Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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Information for Prospective Biology Majors

Requirements for Completing the Biology Major

The Core (taken in sequence)

  • BIO 110 Principles of Evolution, Ecology & Heredity
  • BIO 210 Biostatistics
  • BIO 220 Principles of Physiology & Development
  • BIO 230 Cell Biology
  • BIO 305 Genetics

Electives

Five Biology electives.  At least four must have a lab. You may take (but are not required to take) one seminar course that does not have a traditional lab component.

Writing Requirement in Biology

One of the five electives must be designated as a writing-intensive course (“BWR” course).

Cognates

  • CHM 111 General Chemistry I
  • CHM 112 General Chemistry II
  • CHM 211 Organic Chemistry I
  • PHY 111 Fundamental Physics I
  • MAT 109 Calculus I
  • BIO 210 Biostatistics or  Psy 230 (Experimental Design and Statistics) or both MAT 216 (Probability) and MAT 316 (Mathematical Statistics)

Additional Information About The Biology Major

  1. All Biology courses except BIO 110 have pre-requisites in Biology or other departments.
  2. Most electives require only BIO 110 and BIO 220 as pre-requisites. Some electives require BIO 230. Few courses require BIO 305. This means it may be possible for you to begin taking electives before your junior year or as you complete BIO 305, depending on your interests.
  3. Most courses above BIO 305 also require permission of the instructor during registration.
  4. One credit of BIO 391 (Directed Readings) may count as a non-lab elective toward the major.
  5. Up to two credits of BIO 390 or 490 (Independent Study) may count as lab electives toward the major. Independent Study also satisfies the Writing requirement in Biology.
  6. Internships for Credit (BIO 299, 399, or 499) do not count toward the major since they are automatically graded as Pass/No Pass according to college rules.
  7. Three of the five electives must be “regular” courses (i.e., not Directed Readings, Independent Study, or Internship for Credit).
  8. Enrollment in most Biology electives is capped at no more than 16 students (or 16 per section) in order to provide the best learning environment for majors in smaller upper-level courses. This means that some students may not be able to enroll in some elective courses in some semesters.
  9. Student preferences for electives are handled through Biology Elective Poll forms that are distributed prior to pre-registration for the following term. Several factors are used to determine priority for course slots if more than 16 students request a given course. These factors include class year, how many electives a student still needs to complete the major, whether this is the first or second request for the same course, constraints due to study abroad, the need to complete the department writing requirement, and other circumstances. Please see the document titled The Biology Elective Poll:  Why it Exists, How it Works.
  10. Pre-Health Professions students are required to take BIO 110 and BIO 220. It is also highly recommended that they take BIO 230. These are the only courses in Biology that most PHA students must complete. Some health professions schools expect advanced coursework in Biology as well, but in only a few cases are specific courses required (e.g., microbiology for some veterinary medicine schools). PHA students should discuss their Biology elective course needs with the PHA Advisor and with their Biology major advisor.
  11. PHA students also must take the second semesters of calculus (MAT 110), organic chemistry (CHM 212), and physics (PHY 112).
  12. Students interested in graduate school may need to take additional courses in math and other sciences, depending on their interests.
  13. Study abroad can usually be fit into the schedule for the major with little difficulty so long as the student plans ahead in a timely manner with BIO faculty, the department chair, and the International Programs and Off-Campus Study office on campus. Appropriate courses can often be transferred from abroad for Biology elective credit, but we normally expect that majors will take all four core courses at F&M. Study abroad is usually done in the junior year. If it is in the spring, it will not conflict with completing the core (i.e., BIO 305). If it is in the fall, then students can postpone completion of the core until the senior fall or try to take the equivalent of the BIO 305 course abroad.
  14. Under normal circumstances, up to two study abroad credits may be counted as BIO electives toward the major. Courses transferred back for a lab elective credit must have the equivalent of at least 35 hrs of lab during the semester. We do not transfer courses from abroad as Independent Study (BIO 390, BIO 490) since we maintain specific standards for the research component of Independent Study in our department and expect that a BIO 390 or 490 will be done with F&M faculty. (Such a course could transfer to F&M as a general credit toward graduation, however.)
  15. Courses taken elsewhere during the summer (at accredited institutions, field stations, etc.) can often be transferred back to F&M for credit. At F&M the chair of the department in which the credit is sought is responsible for the decision on awarding credit. Students must plan ahead with their advisor so that the request for transfer of credits is reviewed by the appropriate department chair well before the summer. We normally expect that the BIO core courses will be completed at F&M. As with Study Abroad, up to two summer courses may be transferred back as elective credits, and independent studies are not transferable as credit toward the major.  Our policy statement on this subject is available on the web site.
  16. Courses taken during the summer that are transferred back to F&M for credit toward the BIO major can benefit student schedules for several reasons: (1) the credits may free up course slots at F&M for students interested in completing a minor, studying abroad, or simply exploring other areas of interest; (2) courses taken during the summer may be on topics that are not offered in the F&M Biology department; and (3) summer credits may facilitate completion of the major in four years for students who either do not begin the major in their first year, or who have had to drop required courses due to illness, family emergency, or academic difficulty.
  17. There are asymmetric patterns of elective course offerings across fall and spring terms. In general, organismal and sub-organismal courses (e.g., Vertebrate Anatomy, Biochemistry, Developmental Biology) are usually offered in the spring while supra-organismal courses (e.g., Ecology, Forest Ecosystems, Insects) are usually offered in the fall. This is because of faculty commitments to the core courses. For example, the faculty in BIO 110 teach courses in ecology, evolution, and field biology. Therefore, students interested in such courses will have more options in fall semesters than in spring when the faculty are involved in BIO 110. Majors should plan their junior and senior years to take this asymmetry into account.
  18. Many BIO faculty alternate electives every other year. This means that majors may have only one opportunity to take a particular elective in their final two years at F&M, and this should also be taken into account when planning the course schedule. Students should ask the course instructor or the department chair when a course of interest will be offered in the future.
  19. Some electives are offered by replacement faculty when an F&M faculty member goes on leave. But this is not always guaranteed, particularly for electives with lower enrollments. So majors should also check to see if elective courses they want to take are going to be offered by the F&M professor, by a replacement professor, or not offered at all in upcoming years.
  20. Students thinking about doing internships for credit, directed readings, or independent study should talk with BIO faculty and the chair (if appropriate) as soon as possible, and as far as possible in advance of the semester in which it will be done. This is especially important for BIO 390 and 490, which are research experiences. Students need to talk with prospective research advisors well in advance so that adequate planning for the research can be completed.
  21. The requirements and structure of the Biology major exist for many carefully considered reasons, and so we expect that students will meet these requirements if they wish to major in the department. However, unusual circumstances sometimes arise that pose problems for completing the major in the typical fashion as listed (e.g., studying abroad for an entire year, or coming in as a transfer student and trying to figure out how to finish the major here). We (especially your advisor and the department chair) encourage you to talk with us about your situation as soon as possible. We will work with you in whatever ways are appropriate and fair to other majors to make it possible for you to meet your educational goals in biology.

Typical Four-Year Schedule For The Biology Major

Bold-face indicates required courses taken in the preferred semesters/years.
Parentheses indicate required courses that can be taken at alternative times.

Year 1
  • CHM 111 BIO 110
  • CHM 112
Year 2
  • BIO 220 BIO 230
  • CHM 211 (BIO 210)
  • (BIO elective)
Year 3
  • BIO 305 (BIO 210)
  • (PHY 111) (BIO elective)
  • (BIO 210)
Year 4
  • (PHY 111) (BIO elective)
  • (BIO elective) (BIO elective)
  • (BIO elective) (BIO 210)
  • (BIO 210)

Notes:  MAT 109 can fit several places, but should be completed by the end of the sophomore year if possible, and in advance of PHY111. BIO 210 should be completed as early as possible. One of: CHM211, MAT110, CPS111, GEO110, and ENV/GEO114 must also be completed. Only five BIO electives need to be completed.

Completing The Major When Chemistry Is Not Taken In Year 1

Year 1
  • BIO 110
Year 2
  • BIO 220 CHM 112
  • CHM 111 (BIO elective)
  • (BIO 210)
Year 3
  • CHM 211 BIO 230
  • (BIO elective) (BIO 210)
  • (BIO 210) (BIO elective)
Year 4
  • BIO 305 (BIO 210)
  • PHY 111 (BIO elective)
  • BIO elective (BIO elective)
  • (BIO 210)

Notes:  MAT 109 can fit several places, but should be completed by the end of the sophomore year if possible. BIO 210 should be completed as early as possible. Only five BIO electives need to be completed.

Completing The Major When Starting In The Sophomore Year

(Assuming no chemistry, math, or biology completed before sophomore year)

Year 2
  • CHM 111
  • BIO 110
  • CHM 112
Year 3
  • BIO 220 BIO 230
  • CHM 211 BIO elective
  • (BIO 210) (BIO 210)
  • (BIO elective)
Year 4
  • BIO 305 BIO elective