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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2023-24

Biological Sciences - Undergraduate


Chair: C. Robertson McClung

Professors M. P. Ayres, M. Bezanilla, S. E. Bickel, R. G. Calsbeek, K. L. Cottingham, M. L. Guerinot, T. P. Jack, W-L. Lee, C. R. McClung, M. A. McPeek, K. J. Peterson, G. E. Schaller,  E. F. Smith, L. A. Witters; Associate Professors P. J. Dolph, E. E. Griffin, B. He, M. B. Hoppa, C. D. Nadell, C. E. Hicks Pries, O. Zhaxybayeva; Assistant Professors  A. A. Amodeo, D. D. Ghosh, R. A. Hill, M. E. Laidre; Senior Lecturer N. M. Grotz; Lecturers B. Calsbeek, M. M. Gamble; Professor Emeritus E. M. Berger, C. L. Folt, J. J. Gilbert, D. R. Peart; Research Professor and Professor Emeritus R. T. Holmes, R. D. Sloboda; Associate Professor Emeritus S. J. Velez; Adjunct Professors K. E. Griswold, D. A. Leib, L. R. Lynd, G. A. O’Toole, M. J. Turk, M. E. Zegans; Adjunct Associate Professors D. Gilbert-Diamond; Adjunct Assistant Professors C. G. Howe, M. E. Romano; Research Professor C. Y. Chen; Research Associate Professor T. Punshon

To view Biological Sciences Undergraduate courses, click here. 

To view Biological Sciences Graduate requirements, click here.

To view Biological Sciences Graduate courses, click here.


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 advisors.

Prerequisites: CHEM 5 and CHEM 6 (or equivalent), and one quantitative course from among BIOL 29, COSC 1, ENGS 20, EARS 17, QSS 15, MATH 4, MATH 8 or above. MATH 10 (or equivalent) satisfies the quantitative requirement. Students who elect to include BIOL 29 in their area of concentration (see below) must fulfill this prerequisite with one of the other courses listed above.  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.

Biology 11: BIOL 11 (The Science of Life) is one pathway for entering the Biology curriculum. BIOL 11 counts toward the major if it is taken anytime during the first year (including after taking one or more Foundation courses) or as the first biology course. Only one offering of BIOL 11 may be taken for credit. Students interested in the subject matter of Biology Foundation courses may wish to take the Biology Placement test (available in Canvas) to help them make decisions about course selection. 

Foundation Courses:  Students take three courses from among five foundation courses: BIOL 12/BIOL 19 (Cell Structure and Function); BIOL 13 (Gene Expression and Inheritance); BIOL 14 (Physiology); BIOL 15 (Genetic Variation and Evolution); BIOL 16 (Ecology).  The foundation courses are not sequenced and may be taken in any order.  Students interested in Bio FSP are encouraged to take BIOL 16 in fall or spring of their first year and BIOL 15 in their first or second year.  In deciding which three courses to select from this list, students should discuss with their faculty advisors 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. 

Area of Concentration: To complete the major, students develop an area of concentration by taking seven additional courses, including two biology courses numbered 50 or above. Biology courses numbered 10 or below may not be counted towards the major.  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.  Students may also develop 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 in that area). 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 the departmental Undergraduate Committee to suggest a faculty member who would be appropriate to advise the student in developing their course plan. In recognition of the interdisciplinary nature of the life sciences, 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 may be constructed (see below). One term of Independent Research (BIOL 95) or Honors Research (BIOL 97) may also be included among the seven courses.

Culminating Experience

To satisfy the culminating experience requirement, students must take a course numbered 50 or above, normally during their senior year. Any Biology course numbered 50 or above that is appropriate for the student’s area of concentration will satisfy the culminating experience requirement.  Each student will determine with their faculty advisor 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 the departmental Undergraduate Committee.


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 apply to enroll in BIOL 97/98. 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 95/96.

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 95/96 or BIOL 97/98 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 95, BIOL 96, BIOL 97 or BIOL 98.

BIOL 97 (or BIOL 95) may be counted only once among the seven 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 determine if the student’s degree is awarded with honors.

Requirements for a Biology Modified Major

Students who wish to complement their interest in the life sciences with several courses in one or more disciplines may consider a modified major. For a modified major, the prerequisite and foundation course requirements remain the same. The area of concentration consists of five advanced Biology courses (additional foundation courses and courses numbered 20 and above) and four suitable advanced courses from another department or combination of departments. At least two of the advanced Biology courses should be numbered 50 and above; one of these is the culminating experience, normally taken in the senior year.  Courses outside the Biology Department may not be substituted for foundation courses or for the five advanced Biology courses in their area of concentration.

Biology Major Modified with Math

Mathematics is the “Language of Science”. Students who are more quantitatively oriented may 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 the biology courses in their 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 (Probability), MATH 36 (Mathematical Models in the Social Sciences), MATH 76 (Topics in Applied Mathematics)

Probability and Statistics: MATH 20 (Probability), MATH 28 (Introduction to Combinatorics), MATH 40 (Probability and Statistical Inference), MATH 50 (Introduction to Linear Models), MATH 70 (Elements of Multivariable Statistics and Statistical Learning)

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 CHEM 5 and CHEM 6 (or equivalent) and one quantitative course from among BIOL 29, COSC 1, ENGS 20, EARS 17, QSS 15, MATH 4, MATH 8 or above.  MATH 10 (or equivalent) satisfies the quantitative requirement.  In addition, students will complete two foundation courses and four additional Biology courses (BIOL 11 or above). Students may choose to use BIOL 29 as a prerequisite or as one of the four additional Biology courses, but not both. Students who elect to count BIOL 29 as one of the four additional courses must fulfill the quantitative prerequisite with one of the other courses listed above.  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 foundation courses, or the four additional Biology courses.


Academic Standing Satisfactory completion of the Biology major or modified major requires obtaining a final grade point average of at least 2.00 in BIOL 11 (if taken for the major) and all foundation and area of concentration courses applied to the major. Post-matriculation 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 gives no credit for courses taken at another college or university prior to first year matriculation at Dartmouth.