Chair: G. Holm
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 200- 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 Catalog 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 (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 ( in the department office (Ho 222).


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 contact the department ( to arrange to speak to a member of the teaching staff.

Click the link below to view BIOL courses available to the Class of 2028.

Biology Courses