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Biology B.S.

Information and Policies

Introduction

Biology has entered into an exciting new era in which phenomena that once seemed insoluble mysteries—such as embryonic development, the functions of the brain, and the dynamics of ecosystems—are now yielding their secrets as the technology to study them becomes more and more sophisticated. From molecular biology, with its potential to revolutionize medicine and agriculture, to ecology, with its lessons for the sustainable management of the environment, biologists are fully engaged in meeting the challenges of the future, helping to improve the quality of human life, and to preserve habitats and biodiversity. Thus, it is no surprise that biology is at the heart of many of today’s most pressing intellectual and social concerns. The Biology B.S. degree program gives students a rigorous education in modern biology, while allowing a student the opportunity to select from a wide array of upper-division elective courses offered by the departments of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. With proper advance planning, a student with virtually any degree can prepare a competitive application for medical school or health care professional school. Check the Health Careers webpage for more information on how you can academically prepare for a career in health care.  Additional information is available at the UCSC Career Center.

Academic Advising for the Program

Students should take full advantage of academic advising and should keep in frequent contact with the advisors to stay informed about late announcements of courses, changes in scheduling, and opportunities for special study. Transfer students should also consult the Transfer Information and Policy Section. For additional advice and information:

MCD Advising
389 Thimann Labs
mcdadvising@ucsc.edu 

Getting Started in the Major

Prerequisites

Due to the demanding nature of the major, students must begin their science coursework as early as possible. MATH 11A or MATH 19A; CHEM 1A, CHEM 1B, CHEM 1C, and CHEM 8A; and BIOL 20A, BIOE 20B, and BIOL 20L must be completed before the sixth quarter in order for students to qualify for admission to MCD biology-sponsored majors, including the biology B.S., human biology B.S., molecular, cell and developmental biology B.S. and neuroscience B.S. majors. For an overview of prerequisites and getting started in the major, please visit our biology B.S. site.

An online mathematics placement examination is required to enroll in a math course. Biological science majors are expected to take this examination and are encouraged to work in the learning modules until they place into calculus. For more information see the mathematics placement website.

Program Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the Biology major will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of how biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology are used to elucidate both the function of cells and their organization into tissues.
  • Recognize that biology has a basis in chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
  • Describe how scientific method is used to explain natural phenomena.
  • Use effective oral and written language skills to communicate scientific data and ideas.
  • Understand safe laboratory practices and perform basic molecular biology techniques.
  • Generate hypotheses, evaluate data, and design experiments to investigate a scientific problem.
  • Present broad knowledge in biochemistry, genetics, evolutionary biology, cell biology, developmental biology, physiology, and ecology.

Major Qualification Policy and Declaration Process

Major Qualification

The Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology has a qualification policy that applies to the biology B.S., molecular, cell and developmental biology B.S., and neuroscience B.S. majors.

To qualify for any of these majors, students must pass (with a grade of C or better) the following courses or their equivalents:

One of the following courses
MATH 11ACalculus with Applications

5

MATH 19ACalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

and all of the following courses
CHEM 1AGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1BGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1CGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 8AOrganic Chemistry

5

BIOL 20ACell and Molecular Biology

5

BIOE 20BDevelopment and Physiology

5

and one of the following courses
BIOL 20LExperimental Biology Laboratory

2

BIOL 102JToxic RNA Lab I

5

All qualification courses must be completed by the end of the fifth quarter.

Students with two or more grades of NP, C-, D+, D, D-, or F in the policy courses are not qualified to declare.

When assessing qualification:

  • All courses must be taken for a letter grade, see Letter Grade Policy.
  • Students with AP credit for MATH 11A or MATH 19A, BIOL 20A, BIOE 20B, and/or CHEM 1A, need only pass the remaining qualification policy courses.
  • Every student who satisfies the major qualification requirements and who petitions to declare the major by the campus major declaration deadline (i.e., before enrolling in their 3rd year or the equivalent) will be admitted to the major.  Students who satisfy the major admission requirements, but who petition to declare the major after the campus major declaration deadline will be considered on a case-by-case basis for admission to the major; admission is not guaranteed.

Appeal Process

Students who are not eligible to declare the major may submit an appeal to the Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology faculty advisor. The department will notify the student and their college of the decision within 15 days of the quarterly appeal deadline. See our appeal process for more information.

How to Declare a Major

Students should submit a petition to declare by completing the online declaration petition as soon as they complete the major qualification courses or reach their declaration deadline quarter, whichever comes first.

Students petitioning when the campus declaration deadline is imminent (i.e., in their sixth quarter, for students admitted as frosh), will either be approved, denied, or provided with conditions (e.g., completion of some courses with certain grades) that will be resolved within at most one more enrolled quarter, even if they have not completed major qualification courses.

Each major/minor advising office has a process for declaring. To initiate the process to declare, please complete the online declaration petition located on the Department of MCD Biology website. For assistance, please contact MCD biology advising at mcdadvising@ucsc.edu.

Transfer Information and Policy

Transfer Admission Screening Policy

MCD Biology encourages applications from transfer students in the biological sciences. The department has a major qualification policy that limits access to the program to students who have successfully completed a subset of foundational coursework. Transfer students are held to similar criteria when being assessed for admission to UCSC as an MCD-sponsored major. See qualifying for the major as a transfer applicant for more information.

To be considered for admission as a biology B.S. major, transfer students must complete the following courses or their equivalents prior to transfer, by the end of the spring term for students planning to enter in the fall.

CHEM 1AGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1BGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1CGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 8AOrganic Chemistry

5

BIOL 20ACell and Molecular Biology

5

BIOL 20LExperimental Biology Laboratory

2

BIOE 20BDevelopment and Physiology

5

Plus, one of the following calculus courses:
MATH 11ACalculus with Applications

5

MATH 19ACalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

The CHEM 8A and MATH 11A or MATH 19A requirement will be enforced for transfer students entering in the fall of 2022 and thereafter. BIOL 20L is not required for students who have completed BIOL 20A and BIOE 20B from California community colleges.

In addition, the following courses are recommended prior to transfer to ensure timely graduation.
One of the following courses
MATH 11BCalculus with Applications

5

MATH 19BCalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

Plus one of the following options
Either this course

STAT 5Statistics

5

or these courses

STAT 7Statistical Methods for the Biological, Environmental, and Health Sciences

5

STAT 7LStatistical Methods for the Biological, Environmental, and Health Sciences Laboratory

2

Plus both of the following courses
CHEM 8BOrganic Chemistry

5

CHEM 8LOrganic Chemistry Laboratory

2

Please see our preparing to transfer as an MCD major for more complete information.

Prospective students are encouraged to prioritize required and recommended major preparation, and may additionally complete courses that articulate to UC Santa Cruz general education requirements as time allows.

Students who are proposed in a different major and have advanced standing when they enter UCSC require permission from the department to change into the major. Admission to the major is not guaranteed. 

Getting Started at UCSC as a Transfer Student

Transfer students who have met the major qualification requirements are encouraged to declare the major during their first quarter at UC Santa Cruz. Transfer students should complete the required courses in genetics (BIOL 105), biochemistry (BIOL 100), and molecular biology (BIOL 101 and BIOL 101L) by the end of their first year at UCSC since they are prerequisites for the majority of other required courses.

Letter Grade Policy

All courses that are taken to satisfy any major requirement must be taken for a letter grade.

Course Substitution Policy

At least half of the upper-division courses required for the major must be taken at UC Santa Cruz, not as transfer credits from another institution. If a student plans to transfer to UCSC from another institution, the student is advised to contact MCD Advising at UCSC before enrolling in upper-division courses at the student’s institution or any institution other than UCSC. This advising will help students understand the limitation of transferring upper-division courses from other institutions to UCSC. For more information on transferring courses to UCSC, please consult the undergraduate website.

Once matriculated, a student must receive permission from the department to satisfy the BIOL 20A, BIOL 100, BIOL 105, BIOL 101 or BIOL 110 requirements with courses taken at other institutions. Students who wish to receive credit toward the major for these or other courses taken either at UCSC or at another institution should contact MCD Advising.

Double Majors and Major/Minor Combinations Policy

Students interested in pursuing multiple majors within the biological sciences may NOT declare the following combination of majors:

  • Biology (B.A., B.S., or minor) AND any other biological sciences major

Should a student choose to double major, they must qualify for and complete the disciplinary communication and comprehensive requirements for each of the majors.

Study Abroad

The UC Education Abroad Program (EAP) offers qualified students unique opportunities to broaden their educational horizons. The MCD Biology Department encourages interested students to participate. Many programs are in English-speaking countries or use English for advanced courses. Many programs offer small classes, extensive laboratories, and/or field research experience.

Students interested in study abroad need to get an early start on their basic science requirements, including chemistry, mathematics, and introductory biology and must declare their major prior to applying to go abroad. Students interested in studying abroad should visit the EAP office as soon as possible to begin planning. They should also seek advice about their EAP plan for major courses at UC Santa Cruz from MCD Advising and receive their approval.

Honors

Honors in the majors are awarded to graduating students whose academic performance demonstrates excellence at a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or above. Highest honors are awarded to those students whose performance demonstrates the highest level of excellence and results in a GPA of 3.8 or above.

Medical and Professional School Admission

Medical and professional school admissions requirements vary; students should verify that their coursework will satisfy the admissions requirements of the programs to which they plan to apply.

Requirements and Planners

Course Requirements

Lower-Division Courses

Students take one of the following courses
BIOL 20LExperimental Biology Laboratory

2

BIOL 102JToxic RNA Lab I

5

Plus all of the following courses
BIOL 20ACell and Molecular Biology

5

BIOE 20BDevelopment and Physiology

5

BIOE 20CEcology and Evolution

5

CHEM 1AGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1BGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1CGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1NGeneral Chemistry Laboratory

2

CHEM 8AOrganic Chemistry

5

CHEM 8LOrganic Chemistry Laboratory

2

CHEM 8BOrganic Chemistry

5

BIOL 20L is waived for junior transfer students

Plus one of the following options:
Either these courses

MATH 11ACalculus with Applications

5

MATH 11BCalculus with Applications

5

or these courses

MATH 19ACalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

MATH 19BCalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

Plus one of the following options:
Either this course

STAT 5Statistics

5

or these courses

STAT 7Statistical Methods for the Biological, Environmental, and Health Sciences

5

STAT 7LStatistical Methods for the Biological, Environmental, and Health Sciences Laboratory

2

Plus one of the following options:
Either these courses

PHYS 6AIntroductory Physics I

5

PHYS 6LIntroductory Physics I Laboratory

1

PHYS 6BIntroductory Physics II

5

or these courses

PHYS 6AIntroductory Physics I

5

PHYS 6LIntroductory Physics I Laboratory

1

PHYS 6CIntroductory Physics III

5

or these courses

PHYS 7AElementary Physics I

5

PHYS 7BElementary Physics II

5

PHYS 6LIntroductory Physics I Laboratory

1

Note: PHYS 7A/PHYS 7B and PHYS 6L may not satisfy the physics prerequisite for admission to all medical schools; be sure to check the requirements at all schools where you wish to apply.

Upper-Division Courses

Choose one of the following options:
Either these courses

BIOL 100Biochemistry

5

BIOL 101Molecular Biology

5

or these courses

BIOC 100ABiochemistry and Molecular Biology

5

BIOC 100BBiochemistry and Molecular Biology

5

BIOC 100CBiochemistry and Molecular Biology

5

Students who complete the BIOC 100A/BIOC 100B/BIOC 100C sequence can use BIOC 100C to satisfy an upper-division elective.

Plus all of the following courses:
BIOL 105Genetics

5

BIOL 110Cell Biology

5

BIOE 107Ecology

5

BIOE 109Evolution

5

Laboratory requirement:

Students must complete two upper-division courses that include regular laboratory or fieldwork:

Choose one of the following courses:
BIOL 101LMolecular Biology Laboratory

2

BIOL 102LToxic RNA Lab II

5

Plus one additional laboratory or field course (any upper-division BIOE or BIOL course identified with an “L”).

If the additional laboratory course is BIOL 103L, BIOL 105L, BIOL 106L, BIOL 109L, BIOL 115L, BIOL 120L or BIOL 121L, it will also satisfy the disciplinary communication requirement.

Electives

Students must complete three additional upper-division electives (5-7 credits each) chosen from below:

Note: Some of the following courses fulfill the disciplinary communication (DC) requirement.

Note: Lecture/lab combinations count as one course.

BIOL 111AImmunology I

5

BIOL 114Cancer Cell Biology

5

BIOL 115Eukaryotic Molecular Biology

5

BIOL 118Principles of Human Genetics

5

BIOL 125Introduction to Neuroscience

5

BIOL 120Developmental Biology

5

BIOL 130Human Physiology

5

BIOL 140The RNA World

5

BIOC 100CBiochemistry and Molecular Biology

5

BIOE 108Marine Ecology

5

BIOE 112Ornithology

5

BIOE 112LOrnithology Field Studies

2

BIOE 114Herpetology

5

BIOE 114LField Methods in Herpetological Research

2

BIOE 117Systematic Botany of Flowering Plants

5

BIOE 117LSystematic Botany of Flowering Plants Laboratory

2

BIOE 120Marine Botany

5

BIOE 120LMarine Botany Laboratory

2

BIOE 122Invertebrate Zoology

5

BIOE 122LInvertebrate Zoology Laboratory

2

BIOE 124Mammalogy

5

BIOE 124LMammalogy Laboratory

2

BIOE 127Ichthyology

5

BIOE 127LIchthyology Laboratory

2

BIOE 129Biology of Marine Mammals

5

BIOE 129LBiology of Marine Mammals Laboratory

2

BIOE 131Animal Physiology

5

BIOE 133Exercise Physiology

5

BIOE 134Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy

5

BIOE 133LExercise Physiology Laboratory

2

BIOE 134LComparative Vertebrate Anatomy Laboratory

2

BIOE 135Plant Physiology

5

BIOE 135LPlant Physiology Laboratory

2

BIOE 137Molecular Ecology

5

BIOE 137LMolecular Ecology Laboratory

2

BIOE 139Mathematical Modeling and Data Science in Ecology and Evolution

5

BIOE 140Behavioral Ecology

5

BIOE 145Plant Ecology

5

BIOE 147Community Ecology

5

BIOE 149Disease Ecology

5

BIOE 155Freshwater Ecology

5

BIOE 161Kelp Forest Ecology

5

BIOE 163Ecology of Reefs, Mangroves, and Seagrasses

5

BIOE 163LEcology of Reefs, Mangroves, and Seagrasses Laboratory

2

BIOE 165Marine Conservation Biology

5

BIOE 172Population Genetics

5

METX 119Microbiology

5

METX 135Functional Anatomy

5

METX 135LFunctional Anatomy Lab

2

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

The DC requirement in the biology B.S. degree can be satisfied either by completing two BIOE courses or by completing one 5-credit BIOL lab.

For the BIOE option, choose two Ecology and Evolutionary Biology courses from this group:

Note: Lecture/lab combinations count as one course.

BIOE 108Marine Ecology

5

BIOE 114Herpetology

5

BIOE 114LField Methods in Herpetological Research

2

BIOE 117Systematic Botany of Flowering Plants

5

BIOE 120Marine Botany

5

BIOE 120LMarine Botany Laboratory

2

BIOE 122Invertebrate Zoology

5

BIOE 122LInvertebrate Zoology Laboratory

2

BIOE 127Ichthyology

5

BIOE 127LIchthyology Laboratory

2

BIOE 128LLarge Marine Vertebrates Field Course

5

BIOE 129Biology of Marine Mammals

5

BIOE 129LBiology of Marine Mammals Laboratory

2

BIOE 137Molecular Ecology

5

BIOE 141LBehavioral Ecology Field Course

5

BIOE 145Plant Ecology

5

BIOE 145LField Methods in Plant Ecology

5

BIOE 150LEcological Field Methods Laboratory

5

BIOE 151B
/ENVS 109B
Ecology and Conservation in Practice Supercourse: Ecological Field Methods Laboratory

5

BIOE 153CDisciplinary Communication for Biologists

5

BIOE 158LField Methods in Marine Ecology

5

BIOE 159AMarine Ecology Field Quarter: Marine Ecology with Laboratory

5

BIOE 161LKelp Forest Ecology Laboratory

5

BIOE 171Disciplinary Communication for Biologists

5

BIOE 172Population Genetics

5

For 2-credit BIOE lab courses listed above that are taken concurrently with 5-credit lectures, both courses must be passed to receive one half of the DC requirement. BIOE 117 and BIOE 137 require concurrent enrollment in 2-credit labs, BIOE 117L and BIOE 137L, but these are not part of the DC requirement.

For the BIOL option, choose one course from this group:
BIOL 103LToxic RNA Lab III

5

BIOL 105LEukaryotic Genetics Laboratory

5

BIOL 106LEukaryotic Genetic Engineering

5

BIOL 108LSynthetic Gene Regulation Lab III

5

BIOL 109LYeast Molecular Genetics Laboratory

5

BIOL 115LEukaryotic Molecular Biology Laboratory

5

BIOL 120LDevelopment Laboratory

5

BIOL 121LEnvironmental Phage Biology Laboratory

5

BIOL 186LUndergraduate Research in MCD Biology

5

Comprehensive Requirement

All majors have a comprehensive requirement. For the Biology B.S., this requirement is satisfied via the completion of the above laboratory or field course requirement.

Planners

Sample Biology B.S. First-Year Student Four-Year Planner

Additional first-year student sample planners

  Fall Winter Spring
 1st (frosh) CHEM 1A CHEM 1B CHEM 1C & CHEM 1N
MATH 11A MATH 11B BIOL 20A
     
2nd (soph) BIOE 20B & BIOL 20L BIOL 100 BIOL 101 & BIOL 101L
  CHEM 8B  
CHEM 8A & CHEM 8L   BIOL 105

3rd (junior)

 

BIOL 110

BIOE 107 BIOE 109
BIOE 20C PHYS 6A & PHYS 6L PHYS 6B OR PHYS 6C
     
4th (senior)   STAT 5 OR
STAT 7 & STAT 7L
Laboratory
Upper-division elective Upper-division elective Upper-division elective
     

The following general education requirements will be fulfilled by the major requirements listed in the above planner: MF, SI, and SR. In addition to the GE requirements satisfied by the above courses, a student will also need to complete courses satisfying the CC, ER, IM, TA, PE, and PR general education requirements.

Sample Biology B.S. Transfer Two-Year Planner

Additional transfer student sample planners

  Fall Winter Spring
3rd (junior) BIOL 105 BIOL 100

BIOL 101 & BIOL 101L

BIOE 107 PHYS 6A & PHYS 6L PHYS 6B or PHYS 6C
     
4th(senior) BIOL 110 Upper-division elective Upper-division elective
BIOE 109  Laboratory Upper-division elective
     

This planner assumes that a student has completed all UC Transfer Pathway courses: