Course Majors & Minors

Course Majors & Minors

Course Major

Students majoring in biology must complete a minimum of eight biology credits, two credits of which come from an advanced seminar (numbered 110-139), by the end of the senior year. At least five of these eight credits are to be taken at Swarthmore.

Students may take a course or seminar in Biology as CR/NC but are not encouraged to do so. This option is available only if formally requested within the first nine weeks of the semester. The minimum equivalent grade for CR (credit) is a C for juniors and seniors, a D for freshmen and sophomores. Students are reminded, however, that medical schools and many graduate schools require grades in science courses.

To meet the Biology Department's distribution requirement, students majoring in biology (but not those who are special majors) must pass at least one course in each of the following three groups: I. Cellular and Molecular Biology, II. Organismal Biology, and III. Population Biology. Courses corresponding to these groups are listed below. Courses numbered 100 or above require specific pre-requisites; please check here for individual course descriptions. Other than BIOL 001 and BIOL 002, not all courses are offered every year- please check for projected courses.

Biology majors may count only one course without a laboratory toward the eight required credits; this course could be a course numbered 003-009 (plus Bio 097) in the Biology Department, or a course taken at another institution, domestic or international. Courses numbered 003 - 009 cannot be used to meet the Group distribution requirement within Biology. Bio 093 (Directed Reading) and Bio 094 (Independent Research) count as credits toward the Biology Degree but cannot be used as Group distribution requirements. No more than two credits in Biology 093 and/or Bio 094 may be used to satisfy the eight-credit requirement for a Biology major.

The full requirements for acceptance to the major can be found here.

Course Minor

Students who wish to minor in biology must complete six credits, at least four of which are to be taken at Swarthmore College. The GPA requirement to enter the minor is the same as for biology course majors 2.00 in BIOL 001 and BIOL 002, 2.00 in courses taken in the Biology Department, and 2.00 in all courses taken in the Division of Natural Sciences and Engineering. Both BIOL 001 and BIOL 002 are required (although one or both of these may be replaced by credit from an advanced placement examination after another biology course is completed; note that the department strongly encourages all students with AP credit to take at least one of the introductory courses). There are no requirements for courses outside the department. There is no distribution requirement within the department for the minor. Only one course numbered 003-009 is allowed. Only one credit in BIOL 093 or BIOL 094 is allowed. CHEM 038 (Biochemistry) may be counted as one of the six biology credits.

Group I - Cellular and Molecular Biology

BIOL 010 Genetics
BIOL 014 Cell Biology
BIOL 016 Microbiology
BIOL 017 Microbial Pathogenesis and the Immune Response
BIOL 019 Omics
CHEM 038 Biochemistry
BIOL 110 Human Genetics
BIOL 114 Symbiotic Interactions
BIOL 115 Plant Molecular Genetics
BIOL 116 Microbial Processes and Biotechnology
BIOL 119 Genomics & Systems Biology

Group II - Organismal Biology

BIOL 020 Animal Physiology
BIOL 022 Neurobiology
BIOL 024 Developmental Biology
BIOL 025 Plant Biology
BIOL 026 Invertebrate Zoology
BIOL 123 Learning and Memory
BIOL 124 Hormones & Behavior
BIOL 125 Frontiers in Developmental Biology
BIOL 126 Biomechanics

Group III - Population Biology

BIOL 030 Animal Behavior
BIOL 034 Evolution
BIOL 036 Ecology
BIOL 037 Conservation Biology
BIOL 039 Marine Biology
BIOL 131 Animal Communication
BIOL 135 Parasite Ecology
BIOL 136 Molecular Ecology and Evolution
BIOL 137 Biodiversity & Ecosystem Functioning

Additional offerings each year by visiting faculty; please check projected courses list.

The seminar requirement

All Biology majors are required to complete at least one advanced seminar (with a number greater than 100). A seminar in biology is defined as an advanced offering that uses primary rather than secondary source materials and encourages active student participation in presentation and discussion of materials. Note that all advanced seminars have as a pre-requisite a course from the intermediate level (numbered 10-39); the specific courses that may serve as pre-requisites for each seminar are listed here.  Some advanced seminars have required laboratory sections, while others have optional laboratory sections; an advanced seminar with optional laboratory fulfills the seminar requirement whether or not the student takes the laboratory. For seminars with required laboratory sections, a student must have permission of the faculty instructor to take the seminar without the laboratory component. A seminar with a required laboratory component, taken without the laboratory component, becomes Bio 093 and does not meet the seminar requirement.