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Information on this website is posted for historical reference only. Please visit the Office of the Registrar for current requirements.

Biological Sciences

Chair: Thomas P. Jack

Professors M. P. Ayres, E. M. Berger, M. R. Dietrich, C. L. Folt, M. L. Guerinot, C. R. McClung, M. A. McPeek, D. R. Peart, G. E. Schaller, R. D. Sloboda, E. F. Smith, L. A. Witters; Associate Professors S. E. Bickel, K. L. Cottingham, P. J. Dolph, R. H. Gross, R. E. Irwin, T. P. Jack, E. J. Lambie, K. J. Peterson, S. J. Vélez; Assistant Professors R. G. Calsbeek, A. J. Erives, A. S. Gladfelter, A. D. Kern, B. W. Taylor; Lecturers J. Evans, N. M. Grotz, J. J. Gaudet, E. Ruelas Inzunza; Professor Emeritus J. J. Gilbert; Research Professor Emeritus R. T. Holmes; Adjunct Professors D. T. Bolger, M. W. Fanger, A. J. Friedland, T. U. Gerngross, N. J. Jacobs, R. D. Kapuscinski, L. R. Lynd, R. A. Maue, P. R. Sundstrom, R. K. Taylor, R. A. Virginia; Adjunct Associate Professors K. M. Curtis, N. J. Dominy, G. A. O’Toole; Adjunct Assistant Professor K. E. Griswold; Research Professor G. C. Ruben; Research Associate Professor C. Y. Chen; Research Assistant Professor T. Punshon.


The biological sciences are a diverse collection of scientific disciplines that interact and intermingle in tremendously complex and interesting ways. To provide the maximum potential for students to explore this vast area of science, the Department of Biological Sciences offers a flexible major that allows students to select coursework to fit their individual interests and career aspirations. Before declaring an area of concentration, students develop their course plan in consultation with one or more faculty mentors.

Prerequisites: Biology 11, Chemistry 5 and 6 (or equivalent), and one quantitative course from among Computer Science 5, Mathematics 4, 8 or above, Engineering Sciences 10, or Biology 29. A student who elects to include Biology 29 in their area of concentration (see below) must fulfill this prerequisite with one of the other courses (e.g., Computer Science 5, Mathematics 4, 8 or above, or Engineering Sciences 10). Although not required for the major, some upper-level Biology courses require Chemistry 51-52 (or equivalent). In addition, because many graduate and professional schools require Chemistry 51-52 for admission, we highly recommend that students consider taking these courses. Students must pass all prerequisite courses for the major in order to graduate.

Foundation Courses: After completing Biology 11, students take three courses from among five foundation courses: Biology 12 (Cell Structure and Function); Biology 13 (Gene Expression and Inheritance); Biology 14 (Physiology); Biology 15 (Genetic Variation and Evolution); Biology 16 (Ecology). Biology 11 is the only prerequisite for the five foundation courses. The foundation courses, Biology 12-16, are not sequenced and may be taken in any order. In deciding which three courses to select from this list, students should discuss with their faculty mentors which foundation courses would be most appropriate for their area of concentration. Not all foundation courses need to be completed before the student moves on to courses in their area of concentration.

Area of Concentration: To complete the major, students focus in an area of concentration by taking six additional courses. Biology courses numbered 10 or below may not be counted towards the major. Below we list a number of possible areas of concentration that students may find useful in guiding their course selection. Please keep in mind that this list is not rigid or exhaustive. The courses listed for each area are suggestions to help you get started. Students are not required to limit themselves to the courses listed under a single area. It is also possible to engineer an area of concentration that is not listed.

Any Biology faculty member may serve as your advisor even if they are not listed under a specific area of concentration (provided they feel comfortable advising you). Our hope is that together with your advisor you will design a major that fulfills your unique interests and goals. Faculty members with interests in the listed areas are given below; students interested in other areas should ask the Department Chair or chair of the departmental Undergraduate Committee to suggest a faculty member that would be appropriate to mentor the student in developing their course plan. Up to two suitable advanced courses from other departments may be included in the area of concentration when appropriate to the student’s objectives, or a modified major can be constructed (see below). One term of Independent Research (Biology 95) or Honors Research (Biology 97) may also be included among the six courses.

Some examples of courses that would contribute to various Areas of Concentration (possible faculty mentors are listed in parentheses):

Behavior and Neurobiology (Calsbeek, Irwin, McPeek, Vélez, Witters): Biology 27, 34, 37, 60, 74, Psychology 26, 65

Biochemistry (Bickel, Dolph, Gladfelter, Schaller, Sloboda, Smith, Witters): Biology 37, 40*, 45, 46, 47, 66, 69, 71, 78, Chemistry 52/58, 61, 63, 67, Engineering Sciences 30/Physics 30, Engineering Sciences 64

Cell Biology (Bickel, Dolph, Gladfelter, Schaller, Sloboda, Smith, Witters): Biology 34, 37, 38, 40*, 42, 43, 45, 46, 66, 67, 69, 71, 78, Chemistry 41, 52/58, 67, Engineering Sciences 30/Physics 30, Engineering Sciences 64

Development (Berger, Erives, Jack, Lambie, Peterson): Biology 24, 28, 36, 38, 40*, 43, 45, 75, 76

Ecology (Ayres, Calsbeek, Cottingham, Folt, Irwin, McPeek, Peart, Taylor): Biology 21 or 51, 22, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, Chemistry 52/58, Environmental Studies 79, 80

Evolutionary Ecology (Calsbeek, Irwin, McPeek): Biology 21 or 51, 27, 28, 29, 31, 38, 45, 47, 50, 58, 59, 60

Genetics (Berger, Bickel, Dolph, Guerinot, Jack, Kern, Lambie, McClung): Biology 36, 38, 45, 47, 50, 66, 71, 75, 76

Genomics, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (Cottingham, Erives, Gross, Kern, McPeek): Biology 28, 29, 36, 39, 45, 47, 50, 59, 75, and appropriate Computer Science, Mathematics and Engineering Sciences courses

Human Biology (Dolph, Gladfelter, Kern, Smith, Vélez, Witters): Biology 24, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40*, 42, 45, 46, 47, 66, 67, 69, 71, 78, Chemistry 52/58

Molecular Ecology (Calsbeek, McPeek): Biology 21 or 51, 31, 36, 40*, 45, 47, 50, 58, 60

Molecular Evolution (Dietrich, Erives, Kern, McPeek, Peterson): Biology 28, 36, 38, 39, 40*, 45, 47, 50, 60, 75

Molecular Genetics (Berger, Bickel, Dolph, Erives, Gladfelter, Guerinot, Jack, Lambie, McClung): Biology 38, 45, 47, 66, 69, 71, 75, Chemistry 52/58

Paleobiology (Peterson): Biology 24, 28, 60 Earth Sciences 31, 40, 45-47, 72

Physiology and Organismal Biology (Ayres, Calsbeek, McPeek, Vélez, Witters): Biology 24, 31, 34, 35, 37, 42, 43, 78, Chemistry 52/58

Plant Biology (Ayres, Guerinot, Irwin, Jack, McClung, Peart, Schaller): Biology 21 or 51, 22, 31, 55, 57, 58, Chemistry 52/58

Plant Molecular Biology (Guerinot, Jack, McClung, Schaller): Biology 36, 39, 45, 75, Chemistry 52/58

Secondary Education (Peterson): Details available in the Biology Office.

*Note that Biology 40 requires Chemistry 51-52/57-58 as a prerequisite.


One course among the six in the area of concentration must satisfy the culminating experience requirement. Any Biology course numbered 50 or above that is appropriate for the student’s Area of Concentration will satisfy the culminating experience requirement. Although only one course at this level is required for a culminating experience, we encourage students to enroll in more than one course numbered 50 or above. Each student will determine with their faculty mentor which course is suitable as a culminating experience for their Area of Concentration and interests. These courses include the Biology foreign study program, independent research courses, courses that focus on the primary literature in a discipline, and courses with substantial laboratory components and/or individual projects. The culminating experience course should be taken in a student’s senior year, although a course taken in the junior year may in exceptional circumstances satisfy the culminating experience and requires the approval of the Department Chair or chair of the departmental Undergraduate Committee.


For a modified major, the area of concentration consists of four Biology courses and four suitable advanced courses from another department or combination of departments. Prerequisite and foundation course requirements remain the same. Courses outside the Biology Department may not be substituted for Biology 11, Foundation courses, or the three additional Biology courses.

Biology Major Modified with Math

Mathematics is the “Language of Science”. Students who are more quantitatively oriented will want to consider modifying their Biology major with Mathematics. To facilitate this, the Biological Sciences and Mathematics Departments have agreed on the following structure for a Biology modified with Mathematics major. In addition to their four advanced biology courses in the area of concentration, students choosing this option will take four courses from among the offerings in Mathematics. Prerequisites and foundation course requirements for the Biology major remain the same. All students choosing this option must take Math 22 (Linear Algebra with Applications) and Math 23 (Differential Equations). The other two mathematics courses should be chosen in consultation with your Biology advisor depending on your area of concentration. Any two courses in the following list of Mathematics Department courses are appropriate:

Discrete Methods and Modeling: Math 20 (Discrete Probability), Math 36 (Mathematical Models for the Social Sciences), Math 76 (Topics in Applied Mathematics)

Probability and Statistics: Math 20 (Discrete Probability), Math 28 (Introduction to Combinatorics), Math 30 (Introduction to Linear Models), Math 40 (Topics in Applied Probability), Math 50 (Probability and Statistical Inference), Math 70 (Mathematical Statistics)

Dynamics: Math 46 (Introduction to Applied Mathematics), Math 53 (Chaos!), Math 76 (Topics in Applied Mathematics)


The prerequisites for the Biology minor are Biology 11, Chemistry 5 and 6 (or equivalent) and one quantitative course from among Biology 29, Computer Science 5, Earth Sciences 36, Economics 10, Engineering Sciences 10, Mathematics 4, 8 or above, Psychology 10, or Sociology 10. In addition, students will complete two Foundation courses and three additional Biology courses (Biology 12 or above). Students may choose to use Biology 29 as a prerequisite or as one of the three additional Biology courses, but not both. Students do not need to develop an area of concentration for the minor but they may do so if they wish. Courses outside the Biology Department may not be substituted for Biology 11, Foundation courses, or the three additional Biology courses.


Satisfactory completion of the Biology major or modified major requires obtaining a final grade point average of at least 2.00 in Biology 11 and all foundation and area of concentration courses applied to the major. Transfer credits may not be used for Biology 11 or the Foundation courses. No more than two transfer credits may be used for area of concentration courses.


The Department will give one unspecified credit for a biology course to students who receive a score of 5 on the CEEB Advanced Placement Test or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level International Baccalaureate (IB) exam. This unspecified credit satisfies no prerequisite or major course requirements and allows no placement into advanced courses. Under exceptional circumstances, students (including those with IB credit) may request permission in writing, supplying suitable evidence of their preparation for placement into advanced courses, before the end of the fall term. Students who seek such credit should consult the faculty of the course in question and the chair of the departmental Undergraduate Committee. The Department gives no credit for courses taken at another college or university prior to matriculation at Dartmouth.


Biology majors are encouraged to undertake independent research in biology either as part of the Honors Program or separately. Participants in the Honors Program should enroll in Biology 97. The subject of the honors research project should be directly relevant to the student’s area of concentration. Those who conduct research outside of the Honors Program should enroll in Biology 95.

Work on an Honors thesis normally extends through three terms or more. Candidates for Honors must meet the minimum College requirements. Application to enroll in Biology 95 or Biology 97 should be made at least one month prior to the beginning of the term in which the course is to be elected. Plans for research should be made in the term before the project begins. Independent research conducted off campus during a leave/transfer term without the direct supervision of a faculty advisor from the Dartmouth College Department of Biological Sciences cannot be used to earn credit for Biology 95, 96, or 97.

Biology 97 (or 95) may be counted only once among the six courses for the area of concentration, but two terms of Independent Research may be taken for course credit towards graduation.

Each Honors candidate shall submit a thesis to a committee at least two weeks before the end of the last term. The committee will be composed of three faculty members, including the thesis supervisor. At least two members of this committee must be members of the Biology faculty. Each candidate’s Honors Program concludes with the candidate making a public presentation of her or his work, followed by an oral examination, conducted by the thesis committee, on the thesis work and related topics. The quality of the written thesis and the student’s grasp of his or her research program as determined by their performance on the oral exam determines if the student’s degree is awarded with honors.


The general requirements for advanced degrees are given in the Regulations for Graduate Study section. Each graduate student must receive credit for a set of courses chosen in consultation with the advisory committee. All graduate students are expected to participate in departmental colloquia and weekly seminars.

To receive the Ph.D. degree in Biology a candidate must satisfactorily:

1. Complete the course requirement, as described above.

2. Complete the teaching requirement as specified by the advisory committee.

3. Demonstrate mastery of conceptual and factual material in the major area of specialization in an oral examination.

4. Present and satisfactorily defend a thesis proposal before the advisory committee.

5. Satisfy the two-year residence requirement of the College.

6. Complete a doctoral dissertation.

7. Defend the dissertation before a faculty committee appointed for this purpose.

Although the graduate program is designed for students pursuing the Ph.D. degree, a master’s degree may be awarded under special circumstances. To receive an M.S. degree in Biology, a candidate 1) must satisfactorily complete course and teaching requirements, as specified by the advisory committee, 2) complete a thesis, 3) defend the thesis in an oral examination before a faculty committee, and 4) satisfy the one-year residence requirement of the College.