Biology Major, B.A.

Department of Biology

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Coker Hall, 120 South Road, CB# 3280

(919) 962-3390

Kerry Bloom, Chair

Gidi Shemer, Departmental Advisor, Abbey Fellow

Jason W. Reed, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Alain Laederach, Biology Study Abroad

Mara Evans, Career Advising

Summer Montgomery, Assistant for Undergraduate Services

Biology is the study of life from both basic and applied perspectives across a broad range of analytical levels, from the molecule and cell to the organism and ecosystem. The major in biology provides a broad education directed toward an appreciation of the complexity of nature and prepares students for careers in the biological, environmental, and medical sciences. This program is designed to provide greater flexibility than the B.S. degree in meeting broad student interests.

Department Programs



Graduate Programs

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the biology (B.A., B.S.) program, students should be able to: 

  • Knowledge Base: Demonstrate knowledge of major concepts, theoretical perspectives, empirical findings, and historical trends in the broad field of Biology
  • Research Methods: Apply basic research methods in the biological sciences, including research design, data analysis, and data interpretation
  • Critical Thinking Skills: Demonstrate the use of critical and creative thinking skills in upper-level biology courses and in their approach to undergraduate research
  • Application of Knowledge, Research Methods, and Critical Thinking: Apply knowledge of the field of biology, research skills, and critical thinking skills to undertake a course-based, field, or laboratory research project


In addition to the program requirements, students must

  • attain a final cumulative GPA of at least 2.0
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major course requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum of 18 hours of C or better in the major core requirements (some majors require 21 hours).

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

Gateway Course
BIOL 101
Principles of Biology
and Introductory Biology Laboratory 1, H
Core Requirements
Core Courses:
BIOL 201Ecology and Evolution H4
BIOL 202Molecular Biology and Genetics H4
BIOL 205Cellular and Developmental Biology 2, H4
One organismal structure and diversity course chosen from: 34
Plant Biology
and Plant Biology Laboratory
Local Flora
Plant Diversity
and Plant Diversity Laboratory
Vertebrate Field Zoology
and Vertebrate Field Zoology Laboratory
Animal Behavior
and Animal Behavior Laboratory
Seminar in Organismal Biology
and Topics in Organismal Biology Laboratory
and Microbiology Laboratory with Research
and Microbiology Laboratory
Vertebrate Embryology
and Vertebrate Embryology Laboratory
Comparative Physiology
and Comparative Physiology Laboratory
Evolutionary Mechanisms
and Evolutionary Mechanisms Laboratory
Introduction to Plant Taxonomy
Evolution of Vertebrate Life
and Vertebrate Structure and Evolution Laboratory H
Biology of Marine Animals
and Biology of Marine Animals Laboratory
Avian Biology
and Avian Biology Laboratory
Topics in Organismal Biology at an Advanced Level
and Laboratory in Organismal Biology: Advanced Topics
Organismal Structure and Diversity in the Southern Appalachian Mountains
Three biology electives (each of three or more credits) numbered above 205 (not including BIOL 213, BIOL 253, BIOL 291, BIOL 292, BIOL 293, BIOL 294, BIOL 296, BIOL 353, and BIOL 495), at least one with a laboratory 3,410
Additional Requirements
CHEM 101
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I 5
CHEM 102
General Descriptive Chemistry II
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory II H
One of:3-4
Introduction to Programming H
Introduction to Scientific Programming
Precalculus Mathematics
Calculus for Business and Social Sciences
Calculus of Functions of One Variable I H
Introduction to Data Models and Inference
Foundations of Decision Sciences
Four additional allied science electives chosen from the course list below12-17
Students must fulfill all General Education requirements, including Supplemental General Education, and enough electives to complete 120 hours required for graduation.61-67
Total Hours120

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Allied Science Electives

All allied science elective courses need to have a minimum of three credit hours.

ANTH 143Human Evolution and Adaptation3
ANTH 148Human Origins3
ANTH 298Biological Anthropology Theory and Practice3
ANTH 315Human Genetics and Evolution3
ANTH 317Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Adaptation and Behavior3
ANTH 318Human Growth and Development3
ANTH 412Paleoanthropology3
ANTH 414Laboratory Methods: Human Osteology3
ANTH 415Laboratory Methods: Zooarchaeology3
ANTH 416Bioarchaeology3
ANTH 470Medicine and Anthropology3
ANTH 623Human Disease Ecology3
ASTR ---Any ASTR course above 993
BIOL ---Any BIOL course above 101, except BIOL 213, BIOL 291, BIOL 292, BIOL 294, BIOL 296, and BIOL 4953
BIOS ---Any BIOS course3
BMME 335Biomaterials3
CHEM ---Any CHEM course above 1013
COMP ---Any COMP course above 100, except COMP 3803
ENEC 202Introduction to the Environmental Sciences4
ENEC 256Mountain Biodiversity4
ENEC 403Environmental Chemistry Processes3
ENEC 406Atmospheric Processes II4
ENEC 410Earth Processes in Environmental Systems4
ENEC 411Oceanic Processes in Environmental Systems4
ENEC 415Environmental Systems Modeling3
ENEC 471Human Impacts on Estuarine Ecosystems4
ENEC 489Ecological Processes in Environmental Systems4
EXSS 175Human Anatomy3
EXSS 276Human Physiology3
GEOG 110The Blue Planet: An Introduction to Earth's Environmental Systems H3
GEOG 111Weather and Climate3
GEOG 212Environmental Conservation and Global Change3
GEOG 222Health and Medical Geography3
GEOG 253Introduction to Atmospheric Processes4
GEOL ---Any GEOL course above 1003
MASC ---Any MASC course above 1003
MATH ---Any MATH course above 110, except MATH 129P3
MCRO 251Introductory Medical Microbiology4
NSCI 175Introduction to Neuroscience3
NSCI 222Learning H3
NSCI 225Sensation and Perception H3
NSCI 401Animal Behavior3
NSCI 403Advanced Biopsychology Laboratory H3
NUTR 240Introduction to Human Nutrition3
PHIL 155Truth and Proof: Introduction to Mathematical Logic H3
PHYI 2925
PHYS ---Any PHYS course above 99, except PHYS 132
PSYC 101General Psychology3
PSYC 210Statistical Principles of Psychological Research H4
PSYC 220Biopsychology H3
PSYC 230Cognitive Psychology H3
STOR ---Any STOR course above 1513
SPHS 570Anatomy and Physiology of the Speech, Language, and Hearing Mechanisms3

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans can be used as a guide to identify the courses required to complete the major and other requirements needed for degree completion within the expected eight semesters. The actual degree plan may differ depending on the course of study selected (second major, minor, etc.). Students should meet with their academic advisor to create a degree plan that is specific and unique to their interests. The sample plans represented in this catalog are intended for first-year students entering UNC–Chapel Hill in the fall term. Some courses may not be offered every term.

Suggested Program of Study for B.A. Majors

Plan of Study Grid
First YearHours
BIOL 101
Principles of Biology
and Introductory Biology Laboratory H
CHEM 101
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I
CHEM 102
General Descriptive Chemistry II
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory II H
ENGL 105 English Composition and Rhetoric 3
Language levels 2 and 3 6
Foundations quantitative reasoning requirement as specified in requirements 3
Lifetime fitness 1
Electives 6
Hours 31
Sophomore Year
Two of the three biology core courses: 8
Ecology and Evolution H  
Molecular Biology and Genetics H  
Cellular and Developmental Biology H  
Natural sciences electives (two courses) 6
Approaches and Connections (four courses) 12
Elective 3
Hours 29
Junior Year
Remaining biology core course 4
Organismal biology course 4
Biology electives (two courses) 7
Natural sciences electives (two courses) 6
Approaches and Connections (two courses) 6
Supplemental General Education requirement or free electives (two courses) 6
Hours 33
Senior Year
Biology electives (two courses) 6
Approaches and Connections (one course) 3
Supplemental General Education requirement and free electives as needed to complete 120 academic hours and other requirements 18
Hours 27
Total Hours 120

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Special Opportunities in Biology

Students are encouraged to speak with their advisor about opportunities to serve as peer advisors in the Health Professions Advising Office, or to join Tri-Beta, the National Biological Sciences Honor Society.

Honors in Biology

Candidates for honors or highest honors must secure approval from the departmental honors advisor. They must have three hours of BIOL 395, take BIOL 692H, and maintain a grade point average of 3.3, both overall and in biology courses (exclusive of BIOL 692H and including only one semester of BIOL 395), calculated at the end of the semester preceding the semester in which they graduate. Other requirements are detailed on the department Web site.

Experiential Education

After completing BIOL 201 or BIOL 202, students are encouraged to consider how they plan to meet the experiential education requirement. BIOL 293 and BIOL 395 fulfill this requirement and also connect students’ academic coursework to current biological research and inquiry.


The UNC Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching (UNC–BEST) Program is a collaboration between the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences and is designed to allow undergraduate science majors interested in teaching high school science the opportunity to earn their science degree and obtain licensure as a North Carolina high school science teacher in four years. UNC–BEST students meet all the degree requirements for their biology degree using BIOL 410 as one of their upper-level biology courses.

BIOL 410Principles and Methods of Teaching Biology4
EDUC 689Foundations of Special Education (may substitute EDUC 516)3
EDUC 532Human Development and Learning (may substitute EDUC 403)3
EDUC 615Schools and Community Collaboration (may substitute EDUC 533)3
EDUC 593Internship/Student Teaching12
EDUC 601Education Workshops1
Total Hours26

For more details on admission requirements, application deadlines, and submitting an online application, visit the program's Web site or catalog description.

Laboratory Teaching Apprenticeships and Assistantships

Opportunities exist for assisting graduate instructors (and for instruction in undergraduate laboratories). Interested students should contact the instructor of the course or obtain approval from either the departmental director of undergraduate studies or the department chair.

Undergraduate Awards

All awards include a personal plaque, a monetary gift, and a place on Coker Hall’s list of department honorees. The awards include

  • The Stephen G. Brantley Award in honor of Henry Van Peters Wilson, given annually to a senior biology major for excellence in research in molecular and cellular biology.
  • The Robert Ervin Coker Award, given annually to a senior biology major for excellence in research in organismal biology and ecology.
  • The John N. Couch Award, given annually to a senior biology major with interests in plant biology who has demonstrated the highest ideals of scholarship and research.
  • The Irvine R. Hagadorn Award, given annually to the junior biology major based on academic and research excellence. This award is also recognized by the UNC–Chapel Hill chancellor at the Annual Chancellor’s Awards Ceremony.
  • The Francis J. LeClair Award, given annually to a senior biology major for academic excellence in biology with an emphasis in plant sciences.

Undergraduate Research

An undergraduate research experience is extremely valuable to a student who intends to pursue postgraduate work in the biological sciences. Undergraduates may participate directly in the research of faculty in the Department of Biology. This research opportunity allows students to put their knowledge of biology into practice through participation in a biological research program and is encouraged by faculty. Students’ participation in research can begin as early as their second year by registration in BIOL 395.

Undergraduates with a 2.0 grade point average or higher in biology courses are encouraged to enroll in BIOL 395. Information concerning the procedure for enrolling in a research course can be obtained from the chair of the department’s undergraduate honors research program. Additional information can be found on the department's Web site.