The biological sciences major is available to students enrolled in either the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences or the College of Arts and Sciences. The program’s curriculum, academic advising, and undergraduate research components are coordinated for students in both colleges by the Office of Undergraduate Biology located in 216 Stimson Hall.
Students majoring in biological sciences take a set of six courses in the core areas of biology. They complete the Introductory Biology Cluster consisting of the Investigative Biology Laboratory and two courses from three core areas of biology: Introductory Biology: Comparative Physiology, Introductory Biology: Cell and Developmental Biology, and Introductory Biology: Ecology and the Environment. Completion of the Introductory Biology Cluster satisfies the Introductory Biology requirement for application to medical, dental and veterinary school. Three additional core courses, Introduction to Evolution and Diversity, Genetics and Genomics, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, are required of all biological sciences majors. Introduction to Evolution and Diversity is taken in the Freshman or Sophomore year and Genetics and Genomics and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology are typically taken in the sophomore or junior years. None of the core courses should be taken in the senior year. Whenever possible, students should complete the Introductory Biology Cluster, Introduction to Evolution and Diversity, general and organic chemistry, and mathematics sequences by the end of their sophomore year. Additionally, majors select one of 14 concentrations within the biological sciences major.
Students should work closely with their faculty advisor and professional advisors in the Office of Undergraduate Biology to design a suitable academic course plan. By completion of the sophomore year, all students who intend to major in biological sciences must declare the major and a concentration.
Students should regularly monitor their progress in the major, and realistically assess the likelihood of achieving at a level that is consistent with their academic and personal goals. Weak performance (C- or lower) in core courses may indicate a need to re-evaluate commitment to and genuine interest in the major. Students with questions and concerns are encouraged to talk to one of the advisors in the Office of Undergraduate Biology.
The requirements for the biological sciences major are listed below. Requirements 1–10 must be taken for a letter grade. Once matriculated, students are required to complete all major biology core requirements at Cornell or during an approved Study Abroad semester (numbers 1-3, 8–10 below). Students must take all courses for the concentration for a letter grade unless the course is offered for S–U grades only or if the student’s advisor grants permission.
1. Introductory Biology Cluster:
Take two of the three following subject areas:
2. Investigative Laboratory:
3. Evolutionary Biology and Diversity:
CHEM 2150 is intended for students who have earned a score of 5 on the CEEB AP Chemistry exam, or have equivalent preparation (to be determined by the Chemistry Department). Students who have earned a score of 5 on the CEEB AP Chemistry exam will receive credit for CHEM 2070 /2090 . Students taking CHEM 2070 or 2090 will forfeit AP credit. Students taking CHEM 2150 will retain AP credit. Students may also receive credit for CHEM 2070 or CHEM 2090 by passing an exam given during Fall orientation. See chemistry.cornell.edu for further information. Cornell advises medical schools that Chemistry AP credit, together with completion of CHEM 2150 , is the equivalent of 8 credits of introductory chemistry, such as CHEM 2070 - CHEM 2080 .
5. College mathematics:
Two courses: One semester of calculus (MATH 1106 , MATH 1110 , or their equivalent) plus one semester selected from a, b, or c:
a. A second semester of calculus:
b. A course in finite mathematics:
c. One course in statistics (STSCI 2150 or BTRY 3010 are preferred):
Some biological sciences concentrations require one semester of organic chemistry laboratory. See the specific concentration requirements for more details. In addition, medical, dental, and veterinary schools, as well as some masters and PhD programs may expect students to take organic chemistry laboratory. Please refer to the appropriate Cornell Career Services Guide for more information.
Those who take PHYS 1112 and PHYS 2213 are advised to complete PHYS 2214 as well in order to have full coverage of Introductory Physics material.
8. Genetics and Genomics:
The lecture must be taken either concurrently or in advance of the laboratory. It is strongly encouraged that these two course requirements be taken prior to senior year.
9. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology:
BIOMG 3330 and BIOMG 3350 are not allowed for those students concentrating in Biochemistry or Molecular and Cell Biology.
10. A concentration:
Students accepted into the biological sciences major must choose a concentration . Whereas the core requirements of the biology curriculum provide the common foundation deemed essential for all biology majors, the role of the concentration is to provide a focus in a particular area of biology. The concentration requirement can be met by taking 13 to 15 credit hours of courses chosen by the student in consultation with his or her biology advisor. Concentrations in particular subject areas are designed by faculty members specializing in the subject. Typically, the concentration consists of one or more courses that provide foundation in the subject and a list of optional courses from that area or related areas, the majority of which are at an advanced level (3000 or higher). Because biology is an experimental science, most concentrations require one or more laboratory courses. The laboratory requirement in some concentrations can be met by participation in the independent research course (BIOG 4990 ).
- Advanced placement biology credits are not accepted for substitution or placement out of any introductory biology course.
- Although not required for the biological sciences major, a course in statistics is recommended for all biology students. STSCI 2150 and BTRY 3010 are preferred course choices.
- Core courses noted in numbers 1–9 above cannot count toward the concentration requirements.
- Transfer students must see an advisor in the Office of Undergraduate Biology to determine the transferability of courses into the biology major and subsequent courses that must be completed.
Pre-medical/veterinary students not majoring in biological sciences:
- Pre-medical students should refer to the following link for a list of courses required for admission to medical school career.cornell.edu/paths/health/index.cfm
- Advanced placement biology credits may still be used toward fulfilling pre-medical/pre-veterinary prerequisite courses, but students should check Cornell Career Services, 103 Barnes Hall, for the listing of medical schools that recognize AP credit.
- Non–biological sciences majors should consult with their major advisor for course selection advice regarding freshmen-level biology courses that may be required for their major.