Jun 02, 2023  
Course Catalog 2018-2019 
Course Catalog 2018-2019 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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Keith Tarvin, Professor of Biology; Department Chair
Taylor Allen, Associate Professor of Biology
Jane Ellen Bennett, Lecturer in Biology and Laboratory Instructor
Yolanda Paje Cruz, Robert S. Danforth Professor of Biology
Katherine E. Cullen, Lecturer in Biology and Laboratory Instructor
Mary Garvin, Professor of Biology
Aaron Goldman, Assistant Professor of Biology
Marta Laskowski,  Professor of Biology
Roger H. Laushman, Associate Professor of Biology
Michael J. Moore, Professor of Biology
Maureen A. Peters, Associate Professor of Biology
Jordan Price, Assistant Professor of Biology
Angela J. Roles, Associate Professor of Biology
Laura Romberg, Associate Professor of Biology

The biology major at Oberlin has three learning goals. 1) Graduates will have knowledge of key biological concepts and underlying fundamentals and will be able to apply these across all levels of organization. 2) Graduates will have critical thinking and functional skills needed to carry out the scientific process from inception through communication of results. 3) Graduates will have an understanding of the ways in which biology interrelates with other sciences, disciplines, and society.

Many biology majors proceed to study and work in the life sciences, including fundamental research and applied fields such as medicine, conservation biology, science writing, and teaching. By a proper selection of biology and other science courses in consultation with a departmental advisor, a student majoring in biology can prepare for graduate study in a wide range of areas such as animal behavior, biochemistry, biophysics, botany, cell biology, ecology, conservation biology, developmental biology, environmental sciences, evolutionary biology, forestry, genetics, genetic counseling, genomics, immunology, marine biology, molecular biology, morphology, microbiology, mycology, parasitology, physiology, plant biology, public health, systematics, systems biology, translational medicine, virology, and wildlife biology.

Advanced Placement.

Students earning a score of 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement Biology exam (AP Bio) or a score of 6 or 7 on the International Baccalaureate Biology Higher Level exam will receive credit for one full course, as BIOL 604, applied toward graduation requirements, but not toward the Biology major. 

Entry-Level Course Sequence Suggestions.

Students with a strong high school science background find taking introductory Biology and Chemistry courses simultaneously in the first semester both useful and challenging. Other students benefit from taking only one of these courses during their first semester at Oberlin. Prospective Biology majors are urged to consult with a Biology faculty member during advising period to discuss these options.

Pre-Requisites for Biology Courses

Each course in the Biology department which requires a pre-requisite will indicate the specific course that is required for admission to the course. A minimum grade of C- or P is required in the pre-requisite. A student may also consult the instructor if special preparation for a course might be considered as a substitute for the pre-requisite.


The biology major consists of a minimum of 7 life science courses in categories A through C below and 4 additional cognate courses in category D.  A minimum of two 200-, 300-, or 400-level courses exclusive of the core must come from the Oberlin Biology Department. No more than two advanced courses from outside the Biology Department (including transfer credits) may count toward the major. Courses in which a student has earned a letter grade lower than a C- may not be used to fulfill the requirements of the Biology major. Students must complete at least five lab experiences: three from the required core courses (category A), and two from upper-level courses (one from category B and a second from either category B or C).

Requirements for the Biology Major

C. Two additional post-core life sciences courses: the equivalent of two full courses

The equivalent of two additional full life science courses (exclusive of the core) is required. Courses may come from within the Biology Department (Category B, above), from classes in other departments listed below, or as transfer courses from other institutions or programs (pending approval by the Biology Department chair); one full-course equivalent may come from mentored research in the Biology Department. One additional lab experience (beyond that described under Category B) also is required, and may come from a laboratory course from group i-vi below (which includes Category B courses and mentored research) or from an approved transfer course.

NOTE: Coursework from Categories B and C must collectively provide at least 2 lab experiences.

Important Considerations/Limitations for the Major

1.  At least 3.5 full biology courses from categories A, B, and C, including two full courses (or the equivalent) of post-core coursework, must be taken at Oberlin.

2.  Post-core coursework taken elsewhere and applied to the major may not exceed the equivalent of two full courses.

3.  Private Readings, FYS, Colloquia, or Practicums do not count toward the major.

4.  Students may not receive both academic credit and financial compensation for the same research work.

5.  Students must earn minimum grades of C- or P for all courses that apply toward the major.

In Biology, the 300-level course designation signals a 200-level prerequisite. In 2014-15, the following Biology courses changed from 200-level to 300-level: BIOL 206 (Disease Ecology) changed to BIOL 308; BIOL 215 (Ornithology) changed to BIOL 309; BIOL 218 (Evolution) changed to BIOL 318; BIOL 227 (Plant Systematics) changed to BIOL 323 (lecture) and 324 (lab); BIOL 201 (Invertebrate Biology) changed to BIOL 320.



There is no minor offered in Biology.


Candidates for Honors in Biology enroll as seniors in BIOL 501 and 502, carry out a research project in consultation with a faculty committee, write and defend a thesis based on completed work, and give a required research seminar. Students interested in this program should initiate a discussion of research possibilities with any member of the staff during the junior year. Students are not accepted formally into the Honors Program until their proposed research is reviewed by the department at the beginning of their first semester of research, fall of their senior year.

Off-Campus or Summer Study

Students planning off-campus study are advised to consult first with their advisor and then with the Chair to determine acceptability of courses to the major. The department offers limited scholarships for summer course work at approved field (inland and marine) stations in the United States. Applications for these scholarships are invited early in the spring semester; awards are made in May.

Transfer of Credit

Credits in biology earned elsewhere may be applied to the Oberlin biology major with the approval of the department chair, as long as at least half of the minimum courses in biology (full courses or equivalent), including two full courses or equivalent of advanced course work (defined as 200-, 300-, or 400- level courses, exclusive of 213 and 200, offered by the Biology Department) are completed at Oberlin.

Winter Term

Among the topics for Winter Term projects that members of the Biology Department are willing to sponsor are the following: Mr. Allen: projects relying upon genetic, molecular biological, and biophysical techniques to address cell physiological questions. Readings in the physiology of muscle and motile cells. Instruction and readings in Old Icelandic and Old English literature. Ms. Bennett: intensive science review; pre-medical internship. Ms. Cullen: projects in molecular biology and career exploration.  Ms. Cruz: projects involving comparative embryology, developmental biology, marsupial biology. Readings in the history of biology, philosophy of science, evolution, biotechnology. Ms. Garvin: projects and readings in parasitology, entomology, ornithology, epidemiology, and ecology. Mr. Goldman: projects related to the early evolution of proteins and functional networks in ancient life. Ms. Laskowski: projects involving plant physiology, plant molecular biology. Mr.Laushman: projects involving conservation biology, population genetics, and aquatic vascular plants. Mr. Moore: lab and field studies in plant systematics and evolution. Ms. Peters: laboratory studies of a biological rhythm in the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, and neuropeptides using a variety of genetic, molecular biology, and genomic techniques. Readings in clinical and molecular genetics, health careers, molecular biology and genomics. Mr. Price: projects involving the interaction of baceterial pathogens with mammalian and protozoan host cells. Readings in infectious diseases, clinical immunology, and cellular-molecular immunology. Ms. Roles: projects or readings involving molecular ecology, population and quantitative genetics, evolutionary biology, and conservation/invasion biology. Ms. Romberg: projects involving the biochemistry and kinetics of bacterial cell division proteins and computational modeling of protein polymerization; shadowing physical or occupational therapists at a hospital in Cleveland; independent projects on food science. Mr. Tarvin: projects and readings in behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology, including human evolutionary biology.

Preparation for Post-Graduate Education

Medical School, Dental and Veterinary Medicine.  Please see the sub-section “Pre-medical” in the section “The BA degree and Pre-Professional Development.” 

Graduate Schools. Students planning to pursue an advanced degree should consult individual admission requirements of the schools and graduate departments in which they are interested.  For example some graduate schools in biology expect a major in the biological sciences to include:

  • Two years of Chemistry with laboratory.
  • One year of Physics with laboratory.
  • College-level Mathematics (Calculus and Statistics).
  • Courses in Computer Science.

Certain deficiencies in course work may be made up in graduate school but generally not for graduate credit. The majority of graduate schools require the GRE General Examination for admission but there is variation with respect to the Advanced  (subject) requirement. Students are strongly urged to consult with members of the Biology Department in preparing for graduate work.

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