BA in Biology—Behavioral Biology Specialization

The Biology major with a Specialization in Behavioral Biology (SBB) offers students the opportunity to develop an individualized and interdisciplinary curriculum bridging foundational and advanced coursework in behavioral science in the departments of Biology, Psychological & Brain Sciences, and Anthropology. The specialization builds upon instruction in fundamental principles of the organization of behavior through integrated coursework in biology, psychology and neuroscience, primate behavior, and human biology. SBB affords broad knowledge and deep insight into the evolution and ecology of behavior and its hormonal, neural, and genetic regulatory mechanisms. Flexibility in course selection enables students to develop course curricula tailored to individual interests. The Specialization in Behavioral Biology encourages undergraduate research and prepares students for postgraduate study in basic biological science and biomedical fields.

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

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental principles spanning the breadth of biology, with an in-depth understanding of the ecology and evolution of animal behavior.
  • 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, analytical, and communication skills required for employment or postgraduate education in biology or biology-related careers, including professional careers and science education.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Behavioral Biology Specialization will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, 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 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 Behavioral Biology requires a total of 12 courses in biology, psychology, and anthropology. Students must also complete a total of six to seven related courses in chemistry, mathematics/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)

Some Behavioral Biology course requirements can overlap. (E.g., BI 218 simultaneously counts as a breadth requirement and as a lab course. Nonetheless, BI 218 is only counted as a single course toward fulfillment of the major. BI 218 cannot simultaneously count as both a Breadth and an Additional 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 courses are 4 credit hours.

Introductory Biology (2 courses)

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

Foundation Course (1 course)

  • CAS BI 225

Note: It is recommended that BI 225 be taken in the fall semester of sophomore year.

Breadth Requirement (3 courses)

Choose one course in each of the following three areas. A course may not fulfill a breadth requirement and an elective simultaneously.

Cell & Molecular Biology (CM):

  • CAS BI 203 (or BI 213 or BI 218* (5 cr)) or
  • CAS BI 206 (or BI 216)

Note: Of the two CM breadth options, BI 206 or 216 is recommended, unless the student wishes to pursue work in neurobehavior, in which case BI 203 is recommended. If both BI 203 and BI 206 are taken, one of the courses can be used to satisfy the breadth requirement and the other can be used to satisfy an additional elective.

Physiology and Neurobiology (PN)

  • CAS BI 310* or
  • CAS BI 315* or
  • CAS BI 325 (or NE 203*)

Ecology, Behavior, Evolution (EBE)

  • CAS BI 407*

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

Primary Electives (2 courses)

Choose two courses from the following list. A course may not count as a primary elective and an additional elective simultaneously. At least two primary/additional electives must have an AN or PS (or crosslisted) designation.

  • CAS AN 234
  • CAS AN 335
  • CAS AN 559
  • CAS BI/NE 230
  • CAS BI/NE 449*
  • CAS BI 502
  • CAS BI 508
  • CAS BI/NE 520
  • CAS BI/NE 542
  • CAS BI/NE 545
  • CAS PS 231
  • CAS PS/NE 337
  • CAS PS/NE 544

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

Additional Electives (4 courses)

Choose four courses from the following list and/or from the eligible courses under the Optional Programs section of this Bulletin page. A course may not count as a primary elective and an additional elective simultaneously. At least two primary/additional electives must have an AN or PS (or crosslisted) designation. 

  • CAS AN 234
  • CAS AN 263
  • CAS AN 330
  • CAS AN 331
  • CAS AN 335
  • CAS AN 336
  • CAS AN 338
  • CAS AN 339
  • CAS AN 534
  • CAS AN 551
  • CAS AN 552
  • CAS AN 553
  • CAS AN 555
  • CAS AN 556
  • CAS AN 558
  • CAS AN 559
  • CAS AN 597
  • CAS AN 598
  • CAS BI 203/213/218* or CAS BI 206/216
  • CAS BI/NE 230
  • CAS BI 260
  • CAS BI 302*
  • CAS BI 303*
  • CAS BI 306*
  • CAS BI 309
  • CAS BI 315* or CAS BI 325/NE 203*
  • CAS BI/AN 333
  • CAS BI 414
  • CAS BI 448
  • CAS BI/NE 449*
  • CAS BI 500
  • CAS BI 504
  • CAS BI 506
  • CAS BI 508
  • CAS BI 510
  • CAS BI 515
  • CAS BI 519*
  • CAS BI/NE 520
  • CAS BI/NE 535
  • CAS BI/NE 542
  • CAS BI/NE 545
  • CAS BI/AN 588
  • CAS BI 599
  • CAS PS 231
  • CAS PS 234
  • CAS PS 241
  • CAS PS/NE 333
  • CAS PS 336
  • CAS PS/NE 337
  • CAS PS/NE 338
  • CAS PS/NE 521
  • CAS PS/NE 528
  • CAS PS/NE 544

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

Note: Other courses, including those in some study abroad programs, may fulfill either primary or additional elective requirements by petition, but students still need to adhere to the requirement for five BU Biology courses. Please consult with Professor James Traniello to determine course credit eligibility.

Related Requirements (6–7 courses)


Choose one of the following tracks. In selecting a chemistry sequence, please consult with Professor James Traniello.

Standard track:
  • 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 & CH 172/174) 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 CH 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
  • CDS DS 100

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
  • CDS DS 110


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

Marine Semester (MS)

The Marine Semester provides hands-on laboratory and field experience both on campus in our Marine Research Teaching Lab and off campus at field sites in New England and Belize in Central America. The program is offered in the fall semester. Students must meet the prerequisites for the program and apply through the BU Marine Program (BUMP) website. They then select one course during each of four “blocks.” Each block comprises 18–20 class days. All Marine Semester BI-coded courses count as SBB electives and toward the requirement for three lab courses.

Please visit the BUMP website for prerequisites, additional information, and to apply to the Marine Semester. For an updated list of Marine Semester courses, see the Marine Science Bulletin page.

Research Opportunities

While research is not required by the major, SBB undergrads are strongly 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 CAS BI 140/141
Sophomore 2 credits CAS BI 240/241
Junior and 0 Prior Semesters of Research 2 credits CAS BI 340
4 credits CAS BI 350
Junior and Prior Semester(s) of Research 2 credits CAS BI 341
4 credits CAS BI 351
Junior and (BI 341 or BI 351) 4 credits CAS BI 352
Senior and 0 Prior Semesters of Research 4 credits CAS BI 450
Senior and Prior Semester(s) of Research 4 credits CAS BI 451
Senior and (BI 341 or BI 351 or BI 451) 4 credits CAS BI 452
Senior and (BI 352 or BI 452) 4 credits CAS BI 453

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