BA in Biology—Behavioral Biology Specialization

The major in Biology with a specialization in Behavioral Biology 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 purse 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.

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.

Following two semesters of introductory biology (CAS BI 107 or CGS NS 201, and BI 108), students fulfill a breadth requirement by selecting at least one course in each of the following areas:

Breadth Requirement Courses (3 courses)

Note: A course may not fulfill a breadth requirement and a biology, anthropology, and psychological & brain sciences elective simultaneously.

Cell & Molecular Biology (CM):

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

Physiology and Neurobiology (PN)

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

Ecology, Behavior, Evolution (EBE)

  • CAS BI 407*

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

Required Introduction to Behavioral Biology

  • CAS BI 225 (recommended to be taken in a student’s sophomore fall semester)

Primary Electives

Choose two:

  • CAS BI 230
  • CAS BI 444
  • CAS BI 449*
  • CAS BI 502
  • CAS BI 508
  • CAS BI 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 a biology, anthropology, and psychological & brain sciences elective simultaneously.

Biology, Anthropology, and Psychological & Brain Sciences Electives

Choose four (two must have an AN or PS designation, unless CAS AN 335 is 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 444
  • CAS BI 449*
  • CAS BI 502
  • CAS BI 504
  • CAS BI 506
  • CAS BI 508
  • CAS BI 512*
  • CAS BI 515
  • CAS BI 519
  • CAS BI 520
  • CAS BI 535
  • CAS BI 542
  • CAS BI 545
  • CAS BI 554
  • CAS BI 599
  • CAS AN 263
  • CAS AN 331
  • CAS AN 333
  • CAS AN 335
  • CAS AN 338
  • CAS AN 339
  • CAS AN 552
  • CAS AN 558
  • CAS AN 598
  • CAS PS 231
  • CAS PS 234
  • CAS PS 333
  • CAS PS 336
  • CAS PS 337
  • CAS PS 338
  • CAS PS 528

Note: Among the breadth requirement courses, primary elective courses, and biology, anthropology, and psychological & brain sciences elective courses, at least three 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, 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)*:

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

Marine Semester (MS)*:

  • CAS BI 531
  • CAS BI 546
  • CAS BI 563
  • CAS BI 569

*Note: Students must apply and be accepted into the TEP to take the courses listed above. TEP and MS courses fulfill 4 of the 6 additional principal biology courses 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.

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 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).

  • CAS BI 391/392
  • CAS BI 401/402
  • 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.

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

Prerequisite and Corequisite Chemistry 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); plus
  • 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; plus
  • CAS CH 174; plus
  • 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. Most biology majors elect to take a fourth semester of chemistry, CAS BI 204 (or 212 or 214), which is a requirement for medical and other professional schools.

Required Mathematics or Mathematics/Computer Science Courses

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 196
  • CAS MA 127
  • CAS MA 129

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

Required Physics Courses

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