Major Requirements


The biology major—Students have two options for majoring in biology, leading respectively to the bachelor of science degree and the bachelor of arts degree. Both degrees offer students breadth and depth in the field. The bachelor of science degree is recommended to undergraduates who want the strongest background in the discipline and to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in the biological sciences. The bachelor of arts degree offers a level of flexibility and is appropriate for students with plans that do not necessarily include graduate school. Either the B.S. or B.A. degree is appropriate for students aspiring to health professions schools.

General requirements for the B.S. and B.A.

Course requirements for a major in biology include nine courses from the Department of Biology, plus at least three cognate courses in chemistry and mathematics. No course with a grade less than C- may be counted towards the major.

The core sequence of biology courses is as follows:

  • BIOL 182L. Evolution of Life
  • BIOL 183L. The Cellular Basis of Life (CHEM 111 is a prerequisite)

Required cognate courses include CHEM 111L and 112L. Introductory Chemistry I and II and one of the following courses in quantitative methods:

  • MATH 107. Elements of Statistics
  • MATH 126. Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry
  • MATH 131. Calculus I
  • MATH 132. Calculus II
  • MATH 142. Accelerated Calculus II
  • MATH 207. Statistical Data Analysis
  • PSYC 221L. Research Design and Analysis

Incoming students with interests in the life sciences ideally should enroll in BIOL 182L and CHEM 111L in the fall semester, followed by BIOL 183L and CHEM 112L in the spring semester. If necessary, students who have taken CHEM 111L may enter BIOL 183L in the spring semester and take BIOL 182L the following fall semester. BIOL 182L and 183L are required for most upper-level courses in the biological sciences.

Bachelor of science in biology

Beyond the general requirements outlined above, candidates for the bachelor of science degree are expected to take seven biology courses (at least four with labs), plus one additional cognate course in the physical sciences as described.

The seven additional biology courses include BIOL 224. Genetics, plus one course each from Groups I, II, and IV, plus three other biology courses chosen from any of the groups. Students who wish to use Research in Biology as one of their nine majors courses must either take two semesters of BIOL 419 or 425, or one semester of either with concurrent enrollment in BIOL 403 or 404. Research Seminar.

Group I: Biodiversity—Group I offerings provide exposure to the biology of organisms other than vertebrates, groups that comprise the vast majority of all life. These courses employ an integrative approach with an emphasis on biodiversity.

  • BIOL 215L. Botany
  • BIOL 222L. Invertebrate Zoology
  • BIOL 308L. Microbiology
  • BIOL 336L. Marine and Freshwater Botany

Group II: Cellular/molecular basis of life—Group II offerings will ensure that students gain competence in the cellular and molecular processes that are fundamental to life.

  • BIOL 226L. Recombinant DNA Technology
  • BIOL 227L. Cell Biology
  • BIOL 317L. Biochemistry

Group III: Electives in biology—Group III courses are intended to allow students the opportunity to explore other areas of biology in detail.

  • BIOL 175. Genome Analysis
  • BIOL 204. Plant Diversity
  • BIOL 206L. Histophysiology
  • BIOL 233. Conservation Biology
  • BIOL 244. Biology of Infectious Disease
  • BIOL 300. Evolutionary Thought
  • BIOL 310L. Developmental Biology
  • BIOL 315L. Vertebrate Zoology
  • BIOL 319L. Animal Physiology
  • BIOL 323L. Plant Metabolism and Behavior
  • BIOL 333L. Ecology
  • BIOL 350L. Biological Electron Microscopy
  • NESC 201 or 201L. Principles of Neuroscience: Neurobiology

Group IV: Capstone courses—Group IV courses provide students with a culminating experience in the major, and satisfy the senior exercise requirement. These courses also satisfy the Writing Intensive Part II requirement for the major.

  • BIOL 419. Research in Biology (Library), plus BIOL 403 or BIOL 404
  • BIOL 425. Research in Biology (Laboratory), plus BIOL 403 or BIOL 404
  • BIOL 430. Avian Ecology and Conservation
  • BIOL 435. Life History Strategies
  • BIOL 440. Drug Discovery
  • BIOL 446. Bacterial Pathogenesis
  • BIOL 456L. Biology of Communication
  • BIOL 463L. Ecological Concepts and Methods
  • BIOL 464. Molecular Genetics
  • BIOL 468. Marine Phytogeography
  • BIOL 473L. Sensory Biology
  • BIOL 475. Symbiosis
  • NESC 402. Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology

Required cognate course—In addition to biology and cognate courses listed above, students must take at least one course in organic chemistry (CHEM 211L) or introductory physics (PHYS 101L or PHYS 131L).

Students are strongly recommended to take two semesters in organic chemistry and two semesters in introductory physics. While not required for the major, these are considered to be essential for students who are interested in the health professions or in continuing their education at the graduate level.

Bachelor of arts in biology

Beyond the “general requirements” (BIOL 182 and 183, CHEM 111 and 112, and a course in quantitative methods, as listed above), candidates for the bachelor of arts degree are expected to take seven biology courses (at least four with labs). These seven courses should include at least one course each from Groups I, II, and IV, as listed above.

One of the following courses may be used as an elective toward the bachelor of arts degree if taken before completion of the introductory sequence of BIOL 182 and 183:

  • BIOL 105. Microbes and Society
  • BIOL 107. Plants and People
  • BIOL 111. Winter Ecology
  • BIOL 116. Biogeography
  • BIOL 118. Human Biology
  • BIOL 120. Genes, Clones, and Biotechnology
  • BIOL 131. Urban Wildlife Ecology
  • BIOL 140. Biological Systems
  • BIOL 141. Global Perspectives in Biodiversity and Conservation
  • NESC 101. The Brain
  • NESC 262. Introduction to Animal Behavior
  • PSYC 261. Brain and Behavior

Optional courses of potential interest—Students also are encouraged to take courses in other departments and programs that have a relationship to the biological sciences. Examples of such courses are as follows:

  • ANTH 215. Introduction to Medical Anthropology
  • CHEM 316L. Physical Biochemistry
  • CPSC 115L. Introduction to Computing
  • ENGL 208. Argument and Research Writing
  • ENGR 411. Electrophysiology of the Central Nervous System
  • ENVS 112. Introduction to Earth Science
  • ENVS 149L. Introduction to Environmental Science
  • NESC 202L. Clinical Neuroanatomy
  • NESC 401. Neurochemistry
  • PHIL 215. Medical Ethics
  • PHIL 221. Science, Reality, and Rationality
  • PHIL 227. Environmental Philosophy
  • PHIL 374. Minds and Brains
  • PSYC 261. Brain and Behavior
  • PSYC 464. Neuropsychopharmacology

Research in biology—Majors in biology are provided the opportunity to carry out research through direct laboratory work, field work, or library research under the direction of an individual faculty member. Seniors and those students using a laboratory or library research course to satisfy the Group IV requirement must simultaneously enroll in the biology research seminar (BIOL 403 or 404). Because of the nature of laboratory work and field work, students should be willing to devote at least two semesters to research. Library work is to be done on the semester basis and will involve the preparation of a paper dealing with a significant phenomenon or issue in the field. Those who wish to pursue this work should seek permission from the sponsoring faculty member no later than December 1 if the work is to be initiated in the spring term or no later than May 1 if the work is to be initiated in the fall term. Students are urged to make their arrangements as early as possible in the preceding semester. Ideally, students interested in summer research should contact faculty members in the preceding fall semester.

Non-majors—All students who wish to participate in departmental courses are welcome to enroll in any of these courses as long as they satisfy the listed prerequisites, or after obtaining permission from the faculty member teaching a course.

Courses at other institutions—Students who wish to receive major credit for course work at other institutions should submit to the department chair the name of the institution and the number, title, and catalogue description of the course. This information must be submitted in writing before the work is initiated and formal permission must be granted before the course can be credited toward the major at Trinity. Upon approval, up to three biology courses taken away from Trinity may be counted toward the biology major. Under special circumstances, students may petition the department for permission to transfer additional courses; transfer students wishing to transfer more than three courses should petition at the time of admission.

Study away—While there are many general programs of study abroad for Trinity students, biology majors interested in foreign study should be aware of programs designed particularly for serious biological study outside the College. Examples of suitable programs in which Trinity students participate regularly are listed below:

  • Duke University Marine Laboratory

  • School for Field Studies (field sites in Kenya/Tanzania, Costa Rica, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bhutan, and Australia/New Zealand)
  • Organization for Tropical Studies

  • Marine Biological Laboratory Semester in Environmental Science

  • SEA Semester, Woods Hole

Honors—Students seeking honors must apply for the honors program in biology. This application must be in written form and should be submitted to the chair of biology before the sixth week of classes of a student's sixth semester. The biology faculty will act upon each application. Students seeking honors must have completed five biology courses that count towards the major by the end of their fifth semester and their grade point average in these courses must be at least 3.3 (B+). In addition, they must demonstrate in their work a scholarly intent. Students not qualifying for the honors program after five semesters may be invited by the faculty to enter the program at a later time.

After acceptance into the honors program, students must maintain a GPA of 3.3 in their biology courses. In addition, they must perform research in biology (BIOL 419 or BIOL 425) for two semesters, including participation in BIOL 403 and 404. The honors program for a student culminates in an honors thesis (BIOL 497), an oral presentation to the biology faculty, and a poster presentation at our annual science symposium. Upon completion of these requirements, the faculty of biology will vote to award honors to those candidates who are deemed qualified. Under exceptional circumstances, certain research students not enrolled in the honors program, may, by producing particularly distinguished work, be considered for honors by the faculty of biology.