Courses of Study 2023-2024 
    Jul 16, 2024  
Courses of Study 2023-2024 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Policies and Procedures

In the Biological Sciences program .


If you want to major in biological sciences at Cornell, apply to either the College of Arts and Sciences or the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Since courses, concentrations, research opportunities, major advising services, and requirements for the biological sciences major are the same in both colleges, we advise you to make your college choice according to your secondary interests. It’s the non-biology course options and requirements that vary from college to college. Students should spend time visiting both college web sites to learn more about their respective academic offerings beyond biology.

Admission to the major after matriculation generally requires:

  • being in good standing with your college;
  • passing two or more required biology courses with C or better;
  • and presenting a reasonable plan to satisfactorily complete the major by your expected graduation date.

***Students who externally transfer to Cornell into a major other than biological sciences are not eligible to change majors to biological sciences. For additional question, please contact the Office of Undergraduate Biology.


The Office of Undergraduate Biology (OUB), 216 Stimson Hall,, staff provides academic, personal and career advising and supports student success through a multi-dimensional, developmental approach.  OUB and faculty advisors complement one another to foster intellectual curiosity and help students understand the goals and requirements of the biological sciences major.  OUB staff provide services, develop programs, and utilize technology to support holistic development and well-being. The staff assists students to explore undergraduate curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities as well as the diverse career paths available to our graduates.  In collaboration with faculty advisors and university colleagues, OUB staff teach and empower students to utilize resources and to become self-regulated learners who think critically about and take responsibility for their educational experience and career aspirations.

Students interested in marine biology should visit the Shoals Marine Laboratory website and contact the SML Cornell Academic Coordinator listed on the staff page. Students interested in other biology related majors should visit the appropriate advising office. Biology & Society, HBHS, BEE, BME, ESS, Animal Science, Nutritional Sciences , Global & Public Health, Human Development.

Curriculum Committee

Many decisions pertaining to the curriculum are made by the Biology Curriculum Committee. The committee meets monthly, consists of the Directors of Undergraduate Study for the concentrations and welcomes advice and suggestions from all interested parties. The committee is chaired by the faculty director who can be reached via the Office of Undergraduate Biology.

Forbidden Overlaps

Because the department offers many courses with overlapping content, students must choose their courses carefully to ensure that they will receive credit for each course they take. Listed below are courses that have similar content or forbidden overlap. Students will receive credit for only one of the courses (or course sequences) in each group:

Group A

BIOG 1440 - Introductory Biology: Comparative Physiology  

BIOG 1445 - Introduction to Comparative Anatomy and Physiology, Individualized Instruction  

Group B

BIOMG 3300 - Principles of Biochemistry, Individualized Instruction  

BIOMG 3310 - Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins and Metabolism  and

BIOMG 3320 - Principles of Biochemistry: Molecular Biology  

BIOMG 3350 - Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins, Metabolism, and Molecular Biology  

NS 3200 - Introduction to Human Biochemistry  

Group C

BIOG 1500 - Investigative Biology Laboratory   

BIOSM 1500 - Investigative Marine Biology Laboratory  

PLSCI 1420 - Functional Plant Biology   

Group D

BIOEE 1540 - Introductory Oceanography  

BIOEE 1560 - Introductory Oceanography with Laboratory  

Group E

BIOMG 2800 - Lectures in Genetics and Genomics   

NTRES 2830 - DNA, Genes and Genetic Diversity  

Group F

BIOEE 1780 - An Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Diversity  

BIOSM 1780 - Evolution and Marine Diversity  

BIOEE 1781 - Introduction to Evolution and Diversity  

Group G

BIOMI 2500 - Public Health Microbiology  

BIOMI 2600 - Microbiology of Human Contagious Diseases  

Group H

BIOEE 1610 - Introductory Biology: Ecology and the Environment  

BIOSM 1610 - [Ecology and the Marine Environment]  


The departments of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Entomology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Neurobiology & Behavior, the Plant Biology section of SIPS, and Biomedical Sciences participate in the major, as does the Division of Nutritional Sciences. Research and teaching in biology at Cornell is not limited to these departments, however: there are over 300 biology faculty on the Ithaca campus alone, with more at Weill Cornell Medicine.

The Office of Undergraduate Biology (OUB) is located in 216 Stimson Hall (607-255-5233,, The OUB provides comprehensive, academic, career, and research advising to current and prospective biological sciences majors and minors, as well as alumni and faculty. Our primary mission is to serve the diverse needs of our majors as they navigate the curriculum and achieve their academic and career aspirations.

The Shoals Marine Laboratory, a cooperative venture with the University of New Hampshire, is located on Appledore Island in the Gulf of Maine. SML provides academic advising for students interested in marine sciences and in SML programs: both short-term courses and semester plans.

Please visit the Shoals Marine Laboratory website and contact the SML Cornell Academic Coordinator listed on the staff page.

Study Abroad

Cornell biological sciences majors study all over the world. Students can plan a study abroad experience (even if they are pre-med or pre-grad) as long as they plan early. Students can count up to two courses taken abroad toward the major. To count a course toward a concentration, students must get their faculty advisor’s approval. For approval of any other biological sciences major requirement, or for other questions, please contact the OUB.

Visit the Office of Global Learning in B50 Caldwell Hall to explore opportunities in different countries and regions, review evaluations from students who’ve been abroad, discuss financial aid, and peruse catalogs and other program resource materials. 

Transferring Credit

Once matriculated, biological sciences majors are required to complete all core biology courses (introductory cluster courses, biochemistry, evolution, genetics) and concentration courses at Cornell or during an approved Study Abroad semester. Exceptions may be approved via the biological sciences petition process. Other courses must be approved by the respective department at Cornell and the student’s home college.

External transfer students can generally apply one transfer course toward the following (Evolution, Genetics, Genetics Lab, or Biochemistry) and one advanced course of up to 3 credits toward a concentration. A student can also count two courses towards (Evolution, Genetics, Genetics Lab, or Biochemistry) or two advanced courses towards a concentration.

Students must obtain approval from the Office of Undergraduate Biology to receive credit for biology courses taken during an approved Study Abroad semester (see section above). Students can count up to two study abroad courses toward major requirements.

Use of Animals in the Biological Sciences Curriculum

Live animals may be used for teaching in certain courses in the biological sciences. Some animals will require humane euthanasia after they have been used for teaching. From the Cornell Center for Animal Resources and Education (CARE), “Cornell University regards the study of animals in teaching and research as essential to continued progress in science, medicine, agriculture, and education. When animal use is necessary, we maintain the highest ethical standards for their use and care.” All Cornell faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, undergraduates, and research personnel involved in the care and use of animals in teaching and research are required to familiarize themselves with and to follow Cornell Policy 1.4 Care and Use of Live Vertebrate Animals in Research and Teaching. Any student concerns regarding the use of animals in teaching should first be addressed with the faculty member responsible for the course.