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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 (BIOL 3040) in place of Molecules & Cells (BIOL 2000).

As entering freshmen, these students should enroll in BIOL 2010 Ecology & Evolution during the fall semester (there is no AP substitution for BIOL 2010) and then take BIOL 3040 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 MATH 1100 or an AP score of 4 or 5 on the AB Calculus Exam.
  • Calculus 1 and 2 can be satisfied by completing MATH 1101 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 by completing a course approval form. 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 BIOL 2040 lab, Investigations in Molecular Cell Biology?

Biology and Biochemistry majors should plan to take BIOL 2040 in their sophomore year.

Students should try to take the lab as soon as possible after completing BIOL 2000. For biology majors, the BIOL 2040 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 (BIOL 3030 and BIOL 4330) in the schedule. What are the differences between the two and which one should I take?

Introduction to Physiology (BIOL 3030) is a freshman/sophomore course with broad, comprehensive coverage of physiology. This course has a pre-requisite of BIOL 2000 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 (BIOL 4330) is a junior/senior level course and it has a pre-requisite of BIOL 3040 (Cell Biology). BIOL 4330 does not require BIOL 3030 as a pre-requisite.

Both BIOL 3030 and BIOL 4330 will fulfill the Category B (Organismal & Systems Biology) requirement for the major.  Students who have completed BIOL 3030 may also take BIOL 4330; 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 BIOL 4330 over BIOL 3030.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Students planning on attending post-graduate programs in allied health fields that require a physiology lab should plan ahead and take BIOL 4330. Students should also know that the lab cannot be separated from the BIOL 4330 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 (BIOL 4260) and Human Physiology with Lab (BIOL 4330). Both of these courses are biology electives and are best taken in sequence.

Microbiology (BIOL 4140) 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 (BIOL 2210). Since the BIOL 2210 lab is not offered in the same semester as BIOL 4140, biology majors can take this lab before or after taking BIOL 4140, 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 (BIOL 3040) is a pre-requisite for the following popular courses (the list is not exhaustive). Students should check the pre-requisites for specific courses:

  • BIOL 4320 Developmental Biology
  • BIOL 4330 Human Physiology with Lab
  • BIOL 4590 Introduction to Neuroscience
  • BIOL 5090 Cellular Differentiation

Students should also know that many 4000 and 5000-level biology courses require additional coursework beyond BIOL 2000 in areas of cell or molecular biology. BIOL 3040 (Cell Biology), BIOL 3210 (Plant Biology), BIOL 4140 (Microbiology) and BIOL 4400 (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 individual 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.  University Student Services also provides additional details about summer courses on their Academic Policies page.

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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