Frequently Asked Questions

Principles of Biology I – MB&B 181/BIOL 181

  • What's the difference between MB&B 181 and BIOL 181?
    There is no difference.  This single course is cross-listed by two departments, MB&B and Biology.  You can sign up for the course using either name; your transcript will show the name you choose.
  • Is there any difference between the different sections of MB&B 181/BIOL 181?
    There are five different instructors teaching MB&B181/BIOL 181.  Faculty members teaching different sections of MB&B 181/BIOL 181 collaborate in course organization, content, and grading
  • Which majors require Principles of Biology?
    • The Biology, MB&B, NS&B Majors all require a two-semester course sequence consisting of MB&B 181/BIOL 181 (Fall), and MB&B 182/BIOL 182 (Spring).
    • Chemistry majors on the biochemistry track are required to take MB&B 181/BIOL 181.
    • MB&B 181/BIOL 181 counts towards general education expectations (but if you’re sure you will be a non-science major you may prefer a course designed for general education students).
  • Do I need to take MB&B 191/BIOL 191, the introductory biology lab course?

    MB&B 191/BIOL 191 is the lab associated with MB&B 181/BIOL 181; to enroll you must add it as a separate course (0.5 credits).  You are not required to take the lab course, but it is required for most life science majors and for students pursuing health professions.  The lab course does not have to be taken the same semester you take MB&B 181/BIOL 181.

  • Can I get course credit for my Biology AP score? Can I place out of introductory biology with my Biology AP score?

    Students with Biology AP scores of 4 or 5 will earn 1 course credit; no action is necessary.  However, students with high AP scores are strongly encouraged to enroll in MB&B 181/BIOL 181.  A few students each year are allowed to place out of MB&B 181/BIOL 181 based on a placement exam.  Contact Prof. Cori Anderson ( if you are interested in taking the place-out exam.


    Even if you place-out MB&B 181/BIOL 181, there is no place-out exam for the corresponding lab (MB&B 191/BIOL 191). Also note, it is possible to place-out of ONE of the two principles of biology courses (MB&B 181/BIOL 181 (Fall) OR MB&B 182/BIOL 182 (Spring), but not both.

  • What textbook is used for this course? How do I get the textbook?

    All sections of MB&B 181 use the same textbook:  Essential Cell Biology (5th Edition) by Alberts et al.  Students may choose to purchase a hard copy of the textbook, an e-book, or may access the book on reserve in the Science Library.  You will receive more information regarding these options the first week of class.

  • What happens on Fridays?
    Classes meet in groups of approximately 40 students on Monday and Wednesday to address core concepts in a lecture/discussion format.  Each Friday, the class is split into two groups of approximately 20 students for problem-based learning.  Students explore concepts by engaging in problems-based learning and activities related to the week’s material, guided by the instructor and course assistants.