Welcome Class of 2023!


We offer students a range of courses that span from the subcellular to the ecosystem levels. There are a variety of options for beginning the study of Biology at Dartmouth and the Department offers a placement/advisory test to help students choose the appropriate starting point. The placement/advisory test will be available to members of the class of 2023 over the summer via Canvas (please see details below). Areas of faculty research are diverse, ranging from cell signaling to neurobiology to animal behavior, utilizing a wide range of organisms including bats, rice, worms, flies, and algae. We welcome undergraduate researchers as active contributors to our faculty research projects. We also offer an extraordinary foreign study program in tropical ecology in Costa Rica and the Caribbean each Winter term.

We will hold an open house on September 12th from 8AM until 9AM in the main gallery on the first floor of the Life Sciences Center and we look forward to seeing you at the open house.  In the meantime, we hope that you will find this page a useful start to learning about our department.

Please click HERE for information about our Fall term course offerings.

Please click HERE for a list of the Biology 11 and Foundation Course for the 2019-2020 academic year.

We also have prepared a series of short videos to help you learn about biology courses and the path to a biology major or minor as well as how to get involved in life sciences research.

Links to Videos

Beginning Your Study in Biology at Dartmouth:   Prof. Tom Jack talks about how to decide which biology course to take first, including information about the Biology Advisory/Placement test.

Biology 2 – Human Biology:   Prof. Lee Witters talks about his non-majors course Biology 2 that will be offered in the fall.

An Introduction to Biology 11:  Description:  Prof. Rob McClung talks about the principles and concepts that are covered in Biology 11. Click here to see the descriptions for Biology 11 offerings for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Biology 11 – Fall offering: Major Events in the History of Life and the Human Genome:   Prof. Kevin Peterson gives an overview of the Biology 11 offering that he will teach in the fall of 2018.

Biology 11 – Winter offering:  Emerging Infectious Diseases:  How Microbes Rule the World:   Prof. Mary Lou Guerinot gives an overview of the Biology 11 offering that she and Prof. Rob McClung will teach in the winter of 2019.

Biology 11 – Spring offering:  Animal Minds:   Prof. Mark Laidre gives an overview of the Biology 11 offering that he and Prof. Tom Jack will teach in the spring of 2019.

The Foundation Courses:  Prof. Natasha Grotz talks about the topics covered by the foundation courses, the role of these courses in the major. Please note - there are NO PREREQUISITES for foundation courses.

Biology 19 - Honors Cell Structure and Function:  Prof. Magdalena Bezanilla gives an overview of her course. It will be offered in the fall of 2019.

Majoring in Biology at Dartmouth:  Description:  Prof. Sharon Bickel gives an overview of the structure of the major, including prerequisites, areas of concentration and introductory, intermediate and upper level courses.

The Biology Foreign Study Program:  FSP faculty give a history and overview of the program that give students the opportunity to conduct original ecological research at field stations in Costa Rica and the Caribbean.

Independent Research for Credit:  Maximilian Jentzsch ’15 talks about doing research for credit (BIOL 95/96/97).How Do I Find a Research Lab?: Maximilian Jentzsch ’15 talks about tools for finding a research lab and how he found a lab.


How to choose your first biology class at Dartmouth

The Biology curriculum is designed with numerous points of entry. We encourage students to choose their first Biology class to match their interests and background. For the 2018 fall term, there are several choices: Biology 2 (a non-majors course), Biology 11 (introductory course for majors), or one of four foundation courses: Biology 12 (Cell Structure and Function), Biology 14 (Physiology), Biology 16 (Ecology), or Biology 19 (Honors Cell Structure and Function for first term students). Students interested in Bio FSP are encouraged to take Biology16 in fall or spring of their first year and Biology 15 in their first or second year.For many, the decision will be to whether to take Biology 11, or a foundation course.

Here are some considerations regarding these choices.

Biology 11 versus a Foundation Course

  1.  Subject matter. Choose a course that is of high intellectual interest to you. Nothing begets academic success like being genuinely interested in the subject matter. Read the course descriptions for Biology 11; each offering has a different intellectual theme customized by individual faculty to be timely and engaging. Biology 11 generally spans a broader spectrum of the science of biology than individual foundation courses. The content of the foundation courses is designed to cover core knowledge within specific topic areas.
  2.  Work load. Both Biology 11 and the foundation courses have rigorous fast-moving lectures associated with technical readings and problem solving. Five of the six foundation courses  (all but Biology 15) also have a laboratory component, which substantially increases the contact hours and makes the foundation courses considerably more demanding than Biology 11.
  3.  Probability of scholastic success. Biology 11, by virtue of not having a laboratory component, permits students to spend more hours per week gaining a mastery of material covered during class sessions.

Biology 19

This honors introduction to cell biology is for students with a strong background in biology and chemistry who are interested in majoring in Biology. This course will discuss fundamental topics, including protein targeting, the cytoskeleton, membrane transport, cellular energetics, the cell cycle, and signal transduction. The course will emphasize experimental strategies to understand eukaryotic cell function, and the laboratory will provide hands-on experience in modern cell biological techniques, including microscopy, cell fractionation, and protein
purification. Biology 19 is the prerequisite equivalent of Biology 12.

Biology 19 is open only to first-year students and enrollment is limited to 30 students in the Fall of 2019. Invitation to enroll will be based on

1) performance on the Biology Placement Exam (accessed via Biology Placement Test Canvas site).

2) via application (accessed via Biology Placement Test Canvas site).  Applications are due by Thursday, September 12th at 5PM.

Overview of the Biology Placement/Advisory Test

The Biology Placement/Advisory Test is a 60 minute test that contains 30 multiple-choice questions that cover central concepts in molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, and evolutionary biology. We recommend that all students that are considering taking Biology at Dartmouth complete this test. As the name suggests, the result of the Biology Placement/Advisory Test is advisory, not binding.  Since there is no formal placement associated with the Biology Placement/Advisory Test, the score does not appear on your placement record in Banner Student.  If you are interested in studying Biology at Dartmouth, we strongly suggest that you take the Biology Placement/Advisory Test to help you decide which Biology course is most appropriate for you to begin study of Biology at Dartmouth.  In addition, the Biology Placement/Advisory Test is required for admission to Biology 19 (Honors Cell Structure and Function).

For the members of the Class of 2023 the Biology Placement/Advisory Test will be available in Canvas starting August 1st.

What is Biology 11?

Biology 11 is a topics based introductory Biology course. There are several offerings of Biology 11 each year, each organized around a different topic. Each offering is designed to provide a synthetic overview of the life sciences, and to introduce the fundamental ideas, processes and theories on which the modern life sciences are built. Different offerings of Biology 11 have different themes that the instructors have chosen to introduce fundamental concepts and develop a perspective on the life sciences. Each offering may also be organized somewhat uniquely, based on how professors combine their approach to give the lectures, the scheduling of discussions, and the role of quizzes, exams and papers in student assessment. Students are free to choose the offering they prefer.

All Biology 11 offerings will cover the key basic principles and concepts in biology. For example, all Biology 11 offerings will cover the basics of cell biology, molecular biology, genetics, evolution, and energetics. However, the specific details of what you learn in one offering will be different from what students learn in other offerings of Biology 11. A useful analogy is to think about Biology 11 as a first year seminar in biology. Dartmouth’s first-year writing seminars are focused on different topics, but all first-year seminars teach valuable writing skills. Similarly, Biology 11 offerings feature different specific information, but all will teach you how to think critically and in a more sophisticated way about biology.

There are several objectives of Biology 11. The first is to stimulate interest in the science of biology. The second is to encourage critical, analytical thinking in science. The third is to communicate key concepts in biology. The fourth is to develop an appreciation for the specific topic that is the focus of each offering. By the end of any offering of Biology 11, students will have acquired knowledge of key biological concepts such as evolution, the relationship between structure and function, information flow, and the interconnectedness of living systems. Students also will have developed analytical skills about how present-day research in biology is carried out and interpreted.

Link to Biology 11 offerings for the 2019-2020 academic year.