BA in Biology—Neurobiology Specialization

Our understanding of the human brain and diseases of the nervous system is rapidly expanding. The Biology major with a Specialization in Neurobiology (NB) provides an opportunity for students to understand the brain from a biological perspective, combining a broad-based biology education with access to advanced neuroscience courses. In addition, students will have research opportunities in areas such as sensory biology at cellular, network, and behavioral levels; the cellular and molecular mechanisms of neurological diseases and dysfunctions including Alzheimer’s disease, autism, neuronal cell death, and traumatic brain injuries; neuroethology; computational and network analysis of sensory-motor learning; and membrane excitability at a subcellular level. Upon completion of this specialization, students are prepared for careers in the biotechnology industry and for graduate studies in the biomedical sciences and medicine.

A dual degree BA/MS in Biology is available to students pursuing the bachelor’s degree in Biology with a Specialization in Neurobiology.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental principles spanning the breadth of biology, with an in-depth knowledge of cellular and systems neurobiology.
  • Demonstrate expertise in the scientific method, specifically the ability to apply the scientific method—which includes critical assessment of the scientific literature, analysis of data, and use of modeling and simulation in the understanding and communication of biology.
  • Attain the technical and/or analytical skills required for employment or postgraduate education in biology or biology-related careers, including professional careers and science education.


All first-year, first-time students will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, a general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements are flexible and can be satisfied in many different ways, through coursework in and beyond the major and, in some cases, through cocurricular activities. Through required coursework for the major, students in the Neurobiology Specialization ordinarily will satisfy nearly all the BU Hub requirements in the Scientific and Social Inquiry, Quantitative Reasoning, and Communication Capacities, as well as most of the requirements in the Intellectual Toolkit Capacity. In addition, some BU Hub units may be earned in the Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship Capacity as well as the Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Historical Interpretation Capacity through specific foundation, breadth, and elective courses. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or through an approved cocurricular experience.

The specialization in Neurobiology requires a total of 12 biology courses (introductory, foundation, breadth, and elective courses). Students must also complete a total of six to seven related courses in chemistry, math/computer science, and physics.

Excluding Introductory Biology courses:

  • at least three biology courses must have a laboratory component
  • at least three biology courses must be at the 300+ level
  • at least five biology courses must be taken in the BU Biology Department (or be crosslisted with BI courses in CAS or MET)

Biology course requirements can overlap (e.g., BI 306 simultaneously counts as a breadth requirement, as a lab course, and as a 300+ level course. Nonetheless, BI 306 is only counted as a single course toward fulfillment of the major).

Some Neurobiology course requirements can overlap. (E.g., BI 407 simultaneously counts as a breadth requirement, as a lab course, and as a 300+ level course. Nonetheless, BI 407 is only counted as a single course toward fulfillment of the major. BI 407 cannot simultaneously count as both a Breadth and Elective course.)

A grade of C or higher is required for major credit in all courses (except corequisite chemistry courses). A grade of C– or higher is required for major credit in corequisite chemistry courses.

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

Introductory Biology (2 courses)

  • CAS BI 107 (or CGS NS 201)
  • CAS BI 108 (or BI 116)

Foundation Courses (3 courses)

  • CAS BI 203 (or BI 213 or BI 218* (5 cr))
  • CAS BI 315*
  • CAS BI 325 (or NE 203*)

* Course will also count toward the three-lab requirement.

Breadth Requirement (1 course)

Choose one course from the following area of biology:

Ecology, Behavior, Evolution (EBE)

  • CAS BI 225 or
  • CAS BI 260 or
  • CAS BI 303* or
  • CAS BI 306* or
  • CAS BI 309 or
  • CAS BI 407* recommended

* Course will also count toward the three-lab requirement.

Note: A course cannot fulfill a breadth requirement and a Neurobiology elective simultaneously.

Neurobiology Electives (6 courses)

Choose six elective courses from the following list and/or from the eligible courses under the Optional Programs section of this Bulletin page. Three electives must be BI (or BI crosslisted) courses.

  • CAS BI/NE 230
  • CAS BI/NE 349
  • CAS BI 310*
  • CAS BI 407*
  • CAS BI/CH 421*
  • CAS BI/CH 422*
  • CAS BI/NE 445*
  • CAS BI/NE 449*
  • CAS BI/NE 455
  • CAS BI/NE 481
  • CAS BI/NE 520
  • CAS BI/NE 525
  • CAS BI/NE 535
  • CAS BI/NE 542
  • CAS BI/NE 545
  • CAS BI 551
  • CAS BI 552
  • CAS BI/NE 598
  • CAS BI 599
  • CAS CH 373
  • CAS PS/NE 333
  • CAS PS 336
  • CAS PS/NE 337
  • CAS PS/NE 338
  • CAS PS 339/NE 202
  • CAS PS/NE 528
  • CAS PS/NE 530
  • CAS PS/NE 544
  • GMS BI 751 (6 cr)^
  • SAR HS 370 (NOT accepted toward laboratory requirement)
  • SAR HS 550

* Course will also count toward the three-lab requirement.

^Students cannot get credit for GMS BI 751 and any of the following courses: CAS CH 373, CAS BI/CH 421, or CAS BI/CH 422.

Note: Other courses, including those in some study abroad programs, may fulfill electives by petition, but students still need to adhere to the requirement for five BU Biology courses.

Related Requirements (6–7 courses)


Choose one of the following tracks (in consultation with your major advisor):

Standard track (recommended):
  • Choose one of the following general chemistry sequences:
Sequence I Sequence II Sequence III
CAS CH 101 &
CAS CH 102 (or CH 116 (5 cr))
CAS CH 109 &
CAS CH 110
CAS CH 111 &
CAS CH 112


  • Choose one of the following organic chemistry courses: CAS CH 203 (or CH 211 or CH 218)
Alternative track (not acceptable for most prehealth careers):
  • CAS CH 171^

^ Or any completed general chemistry sequence from the standard track


  • CAS CH 172 or CH 174

Note: It is recommended that the standard track general chemistry sequence (or alternative track’s CH 171 & 172 or CH 171 & 174) be taken concurrently with BI 107 and BI 108 during the first year. Most Biology majors complete the standard track and continue onto a fourth semester of chemistry (CH 204 or 214), which is a requirement for medical and other professional schools. Students intending to apply to medical school are also advised to take biochemistry (CAS BI 421/422 or CH 373) in their junior or senior year.

Mathematics/Computer Science

Choose a total of two courses from the lists below. At least one course must be calculus or statistics:

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

Note: Students cannot take more than one of the following for credit: CAS MA 121 or 123; similarly, students cannot take more than one of the following for credit: CAS MA 122, 124, 127, or 129.

Statistics Courses
  • CAS MA 115
  • CAS MA 116
  • CAS MA 213
  • CAS MA 214

Note: MA 113 will not satisfy major requirements. Students cannot take more than one of the following for credit: CAS MA 113, 115, or 213; similarly, students cannot take more than one of the following for credit: CAS MA 116 or 214.

Computer Science Courses
  • CAS CS 105
  • CAS CS 108
  • CAS CS 111


Choose one of the following sequences:

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

Optional Programs

Research Opportunities

While research is not required by the major, undergrads are encouraged to participate in research in Biology faculty or outside labs through volunteering, receiving funding, or earning academic credit. Students may receive funding through Work-Study arrangements or through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Academic credit for research is earned through the Undergraduate Research in Biology program and the following courses require students to submit an online application and receive approval from the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Standing (and any prerequisites) Credits earned Course
First Year 2 credits BI 191/192
Sophomore 2 credits BI 291/192
Junior and 0 Prior Semesters of Research^ 2 credits BI 381
4 credits BI 391
Junior and 1 Prior Semester of Research^ 2 credits BI 382
BI 392
Junior and 2 Prior Semesters of Research^ 4 credits BI 393
Senior and 0 Prior Semesters of Research^ 4 credits BI 491
Senior and 1 Prior Semester of Research^ 4 credits BI 492
Senior and 2 Prior Semesters of Research^ 4 credits BI 493
Senior and 3 Prior Semesters of Research^ 4 credits BI 494

^Notes: Students should discuss what constitutes a “prior semester of research” with an Undergraduate Program Specialist in Biology when applying for Undergraduate Research in Biology. Up to two 4-credit semesters can be used to fulfill major electives (these semesters do not need to be taken consecutively). One of these two semesters can be used toward the three-lab requirement. Both 2- and 4-credit research count toward graduation credits.

Seniors may pursue Honors Research in Biology; see the Honors in the Major section below.

Please visit the Biology Department website for additional information regarding Undergraduate Research in Biology.

Honors in the Major

Honors Research in Biology requires senior standing and an overall GPA of 3.5. Students complete two semesters of 4-credit research*, the second of which is CAS BI 402 (Honors Research). They also complete one semester of CAS BI 497 or 498 (Honors Seminar). Finally, Honors students complete and defend a written senior thesis.

*One semester may be other research experience approved by the Biology Department.

Additional Information

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

  • Advanced Credit (AP & IB Exams)
  • Department Residency Requirement
  • Intercollege Cross-Registration
  • Premedical Students
  • Study Abroad Programs