Biological Sciences Requirements
Requirements for Majors in the Department of Biological Sciences
The biological sciences are a diverse collection of scientific disciplines that interact and intermingle in tremendously complex and interesting ways. To provide the maximum potential for students to explore this vast area of science, the Department of Biological Sciences offers a flexible major that allows students to select coursework to fit their individual interests and career aspirations. Before declaring an area of concentration, students develop their course plan in consultation with one or more faculty mentors.
Prerequisites: BIOL 11, CHEM 5 and CHEM 6 (or equivalent), and one quantitative course from among BIOL 29, COSC 1, COSC 5, ENGS 20, EARS 17, MATH 4, MATH 8 or above. MATH 10 (or equivalent) satisfies the quantitative requirement. A student who elects to include BIOL 29 in his/her area of concentration (see below) must fulfill this prerequisite with one of the other courses listed above. Students who have completed BIOL/CHEM 8 and 9 will have fulfilled the prerequisite requirements of BIOL 11 and CHEM 5, but not CHEM 6. Although not required for the major, some upper-level Biology courses require CHEM 51-52 (or equivalent). In addition, because many graduate and professional schools require CHEM 51-52 for admission, we highly recommend that students consider taking these courses. Students must pass all prerequisite courses for the major in order to graduate.
Foundation Courses: After completing BIOL 11, students take three courses from among five foundation courses: BIOL 12 (Cell Structure and Function); BIOL 13 (Gene Expression and Inheritance); BIOL 14 (Physiology); BIOL 15 (Genetic Variation and Evolution); BIOL 16 (Ecology). BIOL 11 or BIOL 9/CHEM 9 is the only prerequisite for the five foundation courses. The foundation courses, BIOL 12-16, are not sequenced and may be taken in any order. In deciding which three courses to select from this list, students should discuss with their faculty mentors which foundation courses would be most appropriate for their area of concentration. Not all foundation courses need to be completed before the student moves on to courses in their area of concentration.
BIOL 11 or BIOL 9/CHEM 9 is the only prerequisite for the five foundation courses.
Area of Concentration: To complete the major, students focus in an area of concentration by taking six additional courses. Biology courses numbered 010 or below may not be counted towards the major (Biology/Chemistry 8 and 9 are the exceptions). Below we list a number of possible areas of concentration that students may find useful in guiding their course selection. Please keep in mind that this list is not rigid or exhaustive. The courses listed for each area are suggestions to help you get started. Students are not required to limit themselves to the courses listed under a single area. It is also possible to engineer an area of concentration that is not listed.
Any Biology faculty member may serve as your advisor even if they are not listed under a specific area of concentration (provided they feel comfortable advising you). Our hope is that together with your advisor you will design a major that fulfills your unique interests and goals. Faculty members with interests in the listed areas are given below; students interested in other areas should ask the Department Chair or chair of the departmental Undergraduate Committee to suggest a faculty member that would be appropriate to mentor the student in developing their course plan. Up to two suitable advanced courses from other departments may be included in the area of concentration when appropriate to the student’s objectives, or a modified major can be constructed (see below). One term of Independent Research (BIOL 95) or Honors Research (BIOL 97) may also be included among the six courses.
One course among the six in the area of concentration must satisfy the culminating experience requirement. Any Biology course numbered 50 or above that is appropriate for the student’s Area of Concentration will satisfy the culminating experience requirement. Although only one course at this level is required for a culminating experience, we encourage students to enroll in more than one course numbered 50 or above. Each student will determine with their faculty mentor which course is suitable as a culminating experience for their Area of Concentration and interests. These courses include the Biology foreign study program, independent research courses, courses that focus on the primary literature in a discipline, and courses with substantial laboratory components and/or individual projects. The culminating experience course should be taken in a student’s senior year, although a course taken in the junior year may in exceptional circumstances satisfy the culminating experience and requires the approval of the Department Chair or chair of the departmental Undergraduate Committee.
Requirements for a Biology Modified Major
For a modified major, the area of concentration consists of four Biology courses and four suitable advanced courses from another department or combination of departments. Prerequisite and foundation course requirements remain the same. Courses outside the Biology Department may not be substituted for BIOL 11, Foundation courses, or the four additional Biology courses.
Biology Major Modified with Math
Mathematics is the “Language of Science”. Students who are more quantitatively oriented will want to consider modifying their Biology major with Mathematics. To facilitate this, the Biological Sciences and Mathematics Departments have agreed on the following structure for a Biology modified with Mathematics major. In addition to their four advanced biology courses in the area of concentration, students choosing this option will take four courses from among the offerings in Mathematics. Prerequisites and foundation course requirements for the Biology major remain the same. All students choosing this option must take MATH 22 (Linear Algebra with Applications) and MATH 23 (Differential Equations). The other two mathematics courses should be chosen in consultation with your Biology advisor depending on your area of concentration. Any two courses in the following list of Mathematics Department courses are appropriate:
Discrete Methods and Modeling: MATH 20 (Discrete Probability), MATH 36 (Mathematical Models for the Social Sciences), MATH 76 (Topics in Applied Mathematics)
Probability and Statistics: MATH 20 (Discrete Probability), MATH 28 (Introduction to Combinatorics), MATH 30 (Introduction to Linear Models), MATH 40 (Topics in Applied Probability), MATH 50 (Probability and Statistical Inference), MATH 70 (Mathematical Statistics)
Dynamics: MATH 46 (Introduction to Applied Mathematics), MATH 53 (Chaos!), MATH 76 (Topics in Applied Mathematics)
Requirements for the Biology Minor
The prerequisites for the Biology minor are BIOL 11, CHEM 5 and CHEM 6 (or equivalent) and one quantitative course from among BIOL 29, COSC 1, COSC 5, ENGS 20, EARS 17, MATH 4, MATH 8 or above. MATH 10 (or equivalent) satisfies the quantitative requirement. A student who elects to include BIOL 29 in his/her area of concentration (see below) must fulfill this prerequisite with one of the other courses listed above. In addition, students will complete two Foundation courses and three additional Biology courses (BIOL 12 or above). Students may choose to use BIOL 29 as a prerequisite or as one of the three additional Biology courses, but not both. Students do not need to develop an area of concentration for the minor but they may do so if they wish. Courses outside the Biology Department may not be substituted for BIOL 11, Foundation courses, or the three additional Biology courses.
Satisfactory completion of the Biology major or modified major requires obtaining a final grade point average of at least 2.00 in BIOL 11 and all foundation and area of concentration courses applied to the major. Transfer credits may not be used for BIOL 11 or the Foundation courses. No more than two transfer credits may be used for area of concentration courses.
Credit and Advanced Placement
The Department will give one unspecified credit for a biology course to students who receive a score of 5 on the CEEB Advanced Placement Test or a score of 6 or 007 on the Higher Level International Baccalaureate (IB) exam. This unspecified credit satisfies no prerequisite or major course requirements and allows no placement into advanced courses. Under exceptional circumstances, students (including those with IB credit) may request permission in writing, supplying suitable evidence of their preparation for placement into advanced courses, before the end of the fall term. Students who seek such credit should consult the faculty of the course in question and the chair of the departmental Undergraduate Committee. The Department gives no credit for courses taken at another college or university prior to matriculation at Dartmouth.
Independent Research and the Biology Honors Program
Biology majors are encouraged to undertake independent research in biology either as part of the Honors Program or separately. Participants in the Honors Program should enroll in BIOL 097. The subject of the honors research project should be directly relevant to the student’s area of concentration. Those who conduct research outside of the Honors Program should enroll in BIOL 095.
Work on an Honors thesis normally extends through three terms or more. Candidates for Honors must meet the minimum College requirements. Application to enroll in BIOL 095 or BIOL 097 should be made at least one month prior to the beginning of the term in which the course is to be elected. Plans for research should be made in the term before the project begins. Independent research conducted off campus during a leave/transfer term without the direct supervision of a faculty advisor from the Dartmouth College Department of Biological Sciences cannot be used to earn credit for BIOL 095, BIOL 096, or BIOL 097.
BIOL 97 (or BIOL 95) may be counted only once among the six courses for the area of concentration, but two terms of Independent Research may be taken for course credit towards graduation.
Each Honors candidate shall submit a thesis to a committee at least two weeks before the end of the last term. The committee will be composed of three faculty members, including the thesis supervisor. At least two members of this committee must be members of the Biology faculty. Each candidate’s Honors Program concludes with the candidate making a public presentation of her or his work, followed by an oral examination, conducted by the thesis committee, on the thesis work and related topics. The quality of the written thesis and the student’s grasp of his or her research program as determined by their performance on the oral exam determines if the student’s degree is awarded with honors.