Biology, BS

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Learning Outcomes for a Biology Major

A graduating biology major will be able to:

  • understand how scientific knowledge is generated and revised.
  • understand biological phenomena in terms of mechanism and adaptation, at scales ranging from atoms to the biosphere.
  • understand how biological properties at one level provide directions and impose constraints on properties at other levels.
  • understand how to design, perform and evaluate the results of biological research.
  • have hands-on experience with the tools of biological research.
  • be able to read and interpret articles describing biological research.
  • be able to express his/her understanding of biology clearly in writing.
  • have the background, experience, and resources to function in a technological society.
  • apply the results of scientific research to everyday life, society, health, and the environment.
  • go on to a career in biology, biotechnology, medicine, teaching, or environmental science.

Requirements for the BS Degree in Biology

1. Biology "Core" Requirements: 19 Credits in Biology, 26 Credits in Math, Physics, and Chemistry

  • General Biology 111 and 112 (lab required)
  • Genetics 252 (lab required)
  • Cell Biology 210 (lab required)
  • Population Biology 290
  • Introductory Chemistry 115 and 116 with labs 117 and 118
  • Physics 107 and 108/ Labs 181-182.
  • Mathematics through one semester of calculus (usually Math 135 or 140 or 145).

2. 20 Credits at the 300 Level or Above in Biology

  • These must include at least 4 credits (or 12 class hours) in the laboratory. (Biochem. 383, 384, 385, and 386 are acceptable.)
  • In two cases, up to 8 of these required 20 credits may be taken in departments other than the Biology Department: (a) Organic Chemistry (Chem 251, 252, 255 & 256) may be counted toward this 20 credit requirement (departmental approval is not required), (b) course taken to complete requirements of the Biobehavioral Concentration may be counted toward this requirement, but only with prior approval of the Biology Department chair.
  • The following biology courses DO NOT fulfill this requirement: 444, 478-479, 672-673.
  • Majors are advised to complete Biology 111-112, Chemistry 115-118, and math through algebra during their first year and Biology 252, Biology 210, and Introductory Physics during their second year.

Biology GPA Requirements

  • In order to graduate as a biology major, a final grade point average of 2.0 is required in biology courses above Biology 111-112 which are used to meet the biology major requirements.

Pass/Fail Options

  • Students may take ONLY ONE course Pass/Fail that counts toward any of the biology major course requirement (including all required chemistry, math, and physics courses - see 1 and 2 above).

Biology Transfer Course Policy and Limitations

  • Fully matriculated students no longer are permitted to take courses elsewhere and transfer them to UMass Boston. Notwithstanding, students who have a particularly pressing reason to take courses at other institutions may appeal this regulation. That is done through the use of a prior approval form, obtained from the Registrar's Office and signed by the department chair or the departmental director of undergraduate advising, or the instructor of UMass Boston's equivalent course.

Biology Residency Requirements

  • All students, including transfer students, must take at least 12 credit hours, including a minimum of 2 credit hours (6 class hours) in laboratory work, within the Biology Department at UMass Boston. These courses will be at the 300 level or above unless the chair's approval is obtained for lower level courses. Biology 381, 444, 478-479, and 672-673 do not fulfill this requirement. Moreover, organic chemistry (251, 252, 255, and 256) does NOT count towards the residency requirement, notwithstanding the fact that 8 of those credits can count towards the fulfillment of the overall minimum of 20 credits upper level bio courses. The biology residency requirement, therefore can only be satisfied by upper level (300+ level) biology courses (including a minimum of 2 upper level credits).

Exemption from General Biology

  • CLEP: The Biology Department accepts the CLEP exam with a score of 50 or above. Students who meet this requirement will be exempt from General Biology 111 and 112 and will receive six (6) credits towards graduation.
  • Advanced Placement (AP): Students with a score of 3 on Advanced Placement Biology are exempt from Biology 111 and 112; those with an AP score of 4 or higher are exempt from Biology 111 and 112 and receive 4 elective credits.

Honors in Biology

To recognize achievement in research, the Biology Department confers honors to some of its graduating seniors. Honors in Biology differs from honors in other programs and from the Honors College. Students who are majoring in biology are eligible for honors in biology as described by the requirements and criteria below. Students majoring in other departments/programs, such as biochemistry, must meet the requirements of their program/department to earn honors in their department/program.  It is the major of the student candidate, not the department/program affiliation of the research mentor, which dictates the specific requirements for earning honors.

To receive honors in biology, a student must engage in supervised research while taking at least 3 credits of independent study (BIOL 478 or 479 or BIOL 444). The mentor supervising the undergraduate research may be either a UMass Boston faculty member in biology, chemistry, the School for the Environment, or another related discipline -- or an off-campus scientist with a UMass Boston biology faculty liaison. Shortly before graduation (spring or fall), the biology honors candidate presents the research in a poster session organized by the Biology Department. The honors candidate also presents the research in a written honors thesis that is submitted to the Biology Department one week after the poster session.

The honors student must also perform well in classes. A cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better in all courses, and a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better in the Biology major, as calculated in the degree audit, are required for honors in biology. The required GPAs must be achieved in the student’s penultimate semester since GPA eligibility for honors in biology is determined before the finish of the student’s final semester.

Two months before graduation, the Biology Honors Committee screens potential candidates for honors in biology to ensure that both the GPA and research requirements are met. The final vote approving honors in biology is made at a special end-of-semester meeting of the entire biology faculty immediately following the poster presentations.

Biology Honors Committee


  • Every biology major must have a faculty advisor from the Biology Department. Students may check their advisor assignments through their WISER accounts. If declared biology majors have not been assigned advisors from the Biology Department, they should see the departmental assistants to be assigned one.

Additional Information