Stephanie Strand, Chair
Biologists seek to understand the living world in all of its complexity through scientific methods of inquiry. The Department of Biology is made up of a group of committed faculty with expertise in diverse fields and sub-disciplines. Our curriculum provides majors with opportunities to explore the full breadth of biological organization and provides experiential learning opportun ities that enhance students’ understanding of content and techniques, as well as the strengths and limitations of scientific methods of inquiry.
The Biology curriculum is designed to give students a strong background in fundamental concepts of biology at the cellular, organismal, and population levels as well as the tools for understanding and carrying out biological research. Student-generated investigations are built into the structure of courses throughout the Biology curriculum beginning in the Gateway courses and continuing through Independent Study. Students collaborate and communicate with peers and faculty as they progress through their courses and Independent Study. These opportunities develop students’ oral and written communication skills as well as their capacity for self-education and problem-solving. These abilities, combined with a liberal arts education, are essential for remaining competitive in the rapidly developing life sciences.
Through its curriculum, the Biology Department seeks to develop students who:
- comprehend foundational and unifying biological principles and their implications;
- retain the knowledge essential to a broad understanding of Biology;
- are familiar with scientific methods of inquiry and the philosophy of science, including methodologies for distilling biological information;
- are able to design and conduct an independent scientific investigation;
- can use scientific information to make reasoned decisions and critically evaluate the work of others;
- are able to communicate scientific information effectively;
- show evidence that they understand how knowledge changes; and
- are motivated to think, study and learn independently.
Major in Biology
Consists of fourteen courses:
Course sequence suggestions for majors:
- The Breadth Requirement: The Department of Biology feels that Biology majors should appreciate and understand a range of topics studied in the field of biology. Students are introduced to a diversity of biological topics in our Gateway course sequence (BIOL 20100 and BIOL 20200 ) and then develop additional depth in each subdivision by completing at least one course from each of the two major subdivisions, as organized below. Students are strongly recommended to complete the breadth requirement before beginning BIOL 45100 so that they can incorporate a range of biological concepts and tools into their Independent Study thesis project.
- BIOL 36000 - Evolution synthesizes the major organizational levels in biology for a deeper understanding of this essential biological principle. Thus, BIOL 36000 is not applicable to either subdivision but does count for credit towards the major or minor.
- The Foundations course, BIOL 11100 , must be taken as the first course by all Biology majors (unless the student has received advanced placement credit). The Gateway courses (BIOL 20100 , BIOL 20200 ) may be taken in either order but should be completed by the end of the sophomore year and must be completed before enrolling in Junior Independent Study. One or both of the Gateway courses is a prerequisite to each upper-level course, although a student may be admitted to an upper-level course by permission of the instructor without having completed the prerequisite, when justifiable.
- BIOL 20300 - Research Skills in Biology should be taken by prospective Biology majors in the fall of their sophomore year. BIOL 11100 and at least one of the Gateway courses (BIOL 20100 and BIOL 20200 ) must be taken prior to enrolling in BIOL 20300 ; the second Gateway course should then be taken concurrently. BIOL 20300 must be completed before enrolling in Junior Independent Study.
- CHEM 11200 must be taken before or with BIOL 20100 and is a prerequisite to several 300-level Biology courses; it should therefore be completed in the first year. Students should complete as many Biology courses as possible, but at minimum one 300-level course, before beginning Junior Independent Study.
- BIOL 40100 must be completed before the student enrolls in BIOL 45100 , and is normally taken in the second semester of the junior year. Students planning a semester off campus should consult with a Biology adviser early in the planning stage. Off-campus study is best scheduled for the spring of the sophomore year or the fall of the junior year.
- The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology courses (BCMB 30300 , BCMB 33100 , BCMB 33200 , BCMB 33300 ) count toward the Biology major and minor and are considered Biology courses for purposes of determining departmental honors. BIOL 10000 and BIOL 40000 courses do not count toward the major or minor, nor do they apply to Honors calculations.
- Biology majors contemplating graduate or professional school are strongly encouraged to take a full year of Organic Chemistry (CHEM 21100 , CHEM 21200 ), a full year of general physics (PHYS 10700 , PHYS 10800 or PHYS 11100 , PHYS 11200 ), AND at least one course in calculus.
- Laboratory Grade Policy: Biology courses with a laboratory will receive one grade that reflects performance in the classroom and laboratory components; the relative weight of the two components will be stated in each course syllabus. Because the Registrar requires a grade for both the course and the laboratory, the course grade and the laboratory grade recorded on student transcripts will be identical.
- Advanced Placement: Students receiving a score of 5 on the Advanced Placement Examination in Biology will receive credit for Foundations of Biology (BIOL 11100 ). With a score of 4 on the Biology AP exam a student can receive one course credit in BIOL 10000 - Topics in Biology , or upon successful completion of the Biology Placement exam may receive one course credit for Foundations of Biology (BIOL 11100 ). Advanced placement credit cannot be substituted for any other Biology courses than those specified above. To receive appropriate Biology credit for AP scores, please contact the Chairperson of the Biology department. The advanced placement policy of the College is explained in the section on Admissions .
- Off-Campus Study: Off-campus study can be a valuable and enriching part of the college curriculum, and we encourage our students to consider off-campus study as a means of augmenting and enhancing their study of biology. Students who would like to include this in their program of study are encouraged to talk with a departmental faculty member early in their first year, and to think about scheduling choices that would make this possible. Biology courses taken at other institutions may count toward the major for up to two 300-level courses. Students should discuss their proposed course electives with the department chair prior to their study-abroad experience (or prior to enrolling in courses at other institutions), to determine whether the courses are equivalent to Wooster courses, and whether they will count toward the major.
- Non-Science Majors: Biological information has become increasingly important as citizens face crucial decisions on such issues as the environment, emerging diseases, genetic engineering, and our aging population. To gain an appreciation of how biologists approach and understand life processes, non-science majors may enroll in either Topics in Biology (BIOL 10000 ) or Foundations of Biology (BIOL 11100 ). Topics in Biology (BIOL 10000 ) courses address specific topical issues in applied biology on a rotating basis (see catalogue description). Foundations of Biology (BIOL 11100 ) is intended as an entry course for students considering a major in one of the Biological Sciences, and focuses on a serious study of the conceptual underpinnings of genetics and evolution as they relate to the field of biology. For students interested in a more extensive laboratory experience, BIOL 20100 or BIOL 20200 would be appropriate after first completing BIOL 11100 .
- A maximum of fifteen courses (including BCMB 30300 , BCMB 33100 , BCMB 33200 and BCMB 33300 ) from the Department of Biology may count toward the College’s thirty-two course graduation requirement.
- Students are not permitted to count any courses taken for S/NC credit towards the major or minor.
- A student must earn a grade of C- or higher for a course to count toward the major or minor.