Curriculum Overview 


The study of biology furnishes insights into our species, our selves and the world of which we are a part. We humans have a fascination for other organisms and the very phenomenon of life. Biology provides us the tools to address questions ranging from how these organisms function at the molecular level to how they interact at the ecological level. Biology is an exciting, expanding discipline offering a broad and advancing frontier between the known and the undiscovered, with a variety of sub-disciplines that span the molecular to organismal to ecological levels of understanding. It is a gateway to diverse and satisfying careers and it provides insights and ways of thinking critical to each individual in society.

Franklin & Marshall’s biology program, with required and elective courses in biology as well as courses in mathematics, chemistry and physics, provides students with a firm scientific foundation and enough flexibility to accommodate individual interests. The range of these interests is reflected in the many paths biology majors follow after graduation, with or without further education.

The Biology Department at Franklin & Marshall is made up of diverse and broadly trained faculty members whose research informs their teaching. As befits biology’s place in the contemporary world, courses and research provide links to many other disciplines, including chemistry, psychology, physics, mathematics, environmental science, computer science, and public policy. The department participates in several interdisciplinary programs: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Biological Foundations of Behavior (Neuroscience and Animal Behavior), Environmental Science, Environmental Studies and Public Health.

The central goal of the Biology curriculum is to provide students with the essential research and analytical thinking skills needed by practicing biologists and, indeed, by all citizens in a democratic society. Critical reading of journal articles is an important feature of courses. Beginning in introductory courses, laboratory activities often involve student-designed investigative projects. In more advanced courses, students have access to sophisticated instruments and may spend the entire semester conducting a research project. In addition to learning to design, conduct, and analyze scientific research, students learn essential communication skills as they convey their results in written, spoken, and poster form. These activities lead many students to intensive research experiences during the summer or academic year, under the mentorship of faculty members.

A major in Biology for the Class of 2025 and beyond consists of 14 courses. Eight are core and elective courses in Biology: BIO 101, 102, 200; and five electives. BIO 210 is also required. At least three of the electives must be taken at Franklin & Marshall. At least four of the electives must have a laboratory component. The fifth elective may be a non-lab seminar. Independent Study (BIO 390 or 490) is lab-based and may count for up to two of the five electives. Directed Readings (BIO 391) may count for up to one non-lab elective. The five additional required courses are CHM 111 and 112; PHY 101 or 111; MAT 109; and one additional course from the following: CHM 211, PHY 112, MAT 110, ENE 110, ENE 114, or CPS 111. Also required is BIO 210 (with permission, PSY 300 or both MAT 216 and 316 may be substituted for BIO 210).

A major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology includes four biology courses (BIO 101, 102, 200 and 334), six chemistry courses (CHM 111, 112, 211, 212, 321 and 451) and two electives from Biology and/or Chemistry. The electives must be chosen from the following list of courses, unless permission is received from the BMB advisor: BFB 490; BIO 240, 306, 313, 322, 326, 331, 341, 346, 352, 353 some topics courses from 370 – 379, 390 and 490; or CHM 221, 222, 322, 351, 390 and 490. Only one semester of an independent study course (390 or 490) may count as an elective and none of the electives may be a course without a laboratory. Required related courses are PHY 111 and MAT 109 and 110. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology majors may not declare a minor in Chemistry.

The Biological Foundations of Behavior major offers concentrations in Neuroscience and Animal Behavior.

The Environmental Science major combines courses in biology, chemistry and geology to understand the impacts of the human enterprise on natural systems and processes. The Environmental Studies major combines courses in science and social science to examine environmental issues from cultural, economic, and political perspectives.

The Public Health major is composed of  three tracks: one in government/policy; one in sociology; and one in biology. The Biology track provides students with a comprehensive background in biology as well as specific courses in public health and epidemiology.

Opportunities exist for students to design a joint or special studies major in Bioinformatics in consultation with the Associate Chair of Biology and/or the Computer Science Chair.

BIO 101, 102, and 200 are generally prerequisites to most higher-numbered courses.

The writing requirement in the Biology major is met by completion of one elective with a writing component. Regular courses satisfying the writing requirement in the Biology major are BIO 245, 250, 306, 310, 313, 323, 325, 326, 328, 330, 337, 340, 341, 342, 343, 352, 390 and 490. Some topics courses from 370 – 379 also fulfill the writing requirement in the Biology major. (BWR designates courses fulfilling the Biology writing requirement.)

To be considered for honors in Biology, a student must have a GPA of at least 3.30 in the major. In addition, a student must conduct an Independent Study project lasting more than one semester, submit a thesis, and present his or her research publicly as part of the honors defense. A faculty committee will award honors to students whose research demonstrates independence, intellectual engagement, and a deep understanding of the project.

Majors in the Department of Biology have studied abroad in varied programs in recent years, including: Australian National University, Canberra, Australia; University of Melbourne, Australia; University College, London, United Kingdom; School for Field Studies (in various countries); Danish International Study (DIS), Copenhagen, Denmark, School for International Training (in various countries). See the International and Off-Campus Study section of the Catalog or the “Off-Campus Study Opportunities” page of the F&M Biology website for further information.

Courses Offered


Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures; (WP) World Perspectives requirement.


101. Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity. (N)
This course will examine  life at individual/population/community/ecosystem levels through an investigation of evolution  and ecology.  Topics will include: micro- and macroevolution, the origin and diversification of life on earth, and ecological patterns and processes, including global ecology. No prerequisites. No prerequisites. Offered every semester. May not be taken concurrently with BIO 102.
Fischer, Howard, Olson, Rice, Sipe

102. Cell and Molecular Biology. (N)
This course will examine life at  cellular/subcellular levels through investigation of the molecular components of cells and regulation of genetic information. Core concepts will include the physical and chemical  properties that govern the assembly and function of biological molecules, information flow from  DNA to protein, and the mechanisms that regulate subcellular systems. Lecture topics will be  integrated with a laboratory component that emphasizes core skills in molecular biology,  including data collection, analysis, and interpretation. No prerequisites. Offered every semester.  May not be taken concurrently with BIO 101.     
Blair, Davis, Fields, Jenik, Roberts, Stoehr

200. Integrative Biology. (N)
This course will examine how structure and function in multicellular organisms is integrated. We will explore how a single cell develops into the complex, integrated systems of an organism in which groups of differentiated cells perform specific tasks. We will study specialized cell functions in the context of organismal physiology, and including signaling, metabolism, and transport. Using diverse examples from multiple kingdoms, we will explore how tissues, organs, and organisms have adaptations optimized for their environments, in order to utilize resources and to maintain homeostasis despite environmental stresses. Prerequisites: BIO 101 and BIO 102. Offered every semester.    
Gotsch, Thompson

210. Biostatistics.
An introduction to descriptive and inferential statistics from the perspective of the life sciences. The emphasis will be on research design and on the use of graphical and computational methods in interpreting and communicating results. This course satisfies the statistics requirement in the Biology major curriculum. Prerequisite: BIO 110.
A. Miller, K. Miller, Okatch

240. Neuroscience. (N)
Principles of nervous system function from the molecular through the organ system level as illustrated by the vertebrates and invertebrates. Approximately one half of the course will cover basic cellular principles of nervous system organization, development and physiology. The remaining lectures will consider the role of functionally identified neural networks in behavior control. Prerequisite: BIO 102 or BFB/PSY 351/302. Offered every Spring. Same as BFB/PSY/SPM 240. 

245. American Nature Essays. (BWR)
An exploration of the themes, structures, styles and significance of American nature essays. The purposes of the course are to become familiar with nature essays as a distinctive form of interdisciplinary literature, to see the natural world and our place in it through the voices and visions of the best nature essayists, and to develop the arts of perception, reflection and compelling writing. The course includes weekly field trips and workshops in addition to class discussions of essays by more than 20 writers. Prerequisites: BIO 110, ENE 114, ENE 117, or ENE 118. Same as ENE 245.

INT 261. Experiential Elementary Science Teaching
This course will provide academic context and support as students teach science in a local elementary school classroom. Students will work in partnership with the classroom teacher to design engaging, age-appropriate, inquiry-based lesson plans that will be compatible with the School District of Lancaster’s designated science content. The course will focus on teaching technique, pedagogy, effective lesson planning, as well as larger issues associated with inclusive classrooms, urban education and inquiry-based approaches to science. Permission of the instructor required.

305. Genetics. (N)
The study of the transmission, dynamics, and regulation of genetic information. Topics will range from “classical” genetics (Mendel’s laws, gene interactions, population genetics), to molecular genetics (DNA mutation and repair, regulation of gene expression, epigenetics), to genomics, bioinformatics and applications (e.g. biotechnology, genetic testing). The laboratory component emphasizes the use of molecular methods in genetics. Prerequisite: BIO 230. Offered Fall 2022 and Spring 2023.
Blair, Mena-Ali

306. Developmental Biology. (N) (BWR)
An exploration of the developmental mechanisms that allow single cells to divide and differentiate into complex, multicellular organisms. The common processes that underlie development in animals will be examined through historical perspectives, model experimental organisms and current research and technologies. Laboratories will focus on experimental design using invertebrate and vertebrate developmental systems. Prerequisite: BIO 305 or 200. 

310. Experimental Design in Biology. (BWR)
An exploration of the challenges and rewards of experimentation in biology. In this seminar, we will use case studies to illustrate the basic principles of experimental design, including hypothesis generation, assigning treatments, replication/pseudoreplication, confounded variables and statistical power. Case studies will be chosen to represent a wide range of sub-disciplines of biology, including biomedical research. Prerequisite: BIO 110 or 101.

313. Introduction to Genome Analysis. (N) (BWR)
An introduction to bioinformatics theory and methods used to generate, annotate, and analyze genomic sequences. The laboratory portion of this course will involve extensive hands-on training to navigate databases and use various software packages for sequence analysis. Students will be expected to discuss and critique primary literature, and will design an independent project to be presented at the end of the semester. Prerequisite: BIO 305 or 200.  

320. Animal Behavior with Lab. (N)
An integrative approach to animal behavior from the perspectives of ethology, behavioral ecology, and comparative psychology. The structure, function, development, and evolution of behavioral adaptations including orientation, foraging and predation, communication, social organization, and reproductive strategies. Observational and experimental research required. Outside class time to work on independent research project. Prerequisites: BIO 101/110, and permission of instructor.  Corequisites: BIO 210 or PSY 300/230, and permission of the instructor. Same as PSY/BFB 320. Previously BIO 250.

322. Microbiology. (N)
This course explores the principles of microbiology including microbial nutrition, metabolism, genetics, ecology, and pathogenicity. Although the emphasis is on Bacteria and Archaea, the course will also include discussion of the protozoa, fungi and viruses. Basic microbiological skills, including microscopy, staining, and techniques used in the isolation and identification of bacteria will be developed in the laboratory. Prerequisite: BIO 230.

323. Ecological Concepts and Applications. (N) (BWR)
Interactions of organisms with their environment and how these interactions are influenced by human activities. Special emphasis is placed on principles of population, community and ecosystem ecology. Class exercises and discussions involve critical evaluation of current research and applications of ecological concepts to conservation and management. Most labs are field-oriented, including an overnight trip to the Poconos. Prerequisite: BIO 110 or 101.

325. Marine Biology. (N) (BWR)
Application of ecological principles to marine environments. Structural and functional adaptations of marine organisms; and emphasis on the interactions of individuals, populations and communities with physical, chemical and geological processes in the ocean. Includes analysis of primary scientific literature, field and laboratory studies and individual research projects. Prerequisite: BIO 200 or 220. 

326. Comparative Physiology. (N) (BWR)
Physiological adaptation of animals to the environment, focusing on respiratory, circulatory, digestive and musculoskeletal systems and on the effects of variation in oxygen, temperature and the availability of food and water. Prerequisites: BIO 220. 
J. Thompson

328. Physical Biology. (N) (BWR)
Participants in the course will use the basic principles of fluid and solid mechanics, optics, vibration, and electromagnetic fields to analyze the morphology and function of organisms or parts of organisms. Topics will include vision, transparency, navigating and communicating with sound, circulatory systems, swimming and flying, and the mechanical properties of biomaterials, structures, and movement. Prerequisite: BIO 220 or 200. Corequisite: PHY111. Same as BFB 328.
J. Thompson

330. Advanced Neurobiology. (N) (BWR)
Advanced issues in neuroscience will be explored from a comparative perspective in this lecture/seminar hybrid. The major sensory modalities will be studied—from stimulus transduction to perception—as models of neural processing. Current research in cellular, systems-level, integrative/behavioral and cognitive neuroscience will be emphasized. Laboratory includes an independent research project in neuroscience defined, proposed, pursued and disseminated by small research teams. Prerequisite: BIO/BFB 240. Same as BFB 330.

331. Evolutionary Developmental Biology. 
Why do animal and plant species look different? What are the developmental mechanisms that generate this morphological diversity? How do modifications of development lead to the production of novel features? How have these processes themselves evolved? The goal of this course is to introduce the students to the concepts and the literature of the recent field of Evo-Devo, the developmental basis of evolutionary change. The course will cover theoretical and experimental aspects, and will use animal and plant case studies. Prerequisite: BIO 305 or 200.    

334. Metabolic Biochemistry. (N)
The course focuses on major metabolic pathways and their regulation, with emphasis on flux of metabolites and energy throughout the cell. Topics also include integration of metabolic processes; protein synthesis, modification and degradation; and diseases of metabolism. Presentation and discussion of current primary literature is a key component of the course. The laboratory includes the use of proteomics techniques to examine effects of abiotic stresses on metabolic processes. Prerequisites: BIO 230, CHM 211. Offered every Spring. 

336. Evolution. (N)
As the unifying principle of biology, evolution integrates levels of biological organization, with a focus on biological changes over time and the evidence of the shared evolutionary history of all living things. Topics include speciation; extinction; population processes of selection and adaptation, genomics and the molecular basis of evolution; evolutionary developmental biology; sexual selection; life history evolution; and the application of evolution to medicine. Prerequisite: BIO 110 or 101. 

337. Behavioral Ecology. (BWR)
Behavioral ecology is an integrative discipline that synthesizes ecology, evolution and physiology into the study of the origin and persistence of behaviors. We will study the fitness consequences of behavior, with particular attention to the study of adaptation, sexual selection, evolutionary tradeoffs and constraints and life histories. We will examine the interplay between proximate control and ultimate consequences of behavior. The course will focus heavily on peer-reviewed literature. Prerequisite: BIO 110 or 101. Same as BFB 337. 

341. Neurochemistry. (N) (BWR)
An introduction to neurochemistry focusing on cellular and membrane neurochemistry, intercellular and intracellular signaling and neuronal and whole-brain metabolism, with student-driven special topics in development, disease and/or behavior. Current research in these areas will be emphasized through student seminars. Laboratory includes a research project in neurochemistry designed, proposed, pursued and disseminated by small research teams. Prerequisite: BIO/BFB 240 or BIO 230 or BFB 302. Same as BFB 341.

343. Functional Human Neuroanatomy. (BWR)
This seminar utilizes a problem-solving approach to learning neuroanatomy by relating structure to function and functional disorders using data from carefully documented clinical cases. Seminar meetings will include clinical case presentations (symptomology), analysis of clinical localization (where is the problem?), analysis of associated radioimaging (CAT scan, MRI, etc.), and discussion of clinical course and prognosis. The course will culminate with a class-wide debate on the biological basis of the mind. Non-traditional writing will be emphasized. Prerequisites: BIO/BFB 240 or PSY/BFB 351/302.  Same as BFB 343.  

346. Cancer Biology. (N)
This course focuses on the molecular and cellular events that contribute to human cancers. Topics include oncogenes and tumor suppressors, DNA repair mechanisms, protection from apoptosis, cancer stem cells, and angiogenesis/metastasis. In addition to lecture material, the course will also incorporate primary literature that explores recent advances in our understanding of the molecular nature of cancer, as well as current cancer therapies. The laboratory utilizes an investigative approach that introduces students to molecular techniques widely used in cancer research. Prerequisite: BIO 230 or 200. 

352. Advanced Genetics and Epigenetics. (N) (BWR)
This course is intended as a continuation of the themes covered in BIO 305 Genetics. In it we will study more advanced genetic techniques (the Awesome Power of Genetics!) and their use to study a variety of biological problems. We will also focus on the current understanding of the regulation of gene expression by genetic and, particularly, epigenetic factors. The course will have a strong emphasis on reading primary literature. Prerequisite: BIO 305 or 200. 

353. Immunobiology. (N)
This course consists of an integrated series of lectures designed to familiarize students with the cellular, molecular and biochemical aspects of immunobiology in the context of immunity, infection and inflammation. Lectures will be supplemented with the analysis of primary literature and student presentations, projects or papers. The first half of the course focuses on the immune system and the function of its major components. The second half focuses on how the various components function during the response to infectious agents and how the system is naturally dysregulated during non-infectious diseases. Topics will include, but are not limited to ontogeny, immune responses to pathogens, vaccine development, tumor immunity and autoimmunity. The laboratory will complement the lectures by introducing students to molecular, cellular and clinical techniques used in modern investigative research. Prerequisite: BIO 230 or 200. 

354. Epidemiology.
Epidemiology is the study of health and disease of populations. In this course, students will learn methods Epidemiologists use to elucidate relationships between various types of exposures and positive or negative health outcomes; they will also explore methods to trace and predict disease patterns, including epidemics and pandemics. In this course, students will learn how to develop research questions, design ethical studies, conduct sampling for research, perform basic analyses, and minimize bias and other types of error. Prerequisite: PBH251 or permission of instructor. Same as PBH 354. 
Miller, Okatch

355. Genetic Susceptibility.
An exploration of inherited predisposition to human disease. This seminar course will introduce examples of disorders with differing frequency, penetrance, expressivity, and age of onset (Down syndrome, cancer). The progress in identification of genes, potential testing, and policy implications in the framework of medical advances and the healthcare system will be explored. Students will then investigate the current status of disorders linked to genetic susceptibility that are less defined or more complex than the selected examples. Prerequisite: BIO220 or 200. Same as PBH355. 

391. Directed Reading.
Exploration of a chosen topic in biology with reading directed by a member of the Biology Department staff. May count as a seminar elective toward the Biology major. Permission of associate chair required.

390 and 490. Independent Study. (BWR)
Independent research directed by the Biology staff at either the junior (390) or senior (490) level. May count as a laboratory elective toward the Biology major. Permission of associate chair required.

Topics Courses Expected to be Offered in 2022-2023 

  • Data Science in Ecology and the Environment.

  • Principles of Biochemistry.

  • Sports Physiology.

  • Disease Causing Agents.