Biology Major, B.A.

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.

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

Requirements

In addition to the program requirements, students must

  • earn a minimum final cumulative GPA of 2.000
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major core requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.000 in the major core requirements. Some programs may require higher standards for major or specific courses.

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

Gateway Course
BIOL 101
101L
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Principles of Biology
and IDEAs in Action General Education logo Introductory Biology Laboratory 1, H, F
4
Core Requirements
Fundamentals Core Courses
BIOL 103IDEAs in Action General Education logo How Cells Function 2, F3
BIOL 104IDEAs in Action General Education logo Biodiversity 2, F3
BIOL 105LBiological Research Skills1
Intermediate Level Core Courses
Two of the following five Core Course options: 36-8
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Molecular Genetics
Cell Biology
Evolutionary Biology
Introduction to Ecology
An organismal structure and diversity course (see list below)
Three biology electives (each of three or more credits) numbered above 205 (not including BIOL 213, BIOL 222, BIOL 253, BIOL 291, BIOL 292, BIOL 293, BIOL 294, BIOL 295, BIOL 296, BIOL 353, a second semester of BIOL 395, and BIOL 495). At least two courses in the major must have a laboratory (not including BIOL 101L or BIOL 105L). 4,510-11
Additional Requirements
CHEM 101
101L
IDEAs in Action General Education logo General Descriptive Chemistry I
and IDEAs in Action General Education logo Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I F
4
CHEM 102
102L
IDEAs in Action General Education logo General Descriptive Chemistry II
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory II H, F
4
One of:3-4
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Introduction to Programming with Biological Data
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Introduction to Programming and Data Science H
Introduction to Scientific Programming
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Precalculus Mathematics F
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Calculus for Business and Social Sciences F
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Calculus of Functions of One Variable I H, F
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Foundations of Statistics and Data Science F
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Introduction to Data Analysis
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Introduction to Data Models and Inference F
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Foundations of Decision Sciences
Four additional allied science electives chosen from the course list below (some courses are more than 3 credits)12
Students must fulfill all General Education requirements, including Supplemental General Education, and enough electives to complete 120 hours required for graduation.
Total Hours51
H

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

F

FY-Launch class sections may be available. A FY-Launch section fulfills the same requirements as a standard section of that course, but also fulfills the FY-SEMINAR/FY-LAUNCH First-Year Foundations requirement. Students can search for FY-Launch sections in ConnectCarolina using the FY-LAUNCH attribute.

1

With a C grade or better in BIOL 101

2

Both BIOL 103 and BIOL 104 need to be completed before taking a 400-level BIOL class in the major.

3

Core courses taken beyond the two required ones may be used as electives.

4

At least one course in the major must be numbered above 400 (not including BIOL 501 and BIOL 692H). One additional elective may consist of a total of three hours of courses numbered above 600 (not including BIOL 692H).

5

At least two courses in the major must have a laboratory (not including BIOL 101L or BIOL 105L). BIOL 395 counts as a laboratory course for students entering in Fall 2022 or later. Other laboratory courses include all of the Organismal Structure and Diversity courses listed below, any course with an "L" designation (except BIOL 253/L, which does not count as an elective in the major), and the following courses: BIOL 255H, BIOL 256, BIOL 459, BIOL 461, BIOL 463, BIOL 526H, BIOL 535, BIOL 562, and BIOL 563.

Organismal Structure and Diversity Course List
BIOL 271
271L
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Plant Biology
and IDEAs in Action General Education logo Plant Biology Laboratory
4
BIOL 272Local Flora4
BIOL 273Horticulture4
BIOL 274
274L
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Plant Diversity
and IDEAs in Action General Education logo Plant Diversity Laboratory
4
BIOL 277
277L
Vertebrate Field Zoology
and Vertebrate Field Zoology Laboratory
4
BIOL 278
278L
Animal Behavior
and Animal Behavior Laboratory
4
BIOL 279
279L
Seminar in Organismal Biology
and Topics in Organismal Biology Laboratory
3-4
BIOL 422
BIOL 421L
Microbiology
and Microbiology Laboratory with Research
4-5
or BIOL 422
422L
Microbiology
and Microbiology Laboratory
BIOL 441
441L
Vertebrate Embryology
and Vertebrate Embryology Laboratory
4
BIOL 451
451L
Comparative Physiology
and Comparative Physiology Laboratory
4
BIOL 471
471L
Evolutionary Mechanisms
and Evolutionary Mechanisms Laboratory
4
BIOL 472Introduction to Plant Taxonomy4
BIOL 473
473L
Mammalian Morphology and Development
and Mammalian Morphology Laboratory
4
BIOL 474
474L
Evolution of Vertebrate Life
and Vertebrate Structure and Evolution Laboratory H
4
BIOL 475
475L
Biology of Marine Animals
and Biology of Marine Animals Laboratory
4
BIOL 476
476L
Avian Biology
and Avian Biology Laboratory
4
BIOL 479
479L
Topics in Organismal Biology at an Advanced Level
and Laboratory in Organismal Biology: Advanced Topics
4
BIOL 579Organismal Structure and Diversity in the Southern Appalachian Mountains4
H

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 148IDEAs in Action General Education logo Human Origins3
ANTH 298IDEAs in Action General Education logo Biological Anthropology Theory and Practice3
ANTH 315IDEAs in Action General Education logo Human Genetics and Evolution3
ANTH 318IDEAs in Action General Education logo Human Growth and Development3
ANTH 412Paleoanthropology3
ANTH 414IDEAs in Action General Education logo Laboratory Methods: Human Osteology3
ANTH 415IDEAs in Action General Education logo Laboratory Methods: Zooarchaeology3
ANTH 416IDEAs in Action General Education logo Bioarchaeology3
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 202IDEAs in Action General Education logo Introduction 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 175IDEAs in Action General Education logo Human Anatomy F3
EXSS 276Human Physiology3
GEOG 110The Blue Planet: An Introduction to Earth's Environmental Systems H3
GEOG 111IDEAs in Action General Education logo Weather and Climate3
GEOG 212IDEAs in Action General Education logo Environmental 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 175IDEAs in Action General Education logo Introduction to Neuroscience3
NSCI 222Learning H3
NSCI 225Sensation and Perception H3
NSCI 401Animal Behavior3
NSCI 403Advanced Biopsychology Laboratory H3
NUTR 240Introduction to Human Nutrition3
PHIL 155IDEAs in Action General Education logo Truth and Proof: Introduction to Mathematical Logic H3
PHYS ---Any PHYS course above 99, except PHYS 132
PSYC 101IDEAs in Action General Education logo General Psychology F3
PSYC 210IDEAs in Action General Education logo Statistical Principles of Psychological Research H3
PSYC 220Biopsychology H3
PSYC 230Cognitive Psychology H3
STOR ---Any STOR course above 1513
SPHS 570Anatomy and Physiology of the Speech, Language, and Hearing Mechanisms3
H

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

F

FY-Launch class sections may be available. A FY-Launch section fulfills the same requirements as a standard section of that course, but also fulfills the FY-SEMINAR/FY-LAUNCH First-Year Foundations requirement. Students can search for FY-Launch sections in ConnectCarolina using the FY-LAUNCH attribute.

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
First-Year Foundation Courses
IDST 101 IDEAs in Action General Education logo College Thriving 1
ENGL 105
IDEAs in Action General Education logo English Composition and Rhetoric
or IDEAs in Action General Education logo English Composition and Rhetoric (Interdisciplinary)
3
First-Year Seminar or First-Year Launch F 3
Triple-I and Data Literacy 4
Global Language through level 3 varies
Major Courses
BIOL 101
101L
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Principles of Biology
and IDEAs in Action General Education logo Introductory Biology Laboratory H, F
4
CHEM 101
101L
IDEAs in Action General Education logo General Descriptive Chemistry I
and IDEAs in Action General Education logo Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I F
4
BIOL 103
IDEAs in Action General Education logo How Cells Function F
or IDEAs in Action General Education logo Biodiversity
3
STOR 120 IDEAs in Action General Education logo Foundations of Statistics and Data Science F 4
Additional Courses
Gen Ed and elective courses 4
Hours 30
Sophomore Year
BIOL 104
IDEAs in Action General Education logo Biodiversity F
or IDEAs in Action General Education logo How Cells Function
3
BIOL 105L Biological Research Skills 1
One biology core course (BIOL 220, BIOL 240, BIOL 250, BIOL 260, or Organismal course) 4
CHEM 102
102L
IDEAs in Action General Education logo General Descriptive Chemistry II
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory II H, F
4
Allied science electives (two courses) 6
Lifetime Fitness 1
Gen Ed and elective courses 11
Hours 30
Junior Year
Second biology core course (BIOL 220, BIOL 240, BIOL 250, BIOL 260, or Organismal course) 3-4
Biology elective (one course) 3-4
Allied science electives (two courses) 6
Gen Ed and elective courses 18
Hours 30
Senior Year
Biology electives (two courses) 6-7
Supplemental General Education requirement and free electives as needed to complete 120 academic hours and other requirements 24
Hours 30
Total Hours 120
H

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

F

FY-Launch class sections may be available. A FY-Launch section fulfills the same requirements as a standard section of that course, but also fulfills the FY-SEMINAR/FY-LAUNCH First-Year Foundations requirement. Students can search for FY-Launch sections in ConnectCarolina using the FY-LAUNCH attribute.

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 website.

High-Impact/Experiential Education 

After completing BIOL 201 or BIOL 202 (or a 200-level core course under the new curriculum), students are encouraged to pursue high-impact/experiential education opportunities. The department offers several courses that meet the High-Impact/Experiential Education requirement and the Research and Discovery requirement from the General Education curriculum.

Laboratory Teaching Apprenticeships and Assistantships

Opportunities exist to assist graduate instructors in lecture or undergraduate laboratory courses. Interested students should contact the instructor of the course, and will need to submit a form to obtain approval from the departmental director of undergraduate studies.

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 can be extremely valuable to explore career choices and to prepare for postgraduate work in the biological sciences. Undergraduates may take a CURE course, and/or participate directly in the research of faculty in the Department of Biology or other departments (with Biology sponsorship). This research opportunity allows students to put their knowledge of biology into practice through participation in cutting-edge research. 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 website.

Department of Biology

Visit Program Website

Coker Hall, 120 South Road, CB# 3280

(919) 962-3390

Interim Chair

Steve Matson

Departmental Advisor, Abbey Fellow

Gidi Shemer

bishemer@email.unc.edu

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Jason W. Reed

jreed@email.unc.edu

Biology Study Abroad

Elaine Yeh

yeh@email.unc.edu

Career Advising

Mara Evans

mara1@email.unc.edu

Assistant for Undergraduate Services

Summer Montgomery

sundance@unc.edu