Jul 16, 2024  
Course Catalog 2023-2024 
Course Catalog 2023-2024 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Biology Major

The major consists of a minimum of 10 full courses (or the equivalent).

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

16 View the catalog page for the biology department.  

Many biology majors proceed to study and work in the life sciences, including in fundamental research and in applied fields such as medicine, conservation biology, science writing, and teaching.

Note(s) on Requirements

  • Students must complete at least five lab experiences:
    • three from the required core courses (category A)
    • two from post-core, upper-level courses (one from category B and a second from either category B or C)
  • The equivalent of one full-course in BIOL 501 and/or BIOL 502 may be applied to the major; one half or one full course may count as a laboratory experience.
  • 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.
  • No more than two advanced courses from outside the biology department (including transfer credits) may count toward the major.
    • Post-core coursework taken outside the Oberlin biology department and applied to the major may not exceed the equivalent of two full courses.
  • Students who place out of CHEM 101 and move directly into CHEM 102 only need a total of three affiliated sciences courses (CHEM 102, CHEM 205, and one from the proceeding list); all other students need four (CHEM 101, CHEM 102, CHEM 205, and one from the proceeding list).
  • Private readings, first-year seminar courses, colloquia, and practica do not count toward the major.
  • Students may not receive both academic credit and financial compensation for the same research work.

Learning Goals

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.

Transfer of Credit Toward the Major

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 advance course work (defined as 200-, 300-, or 400- level courses, exclusive of 213 and 200, offered by the biology department) are completed at Oberlin.

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.

Course of Study

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
  • microbiology
  • parasitology
  • physiology
  • plant biology
  • public health
  • systematics
  • systems biology
  • translational medicine
  • virology
  • wildlife biology

Prospective biology majors are urged to consult with a biology faculty member during the advising period to discuss these options.

Preparation for Post-Graduate Education

Medical School, Dental and Veterinary Medicine

arrow See more about health career pathways.

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); and
  • 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.

Honors in Biology

Candidates in the Honors Program in Biology enroll as seniors in BIOL 501 and BIOL 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.

Detailed Major Requirements

Biology Major Course Lists

Post-Core Biology Department Courses

Return to the summary of requirements.

Note: Two 200-level, 300-level, or 400-level full courses (exclusive of the core) offered by the biology department are required; at least one must have an associated lab component.

Affiliated Sciences Courses

Return to the summary of requirements.

Students who place out of CHEM 101 and move directly into CHEM 102 only need a total of three affiliated sciences courses (CHEM 102, CHEM 205, and one from the proceeding list).