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morrissey college of arts and sciences

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, a concentration in Bioinformatics and also co-sponsors a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biochemistry together with the Chemistry Department. The Biochemistry degree is described separately in this Catalog. Requirements for the Biology minor and bioinformatics concentration can be found at the Biology Department website.

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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 (4 Credits)

    BIOL3150 Introduction to Genomics
    BIOL3190 Modern and Classical 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.)

Advanced 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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Corequisite 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 EC1151 or another approved statistics course
  • Two additional courses from the following list:

    PHYS2100 Physics I (calculus) with Lab
    PHYS2101 Physics II (calculus) with Lab+
    BIOL2300 Biostatistics (or EC1151 or another department-approved course in statistics)
    CSCI1101 Computer Science I
    CSCI1102 Computer Science II
    MATH1101 Calculus II
    Mathematics courses numbered 2000 or higher+

    Additional options are noted on the Biology Department website.

*BIOL4350 or CHEM4461 cannot be used to satisfy both a corequisite 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. However, students not wishing to take three math/science courses in their first semester of freshman year are advised to delay calculus. Questions should be addressed to the Biology Department.

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Corequisite 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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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. Freshmen 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. The AP substitution does not reduce the total number of credits for the major; students will still need a total of 30 credits in biology courses.

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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 should 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. Calculus need not be taken in the freshman year.

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Information for Study Abroad and Summer Programs

With Department approval, students may apply ONE course taken either abroad or during an off-campus 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 with 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.

This policy does not apply to Biology Department major elective courses offered through the Boston College Summer School; such courses are applied to the Biology major as regular academic-year electives.

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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. Undergraduate research can be taken for course credit over multiple semesters.  Two semesters must be completed to fulfill a Biology elective requirement.  Only 3 credits of the undergraduate research are applied to the Biology major; all credits are applied to the 120 credits for graduation

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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Biology Senior Thesis

Students doing undergraduate research may elect to write a Senior Thesis with the approval and support of their faculty research adviser. Students writing a thesis are recognized at Undergraduate Research Day. Student producing the “Best Senior Thesis,” as judged by a faculty committee, is awarded the Balkema Prize.

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Information for Non-Majors

Non-majors may fulfill their Natural Science Core requirements through the introductory major courses (BIOL2000 or BIOL2010) or one of several university Core courses offered for non-majors by the Department. Information about preparation for the allied health professions is available online at

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