Majors ordinarily begin work in biology with Biol 2960 in spring of freshman year*. After completing Chem 111A-112A and the accompanying laboratories Chem 151-152, also taken during the first year, students proceed to Biol 2970 and then upper-level classes in the sophomore year, accompanied by organic chemistry (Chem 261-262). Biol 2960 and Biol 2970 are required for majors and appropriate in sequence for premedical and predental students with other majors.
* Optional biology courses of interest to prospective majors are offered in fall of freshman year: Biol 112 (Introduction to Problem-Based Learning in Biology), Biol 171 (Neuroscience Futures 1), Biol 1770 (Genetics and Behavior of Dog Breeds), Biol 181 (Freshman Seminar in Biology), Biol 1810 (Freshman Seminar in Imaging Sciences), Biol 191 (Phage Hunters Laboratory), Biol 193 (Investigating Eukaryotic Genomes), Biol 2010 (The Science of Biotechnology), Biol 2431 (Missouri’s Natural Heritage), Biol 2950 (Introduction to Environmental Biology).
There are 6 options for those who wish to major in Biology.
For the specific requirements of these Biology major options at Washington University in St. Louis, click on each of the following:
For those who want broad training in the entire field of Biology, the Department recommends the:
For those who want to focus on a specific subfield in the field of Biology, the Department recommends each of 4 other choices:
Each of these 4 tracks requires concentrated study in one of the four subfields and provides strong training for graduate study in that subfield. The requirements for each track include completion of all the requirements for a Biology Major.
For those who want to focus on environmental biology, the Department recommends the Environmental Biology major:
This option provides strong training for graduate study in Environmental Biology.
Declaration and Advising of Biology Majors
Students can declare a major in Biology online through WebSTAC under Major Programs. Upon declaring a major in biology, typically during sophomore year, a student gets a major advisor from the Biology Department faculty. Students can request specific Biology major advisors when placing a major declaration request. Each student then consults both a four-year advisor and a Biology major advisor each semester. Major advisors typically discuss course schedules, academic progress, career objectives, pre-professional testing (e.g. MCAT, GRE), medical-school applications, research interests, and internships. An academic program and extracurricular endeavors are thereby personally tailored to each student. Students interested in health professions (e.g. medical, dental, and veterinary schools) should consult the Pre-Health Advising Program (http://prehealth.wustl.edu/advising/Pages/default.aspx) to get a pre-health advisor.
All courses counted toward major requirements must be taken for a letter grade if a letter grade is offered. A grade of C- or better must be earned in all of these courses.
An optional research emphasis pertains equally to students completing the biology major with or without one of the optional tracks (p. 4). The research emphasis and an appropriate grade performance qualify a student for Latin honors. A student who fulfills the research emphasis but does not meet the grade requirements for honors receives a research milestone on the transcript. See the honors requirements (p. 3) for details on qualifying for Latin honors through biology. The research emphasis comprises the following work in addition to the biology major requirements.
1. Six units of independent work (Bio 500). In most cases, independent study leading to a research emphasis starts no later than spring of the junior year. Most students work full time on this research during the summer following their junior year and complete their work during the senior year.
2. A paper written by the student and judged by the mentor to be worthy of recognition. The paper should be written in the style of a scientific article for a professional journal, with abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, and discussion. The research thesis should reflect substantial effort. The introduction should put the work into biological context and thoroughly review relevant literature. The methods section should be more extensive than a journal article's and should demonstrate that the student understands the methods used. Results and discussion may be combined or presented separately. Tables, figures, and bibliographies should be used to present results and should be in standard journal-style form. Extensive or complete results are not required for a thesis to be acceptable. Discussion of incomplete results and problems encountered may be appropriate when experiments have not yielded significant results. Because a student rarely completely solves a problem within the available time, an indication of what should be done next is often appropriate.
3. The certification of the student's thesis, by their mentor, using the Thesis Certification Form. IMPORTANT: No candidate is approved for graduation with a research emphasis in biology unless all requirements are met. An oral examination may be held at the discretion of the Department.
4. Presentation of the honors thesis work in the form of a poster or short talk at the spring Undergraduate Research Symposium.
TIMETABLE - Research theses are due the Monday following spring break of the senior year. (Students graduating in December have a different deadline - consult Patrick Clark.) To have an acceptable thesis, students must begin writing and submit draft versions of each part of their honors thesis to their mentors to get feedback well before this deadline. Students should consult their mentors about an appropriate timetable by the end of the Fall semester of senior year. Generally, writing should begin no later than January (start of spring semester) and preliminary drafts of sections should be presented to mentors for feedback beginning early in February. There should be several rounds of revision and discussion among the mentor, possibly others in the lab (bench mentor and others who are familiar with the project) and the student to generate the final version. The process is akin to writing a manuscript for publication, and students should seek advice as would any researcher presenting results for publication. Mentor approval is required on the final version. If a mentor has not seen and approved the final version prior to the deadline, the department will NOT recommend the student for a research emphasis. The spring Undergraduate Research Symposium is normally scheduled between the last day of spring-semester classes and the start of final examinations. If any delay or problem in submitting an acceptable thesis by the deadline is anticipated/suspected, a student and/or mentor must discuss the problem with the department (begin by notifying Patrick Clark) as soon as possible.
Honors in Biology
To qualify for Latin honors in biology a student must meet the following requirements. For requirements 1, 2, and 3, only courses taken at Washington University are considered.
1. B+ average (3.3) or better in biology courses.
2. Cumulative average of B+ (3.3) or better in the related science subjects required (math, chemistry, and physics)
3. Overall 3.65 average.
4. Completion of the Research Emphasis (see p. 2)
Courses from Other Universities
Some courses from other universities may substitute for Washington University courses. Such substitutions must be approved by the Biology Department prior to enrollment. Contact Allan Larson (firstname.lastname@example.org) for approval of biology courses. For approval of chemistry, mathematics and physics courses required by the biology major, contact the home department to ensure that transfer credit will appear on your record with the same course number that we require.
The College of Arts and Sciences requires each student to take an upper-level writing-intensive (WI) course (at least 3 credits). Any course formally approved as WI may be used to satisfy this requirement, and a grade of C- or better must be earned. The following courses in biology may be used to satisfy the WI requirement: Biol 3492 (Laboratory Experiments with Eukaryotic Microbes), Biol 404 (Laboratory of Neurophysiology), Biol 4193 (Experimental Ecology Laboratory), Biol 427 (Problem-Based Learning in the Biomedical Sciences), Biol 434W (Research Explorations in Genomics [Writing Intensive]). Other writing-intensive courses of particular interest to Biology majors include EComp 309 (Writing the Natural World), EComp 311 (Exposition), EComp 3112 Exposition: Writing and Medicine, EComp 312 (Argumentation), and Psych 4046 (Developmental Neuropsychology).