BA in Biology—Quantitative Biology Specialization

Changes to this program will take effect in the 2016–2017 academic year.

The major with specialization in Quantitative Biology (QB) is designed for qualified undergraduates interested in combining work in the biological sciences with training in mathematics. While allowing substantial flexibility, the specialization requires seven biology courses beyond Introductory Biology, many of which are designed to emphasize quantitative approaches to biological problems, plus five mathematics courses beyond first-year calculus. By offering a comprehensive foundation in math and biology, the Quantitative Biology curriculum prepares students for advanced career options in the fields of quantitative and mathematical biology, biomedical sciences, environmental and ecological sciences, and medicine.


The requirements for the Specialization in Quantitative Biology major include the two introductory biology courses, seven principal courses (including breadth requirements), CAS BI/MA 196 (Introductory Quantitative Biology), prerequisite mathematics courses, and related chemistry, mathematics, and physics courses.

Students must earn a grade of C or higher in all biology, 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 Courses

  • CAS BI 107 or CGS NS 20
  • CAS BI 108

Prerequisite Mathematics Courses

  • CAS MA 123 and MA 124 or
  • CAS MA 127 or
  • CAS MA 129

Principal Biology Courses (7, including breadth requirements)

Breadth Requirement Courses (3):

Students fulfill a Breadth Requirement by selecting at least one course in each of the following areas:

  • Cell & Molecular Biology (CM)
    • CAS BI 203 (or BI 213)
  • Physiology and Neurobiology (PN)
    • CAS BI 315*
    • CAS BI 325 (or NE 203*)
  • Ecology, Behavior, Evolution (EBE)
    • CAS BI 225
    • CAS BI 303*
    • CAS BI 306*
    • CAS BI 309
    • CAS BI 407*

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

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

Quantitative Electives (4):

  • CAS MA 565 or ENG BF 571

Three additional courses may be selected from the following:

  • CAS BB 522
  • CAS BI 206 (or 216)
  • CAS BI 309
  • CAS BI 385
  • CAS BI 407*
  • CAS BI 410
  • CAS BI 421*
  • CAS BI 422*
  • CAS BI 423
  • CAS BI 443
  • CAS BI 444*
  • CAS BI 445
  • CAS BI 449*
  • CAS BI 481
  • CAS BI 502
  • CAS BI 504
  • CAS BI 508
  • CAS BI 513*
  • CAS BI 519
  • CAS BI 525
  • CAS BI 535
  • CAS BI 552
  • CAS BI 553
  • CAS BI 560
  • CAS BI 572
  • CAS BI 594
  • CAS CN 510
  • CAS CN 520
  • CAS GE 365
  • CAS GE 516
  • CAS MA 565
  • ENG BE 567
  • ENG BF 527
  • ENG BF 571
  • ENG BF 591

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

Note: Among the seven principal biology courses, five must be taken in the Biology Department, at least three courses must be at the 300–500 level, and three must have a laboratory or field 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, and a laboratory requirement. Nonetheless, it is still counted as a single course toward fulfillment of the major.

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.

CAS BI 191/192 or BI 291/292 may be taken for elective credit by freshmen and sophomores, respectively; these courses may only be taken for 2 credits per semester and do not count toward the major.

To receive credit toward the major, research must be done on an approved topic in courses open to juniors and seniors. A maximum of 8 credits (two courses) from the following courses may be counted as QB 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).

  • CAS BI 391, 392 or
  • CAS BI 401, 402 or
  • CAS BI 491, 492

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

Prerequisite and Corequisite Chemistry Courses (*recommended):

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

  • CAS CH 109/110* (or 101/102 or 111/112); plus
  • CAS CH 203 (or 211)


Note: It is recommended that CAS CH 109/110 (or 101/102 or 111/112) be taken concurrently with 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. Most biology majors elect to take a fourth semester of chemistry, CAS CH 204 (or CH 212 or CH 214), which is a requirement for medical and other professional schools.

Required Mathematics Courses

Six additional courses in mathematics beyond the math prerequisites (*recommended):

  • CAS MA/BI 196
  • CAS MA 213
  • CAS MA 214
  • CAS MA 225* (or MA 230)
  • CAS MA 226* (or MA 231)
  • CAS MA 242* (or MA 442)

Required Physics Courses

Two courses in physics from one of the following four sequences (*recommended):

  • CAS PY 241/242* or
  • CAS PY 105/106 or
  • CAS PY 211/106 or
  • CAS PY 211/212

Optional Related Courses

Note: These courses do not count as electives for the major.

Cognitive & Neural Systems (CN):

  • CAS CN 540
  • CAS CN 560
  • CAS CN 570

Computer Science (CS):

  • CAS CS 111
  • CAS CS 112
  • MET CS 232

Earth & Environment (GE):

  • CAS GE 302
  • CAS GE 440
  • CAS GE 445

Mathematics & Statistics (MA):

  • CAS MA 555
  • CAS MA 556
  • CAS MA 575
  • CAS MA 581
  • CAS MA 583