In the Biological Sciences program .
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. Students majoring in biology and society may not double major in biological sciences. Entomology majors may double major but cannot pursue the insect biology concentration within the biological sciences major. Similarly, students majoring in Nutritional Sciences may double major in biological sciences but can not choose Human Nutrition as their concentration. 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 (www.biology.cornell.edu).
Students majoring in biological sciences take a set of courses in six core areas of biology. Students complete the Introductory Biology Cluster consisting of the Investigative Biology Laboratory and two courses from three foundational 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. Students take required courses in three additional core areas of biology: Introduction to Evolution and Diversity, Genetics and Genomics, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Introduction to Evolution and Diversity is taken in the Freshman or Sophomore year. Both Genetics and Genomics, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology are typically taken in the sophomore or junior years. Students should complete all coursework for the six core areas prior to their 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 must complete one of 14 concentrations within the biological sciences major.
Students are responsible for meeting degree requirements and should regularly monitor their progress in the major to 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.
Students are expected to 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.
The requirements for the biological sciences major are listed below. Students are responsible for understanding the degree requirements for the major and for planning their courses of study accordingly. Requirements 1–10 must be taken for a letter grade (grades of D- or better count toward major requirements). Once matriculated, students are required to complete all coursework in the six core areas of biology (numbers 1-3, 8–10 below) at Cornell or during an approved Study Abroad semester. Students must take all courses for the concentration for letter grade unless the course is offered S/U only. Exceptions need to be approved by the student’s faculty advisor via the Biological Sciences petition.
In addition to the major requirements outlined below, all students must meet their college graduation requirements:
- All requirements need to be taken for letter grade unless the course is offered S/U only. Exceptions need to be approved by the student’s faculty advisor via the Biological Sciences petition.
- A grade of D- or better must be obtained to count course for major.
- 42-55 credits of foundation requirements.
- 13-16 credits of concentration requirements.
1. Introductory Biology Cluster: (6-7 credits)
Take two of the three following subject areas:
2. Investigative Laboratory: (2-3 credits)
3. Evolutionary Biology and Diversity: (4-5 credits)
4. General chemistry: (4-8 credits)
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 or 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 by passing the Cornell Advanced Study Exam (CASE) given during orientation in August and January. 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: (6-8 credits)
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):
Beginning fall 2019 students must earn a score of 5 on the AP statistics exam in order to apply the credit toward the major.
6. Organic chemistry: (3-8 credits)
CHEM 1570 is not allowed for students concentrating in Biochemistry or Molecular and Cell Biology. Additionally CHEM 2510 (Introduction to Experimental Organic Chemistry) is required for students concentrating in Biochemistry. Finally, some medical, dental, and veterinary schools, as well as some masters and PhD programs expect students to take a full year of organic chemistry and/or an organic chemistry laboratory. Please refer to the appropriate Cornell Career Services Guide for more information.
Students can “mix and match” courses from various sequences, but should consult with the instructors ahead of time.
8. Genetics and Genomics: (5 credits)
9. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: (4-5 credits)
BIOMG 3330 and BIOMG 3350 are not allowed for students concentrating in Biochemistry or Molecular and Cell Biology.
10. A concentration: (13-20 credits)
Students accepted into the biological sciences major must complete a concentration . Whereas the core requirements of the biological sciences curriculum provide the common foundation deemed essential for all 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 20 credit hours of courses chosen by the student in consultation with his or her faculty 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 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 students. STSCI 2150 and BTRY 3010 are preferred course choices.
- Core courses noted in numbers 1–9 above cannot count toward the concentration requirements.
- External transfer students must see the Director of Advising in the Office of Undergraduate Biology to determine the transferability of courses into the biological sciences major and subsequent courses that must be completed.
Pre-health students not majoring in biological sciences:
- Pre-health students should refer to the following link for a list of courses required for admission to medical/veterinary/dental school: career.cornell.edu/paths/health.
- Advanced placement biology credits may be used toward fulfilling pre-medical/pre-veterinary prerequisite courses, but students should check Cornell Career Services, 103 Barnes Hall, for information.
- Non–biological sciences majors should consult with their major advisor for course selection advice regarding introductory-level biology courses that may be required for their major.
After successfully completing the Biological Sciences major, students will be able to:
- Explain the basic structures and fundamental processes of life over a range of levels of organization within the full scope of biology from molecules to ecosystems, integrated with the basic principles of inheritance and evolution.
- Apply quantitative reasoning and basic principles from the physical sciences to thinking about biology
- Explain principles by which hypotheses can be evaluated scientifically using examples of observations and experiments that have shaped biological thought
- Explain, evaluate, and effectively interpret claims, theories, and assumptions in the Biological Sciences, including those presented in the scientific literature.
- Communicate scientific arguments and ideas clearly and explicitly through writing and speech.
- Demonstrate a deeper working knowledge of one or more biology disciplines (specific outcomes defined by the programs of study)