Required for the Major

Requirements for the biology major encourage both breadth across the subdisciplines of biology as well as depth in areas of interest. The introductory sequence is two courses: BIOL 0140 Ecology and Evolution and BIOL 0145 Cell Biology and Genetics. The twelve courses required for the Biology major consist of:

(1-3) BIOL 0140 Ecology and Evolution, BIOL 0145 Cell Biology and Genetics, and BIOL 0211 Experimental Design and Statistical Analysis. We suggest students take these three courses as soon as they can.

(4-5) Two organismal courses from among BIOL 0202 Comparative Vertebrate Biology, BIOL 0203 Biology of Plants, BIOL 0204 Entomology, BIOL 0205 Ornithology, BIOL 0308 Mammalogy, and BIOL 0310 Microbiology.

(6) One college-level chemistry course with laboratory. AP credit in chemistry or a bypass examination cannot be used to satisfy this requirement. We strongly suggest students take this chemistry course in their first two years at Middlebury, as chemistry is fundamental to understanding topics addressed in many biology classes.

(7-12) Six biology electives from the 0200-0701 level, with the following restrictions:

  1. At least two electives must include a laboratory section.
  2. No more than one semester of independent research (BIOL 0500, BIOL 0700, or BIOL 0701) may count as elective credit toward the major.
  3. Per College policy only two winter term courses can count for major credit.

Courses may be taken in any order, as long as the prerequisites for a course are met. Courses taken off campus can count towards the major, when approved by the department chair. See below for more information on off-campus study.

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 0202, 0203, 0204, 0205, 0308, 0310), AND one of which must be at the 0300 or 0400 level.

Joint Majors


Biology department faculty contribute to the programs in Neuroscience and Molecular Biology & Biochemistry. Students may be interested in majors offered by these programs.

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.

Requirements for the Joint Major with Earth and Climate Sciences

ENVS0166; BIOL0140; BIOL0145; BIOL0211; one organismal biology course, BIOL0202, BIOL0203, BIOL0204, BIOL 0205, BIOL0308, or BIOL0310; two other BIOL courses at or above 0200-level, at least one of which must have a lab; one 0100-level ECSC course; ECSC0201; ECSC0202; three ECSC courses at or above 0300-level; ECSC0400; either ECSC0700 or BIOL0700 this represents at least one semester of integrative BIOL-ECSC research. Note that ECSC0705 cannot count towards this final requirement.

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. Biology credit for an off-campus course will be given only after the department chair reviews the course material upon a student’s return to campus.   The following restrictions apply to all biology courses transferred to Middlebury:

  • Except for transfer students, BIOL 0140 and BIOL 0145 must be taken at Middlebury College.
  • A maximum of three courses taken off campus may be credited toward completion of the major or joint major.
  • 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.