Biologists investigate a broad spectrum of questions about living organisms and life processes—the physical and chemical bases of life, how organisms and their component parts are structured, how they function, how they interact with their environment, and how they have evolved.
Departmental teaching and research emphases in cellular and molecular biology, developmental biology, ecology and evolution, human biology, marine biology, and neuroscience and behavior offer students opportunities to learn and work with scientists who are making important contributions to knowledge in these areas.
Students may enter the program with a high school education or transfer from a community college or university. The curriculum includes courses for majors in biology, marine biology, and related disciplines; preprofessional courses; and courses that serve as important elements in a liberal education for students in other majors. Course work for the biology major provides an exceptional foundation for students who plan to pursue graduate programs in biomedicine and research, and jobs in health services, private industry, and education.
Biology Advising Center for Undergraduates
73 Klamath Hall
In the Biology Advising Center, students can meet with members of the biology advising staff to receive help in planning an individualized program of study.
The advising center provides multiple resources and services including contacts for local, national, and international internships; evaluation of biology-specific transfer equivalencies; and advising for biology students and those interested in biomedicine. Transfer students should consult the university’s website for preliminary transfer evaluations: registrar.uoregon.edu/transfer-articulation.
Courses for nonmajors, offered at the 100 level, are intended for students with little or no college background in biology, chemistry, or mathematics. Content may vary from year to year, but focuses on the biological basis of topics in ecology, evolution, behavior, human physiology, and genetics.
Students who are contemplating a major in biology or a related science are advised to begin their biology course work with one of the lower-division sequences, both of which have chemistry and mathematics prerequisites.
Preparation. Modern biology is a quantitative interdisciplinary science. Students planning to specialize in biology should include in their high school preparation as much mathematics, chemistry, and physics as possible. International baccalaureate and advanced placement course work and testing are encouraged.
Transfer Students. Students who intend to transfer as majors from a community college or university should carefully plan the program of course work they take before transferring. Students who transfer after one year of college should have completed a year of general chemistry with laboratories and a year of college-level mathematics. Satisfactory completion of a yearlong biology major’s introductory sequence that includes laboratories and features strong components of genetics, evolution, and physiology allows transfer students to complete the 200-level general biology sequence requirement by taking General Biology IV: Mechanisms (BI 214). In addition to these biology courses, transfer students can complete major requirements by taking a year of general chemistry with laboratories, two terms of organic chemistry, mathematics through two terms of calculus, and a year of general physics for science majors. Students who plan on applying to graduate programs in medicine or allied health are encouraged to take a full year of organic chemistry with laboratories and a full year of physics with laboratories to satisfy graduate program admissions requirements. Organic chemistry course work completed at a community or junior college may not be used to satisfy upper-division credit requirements at the University of Oregon unless an American Chemical Society exam is passed.
Lower-Division Biology Sequences. The biology department offers two introductory course sequences with associated laboratories. Both provide a strong foundation in molecular, cellular, organismal, evolutionary, and ecological biology. Either sequence is appropriate for students with interests in any area of biology. General Biology (BI 211–214) is the department's standard four-course sequence. Honors Biology (BI 281H–283H) is a three-course sequence for students with strong preparation in chemistry and mathematics.
Students planning to major in biology or a related discipline may take either of the 200-level biology sequences. Students should consult the department website or visit the advising center for up-to-date information about the sequences and for advice on which sequence is best for them.
Careers. The biology major prepares students for many outstanding fields. Biology professions have been ranked among the top ten jobs in the United States for more than fifteen years. A U.S. News and World Report article on best careers reported that studying biology is the gateway to at least ten of the top thirty professions, and that being a biologist is the number-one ranked and most satisfying profession out of the top 100 in the United States.
Recently, more than one-third of the UO’s biology seniors have been accepted to graduate schools in biomedicine and research. Many graduates have gone on to U.S. medical, dental, pharmacy, veterinary, physician assistant, optometry, physical therapy, and nursing schools. Graduates are pursuing MS and PhD degrees in molecular biology, neuroscience, ecology and evolution, and marine biology. Former UO biology majors now work in health services, private industry, government agencies, education, and nonprofit organizations. Specific examples include working for the Peace Corps, Teach for America, university research centers, pathology and crime laboratories, food processing companies, nature centers, forestry departments, fish and wildlife organizations, computer software companies, museums, botanical gardens, zoos, conservation organizations, science and technology research centers, community colleges, high school science departments, health departments, and hospitals. More details about career opportunities and recent outstanding graduates are available from the Biology Advising Center.
Biology majors are encouraged to become involved in a variety of learning experiences in addition to their college courses. Research, internships, community service, or similar experiences are increasingly important in securing jobs or positions in professional programs. Career-related information is available online at uocareer.uoregon.edu and in the Career Center, 244 Hendricks Hall. Selected job listings are available in the Biology Advising Center and from its website.
A major in biology or marine biology leads to a bachelor of science (BS) or to a bachelor of arts (BA) degree. The BA requires completion of the foreign-language requirement. Twenty-four credits of biology that are applied to the major must be taken at the University of Oregon (which includes the main campus, the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Charleston, the central Oregon campus in Bend, and university-approved overseas and exchange programs). Majors must either meet the major requirements in effect at the time they are accepted as majors or complete subsequent major requirements. Specific courses follow.
- General Chemistry (CH 221, 222, 223) or Honors General Chemistry (CH 224H, 225H, 226H)
- General Chemistry Laboratory (CH 227, 228, 229) or Advanced General Chemistry Laboratory (CH 237, 238, 239)
- Mathematics, to include Calculus for the Biological Sciences I,II (MATH 246, 247) or Calculus I,II (MATH 251, 252) or equivalent; a course in statistics is recommended based on selected emphasis area
- General Physics (PHYS 201, 202, 203) or Foundations of Physics I (PHYS 251, 252, 253)
- The four-term general biology sequence (BI 211–214) or the three-term honors biology sequence (BI 281H–283H)
- Organic chemistry sequence
a. For the biology major, a minimum of two organic chemistry courses are required: Organic Chemistry I (CH 331) and either Organic Chemistry II (CH 335) or Organic Chemistry III (CH 336)
b. For students interested in graduate programs in medicine, dentistry, biomedicine, or allied health, three organic chemistry courses and two laboratories are required (CH 331, 335, 336, 337, 338). Also, a general physics sequence with laboratories is usually required for medicine; the recommended courses are PHYS 201, 202, 203 with PHYS 204, 205, 206. Since many medical schools require upper-division genetics and/or biochemistry, Molecular Genetics (BI 320), Physiological Biochemistry (CH 360), or both are suggested. Students are urged to contact specific institutions to confirm admission requirements
Major in Biology
The major in biology requires a minimum of 44 upper-division biology credits with the following restrictions:
- At least one 300-level course in each of the three areas—cellular-molecular, systems-organisms, and ecology-evolution
- At least two courses at the 300 or 400 level with significant laboratory or fieldwork
- At least 12 credits in courses with a BI subject code, numbered 420 to 499
Please contact the Biology Advising Center at biology.uoregon.edu/advising or 541-346-4525 for additional limitations and allowances.
Emphasis Areas for the Biology Major
Fulfilling the requirements for an undergraduate degree in biology provides a solid, general foundation in the discipline. Some biology majors may want to concentrate their studies in one of five emphasis areas: ecology and evolution; human biology; marine biology; molecular, cellular, and developmental biology; or neuroscience and behavior. The requirements listed for each emphasis may be fulfilled as the student completes the biology major. Upon graduation, students who complete the requirements for an emphasis area receive written recognition from the department.
Visit http://biology.uoregon.edu/advising/requirements.php for the current requirements for each emphasis area, or contact the Biology Advising Center at 541-346-4525 for more information.
Major in Marine Biology
The major in marine biology has similar requirements to the biology major but requires students to spend three terms completing upper-division course work (taking at least 12 credits per term) at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. A program plan for the marine biology major is available in the Biology Advising Center or on the OIMB website.
Animal Use in Teaching Laboratories
Students should be aware that the biology and marine biology majors require courses in which a variety of organisms, including vertebrate animals, are used in laboratory dissections and experiments.
Prospective majors who are concerned about this should discuss it with their advisors before beginning either program. Students are encouraged to review the syllabuses for laboratory courses before enrolling. Syllabuses are available on the department’s website and in the Biology Advising Center.
Department and university policies require that the use of live vertebrate animals be minimized in teaching laboratories and be approved by the curriculum committee of the Department of Biology and by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of the University of Oregon. Students who have ethical objections to animal use in a course that requires it should consult the director of undergraduate advising before enrolling.
Students are encouraged to regularly consult their degree audit and transfer evaluation reports, academic transcripts, and other information available on DuckWeb. Students should consult with an advisor in the Biology Advising Center at least once a year to refine their program of study.
Each student should consult an advisor in the Biology Advising Center for help with determining a program of study. Freshman majors enrolled in a calculus course typically take general chemistry with laboratories.
Upper-division biology electives and General Physics (PHYS 201, 202, 203) are typically taken after successful completion of an introductory biology sequence.
By the end of the sophomore year, each student should have met with a biology advisor to develop a program that satisfies both the interests of the student and the major requirements.
Courses with the BI subject code that are taken to meet major requirements must be passed with grades of C–, P, or better. Students should choose the pass/no pass (P/N) option sparingly or not at all. Some biomedical graduate programs do not allow transfer credit from courses taken pass/no pass.
Students meet the general-education group requirement in science by fulfilling the requirements for a major in biology. Transfer students should consult their advisors when selecting courses to meet the group requirements in arts and letters and in social science. For more information, see Group Requirements in the Registration and Academic Policies section of this catalog; also, see the current course list on the registrar’s website, registrar.uoregon.edu/common/group_courses.php.
Oregon Institute of Marine Biology
Located in Charleston on Coos Bay, the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB), in conjunction with the biology department, offers an undergraduate marine biology major and a coordinated program of study for undergraduates in biology, general science, and environmental science or environmental studies. During fall and spring terms, 300- and 400-level courses take advantage of the institute’s unique coastal setting. Typical offerings include Animal Behavior (BI 390); Invertebrate Zoology (BI 451); Estuarine Biology (BI 454); Marine Biology: Comparative Embryology and Larval Biology, Environmental Issues, Molecular Biology for Marine Sciences (BI 457); Biological Oceanography (BI 458); and Marine Ecology (BI 474). A seminar series (BI 407) features weekly invited speakers who are active researchers in the marine sciences. Undergraduate research is encouraged.
The summer program offers additional 400-level courses emphasizing field studies and includes a variety of eight- and two-week courses as well as weekend workshops. Information and applications are available from the Biology Advising Center, from the director of the institute, or from the OIMB website. See also the Research Institutes and Centers section of this catalog.
Malheur Field Station
The University of Oregon is a member of the Malheur Field Station consortium. Located in southeastern Oregon in the heart of the Great Basin desert, the field station provides an excellent opportunity for students to study terrestrial and aquatic systems. Credits earned in courses at the field station may be transferred to the university and are included in the total credits required for a University of Oregon degree. Courses that have been preapproved by the department may be counted for the biology major. Detailed course information and applications may be obtained from the field station website or the Biology Advising Center.
Second Bachelor’s Degree
Students may obtain a second bachelor’s degree in biology after earning a bachelor’s degree in another field. These students are admitted as postbaccalaureate nongraduates. For the second degree, all departmental and university requirements must be met. For more information, see Second Bachelor’s Degree in the Registration and Academic Policies section of this catalog.
Preprofessional health science students who want to major in biology need to plan carefully to complete major requirements and meet entrance requirements of professional schools. These students should consult a biology advisor as well as the advisor for the professional area of their choice. See Preparatory Programs in the Academic Resources section of this catalog for more information about these requirements.
Although Organic Chemistry Laboratory (CH 337, 338) and Introductory Physics Laboratory (PHYS 204, 205, 206) are not required for the biology major, they are required for programs at most professional schools including biomedicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
Honors Program in Biology
Biology majors who satisfy the following requirements are eligible to graduate with honors.
- Complete all of the requirements for the major
- Earn a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.30 in courses with the BI subject code that are applied to the major
- Take biology courses used to satisfy major requirements for letter grades
- Register for the honors program through the Biology Advising Center, which includes obtaining an acceptance signature from the faculty research advisor and an honors committee member, before beginning research
- Complete a minimum of 6 credits in Research (BI 401) during three consecutive terms
- Complete a thesis based on laboratory research or the equivalent that is approved by the biology honors committee and the faculty advisor
- Defend the thesis in a public forum
For more information, see an advisor in the Biology Advising Center.
Special Opportunities for Biology Undergraduates
Majors may participate in research; attend department research seminars; work as a computer laboratory assistant, biology undergraduate laboratory assistant, or peer advisor; spend a term at OIMB; or participate in related activities.
The Biology Undergraduate Lab Assistant program provides students with opportunities to gain teaching experience while deepening their knowledge of a particular field. Participants enroll in and receive credit for Supervised College Teaching (BI 402), which may be applied to the biology major upper-division credit requirements. Students who are considering a career in education are especially encouraged to consider this option.
Credit may be earned for conducting research under the supervision of a faculty member by enrolling in BI 401. For more information, consult individual faculty members in the department or visit the Biology Advising Center.
Students are invited to attend seminars that feature visiting and local scientists.
Students may assist in teaching laboratory sections of some biology courses. Applications may be filed with the department for the limited number of assistantships available.
Peer advising is another way for students to become involved in the department. Interested students are trained during the spring term before the year they plan to work in the advising center.
Although all biology majors have the opportunity to attend OIMB, the university's marine biology laboratory, students who major in marine biology spend three terms at the institute. Interested students should plan to attend during their junior or senior years.
Students are encouraged to express ideas and offer suggestions about curriculum and student relations to the chair of the department’s curriculum committee, the director of undergraduate advising, the chair of the student relations committee, or the head of the department.
Students are asked to evaluate their biology courses and instructors near the end of each term. This information is available to instructors after the end of the term and placed on file for possible use in promotion and tenure deliberations. Student answers to summary questions are available in electronic format in Knight Library and in the Office of Academic Advising.
The Biology Teacher Recognition Award highlights efforts to improve biology education through student feedback. Initiated by student nominations, the award recognizes faculty members and teaching assistants who excel in one or more aspects of teaching effectiveness.
Minor in Biology
Students interested in a minor in biology should develop a plan for the minor in consultation with an advisor in the Biology Advising Center. Students completing the minor in biology must provide the biology advisor with a transcript or transfer evaluation that shows any transfer courses that may be applied to the minor.
At least 28 credits of biology that includes
- Completion of BI 211 and two of the following courses: BI 212, 213, 214, 281H, 282H, or 283H
- At least 16 credits of upper-division biology course work, but no more than 4 credits from BI 401–409
- At least 16 credits of biology applied to the minor must be taken at the University of Oregon
- Course work must be completed with grades of P or C– or better
Kindergarten through Secondary Teaching Careers
Students who complete the bachelor’s degree with a biology major are eligible to apply for the College of Education’s fifth-year licensure program in middle-secondary teaching or the fifth-year licensure program to become an elementary teacher. More information is available from the department’s K–12 education advisor, Peter Wetherwax; see also the College of Education section of this catalog.