Common Questions for Biology Majors

  1. How do the three different concentrations “work” in relationship to the Biology major?  To help guide students with different interests in Biology, the Biology Department administers three courses of study, or concentrations:  Integrative Biology (IB), Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology (EEMB) and Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB)Students majoring in Biology choose one of these three concentrations and follow its course requirements. More information on the courses of study can be found here.
  2. What is the difference between the Molecular and Cellular Biology concentration for the Biology major and the Biochemistry major?  Both of these majors attract students with an interest in understanding how the structure and interactions of molecules impact life.  The coursework of the two majors overlaps at the introductory level to build a foundation in biology and chemistry. At the core and upper levels, the MCB concentration requires more Biology courses that focus on cellular and genetic mechanisms, whereas the Biochemistry major requires a combination of chemistry, biology and other courses that deepen students’ understanding of living systems at the molecular level.
  3.  I took Biology 1101 and 1102. Does Bio 1101 count towards my major?  Yes, Biology 1101 can be counted as a lower-level elective (IB concentration), as a natural and computational science course (EEMB concentration), or as an additional biological science course (MCB concentration).
  4. Can independent study/honors count as an elective?  While we encourage students to pursue independent study/honors, those courses cannot replace others required for any concentration. They do, of course, count for Bowdoin credit.
  5.  In the Integrative Biology concentration, can core courses count as electives?  Yes, any core course taken in addition to the 3 core courses required for the major may count as a lower-level elective.
  6.  How can I determine if a course I plan to take somewhere other than Bowdoin, whether abroad or in the US, summer or academic year, can count as credit toward my Biology major/minor?  Make an appointment to consult the Biology Department Chair or Pam Bryer before you enroll to determine what, if any, credit may be given. You will need to bring as much information to that meeting as possible, including a course description, syllabus, and textbook information (if available).
  7.  I want to take one of the courses required for the Biology major that is taught by another department (e.g., Organic Chemistry) during the summer. How do I insure that it will count towards my Biology major?  You will need approval from the department of that non-Biology course (e.g., the Chemistry Department for a chemistry course) before you enroll. That department will review a course description, syllabus, etc. to determine if the course you plan to take is equivalent to its Bowdoin counterpart. If that department approves the transfer of credit then the Biology Department will approve the course for the Biology major.
  8.  I took a course that can be counted toward the Biology major Credit/D/Fail before I decided I wanted to major in Biology. May I count that course toward my major?  No, all courses required for the major, including the courses taught by other departments, must be completed for a letter grade.
  9.  I think I have most of my requirements done for my Biology major/minor. How can I be sure I’m on track? Consult with your advisor. You can also track your progress by reviewing Degree Progress on Polaris. You also may check with Pam Bryer; she reviews the transcripts of all Biology majors and minors at key moments in the year to check on student progress.