Biology Major

The Biology Major leads to a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.  The major prepares students for future careers in life sciences research, teaching, and biotechnology. Many graduates pursue advanced degrees in specialized areas such as cellular and molecular biology, bioinformatics, physiology, immunology, entomology, microbiology, ecology, and environmental engineering.

The biology core curriculum is designed to ensure thorough command of the scientific method and access to inquiry-based learning experiences, while providing a balanced background in cell and molecular biology, organismal biology, and ecology.  Elective courses cover a wide variety of specialized topics to meet students’ particular interests in biology. An array of laboratory and field experiences further develop working knowledge of the scientific method, teach specific experimental techniques, and promote ongoing development of quantitative and analytical skills.

For complete description of all courses offered by the Biology Department, please see UMW Course Catalog, Biology

Requirements for the Biology Major

Forty (40) credits in Biology. These must include the following courses:

Course number Title Credits
Frequency of offering*  Prerequisites
BIOL 126 or 132 Phage Hunters II or Organism Function and Diversity 4 Spring BIOL 121 or 125 (C- or better); offered in fall
BIOL 210 Introduction to Ecology and Evolution 3 Fall & spring BIOL 126 or 132, CHEM 111 (C- or better in each course)
BIOL 260 Biostatistics and Research Design 3 Fall & spring BIOL 126 or 132 (C- or better)
BIOL 340 Cellular Biology 4 Fall BIOL 126 or 132, CHEM 112 (C- or better in each course)
BIOL 341 General Genetics 4 Spring BIOL 126 or 132, CHEM 112 (C- or better in each course)
BIOL 451 Seminar 2 Fall & spring BIOL 210, 260, 340, 341 (C- or better in each course)

* Prevailing course availability. Exceptions may occur. Students should consult their academic advisors when developing their degree completion plans.


  • One major elective course designated Research Intensive (412, 427, 430,
    432, 439, 491 and 472). 
  • One additional upper-level major elective course with a laboratory component.
  • Enough total biology major credit to equal a minimum of 40 credits.

BIOL 121, 132, or BIOL 125, 126, and CHEM 111, 112 are prerequisites for the biology major’s core curriculum and should be taken in the student’s first year. The core courses of BIOL 210, 260, 340, and 341 are also prerequisites for various upper-level courses. and should be completed during the second year. All graduating students must participate in the assessment of the major.

Students must earn a C- or better in most BIOL required courses that serve as prerequisites for other BIOL courses. Students must also earn a C- or better in the core courses (BIOL 210, 260, 340, 341) to graduate with a degree in Biology. See also the Department of Chemistry’s minimum grade requirements for CHEM 111, 112.

Undergraduate Research in the Biology Major

As part of the Biology Major, outstanding students have the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research projects. Working with a faculty mentor, each student explores the literature, defines an original research problem, and utilizes the appropriate research and analytical techniques to investigate the problem.  On many occasions this work results in presentations at state, regional, and national scientific meetings.

Research students who meet minimum requirements (3.0 overall GPA and a 3.25 average in biology) may pursue Honors in Biology by writing and defending a thesis on their research project. Students can also gain focused research experience via participation in the UMW Summer Science Institute. Financial support for student research is available. Additionally, biology faculty offer research opportunities through the university’s undergraduate research (URES 197 Undergraduate Research) program.

Internships and Service Learning

Biology majors can gain career experience and define career goals through the University’s internship program.   In addition, the department has established a mechanism by which biology majors may satisfy the University’s experiential learning general education requirement. The Biology service learning option requires students to apply knowledge and skills acquired in their formal courses and to reflect upon how such application has augmented their education.

Students will complete a service-learning contract in which they will:

  1. identify the agencies for which they will conduct their service,

  2. indicate the biology faculty members who will evaluate the academic component of their activities, and

  3. describe the duties that they will carry out for these agencies.

Students must complete 40 hours of service within 12 months of submitting their contracts. Students completing their community service during their last semester must complete all requirements by March 1 (November 1 for those finishing in December). Contact the biology department chair for additional details.