Biology
Offered by the Biology department.

Major requirements

Biology major worksheet

Biology major with Pre-Medical Preparation

Biology major with Pre-Nursing Preparation

Biology major with Pre-Physical Therapy Preparation

Biology major with Pre-Physician’s Assistant Preparation

BIO 111 Evolution and Ecology
BIO 112 Cells and Genes
(Biology 111 and 112 can be taken in any order.)

Four 200-level courses, at least three of which must have a laboratory.

Three 300-level biology courses, at least two of which must have a laboratory.

CHEM 153 Chemical Principles
CHEM 232 Aqueous Equilibria
or CHEM 253 Organic Chemistry I

Three related courses normally from biology, chemistry, mathematics/computer science or physics or other courses as approved by the department.

The 200- and 300-level biology courses must include a minimum of one course from each of the following biology areas: cells and molecules, organisms, systems.

Capstone

The capstone in biology can be fulfilled by a senior seminar. Senior seminars (BIO 401/BIO 402) focus on selected topics within the field of biology. If approved in advance by the department, students may fulfill the capstone with an independent research project (BIO 499) ; the capstone may also be fulfilled by an honors thesis (BIO 500), with the understanding that the public presentations of honors thesis work is what constitutes the thesis as a capstone.

Characteristics of Senior Seminar include: research using primary literature, oral presentations, written reports, drafts with deadlines, communicating about science, and opportunities to interact with other majors in the biological sciences. Senior Seminar topics allow a wide range of students to build on their past experiences as majors and to explore topics of interest to them within the guidelines of the course.


Honors

Biology departmental honors will be awarded on the basis of a B+ or better average in the major, an overall average of B or better, and a grade of B+ or better on the individual research project.
Honors Thesis


Area requirements

To ensure students are exposed to all levels of biological organization, biology majors must take at least one course in each of the three following areas: cells and molecules, organisms, systems.

Cells and molecules

BIO 211 Genetics
BIO 219 Cell Biology
BIO 221 Microbiology
BIO 254 Developmental Biology
BIO 305 Biochemistry
BIO 316 Molecular Biology and Genomics
BIO 321 Immunology
BIO 324 Neurobiology

Organisms

BIO 226 Comparative Animal Behavior
BIO 244 Introductory Physiology
BIO 252 Parasitology and Symbiosis
BIO 255 Vertebrate Evolution and Anatomy
BIO 261 Economic Botany
BIO 262 Plant Biology
*BIO 290 Biology of Whales
*BIO 291 Introduction to Marine Mammals
BIO 330 Comparative Biomechanics
BIO 375 Ornithology
*BIO 390 Biology of Fishes

Systems

BIO 201 Environmental Science
BIO 215 Ecology
BIO 231 Marine Biology
BIO 303 Evolution
BIO 317 Molecular Ecology and Evolution
BIO 318 Tropical Field Biology
BIO 320 Evolution of Invertebrates
BIO 364 Freshwater and Marine Botany
*BIO 380 Wetlands Ecology, Hydrology, Restoration

*Offered through the Boston Marine Studies Consortium.


Related majors

Students interested in the biological sciences may consider declaring a major in BiochemistryBioinformaticsEnvironmental Science or Neuroscience, and should meet with the designated program coordinators to discuss the program of interest.


Health professions

Students planning a career in medicine, dentistry, veterinary or other health professions should consult a health professions advisor early in the first year in order to plan a suitable program. Medical schools require a minimum of two semesters of biology, two semesters of physics, two semesters of mathematics, four semesters of chemistry and two semesters of English. The MCATs include material from physiology, microbiology, genetics, cell biology and biochemistry as well as other biological topics. Therefore, some 200-level course preparation is recommended.

Also see information on Wheaton’s pre-med advising. For more information on pre-med advising contact Dean Alex Trayford in the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services.

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Biology minor worksheet

A minor in biology consists of five courses. No more than two courses may be at the 100 level; at least one course must be at the 300 level and at least three of the courses must have a laboratory.

  • Biology

    BIO 099 – Selected Topics

    Discussion and research on special aspects of biology such as animal or plant physiology, animal development, ecology, microbiology and genetics; content varies with the interest of students and instructors. Offered at the discretion of the department.

  • Biology

    BIO 101 – An Introduction to Biology

    This course is taught using an issues-oriented approach and includes topics of current interest to today’s society, such as the human genome project, genetic testing, genetically modified foods, the population explosion, nutrition, cancer and biodiversity. This course encourages critical thinking and questioning and teaches you tools that will enable you to evaluate scientific arguments and make appropriate decisions affecting your life and society. This is an introductory, laboratory-based course in biology for non-majors. Three hours lecture and three hours of laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 105 – Nutrition

    The course focuses on nutrients and their digestion and metabolism. The application of the fundamentals of nutrition to daily life and health issues such as dieting, exercise, weight control, eating disorders, heart disease, cancer, safety of food additives, genetically modified foods and farming practices. Students will carry out an independent project. Three hours lecture and three hours lab per week.

(Previously Biology 205)

  • Biology

    BIO 106 – Human Anatomy

    Biology 106 is a survey course covering basic human anatomy.  The course will cover the structure and function of major organ systems with an emphasis on the skeletal and muscular systems. This course is intended for pre-health students interested in perusing nursing, physical therapy and physician’s assistant programs and students interested in connections.   This course is connected to Studio Art 340 – Figure Drawing and Anatomy (ARTS 340) and Theatre and Dance Studies 140 – Ballet (THEA 140) and each student is required to do a connected project.  This course is three hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory exercises per week.  Biology 106 counts as a related course for Biology majors.

(Previously Basic Anatomy and Physiology).

  • Biology

    BIO 110 – Ponds to Particles I

    See Interdepartmental 110 – Ponds to Particles I (INT 110) for course description.

  • Biology

    BIO 111 – Evolution and Ecology

    The study of evolution as a process, as it relates to patterns of distribution and abundance of organisms in ecosystems. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week. Bio 111, required for majors in the biological sciences, may be taken either before or after Bio 112.

  • Biology

    BIO 112 – Cells and Genes

    Introduces the cell as the basic unit of life, genes as the basic unit of inheritance, and discusses the cellular and molecular processes and principles shared by living organisms. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week. Bio 112, required for majors in the biological sciences, may be taken either before or after Biology 111 – Evolution and Ecology (BIO 111).

  • Biology

    BIO 115 – Natural History of New England Forests

    A field-based course with observational and experimental activities. Students will learn to identify the common flora and fauna of the surrounding forest community. The course will also examine historical and contemporary human impact on New England forests. Field trips to coastal forest ecosystem and the Fisher Museum at the Harvard Forest.

  • Biology

    BIO 198 – Experimental Course

    From time to time, departments design a new course to be offered either on a one-time basis or an experimental basis before deciding whether to make it a regular part of the curriculum. Refer to the course schedule for current listings.

  • Biology

    BIO 199 – Selected Topics

    Discussion and research on special aspects of biology such as animal or plant physiology, animal development, ecology, microbiology and genetics; content varies with the interest of students and instructors. Offered at the discretion of the department.

  • Biology

    BIO 201 – Environmental Science

    An overview of current environmental concerns and the scientific theory needed to address them. Population growth, community ecology, biodiversity, endangered species management, ground-water quality and introduced species. This class is not intended to be a substitute for a course in ecology and students planning to pursue careers in ecology or environmental science are advised to take Bio 215 or Bio 218 in addition to this class. Three hours lecture per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 211 – Genetics

    The nature of genes, gene function and gene regulation. The transmission of inherited characteristics and the behavior of genes in populations. Laboratory includes the collection and analysis of data from Drosophila crosses. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 215 – Ecology

    A survey of the basic principles of ecology, particularly terrestrial ecosystems of New England. Laboratory emphasizes fieldwork. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 219 – Cell Biology

    The organization, functions and behaviors of eukaryotic cells. Cell architecture and cell motility will serve as themes to investigate similarities and specializations of protist, plant and animal cells. Other topics include organelle function, the cytoskeleton, cell division and intracellular transport. Lab will emphasize digital imaging to study cells and cell behaviors. Three hours lecture and three hours lab per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 221 – Microbiology

    Goals for the Microbiology:To make your knowledge of the bacteria and archaea a functional and integral part of your life as a biologist; to learn to recognize and discuss all of the major groups of bacteria and archaea as well as many specific examples of practical (medical, environmental and industrial) importance; to understand the evolution of the bacteria and archaea; to become comfortable with and conversant on most bacterial and archaeal groups in situ, in spite of their apparent invisibility.

  • Biology

    BIO 226 – Comparative Animal Behavior

    See Psy 226 for course description.

  • Biology

    BIO 227 – Drugs and Behavior

    See Psy 227 for course description.

  • Biology

    BIO 231 – Marine Biology

    An introduction to the biology of marine organisms from an ecological perspective. Species interactions, distribution patterns and adaptations to the marine environment for the rocky intertidal, soft bottom, subtidal, deep sea, estuarine and coral reef habitats. Laboratories and field trips will provide a survey of marine algae and invertebrates. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 242 – DNA

    See Computer Science 242 – DNA (COMP 242) for course description.

  • Biology

    BIO 244 – Introductory Physiology

    This course focuses on the function of various animal organ systems and how they work together in order to maintain homeostasis of the individual. The course is primarily based on mammalian systems. A lab component is required, wherein you will test the lecture information experimentally and develop your own independent research project by the end of the semester. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 252 – Parasitology and Symbiosis

    Parasitology as a world health problem with discussions on economic, political and medical aspects of parasite control. Descriptive parasitology and symbiosis. Genetic and physiological interactions between associated organisms. Three hours lecture.

  • Biology

    BIO 254 – Developmental Biology

    Cellular and molecular mechanisms of animal embryogenesis with an emphasis on experimental method and on comparisons of patterns of development. Topics include fertilization, mitosis and the cell cycle, pattern and axis formation, neurodevelopment, organogenesis and animal cloning. The laboratory will include observations of both fixed and living embryos. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 255 – Vertebrate Evolution and Anatomy

    The evolutionary history of vertebrates and the vertebrate body form as revealed by the fossil record and the anatomy of extant vertebrates. Laboratory emphasizes comparisons among the various classes of vertebrates with a focus on skeletal anatomy. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 261 – Economic Botany

    The study of how humans use plants and the properties of plants that make them useful. This class will examine the plants used for food, drink, medicines, fiber and wood, as well as the ways that plants have shaped humanity and the history of our own species. Three hours of lecture plus three hours of lab per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 262 – Plant Biology

    An introduction to the biology of plants, including mosses, club mosses, ferns, horsetails, cycads, conifers and flowering plants. Morphology, ecology and evolution will be addressed for each group. Laboratories will include examination of live specimens from all major plant taxa, student-devised experiments and field trips. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 290 – Biology of Whales

    This course provides a comprehensive review of the biology and conservation of cetaceans. A thorough grounding in cetacean mammalogy and population biology will prepare students to understand conservation problems presented as case histories by leading researchers in the field. Prerequisites: 1 year general biology and two upper level biology courses.

Offered through the Marine Studies Consortium.

  • Biology

    BIO 291 – Introduction to Marine Mammals

    This course explores the biology and natural history of marine mammals in the North Atlantic, including whales, dolphins and seals. Topics include evolution, anatomy, behavior, field identification, the history of whaling and contemporary whaling issues. Demonstration laboratory work will focus on a small marine mammal. One Saturday field trip on Massachusetts Bay is required. Prerequisites: general biology. Offered Fall Semester, annually. 

Offered through the Marine Studies Consortium.

  • Biology

    BIO 298 – Experimental Course

    From time to time, departments design a new course to be offered either on a one-time basis or an experimental basis before deciding whether to make it a regular part of the curriculum. Refer to the course schedule for current listings.

  • Biology

    BIO 299 – Selected Topics

    Discussion and research on special aspects of biology such as animal or plant physiology, animal development, ecology, microbiology and genetics; content varies with the interest of students and instructors. Offered at the discretion of the department.

  • Biology

    BIO 303 – Evolution

    A detailed examination of the causes and mechanisms of evolution. This course emphasizes the major concepts of modern evolutionary biology by exploring contemporary issues. Topics include the basics of evolutionary genetics, natural selection, adaptation, speciation, the origins of biological diversity, evolution in modern society and the conflict between evolution and creationism. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 305 – Biochemistry

    The chemistry and metabolism of biological molecules. The laboratory will introduce the student to concepts and techniques of isolation and characterization of biomolecules, enzyme kinetics and genetic engineering. Three hours lecture, four hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 316 – Molecular Biology and Genomics

    The molecular basis for biological processes. Synthesis, structure, function and regulation of the genome, transcriptome and proteome. A detailed examination of genome dynamics and the control and regulation of genome expression. Contemporary topics in biotechnology such as genetic engineering, cloning, molecular medicine, infectious diseases and biological weapons will also be discussed. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week. Previously Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

  • Biology

    BIO 317 – Molecular Ecology and Evolution

    An introduction to the concepts and issues in molecular evolution and the emerging field of molecular ecology. Course emphasizes the unique insights provided by the application of molecular methods to questions in ecology and evolution. Topics include rates and processes of molecular evolution, phylogenetic systematics, phylogeography, population genetics, forensics and conservation genetics. Three hours lecture and three hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 318 – Tropical Field Biology

    An exploration of the biology of tropical rain forests and coral reefs. Course will be taught in alternating years in Costa Rica and Belize. Previous 200-level courses in biology and permission of the instructors required.

  • Biology

    BIO 320 – Evolution of Invertebrates

    The goals for this course are to make your knowledge of evolution (with invertebrates as examples) a functional and integral part of your life as a biologist; to learn to recognize and discuss all of the phyla of invertebrates as well as some subphyla and classes in evolutionary context.

  • Biology

    BIO 321 – Immunology

    An overview of the mammalian immune system with an emphasis on humans by using medical case studies. Topics will include: immune cell types, antibodies, self and non-self-recognition, vaccinations and HIV/AIDS. Students will review selected journal articles and write a paper reviewing a disease of their choice. Three hours of lecture per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 324 – Neurobiology

    Organization and function of nervous systems emphasizing cellular and molecular mechanisms. Topics include cell biology of neurons, neuron growth, motor proteins and the cytoskeleton, physiology of excitable membranes and biological circuits. Laboratory emphasizes experimental methods and includes tissue culture and microscopy. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 330 – Comparative Biomechanics

    We will explore organismal form and function by examining some of the basic physical principles that guide structure and how these organisms interact with the environment. We will study the impact of size on biological systems, address the implications of solid and fluid mechanics for organismal design, learn fundamental principles of animal locomotion, and survey biomechanical approaches. Understanding the mechanics of biological organisms can help us gain insight into their behavior, ecology and evolution.

  • Biology

    BIO 364 – Freshwater and Marine Botany

    Taxonomy, ecology, evolution and economics of cyanobacteria, algae and plants inhabiting freshwater and marine ecosystems. Lake, estuary, rocky intertidal, open ocean, kelp bed, seagrass, salt marsh and mangrove ecosystems will be studied. Labs will include collecting trips to local lakes, estuaries, salt marsh and beaches as well as culture and microscopic examination of algae. Three hours lecture and discussion, three hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 375 – Ornithology

    The study of the origin, anatomy, physiology, classification, behavior and ecology of birds. Much emphasis on fieldwork. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory per week.

  • Biology

    BIO 380 – Wetlands Ecology, Hydrology, Restoration

    This course examines the vital role of wetlands in the hydrology and ecology of global landscapes. The function of inland and coastal marshes, swamps and bogs and their role in water and nutrient cycles will be examined. We will also survey the biodiverity of wetlands habitats, from microbes to vertebrates. The biological links between wetlands and human activities, such as agriculture, coastal development, and fisheries will be considered, as well as the legal framework for the protection and restoration of endangered wetlands. Prerequisites: One year of an introductory science (geology or chemistry or biology or physics or engineering or economics); and two semesters of upper level (elective) science courses. Offered Fall Semesters, annually.

Offered through the Marine Studies Consortium.

  • Biology

    BIO 390 – Biology of Fishes

    Biology of Fishes is designed for upper-level undergraduates well versed in biological and chemical principles. The 300-level course builds on the student’s knowledge of vertebrate biology in order to explore and appreciate the differences and diversity among fishes. The course combines traditional ichthyology such as systematics, taxonomy, anatomy, and distribution with fish ecology including species interactions, adaptations, behavior, and conservation. It emphasizes the phylogenetic relationships among fishes and the use of systematics as an organizational tool.

The course is taught at the New England Aquarium, providing students with the unique opportunity to study living organisms. Prerequisites: 1 year general biology and two upper level biology courses. Offered Spring Semester, annually.

Offered through the Marine Studies Consortium.

  • Biology

    BIO 398 – Experimental Course

    From time to time, departments design a new course to be offered either on a one-time basis or an experimental basis before deciding whether to make it a regular part of the curriculum. Refer to the course schedule for current listings.

  • Biology

    BIO 399 – Selected Topics

    Discussion and research on special aspects of biology such as animal or plant physiology, animal development, ecology, microbiology and genetics; content varies with the interest of students and instructors. Offered at the discretion of the department.

  • Biology

    BIO 401 – Senior Seminar

    One-semester seminar on a topic involving broad areas of biology. Students will be asked to study at least one specific topic in depth, resulting in written and oral presentations.

  • Biology

    BIO 402 – Senior Seminar

    One-semester seminar on a topic involving broad areas of biology. Students will be asked to study at least one specific topic in depth, resulting in written and oral presentations.

    Spring 2018 “Collecting”:
    Understanding biological diversity begins with collecting, whether of observations, specimens (alive or dead), photographs, or descriptions. In this seminar for majors in biology and environmental science, we will explore many aspects of biological collecting especially around these themes:
    Phylogenies and adaptive radiations
    Arrangements of collections
    Challenges and controversies of nomenclature and classification
    Surprise convergences
    Themes for collecting (even ones that might seem frivolous, obsessive or inaccurate)
    Seemingly narrow expertise in a subset of organisms
    Obsessions (and their constructive uses)
    Adventure (travelling to get a complete set!)

  • Biology

    BIO 405 – Senior Seminar in Biochemistry

    See Chemistry 405 – Senior Seminar in Biochemistry (CHEM 405) for course description.

  • Biology

    BIO 499 – Independent Research (one semester)

    Independent research project supervised by a member or members of the Biology Department, resulting in a final product such as a public presentation of research or a written report, at the discretion of the supervising faculty member(s). Prior approval of the department is required.

  • Biology

    BIO 500 – Honors Research (two or more semesters)

    Two semesters are normally required for departmental honors.

Two to four semester courses. Members of the department supervise the individual research and the writing and defending of a thesis of a limited number of advanced students with a B+ average in the major and a B average overall. Preliminary consultation with advisors in the area of the student’s special interest and the approval of the department are required.

  • Biology

    CONX 20001 – Human Biology and Movement

    Knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular and respiratory systems is important to dancers, helping them understand how the bones, muscles and joints work together to produce movement and how the heart and lungs cooperate to provide energy for continued movement. Students in these connected courses will relate theory and application: dancers will learn how to improve technique, form and stamina; biology students will find dynamic applications for their understanding of anatomy and physiology.

    Connected courses:
Biology 106 – Human Anatomy (BIO 106)
 and
 Theatre and Dance Studies 110 – Jazz Dance (THEA 110)
 or Theatre and Dance Studies 140 – Ballet (THEA 140)

  • Biology

    CONX 20005 – Microbes and Health

    Both these courses deal extensively with the human immune system. Biology 221 – Microbiology (BIO 221) covers such topics as the role of microbes (mostly viruses and bacteria) in causation of diseases, covering HIV and related viruses as well as the health behaviors and risk factors associated with conditions caused by infectious organisms. Psychology 265 – Health Psychology (PSY 265) uses HIV and AIDS as a case study for understanding the intersections of behavior and infectious disease and focuses on the impact of stress on immune response. The laboratory exercises in Biology 221 – Microbiology (BIO 221) will illuminate for students some of the practical clinical procedures used to diagnose infectious diseases. Psychology 265 – Health Psychology (PSY 265) will help students understand how psychological experience influences health and how infectious diseases impact the lives of chronically ill individuals.

    Connections:
 Biology 221 – Microbiology (BIO 221) 
or Biology 252 – Parasitology and Symbiosis (BIO 252)
 and Psychology 265 – Health Psychology (PSY 265)

Susan Barrett

Visiting Instructor of Biology

Deborah Cato

Instructor of Biology

Betsey Dexter Dyer

Professor of Biology

Laura Macesic Ekstrom

Assistant Professor of Biology

Jessie Knowlton

Assistant Professor of Biology

John Kricher

Professor of Biology

Jennifer Lanni

Assistant Professor in Biology

S. Shawn McCafferty

Associate Professor of Biology

Robert L. Morris

Professor of Biology; William & Elsie Prentice Professorship (2015-2020)

Shari Morris

Teaching Associate in Biology

Ravi Ranjan

Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology

Scott W. Shumway

Bojan Jennings Professor of Biology; Chair, Biology Department