Courses of Study 2024-2025 
    Jul 21, 2024  
Courses of Study 2024-2025

Biological Sciences Major

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. 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 (607-255-5233, (

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 first or second year. Both Genetics and Genomics, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology are typically taken in the second  or third years. Students should complete all coursework for the six core areas prior to their fourth 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 second year. Additionally, majors are required to complete one of 13 concentrations within the biological sciences major.

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. Students may change their concentration at any time by notifying the OUB.

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 necessary for their academic and personal goals. While a grade of D- or better counts toward the major, students who earn grades of (C- or lower) in core courses are encouraged to talk to one of the advisors in the Office of Undergraduate Biology to discuss whether or not continuing in the major is in their best interest.

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 may be approved via the biological sciences petition.
  • A grade of D- or better must be obtained to count course for major.
  • 42-50 credits of foundation requirements.
  • 12-17 credits of concentration requirements.

Foundation Requirements


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 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. Mathematics: (6-8 credits)

One course in calculus I (3 or 4 credits):

  • or

  • or equivalent or higher-level

  • One additional course selected from categories a, b, or c (3-4 credits).

    While any course listed for a, b, or c will fulfill the second mathematics requirement, students are strongly encouraged to complete a statistics course to fulfill the second mathematics requirement or in addition to taking a course from either b or c.

    Students planning on concentrating in Biochemistry should be aware that a course in Physical Chemistry required for the concentration has a pre-requisite of MATH 1120  .

a. One course in statistics:

These are the only approved courses to meet the statistics requirement for the biological sciences major. STSCI 2150  or BTRY 3010  are preferred because of biological applications utilized in the courses.


Beginning fall 2019 students must earn a score of 5 on the AP statistics exam in order to apply the credit toward the major.

b. A second semester of calculus:


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 Cornell Career Services for more information.


Students can “mix and match” courses from various sequences, but should consult with the instructors ahead of time.


If students have not taken BIOMG 1350  or Biochemistry (BIOMG 3300 BIOMG 3310 , BIOMG 3320 , BIOMG 3350 ) previously, it is recommended that students take BIOMG 2800  as a prerequisite for BIOMG 2801 . It is strongly encouraged that these two course requirements be taken prior to senior year. 


BIOMG 3350  is not allowed for students concentrating in Biochemistry or Molecular and Cell Biology.

BIOMG 3310  and BIOMG 3320  can be taken in either order.

Concentration Requirement:

10. A concentration: (12-17 credits)

Students accepted into the biological sciences major must complete a concentration . Students may change their concentration at any time as long as they can meet the requirements by their graduation date. Students must notify OUB if they wish to change their 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 12 to 17 credit hours of courses chosen by the student in accordance with the requirements for the concentration and 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 cluster 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.

Learning Outcomes:

After successfully completing the biological sciences major, students will be able to:

  1. 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.
  2. Apply quantitative reasoning and basic principles from the physical sciences to thinking about biology.
  3. Explain principles by which hypotheses can be evaluated scientifically using examples of observations and experiments that have shaped biological thought.
  4. Explain, evaluate, and effectively interpret claims, theories, and assumptions in the biological sciences, including those presented in the scientific literature.
  5. Communicate scientific arguments and ideas clearly and explicitly through writing and speech.
  6. Demonstrate a deeper working knowledge of one or more biology disciplines (specific outcomes defined by the programs of study).