Major and Minor (Classes 2015-2016)

Because the Biology major requirements are changing for the class of 2017 and beyond, there has been a bit of confusion about whether those changes will impact classes that will graduate before 2017. 

Important Information for Class of 2016

The bottom line is that you may adhere to the "old" rules and continue your major as planned. In fact, that is what we expect the vast majority of you to do.

There are four specific issues we want to clarify.

1) If you stick with the "old" rules, you may still count Physiology as one of your three Foundation courses.  If you have already taken Bio 14, great.  However, if you have not yet taken Physiology, you may take Bio 30 and count Bio 30 as one of your three Foundation courses.  PLEASE NOTE: If for some reason you decide to go with the "new" rules, you may NOT count Bio 30 as a Foundation course.

2) For both the "old" and the "new" rules, TEN Biology courses are required**. 

  • For the "old" rules, that means Bio 11, THREE Foundation Courses, and SIX additional courses that comprise your area of concentration.
  • For the "new" rules, Bio 11 is no longer an absolute requirement, but you still need to take TEN Biology courses**. 

So if one does not take Bio 11, he/she would take THREE Foundation courses and SEVEN additional courses that comprise an area of concentration.

**For the courses that comprise your area of concentration, you may substitute up to two suitable non-Biology courses.

3) For the "old" rules, you are required to take at least ONE Biology course numbered 50 or above. For the "new" rules, you are required to take at least TWO Biology courses numbered 50 or above.

4) You must adhere COMPLETELY to the old rules or COMPLETELY to the new rules.  You cannot adhere to a "hybrid" set of requirements. 

We want to make sure that all of you, and particularly those of you planning to graduate in the Spring of 2015, understand the ramifications of switching to the "new" rules.

Nuts and Bolts: Biology Major & Minor (Classes 2015-2016)

The “nuts and bolts” of completing a Biology major or minor at Dartmouth are listed below.

For a link to a visual representation of the biology major and minor, please click here.

Please refer to the online ORC for Biology course numbers and descriptions.

The department has also posted syllabi from many of our courses that you may find helpful in selecting courses. For a current listing, click here


BIOL 11, CHEM 5 and CHEM 6 (or equivalent), and one Quantitative Course from among BIOL 29, COSC 1, COSC 5, ENGS 20, EARS 17, MATH 4, MATH 8 or above. MATH 10 (or equivalent) also satisfies the quantitative requirement. Students who have completed BIOL/CHEM 8 and 9 will have fulfilled the prerequisite requirements of BIOL 11 and CHEM 5 but not of CHEM 6. *If BIOL 29 is taken as a prerequisite it cannot be used to satisfy course requirements in your area of concentration.

Three Foundation Courses

To complete the major, you must complete three of the Foundation courses listed below, each of which has a laboratory component. The Foundation courses may be taken in any order, and you do not have to complete all three before you begin taking courses numbered 20 or above. However, please note that courses numbered 20 or above have at least one Foundation course as a prerequisite. You may elect to take more than three Foundation courses and apply those additional Foundation courses toward your area of concentration.

  • Bio 12:  Cell Structure and Function
  • Bio 13:  Gene Expression and Inheritance
  • Bio 14:  Physiology (recently renumbered to Bio 30 and then returned to Bio 14)
  • Bio 15:  Genetic Variation and Evolution
  • Bio 16:  Ecology

**For the class of 2016, Bio 30 may be counted as a Foundation course.

6 more courses that comprise your “Area of Concentration”

In consultation with your Biology advisor, you will “build” an area of concentration that is composed of six more Biology courses (Bio 12-97).  It is possible to count up to two advanced-level courses from other departments in your area of concentration (however, only the second term of Organic Chemistry may be counted).  Your advisor will give you guidance on which courses may be appropriate.  To satisfy the culminating experience requirement, one of the six courses must be a Biology course numbered Bio 50 or above.  Although only one course at this level is required, we strongly encourage you to take more than one of these courses; these are small, seminar style courses that focus on a particular topic.  Because they are structured differently, they offer students a refreshing alternative to the more traditional, lecture style courses. 

For a List of Possible Areas of Concentration & Suggested Courses and Advisors click here.

Please keep in mind that this list is not rigid or exhaustive. The courses listed for each area are suggestions to help you get started. Students are not required to limit themselves to courses listed under a single area.  It is also possible to engineer an area of concentration that is not listed.  Any Biology faculty member may serve as your advisor, even if they are not listed under a specific area of concentration (provided they feel comfortable advising you).  Our hope is that together with your advisor you will design a major that fulfills your unique interests and goals.

Questions and Answers

Who can serve as my advisor?

Any faculty member in the Biology department may serve as your advisor for the standard major. (If you are pursuing a Biology minor or Modified Major, please select one of the advisors specified above.)  It is a good idea to meet with your advisor and discuss your curriculum plans well before major declaration is due.

Who decides if a course outside the Biology department is appropriate for my area of concentration?

You and your Biology advisor will discuss how courses outside the Biology department might fit into your area of concentration and if a course is appropriate

What is the definition of an “advanced” course from another department?

We define an advanced course from outside the biology department as one that requires a prerequisite course.

Will I be able to count Organic Chemistry toward the Biology major?

The second term (Chem 52/58) may be counted.

When you meet with your Biology advisor you should be prepared to discuss the following. You do not need to know ALL the answers. This list is meant to get you to start to think about how you want to sculpt your Biology major to best fit your needs.

  1. What are you trying to accomplish with your Biology major?
  2. What types of Biology do you find most interesting?
  3. What are your future goals when you graduate?
  4. Are there particular courses that you need for your future plans?

Biology Modified Major

Same prerequisites as the Standard Biology major (see above).

  • Three Foundation courses, four additional Biology courses (12-78) and four advanced courses outside of Biology.
  • Courses outside of Biology may not be substituted for Bio 11, the Foundation courses or for the four Biology courses.
  • You will need to write an essay outlining the rationale of your modified major and course selection.

Advisors:  Professors Grotz, Jack and Bickel

Biology Minor

Same prerequisites as the Standard Biology Major (see above).

  • Two Foundation courses and three additional Biology courses (12-95).
  • The minor does not require a specific Area of Concentration.
  • No courses outside the Biology department may be substituted for the minor.

Advisors: Professors Grotz, Jack and Bickel

Worksheet for Planning Your Bio Major (Class of 2016)

To download a worksheet for planning your biology major, click here.