Introduction

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 the introductory course sequence that students can enter with either BIOL 130: Cellular Form and Function or BIOL 135: Ecology, Evolution, and Society. In BIOL 130: Cellular Form and Function, 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. Both BIOL 135: Ecology, Evolution, and Society and BIOL 150: Organismal Form and Function, include three open-ended research modules in the laboratory portion of the course, and BIOL 135 also introduces students to field-based research. BIOL 280: Experimental Design and Statistics builds upon the research-rich introductory sequence and focuses 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, geosciences, 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 major in biology

Students who major in biology will learn to explain both theory of and evidence for basic biological principles including energy metabolism, inheritance, evolution, physiology, and ecosystem structure and function. They will demonstrate critical analysis of primary research literature and conduct original research.

The major in biology requires:

  1. The following biology courses:
    1. BIOL 130: Cellular Form and Function
    2. BIOL 135: Ecology, Evolution, and Society
    3. BIOL 150: Organismal Form and Function
  2. BIOL 280: Experimental Design and Statistics
  3. CHEM 116: Principles of Chemistry: Energetics and Dynamics
  4. At least six six-unit courses in biology numbered 200 or above (excluding Senior Experience courses), of which at least four must be laboratory courses
  5. Completion of the biology Senior Experience, including:
    1. 2 units of BIOL 501: Professional Development in the Life Sciences
    2. 1 unit of BIOL 600: Recent Advances in Biology Seminar
    3. A student-directed project
    4. 5 units of BIOL 650: Biology Senior Capstone I
    5. 1 unit of BIOL 651: Biology Senior Capstone II

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. Online coursework cannot be transferred to earn biology credit.


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

Biology students who have strong secondary interests in physics or geosciences may construct a major involving biology and geosciences or physics using the interdisciplinary major in the natural sciences. Previous interdisciplinary combinations of biology and chemistry have been replaced by the biochemistry major.

The requirements for the interdisciplinary major with biology as the primary discipline are:

  1. The following biology courses:
    1. BIOL 130:  Cellular Form and Function
    2. BIOL 150:  Organismal Form and Function
    3. BIOL 280:  Experimental Design and Statistics
  2. The following physics courses:
    1. PHYS 141: Principles of Classical, Relativistic, and Quantum Mechanics and PHYS 151: Principles of Classical Physics; or
    2. PHYS 151: Principles of Classical Physics and PHYS 160: Principles of Modern Physics
  3. The following courses if geosciences is the secondary discipline:
    1. GEOL 110: Introductory Geology or GEOS 110: Introduction to the Geosciences
    2. GEOL/GEOS 210: History of the Earth and Life
  4. At least 10 six-unit courses in the natural sciences (biology, chemistry, geosciences, 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
  5. Completion of the biology Senior Experience

Senior Experience in biology

Required: A student-designed project, 2 units of BIOL 501: Professional Development in the Life Sciences, 1 unit of BIOL 600: Recent Advances in Biology Seminar, 5 units of BIOL 650: Biology Senior Capstone I, 1 unit of BIOL 651: Biology Senior Capstone.

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 term of the junior year, students will take BIOL 501: Professional Development in the Life Sciences to prepare students for both the Senior Experience and life after Lawrence. 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 Winter term 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.

In the senior year, students will take 1 unit of BIOL 600: Recent Advances in Biology Seminar in the Fall term, 5 units of BIOL 650: Biology Senior Capstone I in the Winter term, and 1 unit of BIOL 651: Biology Senior Capstone II 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 their 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 BIOL 600. 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.


Required for the minor in biology

  1. The following biology courses:
    1. BIOL 130: Cellular Form and Function
    2. BIOL 135: Ecology, Evolution, and Society
    3. BIOL 150: Organismal Form and Function
  2. BIOL 280: Experimental Design and Statistics (students majoring in disciplines requiring a research methods and statistics course may request exemption from the BIOL 170 requirement).
  3. At least three six-unit courses in biology numbered 200 or above, of which at least two must be laboratory courses.

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


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. A course in environmental science is required. 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.