BA in Biology—Cell Biology, Molecular Biology & Genetics Specialization

Many of the greatest advances in the biomedical sciences in recent years have come from the areas of cell biology, molecular biology, and genetics. These related disciplines have provided a deeper understanding of the molecular basis for the functioning of all living organisms. The Biology major with a Specialization in Cell Biology, Molecular Biology & Genetics (CMG) is designed for students who wish to focus on these aspects of biology. The specialized knowledge and experience that CMG students gain in one or more CMG disciplines prepares them well for graduate or professional study in the biomedical sciences.

A dual degree BA/MS in Biology is available to students pursuing the bachelor’s degree in Biology with a Specialization in Cell Biology, Molecular Biology & Genetics.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental principles spanning the breadth of biology and an in-depth knowledge of one or more of the subdisciplines of cell biology, molecular biology, and genetics.
  • 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 and/or analytical 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 CMG Specialization will ordinarily, through coursework for 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 requirements may be earned in the Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship Capacity as well as the Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Historical Interpretation Capacity through specific foundation, 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 CMG specialization requires a total of 11 biology courses (introductory, foundation, breadth, and elective courses). Students must also complete a total of eight 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 CMG course requirements can overlap. (e.g., BI 315 simultaneously counts as a breadth requirement, as a lab course, and as a 300+ level course. BI 315 cannot simultaneously count as both a Breadth and Elective course.)

A grade of C or higher is required for major units in all courses except corequisite chemistry courses. A grade of C– or higher is required for major units 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 unit hours.

Introductory Biology (2 courses)

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

Foundation Courses (3 courses)

  • CAS BI 213 recommended (or BI 203 or BI 218* (5 units))
  • CAS BI 216 recommended (or BI 206)
  • CAS BI 552

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

Breadth Requirement (2 courses)

Choose one course in each of the following two areas:

Physiology and Neurobiology (PN):

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

Ecology, Behavior, Evolution (EBE):

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

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

CMG 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 BB 421*
  • CAS BB 422*
  • CAS BB 522*
  • CAS BI 309
  • CAS BI 311*
  • CAS BI 315*
  • CAS BI 325 (or CAS NE 203*)
  • CAS BI 327
  • CAS BI 328
  • CAS BI/AN 333
  • CAS BI 385
  • CAS BI 410
  • CAS BI 411
  • CAS BI 413
  • CAS BI/NE 445*
  • CAS BI/NE 455
  • CAS BI/NE 481
  • CAS BI 504
  • CAS BI 510
  • CAS BI 513*
  • CAS BI 515
  • CAS BI/NE 525
  • CAS BI/NE 535
  • CAS BI 550*
  • CAS BI 551
  • CAS BI 553
  • CAS BI/NE 556
  • CAS BI 559
  • CAS BI 560
  • CAS BI/NE 561*
  • CAS BI 565
  • CAS BI 572
  • CAS BI 576
  • CAS BI 577
  • CAS BI 586*
  • CAS BI/NE 589
  • CAS CH 541

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

Note: Other courses, including those in some study abroad programs, may fulfill electives by petition, but students still need to adhere to the requirement for five BU Biology courses.

Related Requirements (8 courses)


Four courses in chemistry are required. Choose one general chemistry sequence and one organic chemistry sequence.

General Chemistry
Sequence I Sequence II Sequence III
CAS CH 101 &
CAS CH 102 (or CH 116 (5 units))
CAS CH 109 &
CAS CH 110
CAS CH 111 &
CAS CH 112
Organic Chemistry
Sequence I Sequence II Sequence III
CAS CH 203 (or CH 218) &
CAS CH 204
CAS CH 203 (or CH 218) &
CAS CH 214
CAS CH 211 &
CAS CH 212

For medical and other professional school admission, some students elect to take biochemistry (BB 421 or CH 373)­­­­­ in addition to the above chemistry courses.

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 units: CAS MA 121 or 123; similarly, students cannot take more than one of the following for units: 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 units: CAS MA 113, 115, or 213; similarly, students cannot take more than one of the following for units: 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 or
  • CAS PY 251 & 252

Nondepartmental Courses

A maximum of two of the following courses can be used as CMG electives:

  • CAS CH 373
  • CAS CH 525
  • ENG BF 571
  • GMS BI 756 (6 units)^
  • GMS BT 432

^Students cannot get units for GMS BI 751 and any of the following courses: CAS CH 373, CAS BB 421, or CAS BB 422.

Research Opportunities

While research is not required by the major, undergrads are encouraged to participate in research in Biology faculty or outside labs through volunteering, receiving funding, or earning academic units. Students may receive funding through Work-Study arrangements or through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Academic units 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) Units earned Course
First Year and No Prior Terms of Research 2 units CAS BI 140
First Year and BI 140 2 units CAS BI 141
Sophomore and No Prior Terms of Research 2 units CAS BI 240
Sophomore and BI 140, BI 141, or BI 240 2 units CAS BI 241
No Prior Terms of Junior Research 2 units CAS BI 340
4 units CAS BI 350
One Prior Term of Junior Research 2 units CAS BI 341
4 units CAS BI 351
Junior and (BI 341 or BI 351) 4 units CAS BI 352
No Prior Terms of Senior Research 4 units CAS BI 450
Senior and One Prior Term of Research 4 units CAS BI 451
Senior and (BI 341 or BI 351 or BI 451) 4 units CAS BI 452
Senior and (BI 352 or BI 452) 4 units CAS BI 453

Notes: Students should discuss what constitutes a “prior term of research” with an Undergraduate Program Specialist in Biology when first applying for Undergraduate Research in Biology. Up to 8 units at the >300 level can be used to fulfill major electives (these terms do not need to be taken consecutively). Four of these units can be used toward the three-lab requirement. Both 2- and 4-unit research count toward graduation units.

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 terms of 4-unit research*, the second of which is CAS BI 402 (Honors Research). They also complete one term of CAS BI 497 or 498 (Honors Seminar). Finally, Honors students complete and defend a written senior thesis.

*One term may be other research experience approved by the Biology Department; typically it’s BI 401.

Additional Information

Please see the Department of Biology portion of this Bulletin for information on the following topics:

  • Advanced Units (AP & IB Exams)
  • Department Residency Requirement
  • Intercollege Cross-Registration
  • Premedical Students
  • Study Abroad Programs