BA in Biology—Behavioral Biology Specialization

The major in Biology with a specialization in Behavioral Biology (SBB) 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 psychology, 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 pursue individual interests and engage in undergraduate research.


The specialization in Behavioral Biology requires a total of 12 courses in biology, anthropology, and psychology. Students must also complete a total of six to seven related courses in chemistry, mathematics/computer science, and physics.

Beyond Introductory Biology, at least three major courses must be at the 300+ level and three major courses must be lab courses taken in the BU Biology Department (the 300+ and lab requirements can overlap).

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: The recommended semester for this course is fall of sophomore year.

Breadth Requirement (3 courses)

Choose one course in each of the following three areas:

Cell & Molecular Biology (CM):

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

Note: Of the two CM breadth options, BI 206 or 216 is recommended.

Physiology and Neurobiology (PN)

  • 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.

Note: A course may not fulfill a breadth requirement and an interdisciplinary elective simultaneously.

Of the six primary and interdisciplinary electives below, at least one course must be BI (or BI cross-listed) and at least two courses must have an AN or PS (or cross-listed) designation.

Primary Electives (2 courses)

Choose two courses from the following list:

  • CAS AN 234
  • CAS AN 335
  • 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.

Note: A course may not count as a primary elective and an interdisciplinary elective simultaneously.

Biology, Anthropology, and Psychology 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.

  • CAS BI/NE 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/NE 449*
  • CAS BI 502
  • CAS BI 504
  • CAS BI 506
  • CAS BI 508
  • CAS BI 515
  • CAS BI 519*
  • CAS BI/NE 520
  • CAS BI/NE 535
  • CAS BI/NE 542
  • CAS BI 545
  • CAS BI 554
  • CAS BI 599
  • CAS AN 234
  • CAS AN 236
  • CAS AN 263
  • CAS AN 330
  • CAS AN 331
  • CAS AN 333
  • CAS AN 335
  • CAS AN 338
  • CAS AN 339
  • CAS AN 534
  • CAS AN 551
  • CAS AN 552
  • CAS AN 555
  • CAS AN 556
  • CAS AN 558
  • CAS AN 597
  • CAS AN 598
  • CAS PS 231
  • CAS PS 234
  • CAS PS/NE 333
  • CAS PS 336
  • CAS PS/NE 337
  • CAS PS/NE 338
  • CAS PS/NE 528
  • CAS PS/NE 544

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

Note: After introductory biology, a minimum of five courses must be taken in the BU Biology Department (i.e., have a CAS or MET BI or BI cross-listed course designation). A maximum of four MET courses may be counted as credit toward the BA degree. In addition, at least three courses must be at the 300+ level and three must have a laboratory component. Some of these requirements can overlap (e.g., BI 315 simultaneously counts as a breadth requirement, a 300+ level course, and as a lab toward the three-lab requirement). Nonetheless, it is counted only as a single course toward fulfillment of the major.

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)
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 pre-health 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 freshman 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 contemplating application 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 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

Marine Semester (MS)

The Marine Semester is offered every Fall Semester. Students are required to apply to the program. 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 major electives and toward the requirement for three-lab courses.

Please see 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.

Tropical Ecology Program (TEP)

The Ecuador Tropical Ecology Program is offered every Fall and Spring Semester. Students are required to apply to the program. They then take four ecology courses based on field research. All the TEP courses count as major electives and satisfy the requirement for three lab courses.


Please check the Study Abroad web page for prerequisites and additional information.

Undergraduate Research in Biology

While research is not required by the major, undergrads are encouraged to participate in research during their time at Boston University. Undergraduate research courses are available at all levels and require students to submit an application and receive approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Freshman BI 191/192 2 credits
Sophomore BI 291/292 2 credits
Junior BI 391/392 2 or 4 credits
Senior BI 491/492 4 credits
Senior (Honors) BI 401/402 4 credits

Notes: 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.

Honors Research in Biology (CAS BI 401 & 402) requires an overall GPA of 3.5. Students must complete two semesters of 4-credit research and one semester of the Honors Seminar (CAS BI 497/498). Honors students must complete and defend a written senior thesis.

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

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