BA in Biology—Behavioral Biology Specialization

Changes to this program will take effect in the 2017–2018 academic year.

The major in Biology with a specialization in Behavioral Biology (SBB) offers students the opportunity to develop an integrative and individualized curriculum bridging coursework in behavioral science in the Department of Biology with complementary classes in behavior taught in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences. The specialization builds upon instruction in the fundamental principles of the organization of behavior through integrated coursework in biology, biological anthropology, and psychological & brain sciences, spanning non-human animal behavior and human behavior across multiple levels of analysis. The interdisciplinary nature of the specialization affords broad knowledge and deep insight into the evolution and ecology of behavior and its hormonal, neural, and genetic mechanisms, and prepares students for postgraduate study in basic and biomedical research. Flexibility in course selection enables students to pursue individual interests and engage in undergraduate research.


The requirements for the specialization in Behavioral Biology include a total of twelve courses in biology, anthropology, psychological & brain sciences that emphasize behavioral biology and related disciplines, and seven related chemistry, mathematics/computer science, and physics courses.

After introductory biology, three courses must be lab courses taken in the Biology Department. One semester of 4-credit independent research may be used toward the three-lab requirement.

Students must earn a grade of C or higher in all biology (and/or anthropology and/or psychological & brain sciences), mathematics or computer science, and physics courses. A grade of C- or higher is required for credit in the prerequisite and corequisite chemistry courses.

Course titles and full descriptions are located in the Courses portion of this Bulletin.
 Unless otherwise noted, all courses are 4 credit hours.

Introductory Biology (2 courses)

  • CAS BI 107 (or CGS NS 201)
  • CAS BI 108

Breadth Requirement (3 courses)

Choose one course in each of the following three areas:

Cell & Molecular Biology (CM):

  • CAS BI 203 (or BI 213) or
  • CAS BI 206 recommended (or BI 216)

Physiology and Neurobiology (PN)

  • CAS BI 315* or
  • CAS BI 325 (or NE 203*)

Ecology, Behavior, Evolution (EBE)

  • CAS BI 407*

*Course will also satisfy one of the three lab requirements.

Note: A course may not fulfill a breadth requirement and an interdisciplinary elective simultaneously.

Foundation Course (1 course)

It is recommended that students take this course in the fall of sophomore year:

  • CAS BI 225

Primary Electives (2 courses)

Choose two:

  • CAS BI 230
  • CAS BI/NE 449*
  • CAS BI 502
  • CAS BI 508
  • CAS BI/NE 542
  • CAS BI 545
  • CAS BI 554
  • CAS AN 335 (counts as 1 of 2 AN or PS requirements)

*Course will also satisfy one of the three lab requirements.

Note: A course may not count as a primary elective and an interdisciplinary elective simultaneously.

Biology, Anthropology, and Psychological & Brain Sciences Electives (4 courses)

Choose four (two courses must have an AN or PS designation, which can include CAS AN 335 taken as a primary elective course):

  • CAS BI 230
  • CAS BI 260
  • CAS BI 302*
  • CAS BI 303*
  • CAS BI 306*
  • CAS BI 309
  • CAS BI 325 (or NE 203*)
  • CAS BI 414
  • CAS BI/NE 449*
  • CAS BI 502
  • CAS BI 504
  • CAS BI 506
  • CAS BI 508
  • CAS BI 512*
  • CAS BI 515
  • CAS BI 519*
  • CAS BI/NE 520
  • CAS BI/NE 535
  • CAS BI/NE 542
  • CAS BI 545
  • CAS BI 554
  • CAS BI 599
  • CAS AN 263
  • CAS AN 331
  • CAS AN 333
  • CAS AN 334
  • CAS AN 335
  • CAS AN 338
  • CAS AN 339
  • CAS AN 534
  • CAS AN 552
  • CAS AN 558
  • CAS AN 598
  • CAS PS 231
  • CAS PS 234
  • CAS PS/NE 333
  • CAS PS 336
  • CAS PS/NE 337
  • CAS PS/NE 338
  • CAS PS/NE 528

Note: After introductory biology, at least three courses must be at the 300–500 level and three must have a laboratory component. A 300–500-level course with a laboratory simultaneously counts as one of the biology courses beyond BI 107 & 108, a 300–500-level course, and a laboratory requirement. Nonetheless, it is still counted as a single course toward fulfillment of the major.

*Course will also satisfy one of the three lab requirements.

Tropical Ecology Program (TEP)*

The Ecuador Tropical Ecology Program is offered every Fall and Spring Semester.The program consists of four ecology courses based on field research:

  • CAS BI/GE 438
  • CAS BI/GE 439
  • CAS BI/GE 440
  • CAS BI/GE 441

Please check the Study Abroad web page for prerequisites and other details of the Tropical Ecology Program.

Marine Semester (MS)*

The Marine Semester is offered every Fall Semester. Students are required to select one course during each of four “blocks.” Each block comprises 18–20 class days.

Please check the BA in Marine Science section of this Bulletin for an updated list of MS courses. Students may also refer to the Boston University Marine Program (BUMP) website for additional information about the Marine Semester.

*Note: Students must apply and be accepted into the TEP to take the TEP courses listed above. TEP and MS courses fulfill all 4 additional electives and satisfy the biology major requirements of three courses at the 300–500 level, and three courses with a laboratory or field component.

Undergraduate Research Options

While research is not required by the major, undergraduate students are encouraged to participate in research during their time at Boston University.

Research for credit courses require students to submit an application and receive approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Freshmen and sophomores may take CAS BI 191/192 or BI 291/292 for 2 credits per semester. These courses will not count toward the major.

Juniors and seniors may take CAS BI 391/392 and BI 491/492 for 4 credits toward the major. A maximum of 8 credits (two courses) from the following courses may be counted as biology, anthropology, and psychological & brain sciences electives, but no more than 4 credits (one course) will apply toward the laboratory requirement. Students do not need to take two consecutive semesters of research to apply 8 credits toward the major (ex. students can take CAS BI 391 and BI 491 and apply all 8 credits toward the major). A total of 12 credits of directed study may be applied toward graduation credits.

  • CAS BI 391/392
  • CAS BI 401/402
  • CAS BI 491/492

Honors Research in Biology (CAS BI 401 & 402) requires an overall GPA of 3.0 and a Biology GPA of 3.5. Students must complete two semesters of research and one semester of the Honors Seminar (CAS BI 497/498). Honors Research requires completion and defense of a written senior thesis.

Please visit the Biology Department website for additional information regarding undergraduate research opportunities and instructions on how to apply for credit.

Note: Junior and senior biology research or their equivalents in biological anthropology or psychological & brain sciences may be counted toward the behavioral specialization.

Related Requirements (7 courses)


Three courses in chemistry are required and may be chosen from the following tracks:

Chemistry Track I:

  • CAS CH 101 & 102 (or 109 & 110 or 111 & 112);
  • CAS CH 203 (or 211)

Chemistry Track II (Life Sciences Chemistry track will not fulfill requirements of medical school or some other health-related professions):

  • CAS CH 171;
  • CAS CH 174;
  • CAS CH 273

Note: It is recommended that CAS CH 101/102 (or 171/174) be taken concurrently with CAS BI 107/108 freshman year, if possible. CAS CH 203 (or 211 or 273) is a corequisite for CAS BI 203 and a prerequisite for CAS BI 206. Students intending to apply to medical and other professional schools will require a fourth semester of chemistry, CAS CH 204 (or 212 or 214), as well as biochemistry.

Mathematics/Computer Science

Two courses in mathematics (calculus or statistics) or one course in mathematics and one in computer science, from the list below.

Calculus Courses

  • CAS MA 121
  • CAS MA 122
  • CAS MA 123
  • CAS MA 124
  • CAS MA 127
  • CAS MA 129
  • CAS MA 196

Note: Only one of CAS MA 121 and 123 can be taken for credit; similarly, only one of CAS MA 122, 124, 127, or 129 can be taken for credit. CAS MA 127 or MA 129 satisfies the two-course mathematics or mathematics/computer science requirement for this major.

Statistics Courses

  • CAS MA 115
  • CAS MA 116
  • CAS MA 213
  • CAS MA 214

Note: Only one of CAS MA 113, 115, or 213 can be taken for credit; similarly, only one of CAS MA 116 or 214 can be taken for credit. MA 113 will not satisfy the SBB major math requirement.

Computer Science Courses

  • CAS CS 105
  • CAS CS 108
  • CAS CS 111

Two courses in physics from one of the following four sequences:

  • CAS PY 105 & 106 or
  • CAS PY 211 & 106 or
  • CAS PY 211 & 212 or
  • CAS PY 241 & 242

Additional Information

Please see the Department of Biology portion of this Bulletin for information on the following topics:

  • Advanced Placement (AP)
  • Department Residency Requirement
  • Intercollege Cross-Registration
  • Premedical Students
  • Study Abroad Programs