First Year Program - Biology Skip Navigation

Biology (BIOL)

Chair: T. McCay
DEPARTMENT SITE

A major in biology is the traditional undergraduate preparation for students planning to pursue career interests in the biological or health-related sciences. Although the majority of majors ultimately pursue careers in the life sciences, a significant number of individuals with other career interests choose the major within the liberal arts context. For example, majors from the department also are found today in positions of responsibility in many fields outside the life sciences, including business, theology, law, and the performing arts.

The Department of Biology offers a major and minor in biology, a major in molecular biology, a topical natural science major in marine science/freshwater science, an interdisciplinary major in environmental biology (as part of the Environmental Studies Program), and a minor in mathematical systems biology. The biology department's curriculum for the major in biology is organized into four components: (1) a series of two required foundation courses (BIOL 181/181L and 182/182L); (2) one required 200-level course, which focuses on the process of scientific inquiry in the life sciences, (3) an extensive selection of elective course offerings at the 100- and 300-levels, which allow students to focus in one or more areas of the discipline, and (4) a research tutorial or independent study course allowing students an opportunity to work closely with a faculty member in undertaking research. See molecular biology, marine/freshwater science, or environmental studies in the University Catalogue for a discussion of first-year courses appropriate to those majors.

Registration Suggestions

To avoid scheduling difficulties during the upper-class years, incoming students who believe they may choose to major in biology are strongly urged to begin taking prerequisite chemistry courses and courses in the biology department during their first year.

Students who have not taken AP or another upper-level Biology course in high school but are interested in Biology are recommended to take BIOL 101 or BIOL 102 (if offered) prior to enrolling in BIOL 181 or BIOL 182.  Because an understanding of biology is inextricably tied to an understanding of chemistry, potential majors in biology, molecular biology, environmental biology, or marine/freshwater science are encouraged to begin a study of chemistry during the fall of their first year. One semester of chemistry (CHEM 101/101L or CHEM 111/111L) serves as a prerequisite of one of the foundations courses (BIOL 182/182L). Biology courses that are taken during the first year (BIOL 101 [fall], BIOL 181/181L [fall or spring], BIOL 182/182L [spring]) may be taken concurrently with introductory chemistry (CHEM 101/101L, CHEM 102/102L or CHEM 111/111L).

Registration Procedures

Students who wish to take an introductory course in biology but do not wish to take a laboratory class in their first semester can register for BIOL 101 or BIOL 102 (if offered). Students who wish to begin with a foundations course may register for BIOL 181/181L in their first semester. BIOL 181/181L and BIOL 182/182L are offered every semester. The department recommends that first-year students wait until the spring semester or sophomore year to take the foundations course BIOL182/182L, which is required of all biology majors. Potential majors should additionally register for CHEM 101/101L or CHEM 111/111L their first semester.

Advanced Placement

Colgate course credit for BIOL 101 is awarded to students receiving a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Biology exam. Although students with AP credit may enroll in 100-level biology courses, only one such course can be used toward a biology major. All incoming students may enroll in BIOL181/181L; whether or not they have taken AP Biology, this course will challenge them in understanding concepts in ecology, diversity and evolution, and their applications to questions and problems relevant today.

Transfer Credit

A maximum of two biology course credits transferred from other institutions may be accepted and applied toward major requirements. For more detail on the procedure for approval of transfer credit, please contact Rene Beers (rbeers@colgate.edu) in the department office (Ho 222).

Questions?

If you have questions about the department's courses or requirements, or would like to have information and/or explanations not provided above, please feel free to call the department office at (315) 228-7347 and ask to speak to a member of the teaching staff.

Courses

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BIOL 101, Topics in Organismal Biology
Introduces students to the complexities of biodiversity, from the ecosystem to the genetic level. By examining the factors affecting the structure and function of terrestrial, marine, and freshwater communities, students learn about the diversity of organisms in these systems. Students gain an appreciation for the roles of evolutionary and ecological history, as well as modern ecological interactions, in shaping biodiversity across the globe. Students are exposed to the many ways that human activities affect biodiversity.

BIOL 181, Evolution, Ecology, Diversity
Concentrates on the evolutionary biology of organisms and the ecological processes that influence the distribution and abundance of plants and animals, as well as their interactions. The history of biological diversification (including the origin of life; the evolution of prokaryotes and eukaryotes; and the invasion of land by plants, fungi, and animals) is discussed. In addition, the mechanisms of evolution, including natural selection, adaptation, and extinction, are studied. Topics in population ecology as they relate to evolutionary processes including physiological and behavioral ecology, population growth, and species interactions (e.g., competition, predation, mutualism) are also covered; there is a strong focus on the physical, chemical, and biological factors that affect populations. The course ends with studying ecosystem ecology and the impacts of global warming and anthropogenic impacts on the environment. 

BIOL 181L, Evoln, Ecol, Diversity Lab
Required corequisite to BIOL 181. Projects in the laboratory and field include experiments designed to understand evolutionary principles and to test ecological hypotheses.