BA in Biology

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

The Biology major provides students with a breadth of understanding across the full range of biological disciplines as well as an opportunity to explore one of several specialized areas in greater depth. Required coursework for the major and different specializations establishes a core of fundamental knowledge in biology and related sciences. Students build on this foundation through a variety of lecture, laboratory, field, and seminar courses that offer them the opportunity to focus on specific disciplines. The development of laboratory and field skills is encouraged through elective participation in the extensive, cutting-edge research activities of the department’s faculty. Students graduate with the skills and intellectual base for employment in the burgeoning life sciences job market or for further education, including both graduate programs and professional schools.


The requirements for the Biology major include nine courses in biology and seven related chemistry, math/computer science, 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 required courses are 4 credit hours.

The nine required biology courses are distributed as follows:

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)
  • CAS BI 206 (or BI 216)

Physiology and Neurobiology (PN)

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

Ecology, Behavior, Evolution (EBE)

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

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

Additional Electives (4 courses)

  • Four additional Biology elective courses approved for major credit. Courses are listed here.

Note: After introductory biology, a minimum of five courses must be taken in the department (that is, have a BI or BI cross-listed course designation), 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 counted only as a single course toward fulfillment of the major.

The following courses do not count toward the major in Biology:

  • CAS BI 105
  • CAS BI 106
  • CAS BI 111
  • CAS BI 114
  • CAS BI 119
  • CAS BI 196
  • CAS BI 211

Optional Related Courses

A maximum of two courses outside the Biology Department may count toward the requirement of seven additional biology courses after introductory biology.

The following related courses may be credited toward the major:

  • CAS BB 522
  • CAS PS 338
  • GMS BT 404
  • GMS BT 426 (NOT accepted toward laboratory requirement)
  • GMS BT 432
  • GMS BT 456
  • GMS BT 465
  • SAR HS 251
  • SAR HS 360 (NOT accepted toward laboratory requirement)
  • SAR HS 369 (NOT accepted toward laboratory requirement)
  • SAR HS 370 (NOT accepted toward laboratory requirement)

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 Boston University Marine Program (BUMP) Bulletin page for an updated list of MS courses. Students may also refer to the 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 elective courses, 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 (e.g., 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 or
  • CAS BI 401, 402 or
  • 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 Department of Biology website for additional information regarding undergraduate research opportunities and instructions on how to apply for credit.

Required Related Science Courses (7 courses)


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

Standard (recommended) track:

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

Alternative 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. CAS CH 203 (or 211 or 273) is a corequisite for BI 203 and a prerequisite for BI 206. For medical and other professional school admission, biology majors elect to take a fourth semester of chemistry, CH 204 (or 212 or 214), as well as biochemistry.

Mathematics/Computer Science

Two courses in mathematics (calculus and/or statistics) or one course in mathematics and one in computer science are required 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 Biology major math requirement.

Computer Science courses:

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

Two courses in physics are required 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

Modular Medical Integrated Curriculum (MMEDIC) Program

Juniors and seniors who have been admitted to the Modular Medical Integrated Curriculum (MMEDIC) program, with the appropriate prerequisites and approval from the director of the MMEDIC program, may register for certain courses that have been developed for this program. The MMEDIC program offers an integrated curriculum composed of undergraduate and medical school-related courses that facilitate the transition to the curriculum at the School of Medicine. Those interested in early admission to the Boston University School of Medicine through the MMEDIC program should apply through the Pre-Professional Advising office (100 Bay State Road, 4th Floor) at the beginning of the second semester of their sophomore year.

The following courses may count toward the biology major for students enrolled in the MMEDIC program:

  • GMS AN 722
  • GMS BI 751
  • GMS MI 713
  • GMS PH 730
  • GMS PH 731

Note: Students enrolled in the MMEDIC program may petition for up to three MMEDIC courses to be accepted toward the biology major. MMEDIC students must take a minimum of four non-MMEDIC courses beyond the introductory level in the Department of Biology in order to fulfill the department’s residency requirement.

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