Clark Students Conducting Research on a Rocky Shore

Planning a Course of Study

Introduction to the Biology Major at Clark

During your four years, you will work closely with your faculty advisor to select courses that best fit your overall academic interests and career goals. The Biology Department's course offerings provide you with the flexibility to become broadly trained in the biological sciences or to focus in the fields of Cell & Molecular Biology or Ecology & Evolution. The requirements and general recommendations for the biology major are appropriate for students seeking careers in health-related, research-orientated, education, or academic fields.

Requirements for the Biology Major

The core requirements for the biology major include:

  • 10 courses in biology, including two semesters of Introductory Biology (100/101/103 and 102). Students who score a 4 or 5 on the AP Biology Exam will receive credit for one semester of Introductory Biology.
  • Two courses in Chemistry (CHEM101 and 102). Note: the accelerated Introductory Chemistry (CHEM 103) class fulfills this requirement.
  • Two courses in mathematics.  This requirement can be fulfilled with two semesters of Calculus (MATH 120 and 121 or MATH 124 and 125) or students can take one semester of Calculus combined with a statistics course (e.g. Quantitative Methods in Biology (BIOL 106).  If BIOL106 is used to meet this requirement, it will not count toward the total of 10 required courses in biology.
  • Two additional courses in the natural sciences, mathematics, or computer science.  These courses must be at the 100 level or above. Examples include: Organic Chemistry, Physics, Computer Science, Mathematics (above MATH 125), GIS, Environmental Science.
  • For the 8 courses beyond the two semesters of  Introductory Biology, one course must be completed in each of the following three areas:
    • Molecular and Cell Biology: Genetics (BIOL118) or Cell Biology (BIOL137)
    • Organismal Form, Function, and Diversity: Microbiology (BIOL109), Botanical Diversity (BIOL110), Comparative Vertebrate Biology (BIOL112) or Neurobiology (BIOL140)
    • Ecology and Evolution: Evolution (BIOL105), Marine Biology (BIOL114), Ecology (BIOL216), or Population Biology (BIOL220)

In addition, at least two of the 10 courses in Biology must be at the 200 level (or above). Beginning with the Class of 2014 (students entering AY2010-2011), at least four of the 10 required biology courses must be at the 200 level (or above). Students may use a maximum of two units of independent study (Directed Research/Reading (BIOL 299), Honors in Biology (BIOL 297), Internship (BIOL 298) and no courses below the 100 level to satisfy the major requirements.

  • Science and mathematics courses offered to meet the major requirements may not be taken with a pass option.

Qualified, upper-division students majoring in Biology may choose to carry out independent research in the Honors Program, under the direction of a faculty member. More information about the Honors Program can be found here.

Planning a Course of Study

As you begin to plan your course of study you should consider:

  • Two semesters of Introductory Biology are required prerequisites for many courses in Biology, so it is advisable to take these courses during your first or second year.
  • As a semester of Calculus is required for the major, take the Math Placement Exam early to determine if you are ready for Calculus or need to further develop your quantitative skills by taking Precalculus (Math 119)
  • To develop a diverse set of skills and to explore the biological sciences in different contexts, students are encouraged to:
    • take at least one course that develops research techniques or analytical approaches to the study of biology
    • participate in at least one seminar course that develops critical thinking and communication skills
    • conduct a capstone project in a non-classroom setting.  This can be directed study in a faculty research laboratory , an internship , or an off-campus research experience.

To help students develop a course of study, the Department offers curricular recommendations for students interested in:

There are additional requirements for students interested in the accelerated BA/MA program in Biology. Students are encouraged to attend the Information Sessions presented by Academic Advising and to carefully review to program requirements and application deadlines for the honors (link) and accelerated degree (link) programs. Note that minimum grade point requirements have changed for the class of 2014 (those entering in the 2011/2012 academic year).

Recommended Curriculum in Ecology and Evolution

For students who wish to prepare for work or advanced studies in ecology or evolutionary biology, the eight biology courses beyond BIOL 101 (or BIOL 100 OR BIOL 103) and BIOL 102 should be structured as follows:

Two courses that are primarily informational in content, aimed at describing a wide variety of aspects of the natural environment or evolution, including:

Two courses with an analytical or theoretical orientation, including:

One course that develops research techniques:

One seminar course:

Capstone experience:

Students are encouraged to pursue course experiences that remove them from the traditional classroom setting. These may include directed study in faculty research laboratories, internships or off-campus research experiences.

Recommended Curriculum for Cell and Molecular Biology

For students who wish to prepare for graduate studies in medicine or cell and molecular biology, education, or employment in biomedical research, the eight courses beyond BIOL 101 (or BIOL 100 or BIOL 103 ) and BIOL 102 should be structured as follows:

Two upper-level informational courses aimed at advancing understanding of cell and molecular processes, including:

One course that develops research techniques:

A minimum of three elective courses in biology:

Students should select these biology courses with the additional aim of completing courses in the three areas described in the generalized biology major requirements.

Capstone experience:

Students are encouraged to include at least one upper-division research course, or another research experience, such as directed research in a laboratory, in their coursework.

Additional recommendations:

Students are encouraged to fulfill the additional science course requirement of the generalized major with Organic Chemistry and Physics.