Majors and Courses

Organismal Biology

This major provides a research-and-field-oriented background for students interested in research careers in either physiology or ecology/evolution and their allied fields.  For further information, consult with the organismal biology/ecology faculty, Professors Copp, McFarlane, Preest, or Thomson.


Biology 43L, 44L, Introductory Biology or both semesters of the AISS course
Chemistry 14L, 15L Basic Principles of Chemistry (or 29L Advanced General Chem.) or both semesters of the AISS course
Mathematics 30, Calculus I or a new Biomath course          
Biology 175 Biostatistics, or equivalent
Physics 30L, 31L, General Physics or both semesters of the AISS course
Biology 120 Research Tools for Organismal Bio
Six upper division biology courses, including 3 with lab, at least one from each group AND at least three from Group 1 or 3. Other courses also may be appropriate to fulfill the group requirements, if approved in advance by the biology faculty.

Group 1:
- Biology 131L. Vertebrate Physiology
- Biology 132L. Comparative Physiology
- Biology 133L. Mathematical Physiology
- Biology 140. Topics in Neuroscience
- Biology 141L. Vertebrate Anatomy
- Biology 149. Neurobiology
- Biology 150La. Human Anatomy: Limbs and Movement
- Biology 150Lb. Human Anatomy: Back and Core
- Biology 163L. Plant Physiology and Biotechnology
- Biology 166. Animal Physiological Ecology
- Biology 187c. Topics in Biology: Neural Organization of Behavior

Group 2:
- Biology 143. Genetics
- Biology 144. Drugs and Molecular Medicine
- Biology 151L. Developmental Biology
- Biology 156L. Genomics and Bioinformatics
- Biology 157L. Cell Biology
- Biology 158. Cell Cycle, Diseases, and Aging
- Biology 161L. Neuroscience I. Cell, Molecular
- Biology 170L. Molecular Biology
- Biology 177. Biochemistry
- Biology 187a. Topics in Biology: Epigenetics
- Biology 187b. Topics in Biology: Molecular Ecology

Group 3:
- Biology 135. Field Biology
- Biology 138L. Applied Ecology with Lab
- Biology 139. Applied Ecology without Lab
- Biology 145. Evolution
- Biology 146L. Ecology
- Biology 147. Biogeography
- Biology 154. Animal Behavior
- Biology 169L. Marine Ecology
- Biology 176. Tropical Ecology
- Biology 187. Special Topics in Biology
- Off-Campus Study at an advanced level (OCS courses may substitute for courses in Groups 1, 2, and 3; approved summer research experience may substitute for OCS by prior arrangement.)
- A one- or two-semester thesis (Biology 191; or Biology 188L and 190L; or 189L and 190L).

Students planning careers in biology should seriously consider taking additional upper division biology courses beyond the minimum required for graduation.

Pre-med and pre-Vet students should plan to take two semesters of organic chemistry (Chem 116L and 117L) in their junior or senior year.

Students with a strong background in Chemistry (AP 4 or 5) should take the placement exam for the one-semester accelerated introductory chemistry course (Chem 29L) in place of the two-semester Chem 14L and Chem 15L sequence.

A Recommended Minimum Schedule:

Freshman Chem 14L Chem 15L
  Bio 43L or Math 30 Bio 44L
Sophomore Bio 120 Physics 31L
  Bio 43L or Math 30 UD Bio Elective
  Physics 30L  
Junior UD Bio elective Off campus study (2 UD Bio electives recommended)
Senior UD Bio elective UD Bio elective
  Senior Thesis Senior Thesis

Keck Science Common Learning Outcomes

Students completing a major in the Keck Science Department should demonstrate the ability to:

1. Use foundational principles to analyze problems in nature.
2. Develop hypotheses and test them using quantitative techniques.
3. Articulate applications of science in the modern world.
4. Effectively communicate scientific concepts both verbally and in writing.

Student Learning Outcomes
The Organismal Biology major of the Keck Science Department provides students with the skills and knowledge to effectively engage and evaluate biological science issues and innovations in the wider world, and to take leadership roles in fields including research, health and veterinary professions, and environmental management.
An Organismal Biology Major should be able to:

    • Articulate the foundational scientific principles and findings in physiology, ecology, and evolutionary biology.
    • Apply foundational principles, especially evolution, in different biological subdisciplines.
    • Refine critical, analytical, and scientific thinking skills by developing scientific questions and using a variety of research tools and methods towards answering them.
    • Read, understand and critique original research articles.
    • Use appropriate quantitative approaches for data analysis, data presentation, and modeling.
    • Articulate how science relates to current problems in the modern world, especially contemporary concerns such as conservation biology, climate change, and ecosystem degradation.