Requirement. Since Introductory Physics is a two-semester sequence, students will need to wait until their senior year to complete the requirement or they make take a calculus-based Physics course over the summer, with department approval.  Pre-Med students should be aware that delaying Physics until their senior year may also mean delaying the MCAT. Please see further information from the Pre-Medical Program about Studying Abroad.

Second, both BS and BA majors should plan out their biology electives to make sure they will complete the necessary electives for graduation. The Biology Department allows majors to carry over a maximum of one biology elective for each semester that they are abroad.

Students should get their biology elective approved in the Biology Office before they go abroad. Further information about the Study Abroad Process is described below.

 8) Where can I learn more about Study Abroad?

Please find more information at the Boston College Office of International Programs.

In order to have courses approved towards your biology major, please come to the Biology Office in Higgins 355.

Biology Curriculum

 9) When should I take the BI 204 lab, Investigations in Molecular Cell Biology?

Biology and Biochemistry majors should plan to take BI 204 in their sophomore year.

Students should try to take the lab as soon as possible after completing BI 200. For biology majors, the BI 204 lab is a pre-requisite (or concurrent enrollment) for all of the genetics and genomics courses and for many of the biology electives.

10) I noticed there are two Physiology courses (BI 303 and BI 433) in the schedule. What are the differences between the two and which one should I take?

Introduction to Physiology (BI 303) is a freshman/sophomore course with broad, comprehensive coverage of physiology. This course has a pre-requisite of BI 200 and is specifically designed for students in the pre-medical program (biology majors and non-majors). This course does not have a laboratory.

Human Physiology with Lab (BI 433) is a junior/senior level course and it has a pre-requisite of BI 304 (Cell Biology). BI 433 does not require BI 303 as a pre-requisite.

Both BI 303 and BI 433 will fulfill the Category B (Organismal & Systems Biology) requirement for the major.  Students who have completed BI 303 may also take BI 433; topics will overlap, but the laboratory and lecture content will provide greater depth.

Juniors and Seniors who are taking their first physiology course are strongly advised to take BI 433 over BI 303.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Students planning on attending post-graduate programs in allied health fields that require a physiology lab should plan ahead and take BI 433. Students should also know that the lab cannot be separated from the BI 433 lecture.

11) I am interested in an allied health profession (ex: Physician Assistant, Physical Therapy, Nurse Practitioner). Which courses should I consider taking as a biology major?

Students should always check directly with the graduate program of their interest since admissions requirements will vary by graduate program. However, these students should consider coursework in the following areas.

Anatomy and Physiology:
Many post-graduate allied health professions require an A&P sequence, often with accompanying labs. Biology majors will not be given permission to take the A&P sequence through the nursing program.

Rather, biology majors should enroll in Human Anatomy with Lab (BI 426) and Human Physiology with Lab (BI 433). Both of these courses are biology electives and are best taken in sequence.

Microbiology (BI 414) is a biology elective. This course does not have an associated lab. However, students needing a laboratory can enroll in the Microbiology Lab for Health Professionals (BI 221). Since the BI 221 lab is not offered in the same semester as BI 414, biology majors can take this lab before or after taking BI 414, with department permission.

12) Are there certain biology courses that I should take at a specific time in the biology curriculum?

To plan out their sequence of biology courses, students should look at the Course Sequence website and try to fill out a Plan of Study form with their advisor.

There are certain biology courses to consider taking earlier in the curriculum, described below.

Cell Biology (BI 304) is a pre-requisite for the following popular courses (the list is not exhaustive). Students should check the pre-requisites for specific courses:

  • BI 432 Developmental Biology
  • BI 433 Human Physiology with Lab
  • BI 481 Introduction to Neuroscience
  • BI 509 Vertebrate Cell Biology

Students should also know that many 400 and 500-level biology courses require additional coursework beyond BI 200 in areas of cell or molecular biology. BI 304 (Cell Biology), BI 321 (Plant Biology), BI 414 (Microbiology) and BI 440 (Molecular Biology) all provide coverage in these areas at an intermediate level.

Summer Courses

13) Can I use summer courses to satisfy requirements for the major?

Yes, students could take either a biology elective or a co-requisite course (Chemistry, Math, or Physics) in a summer session.

It is important that students need to get these courses Pre-approved by the Department before they register for a summer course. Students seeking approval for a biology elective should print out the course description and bring it to the Biology Office in Higgins 355.

Summer classes must be taken at a four-year college or university.

Further Questions

 14) If I have further questions, who can answer them?

Please come to the Biology Office in Higgins 355 if you have further questions about your biology major.



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