Please note: The information displayed here is current as of Monday, May 27, 2019, but the official Course Catalog should be used for all official planning.

2017-2018 Course Catalog


This catalog was created on Monday, May 27, 2019.


Students come to Lawrence with varied interests in the life sciences, thus course offerings in biology span the breadth of this exciting discipline and the biology major is flexible. Though each student may create a unique path to completing a major in biology, we encourage students to sample courses across the breadth of the field, including courses in ecology, organismal biology, and molecular genetics. The flexibility of the major allows students to include off-campus study into the undergraduate experience, whether that be the Lawrence marine term or an experience that does not include the study of biology.

The department encourages an open-ended, original, experimental approach to life science. The research-rich approach begins in BIOL 130: Integrative Biology: Cells to Organisms, in which all department faculty members participate. Students design, conduct, and interpret their own research projects and present their results at a professional-style symposium at the end of the term. The second course, BIOL 150, includes three open-ended research modules in the laboratory portion of the course while the third course has students focused on experimental design and statistical analysis of data.

Experimental work becomes progressively more sophisticated and creative in advanced courses. All courses are designed to develop students’ insights and capacity to synthesize information, and they include discussions, readings, field trips, lab work, and interactive class work in those areas most closely related to the competence of the faculty. Most courses feature intensive laboratory or field instruction in which students use advanced research equipment to explore modern biological concepts.

All biology faculty members conduct active research programs and employ students during the summer as research assistants as well as supervise students undertaking independent study research for credit during the academic year. Motivated students may approach faculty about laboratory or field research after their first or second year of study. Many students culminate their work in biology with significant original research. In recent years, several papers with students and faculty as co-authors have been published in professional journals. Topics have included aquatic food chain energetics, host-parasite and plant/animal interactions, gene expression, and molecular mechanisms of vertebrate development. Recent advances in biological research are presented in a series of talks by faculty and by scientists from other universities. All students complete a project (research, curriculum development, outreach, or a creative project) of their own design as part of our Senior Experience program and they present their work at our annual BioFest celebration of Senior Experience (see below for more details).

Students who have strong secondary interests in chemistry, geology, or physics may construct majors involving biology and one of the other three natural sciences, using the interdisciplinary major in the natural sciences or the biochemistry major.

Required for the biology major

  1. BIOL 130, 150, and 170
  2. CHEM 116
  3. At least seven six-unit courses in biology numbered 200 or above (excluding Senior Experience courses), of which at least five must be laboratory courses
  4. Completion of biology Senior Experience (A student-directed project, 6 units of BIOL 650, 2 units of BIOL 600)

Note: Only two six-unit courses designated as tutorial, directed study, or independent study can be counted toward the major or minor requirements and only one of those can be counted toward the upper-level laboratory requirement. On-line coursework cannot be transferred to earn biology credit.

Required for the biology minor

  1. BIOL 130, 150, and 170. Students majoring in disciplines requiring a research methods and statistics course may request exemption from the BIOL 170 requirement.
  2. At least four six-unit courses in biology numbered 200 or above, of which at least two must be laboratory courses.
  3. C average in the minor

Note: Only two six-unit courses designated as tutorial, directed study, or independent study can be counted toward the major or minor requirements and only one of these can be counted toward the upper-level laboratory requirement. On-line coursework cannot be transferred to earn biology credit.

Required for the interdisciplinary major in the natural sciences in biology and physics or geology

  1. BIOL 130, 150, and 170
  2. PHYS 141 and 151 or 151 and 160
  3. GEOL 110 and GEOL 210, if geology is the secondary discipline.
  4. At least 10 six-unit courses in the natural sciences (biology, chemistry, geology, and physics) numbered 200 or above, with at least five in biology (of which at least three must be laboratory courses), and at least three in the secondary discipline in other departments
  5. Completion of the biology Senior Experience

Note: The interdisciplinary combinations of biology and chemistry have been replaced by the biochemistry major.

Teacher certification in biology or broad-field science

Students who seek certification to teach biology at the secondary level should choose a broad range of biology courses that includes ecology, plant and animal organismal biology, and molecular and cellular biology, and should gain experience in both field and laboratory research. Students also have the option of seeking broad-field science certification by completing a minimum of two courses in each of two other science disciplines and at least one course in each of the remaining sciences. Students who plan to seek teacher certification should review the requirements in the Education section of the catalog and meet with the director of teacher education, preferably before the end of the sophomore year.

Senior Experience in Biology

Required: A student-designed project, 6 units of BIOL 650, 2 units of BIOL 600.

Purposeful advising in the spring of the sophomore year and attendance at the spring BioFest is meant to inspire sophomore students to think about what they might want to undertake as their culminating project in biology. During the fall of the junior year, students will hear from department faculty, the internship coordinator, and others about opportunities available for Senior Experience projects at a weekend retreat. Breakout groups allow students to brainstorm project ideas. Project work (research, internship, creation of a curricular module, draft of a grant proposal, draft of a children's book on biology, production of art about biology, or other creative project) generally will be undertaken prior to Term II of the senior year and may be based on an internship, summer or academic year research, a tutorial, course work, independent study, or other student activities.

Usually in the senior year, students will take two terms of BIOL 600: Recent Advances in Biology Lecture Series (1 unit each), one term of BIOL 650 (5 units) in Winter Term and one additional unit of BIOL 650 in Spring Term for BioFest. The purpose of the BIOL 650 course is to bring to culmination each student’s individual Senior Experience project and to place that project in an academic context. Each student prepares a paper that places her or his project into a biological context, compares it to our past and current understanding of the topic using primary literature, and summarizes the student’s project or results. Students will begin gathering and organizing academic resources for this paper in the Term I BIOL 600 course. In BIOL 650, students preparing a thesis for honors will prepare a significant portion of their thesis, while a student creating a visual product or curriculum will describe the biological underpinnings of the work and reflect on the production of the work itself, for example. The Senior Experience will culminate with a symposium, BioFest, during Spring Term, at which all students will present the results of their projects (or the project itself) as a poster, demonstration, or other visual display.