Olin-Rice Science Center, Room 221
All biology majors will complete a common core of biology courses and additional supporting courses. The purpose of the core courses is to give students exposure to the breadth of the field of biology and to provide them with essential knowledge and competencies in the areas of genetics, cell biology, ecology, and evolution that, together, will give them the necessary background and tools they need to excel in whatever area of biology they choose to pursue.
Following the core courses, an appropriate course of study at the undergraduate level will vary from student to student depending upon the student’s interests and career goals. For example, students majoring in biology may choose to take a broad course of study in the discipline thus maximizing exposure to major disciplinary concepts and providing a strong background for specialization at the graduate level. Alternatively, biology majors may choose to focus on a particular subdiscipline of biology or on the intersection of biology with another discipline.
After core and intermediate level study, biology majors often participate in a research experience at the advanced level, which is empirical in nature (i.e. based on the testing of an hypothesis through observation or experimentation.) Ordinarily, students complete this research during their junior or senior year after significant coursework in biology and supporting disciplines has been completed.
Effective catalog—Students are normally expected to satisfy the major or minor requirements in effect at the time of the declaration of their biology major. The requirements for a major in biology are: 38 credits in biology (consisting of four core courses, a 2 credit lab, four upper level courses, and the Senior Seminar) and five supporting courses (20 credits). Students may count only one course from Biology 470-478 or one independent study or internship toward their biology major. Transfer students wanting to graduate from Macalester with a major in biology must take at least four 4-credit biology courses at Macalester in addition to the BIOL 489 - Senior Seminar, only one of which can be an internship or independent.
Required courses in biology for the major:
1. Introductory Courses
The required courses (above) may be taken in any order, however, BIOL 260 - Genetics is normally taken before BIOL 265 - Cell Biology since CHEM 112 is a prerequisite for Cell Biology. BIOL 255 - Cell Biology and Genetics Laboratory Methods must be taken concurrently with either BIOL 260 or BIOL 265. The core courses have been developed for students beginning their Biology education. Ideally, the core courses should be completed by the end of the sophomore year and prior to studying abroad,, and must be completed no later than the end of the junior year.
2. Upper Level Courses
Four upper level biology courses, at least two with laboratory. At least two of the four upper level courses must be taken at Macalester.
3. Capstone Requirement
BIOL 489 - Senior Seminar is required as the capstone experience and consists of:
- activities taking place during the weekly meeting of the semianr;
- the production of a major thesis-driven, analytical paper during the senior year, written through multiple drafts, which includes a thorough review of the literature;
- the delivery of an oral presentation to the department.
While an independent research experience may form the basis of the written and oral presentations, students may choose to present work they have done in other contexts such as internships, independent study, study-away opportunities, or in their other courses.
Supporting courses for the biology major:
A strong background in supporting sciences is important to all students studying biology. Many core concepts in biology have their foundation in the physical sciences and mathematics. Furthermore, the work of biologist continues to become more interdisciplinary. For these reasons, all majors must complete an approved set of supporting courses.
Required supporting courses:
CHEM 111 - General Chemistry I: Structure and Equilibrium and CHEM 112 - General Chemistry II: Energetics and Reactivity or CHEM 115 - Accelerated General Chemistry
MATH 135 - Applied Calculus (see math/statistics guidelines below)
MATH 155 - Introduction to Statistical Modeling (see math/statistics guidelines below)
Many biology majors take calculus and/or statistics in high school. The MATH 135/MATH 155 sequence is still appropriate for most such students, even those who took AP or IB courses and scored well on the tests. The reason is that MATH 135/MATH 155 emphasizes the calculus and statistics of multiple variables, topics usually not encountered in even the most advanced high-school courses.
Those biology majors with strong high-school calculus preparation (see Math/CS department web site) may elect to to take MATH 237 - Multivariable Calculus directly instead of MATH 135 - Applied Calculus. Or they may elect to take MATH 137 - Single Variable Calculus then MATH 237. MATH 137 may NOT replace MATH 135 unless MATH 237 is also taken.
Note: Some elective courses for the biology major have MATH 137 as a pre-requisite: PHYS 227 - Principles of Physics II and CHEM 311 - Thermodynamics and Kinetics. Students who plan to take CHEM 312 - Quantum Mechanics and Spectroscopy are advised to take MATH 237.
All students must enroll in MATH 155 - Introduction to Statistical Modeling.
Elective supporting courses:
One elective supporting course selected from the following: One elective supporting courses among the following: ANTH 115 - Biological Anthropology, ANTH 239 - Medical Anthropology, ANTH 240 - Human Osteology and Paleopathology, CHEM 211 - Organic Chemistry I, CHEM 222 - Analytical Chemistry, COMP 120 - Computing and Society, COMP 121 - Introduction to Scientific Programming, COMP 123 - Core Concepts in Computer Science, GEOG 225 - Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, GEOL 160 - Dynamic Earth and Global Change, GEOL 165 - History/Evolution of Earth, GEOL 300 - Paleobiology, MATH 237 - Multivariable Calculus, MATH 253 - Applied Mulitivariate Stats, MATH 354 - Probability, PHYS 221 - Introductory Physics I, PHYS 226 - Principles of Physics I, or another course approved by the Chair.
Selection of the elective supporting courses should be made in consultation with the student's advisor and must be approved by the Chair. Long-term goals typially will influence the choice of supporting courses. For example, students interested in a career in medicine or research in the biomedical sciences normally should complete a year of organic chemistry and a year of introductory physics. Students interested in pursuing an ecology path should consider taking a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) course, intermediate or advanced math or statistics, or a geology course. Students planning a career as a science educator at the primary or secondary level should consider taking supporting courses in several of the science departments, as well as courses from the Educational Studies Department.
Individualizing the Biology Major
In consultation with one or more biology faculty members, each student will develop a major plan by choosing appropriate electives in biology and supporting disciplines. By their choice of electives, students may explore a variety of biological subdisciplines or focus on one or two areas of study. For example, students may design majors that focus on such areas as ecology; evolution; immunology and microbiology; genetics, cell and developmental biology; plant biology; biochemistry; or neurobiology. Biology majors interested in attending medical school after graduation should refer to the “Premedical Program” in the “Special Programs” section of this catalog and should consult a premedical advisor as early as possible in their planning process.
Requirements for the major with added emphasis
Increasingly, biological scientists address questions by working in groups that are interdisciplinary in nature. Thus, interdisciplinary fields of study have emerged that cannot be adequately covered within a single department. Two such interdisciplinary fields, Biochemistry and Neurobiology, can be explored through an added emphasis to a biology major. Students choosing such a major with one of these EMPHASES will have this noted on their transcript (e.g. Biology Major with Added Emphasis in Neurobiology). In all cases, students must successfully complete the core requirements for the biology major: BIOL 255, BIOL 260, BIOL 265, BIOL 270, and BIOL 285; CHEM 112 or CHEM 115; MATH 135 and MATH 155 or MATH 237 and MATH 155 ; and BIOL 489 Senior Seminar. It is expected that the required senior presentation will be in the area of the student’s emphasis. Students should configure their electives in consultation with a biology faculty member using the following guidelines:
Requirements for a Major in Biology with Added Emphasis in Biochemistry
Students with a strong interest in pursuing more in-depth study of biochemistry may want to consider this track. This emphasis would also be an option for students interested in medical school and/or graduate study in virtually any biomedical field. Because one of the required supporting courses, PHYS 227, has MATH 137 as a prerequisite, and MATH 237 is recommended for another of the supporting courses, CHEM 311, students pursuing an added emphasis in biochemistry should consider taking MATH 137 and MATH 237 in place of MATH 135.
Plus at least two courses from the following (at least one of which must be in Biology):
BIOL 353 - Advanced Genetics
BIOL 355 - Virology
BIOL 356 - Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
BIOL 357 - Immunology
BIOL 358 - Microbiology
BIOL 368 - Plant Physiology
BIOL 369 - Developmental Biology
BIOL 472 - Research in Molecular Biology
BIOL 474 - Research in Biochemistry
Other courses with the approval of the Chair
Required supporting courses:
Requirements for a Major in Biology with Added Emphasis in Neurobiology
Students with a strong interest in pursuing more in-depth study of the biological basis of behavior and/or the nervous system may want to consider a major in Biology with added emphasis in neurobiology. This emphasis would be an option for students interested in medical school and/or graduate study in a field of neuroscience or biomedicine.
Plus two of the following three courses:
Plus three additional upper level Biology courses from the following list:
BIOL 351 - Biochemistry I
BIOL 352 - Biochemistry II
BIOL 353 - Advanced Genetics
BIOL 357 - Immunology
BIOL 360 - Neuroanatomy
BIOL 369 - Developmental Biology
BIOL 367 - Human Physiology
BIOL 486 - Seminar in Neuropharmacology
Plus two of the following supporting courses:
COMP 484 - Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (same as NEUR 484)
PSYC 240 - Principles of Learning and Behavior
PSYC 242 - Cognitive Psychology
PSYC 248 - Behavioral Neuroscience (same as NEUR 248)
PSYC 244 - Cognitive Neuroscience (same as NEUR 244)
PSYC 250 - Developmental Psychology
PSYC 252 - Distress, Dysfunction, and Disorder: Perspectives on the DSM
Additional recommended supporting courses:
Students are normally expected to satisfy the major requirements in effect at the time they declare their major. The requirements for a major in biology are: 36 credits in biology and six supporting courses.
Transfer students wanting to graduate from Macalester with a major in Biology must take at least four 4-credit Biology courses at Macalester in addition to Senior Seminar, only one of which can be an internship or independent.
Required core courses in biology:
Biology 255 Cell Biology & Genetics Laboratory
Biology 260 Genetics
Biology 265 Cell Biology
Biology 270 Biodiversity & Evolution
Biology 285 Ecology
The required core courses may be taken in any order; however, Biol 260 (Genetics) is normally taken before Biology 265 (Cell Biology) since Chemistry 112 or concurrent enrollment is a prerequisite for Cell Biology. Biology 255 (Cell Biology & Genetics Laboratory) must be taken concurrently with either Biology 260 or 265. The core courses have been developed for students beginning their Biology education. Ideally, the core courses should be completed by the end of the sophomore year, and no later than the end of the junior year.
Four upper level biology courses, at least two with laboratory. (At least two of the four upper level courses must be taken at Macalester.)
Senior Seminar (Biology 489), offered every spring.
The Biology Seminar is required as the capstone experience and consists of:
- participation in the four-credit course, Senior Seminar (Biology 489),
- the production of a major thesis-driven, analytical paper during the senior year, written through multiple drafts, which includes a thorough review of the literature; and
- the delivery of an oral presentation to the department or at an approved undergraduate or professional research conference during the senior year.
Required supporting courses:
Chemistry 111 General Chemistry I and Chemistry 112 General Chemistry II, or 115 Accelerated General Chemistry Math 135 Applied Calculus (see math/statistics guidelines) Math 155 Introduction to Statistical Modeling (see math/statistics guidelines)
Note: Deviations from the Math 135/155 sequence will not be accepted unless approved ahead of time by the Chair.
One elective supporting courses among the following: Anthropology 115 - Biological Anthropology, Anthropology 239 - Medical Anthropology, Anthropology 240 - Human Osteology and Paleopathology, Chemistry 211 - Organic Chemistry I, Chemistry 222 - Analytical Chemistry, Computer Science 120 - Introduction to Computing and Its Applications, Computer Science 121 - Introduction to Scientific Programming, Computer Science 123 - Core Concepts in Computer Science, Geography 225 - Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, Geology 150 - Dynamic Earth and Global Change, Geology 155 - History and Evolution of the Earth, Geology 300 - Paleobiology, Mathematics 237 - Multivariate Calculus, Mathematics 253 - Applied Multivariate Statistics, Mathematics 354 - Probability, Physics 221 - Introductory Physics I or 226 - Principles of Physics I)