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Biology Requirements

Requirements for the Biology Major: Requirements for the biology major encourage both breadth across the subdisciplines of biology as well as depth in at least one subdiscipline. The introductory sequence includes two courses, BIOL 0140 Ecology and Evolution and BIOL 0145 Cell Biology and Genetics, both of which are designed for students in their first year at the college who are considering a major in the life sciences, or for whom an in-depth coverage of the life sciences is of interest.

Requirements for the twelve course biology major are as follows:

BIOL 0140 Ecology  and Evolution
BIOL 0145 Cell Biology and Genetics
BIOL 0211 Experimental Design and Data Analysis

Two organismal courses from among BIOL 0201 Invertebrate Biology, BIOL 0202 Comparative Vertebrate Biology, BIOL 0203 Biology of Plants, BIOL 0302 Vertebrate Natural History, and BIOL 0310 Microbiology.

A college-level chemistry course with laboratory [NOTE: AP credit in chemistry or a bypass examination cannot be used to satisfy this requirement].

Six biology electives from the 0200-0701 level, with the following restrictions: (a) at least two electives must include a laboratory section; and(b) no more than one semester of independent research (BIOL 0500, BIOL 0700, or BIOL 0701) may count as elective credit toward the major.

Guidelines and Restrictions Relevant to the Selection of Courses for the Major:
It is expected that the core courses (BIOL 0140 and BIOL 0145) will be completed by the end of the third semester. BIOL 0140 is not open to seniors & second semester juniors in the Fall.

Except for transfer students, BIOL 0140 and BIOL 0145 must be taken at Middlebury College.

The course in experimental design and data analysis (BIOL 0211) should be taken by the end of the sophomore year.

Departmental courses offered with laboratories must be taken with the laboratory to satisfy major or joint major requirements.

Electives may include only one semester of independent research (BIOL 0500, BIOL 0700, or BIOL 0701), and two winter term courses designated for major credit (not including BIOL 0211).

A maximum of three courses taken off campus may be credited toward completion of the major or joint major. This includes courses taken at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. No credit in Biology will be granted for independent study projects conducted during off-campus study programs.

Except for transfer students, off-campus biology courses must be beyond the introductory level.

When a course is offered at Middlebury with a lab or prerequisites, an equivalent off-campus course must also include a lab or prerequisites.

Requirements for a Minor in Biology: BIOL 0140 and BIOL 0145, and three elective courses from 0200-, 0300-, and 0400-level courses in the department.  One of the electives must be an organismal course (BIOL 0201, 0202, 0203, 0302, or 0310), AND one of which must be at the 0300 or 0400 level.

Guidelines and Restrictions for the Minor:
Except for transfer students, BIOL 0140 and BIOL 0145 must be taken at Middlebury College.

The three electives need to be related thematically.

When a course is offered at Middlebury with a lab or prerequisites, an equivalent off-campus course must also include a lab or prerequisites.

Transfer credit for a course will be given only after the department chair reviews the course material upon a student's return to campus. (See guidelines for transfer credit.)

Joint Major: The Department of Biology does not offer a joint major other than the joint major in Biology and Environmental Studies described below.

Requirements for the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Major: See the listing for the Program in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry for a description of this major.

Requirements for the Neuroscience Major: See the listing for the Program in Neuroscience for a description of this major.

Requirements for the Joint Major with Environmental Studies: See the listing for the conservation biology focus under the Program in Environmental Studies.

Graduate or Professional Training: Students considering graduate or professional school in the life sciences should note that many programs require a year of introductory chemistry, a year of organic chemistry, a year of physics, and a year of calculus for admission. Students are therefore strongly encouraged to meet with their faculty advisors early in their undergraduate career so the advantages of taking additional courses in the natural sciences can be discussed.

Departmental Honors: Students with an average of 3.5 or higher in departmental courses other than BIOL 0500, BIOL 0700, and BIOL 0701 are eligible for departmental honors, for which successful completion of BIOL 0701 is also required (see below). The Biology Department awards two levels of honors: honors and high honors.

Criteria for Honors: Students with an average of 3.5 or higher in departmental courses (other than BIOL 0500, BIOL 0700, and BIOL 0701) and a grade of A- or above on their thesis are eligible for honors. 

Criteria for High Honors: High honors will be awarded to students who meet all of the criteria for honors and who, in addition, have completed theses of exceptionally high quality.  Determination of honors or high honors is based on a formal recommendation from the thesis committee, and requires the approval of the Biology Department faculty. 

The thesis process is described in detail in the “Student & Faculty Research” portion of the departmental website, and all students interested in conducting thesis research should read that section of the website in detail. Normally, research for thesis projects begins during the first term of a student's senior year (or during the preceding summer). Students interested in field research should talk with a faculty member by winter term of their junior year. All other prospective thesis students should consult with prospective advisors concerning possible thesis projects by spring term of their junior year. Thesis projects must be of at least two terms' duration (one term of BIOL 0500 or BIOL 0700 and one of BIOL 0701) and result in the production of a written thesis, a public presentation of the thesis research, and an oral defense of the thesis before a committee of at least three faculty members, two of whom must be Biology faculty. With instructor approval, independent research conducted during the summer may be considered as a substitute for the first term of the project. In such cases, the off-campus work would satisfy the BIOL 0500 or BIOL 0700 prerequisite for enrollment in BIOL 0701, but would not itself be credit-bearing. The thesis grade reflects performance in all aspects of the thesis process.  Note that although completion of a thesis is one prerequisite for receiving honors, students may undertake a thesis regardless of whether they meet the other criteria for honors.

Advanced Placement Credit: Middlebury College grants one college credit for a score of 5 on the biology advanced placement exam. However, because the biology department does not offer any introductory course that is the equivalent of an AP biology course, advanced placement credit does not exempt a student from any of the published requirements for the major, minor, or joint majors, nor can it satisfy the college's distribution requirement.  

Off-Campus Study: Students interested in taking biology courses off campus are strongly encouraged to discuss their plans with their advisor early in their college careers. Students should see the "Guidelines and Restrictions" section under the requirements heading for the biology major to learn more about obtaining transfer credit. Students seeking approval for biology courses taken off campus should be prepared, upon their return, to document course content with syllabi and class notes.

Department of Biology

McCardell Bicentennial Hall
276 Bicentennial Way
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753