BA in Biology

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 cutting-edge research of the department’s faculty and engagement in the extensive biological resources in the Boston area. 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.

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

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental principles spanning the breadth of biology, from evolution to energy and matter transformations.
  • 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.

Requirements

All first-year, first-time students will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, a general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements are flexible and can be satisfied in many different ways, through coursework in and beyond the major and, in some cases, through cocurricular activities. Through required coursework for the major, students in Biology ordinarily will 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 Biology 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 Biology major requires a total of nine courses in biology (introductory, breadth, and elective courses) and a total of six to seven related courses in chemistry, math/computer science, and physics.

Excluding Introductory Biology courses and Non-Majors 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 or MET)

Some Biology course requirements can overlap (e.g., BI 315 simultaneously counts as a breadth requirement, as a lab course, and as a 300+ level course. Nonetheless, BI 315 is only counted as a single course toward fulfillment of the major. BI 315 cannot simultaneously count as both a Breadth and 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 required courses are 4 credit hours.

Introductory Biology (2 courses)

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

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* (5 cr)) or
  • CAS BI 206 (or BI 216)

Physiology and Neurobiology (PN)

  • CAS BI 310* or
  • CAS BI 315* or
  • CAS BI 325 (or 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.

Biology Electives (4 courses)

^ These electives can be any 4-credit courses offered by the Biology Department, excluding Non-Majors Courses (see below) and including CAS BB 522 and/or eligible courses under the Optional Programs section of this Bulletin page. Many of our CAS BI 2-credit courses can be taken in combination to fulfill one elective. Other courses, including those in some study abroad programs, may fulfill electives by petition (students still need to adhere to the requirement for five BU Biology courses).

Non-Majors Courses

Please note that the following courses cannot be used toward the major:

  • CAS/MET BI 105
  • CAS BI 114
  • CAS BI 119
  • CAS BI 194
  • CAS BI 196
  • CAS/MET BI 210
  • CAS/MET BI 211
  • MET BI 366
  • MET BI 566

Related Requirements (6–7 courses)

Chemistry

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 (5 cr))
CAS CH 109 &
CAS CH 110
CAS CH 111 &
CAS CH 112

AND

  • 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

AND

  • 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 the first 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 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

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

Physics

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

Nondepartmental Courses

A maximum of two approved courses outside the Biology Department may count as Biology electives. Approved courses are listed below. None of these courses count toward the three-lab requirement.

  • CAS CH 373
  • CAS PS 338
  • GMS BI 751 (6 cr)^
  • GMS BT 404
  • GMS BT 426
  • GMS BT 432
  • GMS BT 456
  • GMS BT 465
  • SAR HS 251
  • SAR HS 360
  • SAR HS 369
  • SAR HS 370

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

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 Biology 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, undergrads are 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 BI 140/141
Sophomore 2 credits BI 240/241
Junior and 0 Prior Semesters of Research 2 credits BI 340
4 credits BI 350
Junior and 1 Prior Semester of Research 2 credits BI 341
4 credits BI 351
Junior and (BI 341 or BI 351) 4 credits BI 352
Senior and 0 Prior Semesters of Research 4 credits BI 450
Senior and 1 Prior Semester of Research 4 credits BI 451
Senior and (BI 341 or BI 351 or BI 451) 4 credits BI 452
Senior and (BI 352 or BI 452) 4 credits 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.

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 Cellular Organization of Tissues (4 cr)
  • GMS BI 751 Biochemistry and Cell Biology (6 cr)
  • GMS MI 713 Comprehensive Immunology (4 cr)
  • GMS PH 730 Human Physiology A (4 cr)
  • GMS PH 731 Human Physiology B (4 cr)

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.

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