Biology Major Requirements

Allie Goldstein ’12  studied fruit fly respiratory physiology for her thesis.

Biology is the study of living systems and how they interact with the nonliving world and with one another. It is a discipline that bridges the physical and social sciences. Students who major in biology become familiar with all levels of biological organization from molecules to ecosystems, and gain practical experience in both laboratory and field studies. More information on the biology department is available on the website (

Major Requirements.

1) Both of the following:
CHEM 107A. Atomic and Molecular Structure/Lab.
CHEM 108A. Chemical Reactivity/Lab.
Prospective majors are strongly encouraged to complete this two-course introductory chemistry sequence in the first year.

One of the following:
BIO 244. Biostatistics.
CHEM 217-218. Organic Chemistry I and II/Lab.
Organic Chemistry (CHEM 217-218) is strongly recommended for students interested in attending graduate school, and required for those planning to apply to medical school programs.

2) At least ten courses in biology, of which a minimum of eight must be taken from the Bates faculty. Eight of the ten courses must be advanced courses (200-level and above, or the equivalent). Two introductory courses (100-level and s20 – s28, excluding INDS s15) may be applied toward the major, as long as at least one has a full laboratory component (designated in course descriptions by "[L]"). CHEM 125 and designated first-year seminars (FYS 243, 262, 282, 311, 372, 424, 454) may be used in place of a 100-level biology course. The ten biology courses must include:

a) BIO 190. Organismal Biology/Lab.
BIO 242. Cellular and Molecular Biology/Lab.
BIO 270. Ecology and Evolution/Lab.
Majors are strongly encouraged to complete these courses by the end of the sophomore year; they must be completed prior to the beginning of the senior year. BIO 242 and 270 have prerequisites.

b) Additional advanced biology courses (electives) to complete the ten courses required. The advanced courses may not include BIO 244 if BIO 244 is used to complete requirement (1) above, and may include no more than three research seminar, junior seminar, or thesis credits from among BIO 360, 457, 458, 460, 470 through 478, and s50. The following courses may be substituted for one advanced biology course:
CHEM 321. Biological Chemistry I/Lab.
CHEM 322. Biological Chemistry II/Lab.
PSYCH 363. Physiological Psychology/Lab.

c) Completion of a capstone experience that includes any two of the following:
BIO 457. Senior Thesis.
BIO 458. Senior Thesis.
BIO 460. Junior Seminar.
BIO 470. Seminar and Research in Ecology.
BIO 471. Seminar and Research in Experimental Botany/Lab.
BIO 472. Seminar and Research in Physiology/Lab.
BIO 473. Seminar and Research in Cell Biology.
BIO 474. Seminar and Research in Marine Ecology/Lab.
BIO 475. Seminar and Research in Environmental Toxicology/Lab.
BIO 476. Seminar and Research in Evolutionary Biology.
BIO 477. Seminar and Research in Microbiology/Lab.
BIO 478. Seminar and Research in Molecular Genetics.
BIO 479. Seminar and Reserach: Biology in the Community/Lab.
NRSC 460. Capstone Seminar on Cellular Neuroscience, taken in the senior year, may substitute for BIO 460. Or, with prior approval, BIO 460 plus a service-learning project.

3) Completion of the comprehensive assessment requirement. This requirement is fulfilled by completing a departmental comprehensive assessment during the senior year.

Students may not major in biology and either biochemistry or neuroscience. Students may not major in biology and environmental studies if their environmental studies concentration is either Ecology and Economics of the Environment or Ecology and Earth Systems.

Students planning to minor in chemistry may not use CHEM 321 or 322 toward both the chemistry minor and the biology major.

Planning for the Major. Prospective majors are urged to discuss course selection and scheduling with a member of the department in the first year, particularly if participation in an off-campus study program is anticipated. It is essential to take CHEM 107 and CHEM 108 in the first year. The department strongly encourages students to complete the required core courses before the end of their sophomore year to allow scheduling flexibility later. Completion of the core courses prior to the beginning of the senior year is required. The department also strongly advises that electives be chosen in close consultation with faculty to ensure breadth of knowledge within biology (from molecules and cells to organisms and ecosystems). Students who study abroad may apply up to two courses toward the major as electives if the courses are appropriate and pre-approved by the chair.

Pass/Fail Grading Option. Pass/fail grading may be elected for courses applied toward the major except for: BIO 190, 242, 270, and all 400-level courses.

Advanced Placement. Advanced Placement (AP), A-Level, and International Baccalaureate (IB) credit does not count toward the major. It cannot substitute for any course in the department and does not reduce the number of courses required for the major.

Bates Catalog

The current requirements for a major in biology are listed in the catalog. Majors must satisfy the requirements listed in the catalog under which they matriculate. The college catalog is now published in hard copy only every two years. Annual updates are made only to the on-line catalog. The links below will help you find the catalog under which you matriculated.