Major & Minor
The "nuts and bolts" of completing a Biology major at Dartmouth are listed below. For more detailed information, please visit our ORC listing on the Registrar's web site. The department has also posted syllabi from many of our courses that you may find helpful in selecting courses.
Professor Sharon Bickel gives a brief overview of the structure of the major, including prerequisites, areas of concentration and introductory, intermediate and upper level courses.
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) satisfies the quantitative requirement. Students who elect to include BIOL 29 in their area of concentration (see below) must fulfill this prerequisite with one of the other courses listed above. Students who have completed BIOL/CHEM 8 and 9 will receive credit for one major course in Biology (equivalent to BIOL 11) and will have fulfilled the major prerequisite requirements of CHEM 5, but not CHEM 6. Although not required for the major, some upper-level Biology courses require CHEM 51-52 (or equivalent). In addition, because many graduate and professional schools require CHEM 51-52 for admission, we highly recommend that students consider taking these courses. Students must pass all prerequisite courses for the major in order to graduate.
Biology 11: For many students, BIOL 11 will be the entrance course to the major. To help students determine if they are sufficiently prepared to enter a foundation course directly, the Biology department has established an online self-assessment exam for students. Students who have any concerns about their preparedness should take BIOL 11 before enrolling in a foundation course. BIOL 11 may be counted toward the biology major if it is taken as the first biology major course. BIOL 11 will not count towards the major if taken after completion of any Biology course numbered above 11.
Students take three courses from among five foundation courses: BIOL 12 (Cell Structure and Function); BIOL 13 (Gene Expression and Inheritance); BIOL 14 (Physiology); BIOL 15 (Genetic Variation and Evolution); BIOL 16 (Ecology). The foundation courses are not sequenced and may be taken in any order. In deciding which three courses to select from this list, students should discuss with their faculty advisors which foundation courses would be most appropriate for their area of concentration. Not all foundation courses need to be completed before the student moves on to courses in their area of concentration.
7 more courses that comprise your "Area of Concentration"
To complete the major, students focus in an area of concentration by taking seven additional courses (Bio 12-97), including two courses numbered 50 or above. Biology courses numbered 10 or below may not be counted towards the major. Students taking BIOL 11 as their first major course may count it as one of the seven courses. A list of possible areas of concentration that students may find useful in guiding their course selection may be found at under "Faculty Advisors". 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 the courses listed under a single area. Students may also develop 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 in that area). Our hope is that together with your advisor you will design a major that fulfills your unique interests and goals. Faculty members with interests in the listed areas are given below; students interested in other areas should ask the Department Chair or the departmental Undergraduate Committee to suggest a faculty member who would be appropriate to advise the student in developing their course plan. In recognition of the interdisciplinary nature of the life sciences, up to two suitable advanced courses from other departments may be included in the area of concentration when appropriate to the student’s objectives, or a modified major may be constructed (see below). One term of Independent Research (BIOL 95) or Honors Research (BIOL 97) may also be included among the seven courses.
Biology Modified Major
Students who wish to complement their interest in the life sciences with several courses in one or more disciplines, may consider a modified major. For a modified major, the area of concentration consists of five Biology courses and four suitable advanced courses from another department or combination of departments. Students taking BIOL 11 as their first major course may count it as one of the five courses. Prerequisite and foundation course requirements remain the same. Courses outside the Biology Department may not be substituted for foundation courses, or the five additional Biology courses.
The prerequisites for the Biology minor are 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) satisfies the quantitative requirement. In addition, students will complete two foundation courses and four additional Biology courses (BIOL 11 or above). Students may choose to use BIOL 29 as a prerequisite or as one of the four additional Biology courses, but not both. Students who elect to count BIOL 29 as one of the four additional courses must fulfill the quantitative prerequisite with one of the other courses listed above. Students do not need to develop an area of concentration for the minor but they may do so if they wish. Courses outside the Biology Department may not be substituted for foundation courses, or the four additional Biology courses. BIOL 11 may be counted toward the biology minor if it is taken as the first biology minor course. BIOL 11 will not count towards the minor if taken after completion of any Biology course numbered above 11
In the ORC you will find a list of Possible Areas of Concentration & Suggested Courses and Advisors:
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. (If you are pursuing a Biology minor or Modified Major, please select one of the advisors specified on the preceding page.) It is a good idea to meet with your advisor and discuss your curriculum plans well before your major cards are 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.
- What are you trying to accomplish with your Biology major?
- What types of Biology do you find most interesting?
- What are your future goals when you graduate?
- Are there particular courses that you need for your future plans?