Requirements for the Biology Major

Students are encouraged to begin their major in the first year so that they can take maximum advantage of upper-level biology courses and research opportunities in later years. However, the major can certainly be successfully completed if begun during sophomore year, and many students are able to combine the biology major with a semester abroad.

A prospective biology major begins with a series of two core introductory courses. Students should begin the core series with BIOL181 and its associated laboratory course, BIOL191, which are offered in the fall semester. BIOL181 is offered in a number of small sections rather than a single large lecture class. These small sections allow for problem-based learning at a more individualized pace as students master the first semester of university-level biology. Students should enroll separately for the lab course, BIOL191. These courses do not have prerequisites or corequisites, but it is useful to have some chemistry background or to take chemistry concurrently. In the spring semester, the prospective major should take BIOL182 and its laboratory course, BIOL192. An optional spring course, BIOL194, is offered to students of BIOL182 who wish a challenging reading and discussion experience in addition to the lectures.

The biology majors program of study consists of the following:

  • The two introductory courses, BIOL181-BIOL182, with their labs, BIOL191-BIOL192
  • An optional spring course, BIOL194, is offered to students of BIOL182 who wish a challenging reading and discussion experience in addition to the lectures.

At least six elective biology courses at the 200 and 300 levels including:

  • one mid-level cell/molecular course

         (either MB&B208BIOL210BIOL212, or BIOL218) AND

  • one mid-level organismic/population course

         (either BIOL213BIOL214BIOL215 or BIOL216)

Among the 6 Biology elective courses, 3 must be used exclusively for the Biology major

Note: No more than three of these mid-level courses (listed above) may be counted towards the six advanced elective requirement.

Important Information for double majors: At least 3 electives (200-level and above) that are counted toward the Biology major cannot be simutaneously used to fulfill any other major.

In addition, double Bio/NS&B majors cannot count NS&B 213 toward the 6 electives but may count it to fulfill the Column 2 breadth requirement.

Courses outside the Biology Dept

 Two semesters of general chemistry (CHEM141-CHEM142 or CHEM143-CHEM144)

Any three additional semesters of related courses from at least two different departments (these are courses that address approaches and methodologies applied in biology)

*Also see additional courses below


Two Statistics courses, even from different departments cannot both be counted as cognate.
Students cannot use E&ES280 if they use QAC231

Please note: Students planning to go on to medical, dental, or other health professions graduate school should note that a year each of introductory biology, physics, and math (such as calculus or statistics) and two years of chemistry (general and organic) are required for admission, including any laboratory components.

A strong chemistry background is especially recommended for students planning to enter graduate or medical school. Most medical and other health-related graduate schools require two years of college-level chemistry, including laboratory components, as well as a course in biochemistry.

  • See Wesmaps for most current offerings. [Note: the courses are grouped thematically for your convenience only.]

Capstone Experience will be required for Biology Majors Declaring in 2020 

Students must complete at least one of the following:

  1. 300-level seminar course 
  2. 300-level lab or field course 
  3. At least one semester of BIOL 338 or 339 (BIOL/MB&B seminar series courses) 
  4. At least one semester of BIOL 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, or 510 (journal club courses) 
  5. SENIOR THESIS-two semesters
  6. Lab research tutorial (423 or 424)
  7. Summer research internship


BIOL/COMP 265/266 Bioinformatics Programming
BIOL 310 Genomic Analysis
BIOL 327/527 Evolutionary & Ecological Bioinformatics
BIOL/NS&B257 Neurogenetics

MB&B 231 Microbiology
MB&B 306 Epigenetics
MB&B333 Gene Regulation
MB&B 394 Lab in Molecular Biology & Genetics



BIOL241 Cell-Cell Interactions in Development
BIOL295 Phsysiology and Cell BIology of Cancer
BIOL 334 Shaping the Organism
BIOL332 Genomics Era Cell and Development
BIOL 340/540 Issues in Development & Evolution
BIOL 343/543 Muscle and Nerve Development
BIOL/NS&B 325 Stem Cells: Basic Biology to Clinical Applications
BIOL/NS&B 345/545 Developmental Neurobiology

MB&B 232 Immunology
MBB/BIOL 237 Signal Transduction




ANTH 202 Paleoanthropology: The Study of Human Evolution
ANTH 349 The Human Skeleton
ARCP203 The Secrets of Ancient Bones: Discovering Ancient DNA and Archaeology
ARCP257 Environmental Archaeology
E&ES 234 Geobiology
MB&B 228 Introductory Medical Biochemistry*
CHEM323 Biochemistry of Neurodegenerative Disorders
CHEM383 Biochemistry
CHEM325 Biomolecular Structure

*MB&B 228 Intro Medical Biochem may be counted as long as neither MB&B208 nor MB&B383 is counted toward the major.

Additional information:

  • 400 level courses (research tutorials) are not creditable toward the major, but do receive university credit. 
  • With prior permission of the departmental undergraduate liaison (2019-2020 Prof Mike Singer (, up to two life science courses from outside the department or from another institution may be counted toward the major.  See courses listed above.

  • Research done with non-Wesleyan faculty at other institutions does not receive Wesleyan credit.

See Wesmaps for more information regarding the courses .