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 four introductory courses. Students should begin the core series with BIOL181 - Principles of Biology I: Cell Biology and Molecular Basis of Heredity and its associated laboratory course BIOL191 - Principles of Biology I--Laboratory, which are offered in the fall semester. BIOL181 - Principles of Biology I: Cell Biology and Molecular Basis of Heredity 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 - Principles of Biology I--Laboratory. 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 - Principles of Biology II and its laboratory course, BIOL192 - Principles of Biology II--Laboratory

The Biology Major program of study consists of the following:

1. Four required introductory courses:

2. At least six mid-level electives, including one from each column in the chart below:

Mostly molecular & cellular levels
Mostly organismal & population levels
BIOL 208 - Molecular Biology BIOL/NS&B 213 - Behavioral Neurobiology
BIOL 210 - Genomics: Modern Genetics, Bioinformatics, and the Human Genome Project BIOL 214 - MacroEvolution, Pattern and Process
BIOL 212 - Principles and Mechanisms of Cell Biology BIOL 215 - Evolution in Human-Altered Environments
BIOL 218 - Developmental Biology BIOL 216 - Ecology
BIOL 217 - Microbial Genomics and Evolution

Please Note: No more than 3 of the mid-level electives listed above may be counted towards the six elective requirement. Additionally, Bio/NS&B double majors may count BIOL/NS&B 213 toward the column 2 requirement, but may not count it towards the remaining four mid-level electives.

3. The four remaining mid-level electives can be selected from the courses below:

BIOL/MB&B 223 - Molecular Basis of Cancer BIOL 322 - Cell Migration in Development and Disease
BIOL/MB&B 228 - Introductory Medical Biochemistry BIOL/NS&B 325 - Stem Cells: Basic Biology to Clinical Application
BIOL/MB&B 232 - Immunology BIOL 332 - Genomics Era Cell and Development
BIOL/MB&B 237 - Signal Transduction BIOL 334 - Shaping the Organism
BIOL 241 - Cell-Cell Interactions in Development BIOL 340 - EvoDevo: Origins of Variation in the Phenotype
BIOL 267 - Engineering Biology: Cells and Tissues BIOL 343 - Muscle & Nerve Development
BIOL 295 - Physiology and Cell Biology of Cancer BIOL/NS&B 345 - Developmental Neurobiology

BIOL 220 - Conservation Biology BIOL 318 - Nature and Nurture: The Interplay of Genes and the Environment
BIOL 226 - Invasive Species: Biology, Policy, and Management BIOL 327 - Evolutionary and Ecological Bioinformatics
BIOL 233/E&ES 234 - Geobiology BIOL 337 - The Origins of Bacterial Diversity
BIOL 235 - Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy BIOL 346 - The Forest Ecosystem
BIOL 290 - Plant Form and Diversity BIOL 365 - Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing: 21st Century Biology
BIOL/E&ES 312 - Global Change Biogeography ENVS 369 - Ecological Resistance: The Good, The Bad, and the Mindful
BIOL 316 - Plant-Animal Interactions ARCP 350 - Animals in Archaeology

BIOL/MB&B 231 - Microbiology MB&B 306 - Epigenetics
BIOL 242 - Quantitative Methods for the Biological and Environmental Sciences BIOL 310 - Genomics Analysis
BIOL/NS&B 257 - Neurogenetics BIOL 327 - Evolutionary and Ecological Bioinformatics
BIOL/CIS 263 - Demystifying Data: Introductory Data Analysis and Modeling BIOL/MB&B 333 - Gene Regulation
BIOL/MB&B 265 - Bioinformatics Programming MB&B 394 - Advanced Laboratory in Molecular Biology and Genetics
BIOL/CIS 270 - Systems Biology with Programming

BIOL/NS&B 224 - Hormones, Brain, and Behavior BIOL/NS&B 328 - Chemical Senses
BIOL/NS&B 239 - Functional Anatomy of the Human Brain BIOL/NS&B 345 - Developmental Neurobiology
BIOL/NS&B 243 - Neurohistology BIOL/NS&B 347 - Mammalian Cortical Circuits
BIOL 244 - Neuropharmacology BIOL/NS&B 351 - Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
BIOL/NS&B 245 - Cellular Neurophysiology BIOL/NS&B 353 - Neurobiology of Neurological Disorders
BIOL 247 - Laboratory in Neurophysiology BIOL 356 - Neurodevelopmental Disorders
BIOL/NS&B 250 - Laboratory in Cellular and Behavioral Neurobiology BIOL 357 - Sex and Gender: From Synapse to Society
BIOL/NS&B 252 - Cell Biology of the Neuron BIOL 358 - Neurobiology of Movement
BIOL/NS&B 254 - Comparative Animal Behavior BIOL/NS&B 360 - Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis in Health and Disease: Molecules, Cells, and Circuits
BIOL/NS&B 299 - Waves, Brains, and Music BIOL 373 - Exploring the Brain-Body Interface: The Neuroscience of Basic Survival

Please Note: Among the 6 Biology mid-level elective courses, 3 must be used exclusively for the Biology major. For double majors, at least 3 mid-level electives that are counted toward the Biology major cannot be simultaneously used to fulfill any other major requirements.

4. Two required Chemistry courses:

5. Cognate courses outside of the Biology Department. Students may choose any 3 of the following from at least 2 departments:

Please Note: Two Statistics courses, even from different departments, cannot both be counted towards the cognate requirement. Additionally, students cannot use E&ES280 to fulfill a cognate requirement if they use QAC231.

6. A Capstone Experience is required for Biology Majors. To fulfill this requirement, students must complete one of the following:

  • One semester of a 300-level course (seminar, lab, or field course)
    • The BIOL/MB&B 338 or 339 Seminar Series can count towards this requirement
  • One semester of a 400-level research tutorial
  • Two semesters of a Senior Thesis tutorial
  • One semester of a 500-level journal club
  • Summer research internship in Biology or a related life sciences area

Additional Courses That Can be Credited to the Biology Major:

Additional Information for Your Consideration:

  • Students planning to go on to graduate school for medical, dental, or other health-related professions should note that a year each of introductory biology, physics, and math (ex: calculus or statistics) and two years of chemistry (general and organic), including any laboratory components, are generally required for admission.
    • 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.
  • Please visit WesMaps for the most current course offerings. Please also note that courses listed above are grouped thematically for your convenience, but that courses are listed in numerical order on WesMaps.
  • 400-level Biology tutorial courses contribute toward graduation, but do not count toward the major. The exception would be if a tutorial is used for the Capstone Experience.
  • With prior permission of the departmental undergraduate liaison Professor Mike Singer (, up to two life science courses from outside the Biology Department or from another institution may be counted toward the major. For examples of courses of other departmental courses within Wesleyan University that may count, please see the list in the section above.
  • Research done with non-Wesleyan faculty at other institutions does not receive Wesleyan credit.
  • Biology majors are allowed to apply up to one elective course taken credit/unsatisfactory toward fulfilling the major requirements. However, this is discouraged as good performance in major courses is an important aspect of a student's transcript.