Biology Major/Minor

This major is suited for those who desire to enter a variety of fields, including biological research, medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science.

The biology program includes a course sequence that covers the hierarchical organization of living systems—molecule, organelle, cell, tissue, organ system, individual organism, population, community, and ecosystem. The program includes a sequence of courses intended to develop an approach to independent study through an experience in biological research. Biology majors who wish to enter specific fields can choose from a variety of electives to satisfy their needs and interests.

Career Options

Students graduating from Saint Mary's with a degree in biology are prepared for professional positions as biological scientists, clinical laboratory technologists, dentists, forensic scientists, medical doctors, medical scientists, science technicians, secondary teachers, and veterinarians.

High School Preparation

High school coursework that will prepare a student in his or her pursuit of a biology degree includes experience in Biology, Chemistry, Calculus, Environmental Science, and Physics.

Enhance Your Experience

Students who major in biology oftentimes pursue a double major or minor in chemistry or psychology

Biology Minor

Biology minors gain a broad knowledge of the systems and processes that allow for life. A minor in biology is designed to support a major in a collateral field chosen by the student. Some majors that the biology minor complements include chemistry, physics, physics with an engineering science emphasis, and physics with a life science emphasis.

Degree Requirements

A. All of the following:

B110 Botany and Zoology I (3 cr.)

This introductory course serves both majors and non-majors.  Course topics include the process of evolution and ecology; biological molecules and basic chemistry; cell structure, cellular respiration and photosynthesis; the mechanisms of chromosome replication, transcription and translation; and Mendelian genetics. Three fifty minute or two seventy-five minute lecture/discussion periods are held weekly. 

B111 Botany and Zoology I Laboratory (1 cr.)

These laboratory studies complement the concepts presented in B110. Investigations include the scientific method and techniques; population growth; plant communities and invasive species; ecosystems and habitat quality; cell biology; osmosis; enzyme kinetics; photosynthesis; DNA electrophoresis and Mendelian genetics. The lab meets for one three-hour session each week.

B120 Botany and Zoology II (3 cr.)

This introductory course serves both majors and non-majors.  Course topics include the process of evolution; surveys of microbial, plant and animal life; plant anatomy and physiology; comparative animal anatomy and systems physiology.

B121 Botany and Zoology II Laboratory (1 cr.)

These laboratory studies complement the concepts presented in B120. Investigations include the scientific method and techniques; phylogenetic surveys of bacteria, Protista and fungi, the plant and animal kingdoms; and animal body systems physiology.

C131 General Chemistry I (3 cr.)

This course covers the fundamental principles upon which the study of chemistry is based. Stoichiometry, atomic structure, molecular structure, chemical bonding, behavior of gases, kinetic molecular theory, properties of solutions, chemical reactivity and thermochemistry are included.

C133 General Chemistry I Laboratory (1 cr.)

This laboratory is an inquiry-based approach to understanding the process of doing chemistry. Each week, as a team member with a specific role working for a consulting company, the student receives a letter from a "chemical client" requesting the solution to a chemical problem. It is the responsibility of the team to design a solution, collect data, and report the results to the client in report form.

C142 General Chemistry II (3 cr.)

This course includes the study of the chemistry of molecular forces, redox reactions, chemical kinetics, chemical equilibrium theory, electrochemistry, chemical dynamics, organic chemistry, phase behavior and solution chemistry.

C144 General Chemistry II Laboratory (1 cr.)

This laboratory is an inquiry-based approach to understanding the process of doing chemistry. Each week, as a team member with a specific role working for a consulting company, the student receives a letter from a "chemical client" requesting the solution to a chemical problem. It is the responsibility of the team to design a solution, collect data, and report the results to the client in report form.

C321 Organic Chemistry I (3 cr.)

Organized by chemical functional groups and reaction mechanisms, this course presents both classical and modern theories of organic chemistry while rigorously exploring chemical structure reactivity relationships. The fundamentals of nomenclature, physical properties, chemical structure, stereochemistry, organic-reactions, mechanisms, synthesis, purification, and compound characterization are emphasized. Biological, medical, and familiar real-world examples are discussed in the context of organic chemistry.

C323 Organic Chemistry I Laboratory (1 cr.)

This laboratory complements the lecture segment of the course by demonstrating and utilizing the concepts learned in the classroom to acquire, isolate, and characterize desired organic reaction products. In this laboratory, students become familiar with the equipment, glassware, techniques, and expertise required to implement the chemistry proposed on paper, to optimize it, and to communicate it to the chemical community. A practical context for the developed chemical intuition is provided.

B. Either M148 and M149 or M151:

M148 Calculus I with Precalculus (part 1) (4 cr.)

This course, followed by M151 or courses equivalent to college algebra and college trigonometry.

M149 Calculus I with Precalculus (part 2) (4 cr.)

This course completes the two-semester sequence that begins with M151.

M151 Calculus I (4 cr.)

This course provides an introduction to the differential and integral calculus. Topics include: the concepts of function, limit, continuity, derivative, definite and indefinite integrals, and an introduction to transcendental functions. Credit is not granted for this course and M149.

C. All of the following:

B301 Ecology with Laboratory (4 cr.)

A study of the theoretical and practical ecological concepts pertaining to species, populations, communities and ecosystems; stress is placed on the concepts of energy flow, nutrient cycles, limiting factors, population dynamics and succession.

B310 Genetics with Laboratory (4 cr.)

The principles underlying hereditary variation in living organisms are the focus of this course. These topics are centered about the transmission of hereditary traits, cytogenetics, basic gene concepts, introductory molecular biology, population genetics, and the genetic basis of evolution.

B311 Cell Biology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

This course is a study of the cell at the ultrastructural, biochemical, and physiological levels. Special consideration is given to respiration, photosynthesis, secretion, cytoskeleton, cell cycle, cell growth, movement, membranes, and other organelles.

B313 Physiology with Laboratory (4 cr.)

This course explores the functions of the body systems of humans. The interrelationships of organ systems processes to maintain homeostasis are emphasized. Laboratory sessions provide experiences with procedures and instrumentation to gather data that highlight the function of the body systems. Course topics are particularly relevant to the health sciences.

B392 Biostatistics (3 cr.)

This course introduces basic and fundamental statistics with emphasis on the more sophisticated tests and analyses common to biologists and other researchers. Substantial attention is given to analysis of variance procedures and experimental design. The course meets for two seventy-five minute lecture / computer laboratory sessions each week.  Credit is not granted for this course and any of the following: ST232.

B409 Biochemistry with Laboratory (4 cr.)

The principal concepts of biochemistry are the focus of this course. The major themes include the relationship between the three-dimensional structure of proteins and their biological function and the chemistry and metabolism of biologically important macromolecules including proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and nucleic acids. Also offered as C409.  The course meets for three one-hour lectures and one three-hour lab session each week. 

B412 Molecular Biology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

An analysis of the regulation of cellular metabolism at the molecular level is the core of this study. The major themes include the biochemistry of DNA, RNA and protein synthesis and the regulation of gene expression in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

B492 Experimental Planning (1 cr.)

The purpose of this course is to design a research project. The necessary reconnaissance, review of the literature, and other preparations are included. Some emphasis is also given to thesis writing and presentations. 

B493 Biology Research and Thesis (2 cr.)

The course consists of an independent investigation of a field or laboratory problem of the student's choice in a specific area of biology. A written report of the research project in the form of a thesis is required; an oral presentation may be required, at the discretion of the research advisor. This course is a graduation requirement for biology majors.

C322 Organic Chemistry II with Laboratory (4 cr.)

A continuation of C323. It is organized by functional groups and reaction mechanisms, while integrating this knowledge into chemical synthesis. Additional topics include aromaticity, NMR and IR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, carbonyl chemistry, synthetic strategy, and advanced C–C bond forming reactions.

P201 Introductory Physics I (3 cr.)

This course is the first half of a two-semester introductory, calculus-based, physics course for all students planning to enter one of the scientific professions. It covers the fundamental principles of mechanics, oscillations, and fluid mechanics.

P202 Introductory Physics I Laboratory (1 cr.)

One three-hour laboratory is held each week covering topics studied in the lectures.

Please Note:

B409 Biochemistry with Laboratory, C322 Organic Chemistry II with Laboratory, P211 Introductory Physics II, and P212 Introductory Physics II Laboratory are required for admission to medical, dental, veterinary and graduate schools.

Recommended elective courses for students entering the health professions:

B305 Human Anatomy with Laboratory (4 cr.)

This course explores the design and structure of the human body. Lectures present cellular and histological features of the body systems.

B322 Developmental Biology (3 cr.)

A study of mostly animal development from genetic and molecular perspectives. A brief account of embryology is followed by gametogenesis, fertilization, embryogenesis, and organogenesis. All topics are covered with emphasis upon differentiation.

B434 Microbiology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

This course deals with the morphology, physiology and biochemistry of a variety of microorganisms including viruses, bacteria, fungi and algae. Emphasis is placed on the control of microbial growth, the characteristics of these organisms and their relationship to disease.

B435 Immunology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

Topics covered in this course include the nature of the immune system and the immunological response including the roles of lymphocytes, cytokines, antibodies and complement. Some emphasis is placed on the malfunction and diseases of the immune system.

B450 Radiation Biology (3 cr.)

The effects of radiation, particularly ionizing radiation, on molecules, cells, tissues, and the whole organism are studied. A brief background of the nature, sources and absorption of radioactive energy is presented. Some emphasis is also placed on the understanding and use of modern instrumentation and techniques available for biological research and fluorescence analysis.

B479 Environmental Toxicology with Laboratory (4 cr.)

An examination of the principles, methods, and problems of environmental toxicology is presented. Topics include: pollutant dynamics in ecosystems and individuals, dose-effect relationships, sublethal toxicity, interactions between pollutants, ecosystem responses, and others.

C322 Organic Chemistry II with Laboratory (4 cr.)

A continuation of C323. It is organized by functional groups and reaction mechanisms, while integrating this knowledge into chemical synthesis. Additional topics include aromaticity, NMR and IR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, carbonyl chemistry, synthetic strategy, and advanced C–C bond forming reactions.

P211 Introductory Physics II (3 cr.)

This course is the second half of a two-semester introductory, calculus-based, physics course for all students planning to enter one of the scientific professions. It covers the fundamental principles of waves, physical and geometrical optics, and electricity and magnetism.

P212 Introductory Physics II Laboratory (1 cr.)

One three-hour laboratory is held each week covering topics studied in the lectures.

PY111 General Psychology (3 cr.)

General Psychology provides an overview of the methods, fundamental principles, and major perspectives which define the discipline of psychology. Intrapersonal and/ or interpersonal psychological processes involved in the biological basis of behavior, sleeping and dreaming, conditioning and learning, cognition, lifespan human development, abnormal psychology, and psychological treatment. Classical and contemporary research and perspectives including the biological, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, humanistic, sociocultural and evolutionary perspectives are explored. Students are actively involved through application, interactive exercises, simulations, and projects.

S110 Sociological Imagination (3 cr.)

The nature and foundations of society and the individual, the main forces that strengthen and weaken social groups and the conditions that transform social life are examined in this course.

A. All of the following:

B110 Botany and Zoology I (3 cr.)

This introductory course serves both majors and non-majors.  Course topics include the process of evolution and ecology; biological molecules and basic chemistry; cell structure, cellular respiration and photosynthesis; the mechanisms of chromosome replication, transcription and translation; and Mendelian genetics. Three fifty minute or two seventy-five minute lecture/discussion periods are held weekly. 

B111 Botany and Zoology I Laboratory (1 cr.)

These laboratory studies complement the concepts presented in B110. Investigations include the scientific method and techniques; population growth; plant communities and invasive species; ecosystems and habitat quality; cell biology; osmosis; enzyme kinetics; photosynthesis; DNA electrophoresis and Mendelian genetics. The lab meets for one three-hour session each week.

B120 Botany and Zoology II (3 cr.)

This introductory course serves both majors and non-majors.  Course topics include the process of evolution; surveys of microbial, plant and animal life; plant anatomy and physiology; comparative animal anatomy and systems physiology.

B121 Botany and Zoology II Laboratory (1 cr.)

These laboratory studies complement the concepts presented in B120. Investigations include the scientific method and techniques; phylogenetic surveys of bacteria, Protista and fungi, the plant and animal kingdoms; and animal body systems physiology.

B. 13 additional biology elective credits

13 additional biology elective credits, which may not include courses specifically designed for non-science majors, chosen in consultation with a member of the biology department.

B210 Introduction to Mammalogy with Laboratory (3 cr.)

The goal of this course is to introduce students to the ecology and classification of mammals.  Students will be presented with information on the evolutionary history and special adaptations of mammals within the context of their ecological roles as individuals or populations in a biological community. This course also examines contemporary conservation issues related to mammals. The laboratory component of the course will allow students to practice some the techniques used by mammologists with particular emphasis on field techniques. The development of scientific literacy skills will be heavily emphasized. This course is open to science and non-science majors. Two one-hour class meetings and one two-hour lab each week.

B301 Ecology with Laboratory (4 cr.)

A study of the theoretical and practical ecological concepts pertaining to species, populations, communities and ecosystems; stress is placed on the concepts of energy flow, nutrient cycles, limiting factors, population dynamics and succession.

B305 Human Anatomy with Laboratory (4 cr.)

This course explores the design and structure of the human body. Lectures present cellular and histological features of the body systems.

B306 Medical Terminology (2 cr.)

This course is an organ systems approach to learning and understanding medical terms. A word building programmed learning format is utilized to understand Latin and Greek root words from which our English medical words originate. Common medical abbreviations and case studies are also incorporated into the course.

B310 Genetics with Laboratory (4 cr.)

The principles underlying hereditary variation in living organisms are the focus of this course. These topics are centered about the transmission of hereditary traits, cytogenetics, basic gene concepts, introductory molecular biology, population genetics, and the genetic basis of evolution.

B311 Cell Biology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

This course is a study of the cell at the ultrastructural, biochemical, and physiological levels. Special consideration is given to respiration, photosynthesis, secretion, cytoskeleton, cell cycle, cell growth, movement, membranes, and other organelles.

B313 Physiology with Laboratory (4 cr.)

This course explores the functions of the body systems of humans. The interrelationships of organ systems processes to maintain homeostasis are emphasized. Laboratory sessions provide experiences with procedures and instrumentation to gather data that highlight the function of the body systems. Course topics are particularly relevant to the health sciences.

B315 GIS Theory and Applications with Laboratory (2 cr.)

The first half of this course introduces the basic concepts necessary to an understanding of geographic information systems (GIS) including their purpose, hardware, software, data bases, and applications. Special attention is paid to the concept of map projections, coordinate systems and geo-referencing data. The second half introduces and spurs the development of core competencies with the desktop GIA Arcview. Students learn how to conduct queries, undertake simple and complex spatial analyses and develop presentations, incorporating views, charts, and images, among others.

B320 Conservation Biology (3 cr.)

This course introduces key concepts in conservation biology with an emphasis on biodiversity.  Both theory and practical applications in conservation biology will be explored.  Concepts explored include definitions and locations of biodiversity, the valuation of biodiversity, threats to biodiversity, conservation at the species and population levels, and how conservation biology intersects with current issues facing human societies.  This course will take a global perspective on issues current in the field of conservation biology.  Additionally, the development of scientific literacy skills will be heavily emphasized.

B322 Developmental Biology (3 cr.)

A study of mostly animal development from genetic and molecular perspectives. A brief account of embryology is followed by gametogenesis, fertilization, embryogenesis, and organogenesis. All topics are covered with emphasis upon differentiation.

B434 Microbiology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

This course deals with the morphology, physiology and biochemistry of a variety of microorganisms including viruses, bacteria, fungi and algae. Emphasis is placed on the control of microbial growth, the characteristics of these organisms and their relationship to disease.

B435 Immunology with Laboratory (3 cr.)

Topics covered in this course include the nature of the immune system and the immunological response including the roles of lymphocytes, cytokines, antibodies and complement. Some emphasis is placed on the malfunction and diseases of the immune system.

B480 Human Genetics (2 cr.)

All aspects of genetics as they pertain to the human are discussed. These topics include the human genome, inborn errors of metabolism, Mendelian inheritance, human cytogenetics, gene mapping, complex traits, consanguinity, cancer genetics, behavioral genetics, and gene therapy. In every case, connections are made to applications and issues pervading society.

B496/497 Biology Internship (1–17 cr.)

This experience is arranged individually for interested students and provides an opportunity for the student to work with/for a public or private entity and become familiar with biologically related aspects of the entity. The biology internship, although flexible, must be a biological learning situation with a final report required. Juniors or seniors are eligible and must have the consent of the department chair.