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Biological Sciences

Basic Structure of the Department

  • Biological Sciences has one single major and one single minor. The major can be modified.
  • Within the major there are various areas of concentration a student can choose, including ecology, genetics, molecular evolution, and human biology (the ORC lists seventeen different areas, along with possible faculty mentors in those areas).
  • The gateway-course to the major is BIOL 11.  It is offered fall, winter and spring terms with no prerequisites.  BIOL 11 is designed to introduce students to the study of biology at the college level.  Different offerings of BIOL 11 focus on different topics and students should choose the offering that is most interesting to them.  BIOL 11 does not have a laboratory component.
  • The foundation courses are numbered 12-16: BIOL 12 (Cell Structure and Function), BIOL 13 (Gene Expression and Inheritance), BIOL 14 (Physiology), BIOL 15 (Genetic Variation and Evolution) and BIOL 16 (Ecology).  The major requires three of these four courses.  Most students will take their first foundation course after taking BIOL 11.  However, a small number of students may have sufficient preparation in math and science to enroll directly in a foundation course without first taking BIOL 11.
  • The Biological Sciences department offers an FSP to Central America and the Caribbean in the winter term.  The application deadline is February 1, 2014 for the winter 2015 program.  Students who may want to participate in this FSP during their junior year should take BIOL 16 as soon as possible.

Courses for the Student with Little or No Background Who Wants to Explore Biological Sciences

  • Courses numbered 2-7 are non-major courses, have no lab, and do not count towards a Biology Major or Minor.   Examples of non-major courses are BIOL 4 (Genes and Society), BIOL 5 (Philosophy of Biology), and BIOL 6 (Dinosaurs).  These courses are not appropriate for students who might want to major in biology or who are thinking of a pre-health career. A fourth non-major course, BIOL 2 (Human Biology) may be an appropriate entry point for students with poor science preparation; such students may consider taking BIOL 2 prior to BIOL 11.
  • BIOL 8 and BIOL 9 (Chemical Principles and Biological Processes I and II) (same as CHEM 8 and CHEM 9) make up a two-term (fall/winter) sequence that covers the principles of general chemistry as applied to biochemistry and cell biology.  MATH 3 is a prerequisite for these courses.  These courses have a laboratory.  Students who successfully complete both BIOL 8/CHEM 8 and BIOL 9/CHEM 9 satisfy the prerequisites for entrance into CHEM 6.

Information for the First-Year Student Who Plans on Pursuing Studies in Biological Sciences

  • The Biology Major requires CHEM 5-6 (or equivalent), and one quantitative course from among BIOL 29, COSC 1, COSC 5, ENGS 20, EARS 17, MATH 4, MATH 8 (or above), or MATH 10 (or equivalent). Some upper-level biology courses such as BIOL 40 (Biochemistry) also require CHEM 51-52 (or equivalent).  Therefore, students who are serious about pursuing a Biology Major are advised to begin their math and chemistry requirements early in their college careers.
  • Details about the Biology Major or Minor are available on the Biology Department website and on the Registrar's website.
  • Other Information About Courses and Course Sequences
  • BIOL 11-16 are large lecture classes often with more than 100 students.  Students must realize that regular attendance, steady work, and developed study skills are critical to success in these classes.
  • BIOL 12 and BIOL 13 demand the mastery of large amounts of information. Students concerned about the transition to college may be advised to wait until they have developed their study skills before they enroll in BIOL 12 or 13.
  • BIOL 13, BIOL 15 and BIOL 16 involve problem-solving skills, including the use of high-school algebra to solve word problems about quantitative aspects of biology.
  • The foundation courses, BIOL 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 are not sequenced and can be taken in any order (i.e., 12 does not have to be taken prior to 13).
  • Intermediate-level courses (numbered 20-49) can be taken once students have taken the appropriate foundation course as a prerequisite.  Students may enroll in appropriate intermediate-level courses prior to completing all of their foundation courses.

Information for Pre-Health Students

  • Students who want to apply to medical school or other post-graduate health programs (veterinary medicine, dental, etc.) do not have to be biology majors.  Many pre-health students major in other sciences, humanities, and social sciences at Dartmouth, and have had an excellent track record for post-graduate acceptances.  Students do, however, have to master critical core concepts and competencies taught by the Biological Sciences department.
  • A student who wants to keep open the option of attending medical school immediately following graduation should take BIOL 12 and 13 by the end of their second year.  BIOL 30 (Physiology) is also a good choice for students interested in health careers.  In 2013-14, BIOL 12 is offered in the fall and spring terms, and BIOL 13 is offered in the winter and summer terms.  Students pursuing health careers are also advised to begin math and general chemistry (CHEM 5-6 or 8-9) in their first year, and to complete the organic chemistry sequence (CHEM 52-52) in their second year.  This is to allow students to take the MCAT by no later than early summer following their junior year, followed by submission of their application during the summer before their senior year.  In planning for their pre-health science requirements, students should take into account whether two courses with laboratories in the same term might present extra challenges.  All students should consult with a pre-health advisor when devising their curricular plan.
  • Note that students from Dartmouth are following a national trend and are tending to apply to medical school after they graduate (this necessitates at least one year off from school).  This allows for more flexibility in scheduling courses required for medical school, and often strengthens applications.

For more information on requirements for medical, dental, and veterinary school, please refer to Required Courses for Medical, Dental or Veterinary Schools

Current Enrollments, Class Size, and Distributives

The ORC

The Biological Sciences home page

Last Updated: 9/6/13