The undergraduate option in biology is designed to build on a solid foundation in mathematics and physical science by providing an introduction to the basic facts, concepts, problems, and methodologies of biological science. The option serves as a basis for graduate study in any field of biology or for admission to the study of medicine. Instruction is offered in the form of participation in the ongoing research programs of the division, as well as in formal course work. Course work emphasizes the more general and fundamental properties of living organisms, and areas of current research interest, rather than the traditional distinct fields within the life sciences.
The division encourages undergraduate participation in its research program and believes that research participation should be a part of each student’s program of study. Students may elect to prepare an undergraduate thesis (Bi 90). Research opportunities may be arranged with individual faculty members, or guidance may be obtained from a student’s individual faculty adviser in the division or from the biology undergraduate student adviser.
The requirements listed below for the biology option are minimal requirements. An adequate preparation for graduate work in biology will normally include additional elective research or course work in biology and/or advanced course work in other sciences or in mathematics. Flexibility to accommodate varied individual scientific interests, within the broad scope of biology, is achieved through the provision of elective courses, arrangements for individual research (Bi 22), and tutorial instruction (Bi 23). In addition, arrangements may be made to take courses at neighboring institutions in fields of biology that are not represented in our curriculum.
The undergraduate course for premedical students is essentially the same as that for biology students and is intended as a basis for later careers in research as well as in the practice of medicine. It differs in some respects from premedical curricula of other schools; however, it has been quite generally accepted as satisfying admission requirements of medical schools.
It is recommended that all students contemplating application to medical school consult with the premed adviser at Careers, Advising, and Experiential Learning or Professor Mitchell Guttman in the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering.
Bi Option Requirements
The following required courses must all be taken on grades, with the exception of Bi 8 if taken as a first-year student and Bi 22. First-year students taking Bi 8 must maintain shadow grades that indicate satisfactory progress.
- Bi 8, Bi 9, Bi 117, Bi 122, NB/Bi/CNS 150, and Ch 41 abc.
- Ma 2, Ma 3, and any two terms of Ph 2 abc. BE/Bi 25 can be taken in place of Ph 2 c. This requirement can also be satisfied in part by successfully taking a ”reasonable” replacement for any of these required courses. A ”reasonable” replacement will be defined by: (1) Equally or more advanced quantitative coursework, e.g. Ch 21 a for Ph 2 b, Ch 21 c for Ph 2 c and; (2) Essentially similar scope of subject matter as the course replaced. The Biology option representative will be empowered to make this determination with aid of an advisory list which can be updated as relevant new courses are developed inside and outside of biology.
- One advanced laboratory course (100- or 200-level), or Bi 21 with presentation, or three terms of undergraduate thesis (Bi 90 abc).
- Two courses chosen from Ch/Bi 110 a, 110 b, 111, and/or BMB/Bi/Ch 170, 173 or Ch 145.
- Scientific writing requirement met by taking Bi/BE 24 (six units), or by taking any other writing course such as En/Wr 84 (nine units) plus oral presentation at SURF Seminar Day or equivalent, with option representative approval.
- A minimum of 8 courses of biology electives must be taken. To count as a biology elective, a course must satisfy the following:
- The course is not used to satisfy requirement 1-5.
- 100-level or above.
- The course must be a biology or a bioengineering course.
- At least two elective courses must be nine units each, and must be taken for grades.
- A minimum total of four elective courses must be taken for grades.
- Exceptions are as follow:
- Substantial lab research for credit (Bi 22) beyond the 12- unit minimum can be counted among the electives.
- Courses from other options with significant relevance to biology may be used as electives with permission from the biology option representative.
- A minimum total of 170 units of biology must be taken and passed. Any Bi 1 course, Bi 2, Bi 10, and BE/Bi/CNS/NB 197 cannot be counted toward this total. Bioengineering courses used for electives can be counted toward this total.
- Passing grades must be earned in a total of 486 units, including the courses listed above.
Planning the Biology Course Schedule
- Most students interested in biology elect to take Bi 8 and Bi 9 in their first year, to open access to the widest range of biology electives.
- Bi 10 or Bi 1x is not required for the biology option but is commonly taken by biology students to meet the Institute introductory laboratory requirement.
- Prerequisites listed for individual biology courses are advisory, not compulsory. They indicate the kind of background that is assumed for the work level of the course. They may be waived if the instructor gives explicit permission.
- BE/Bi 25 is strongly recommended for students interested in postgraduate work in biology, as physical chemistry is required by most graduate programs.
- Additional courses of potential interest to biology majors include Ge 11 b, BE 159, BE/Bi/APh 161, BE/ChE 163, BMB/Ch 178 and advanced geobiology courses.
- Undergraduates are generally welcome to take 200-level courses with the instructor’s permission or strong preparation, unless otherwise indicated.
Bi Typical Course Schedule (Required courses and representative examples of electives)
|Units per term|
|Ma 1 abc||First-Year Mathematics||9||9||9|
|Ph 1 abc||First-Year Physics||9||9||9|
|Ch 1 ab||General Chemistry||6||9||-|
|Hum <= 60||First-Year Humanities||9||-||9|
|Ch 3 a||Chemistry Lab||-||6||-|
|CS 1||Introduction to Computer Programming||9||-||-|
|Bi 8||Foundational Principles of Molecular Biology||-||9||-|
|Bi 9||Cell Biology||-||-||9|
|Bi 10||Introductory Biology Laboratory||-||-||6|
|Ma 2||Differential Equations||9||-||-|
|Ma 3||Introduction to Probability and Statistics||-||9||-|
|Ph 2 bc||Sophomore Physics||9||9||-|
|BE/Bi 25||Biophysical Chemistry||-||9||-|
|Ch 41 abc||Organic Chemistry||9||9||9|
|Introductory Social Sciences||9||-||9|
|Bi 117||Developmental Biology||-||9||-|
|NB/Bi/CNS/ 150||Introduction to Neuroscience||-||-||10|
|Two electives in spring, e.g.,|
|Bi 160||Molecular Basis of Animal Evolution||-||-||9|
|Bi/BE/BMB 115||Viruses and Application for Biological Systems||-||-||9|
|Advanced Social Sciences||9||-||9|
|Ch/Bi 110 a or b||Introduction to Biochemistry||12||-||-|
|Ch/Bi 111||Biochemistry of Gene Expression||-||12||-|
|Bi/BE 24||Technical Communication (fall or spring)||-||-||6|
|Two electives in fall, e.g.,|
|Bi 145 a||Tissue and Organ Physiology||9||9||-|
|ESE/Bi 166||Microbial Physiology||9||-||-|
|Bi/CNS/NB 195||Mathematics in Biology||9||-||-|
|Two electives in winter, e.g.,|
|Bi/BE 119||Morphogenesis of Developmental Systems||-||9||-|
|Bi 116||Microbial Genetics||-||9||-|
|Bi/BE 183||Introduction to Computational Biology and Bioinformatics||-||9||-|
|Two electives in spring, e.g.,|
|Bi/CNS 158||Vertebrate Evolution||-||-||9|
|Bi/BMB 189||The Cell Cycle and Genomic Stability||-||-||6|
|BE/Bi 101||Order of Magnitude Biology||-||-||6|
|Begin taking research credits|
|Bi 22||Undergraduate Research||6||6||6|
|Two to three electives each term, e.g.,|
|BE/Bi 103 a||Introduction to Data Analysis in the Biological Sciences||9||-||-|
|NB/Bi/CNS/ 154||Principles of Neuroscience||9||-||-|
|Bi 190||Systems Genetics||6||-||-|
|Bi 192||Introduction to Systems Biology||6||-||-|
|Bi/BE 129||The Biology and Treatment of Cancer||-||9||-|
|Bi 214||Stem Cells and Hematopoiesis||-||9||-|
|BE/Aph 161||Physical Biology of the Cell||-||12||-|
|BE 107||Exploring Biological Principles through Bio-Inspired Designs||-||-||9|
|BE 153||Case Studies in Systems Physiology||-||-||9|
|NB/Bi/CNS/ 157||Comparative Nervous Systems||-||-||9|
|Bi 180||Plant and Soil Science||9||-||-|
|Pursue an in-depth research project:|
|Bi 90||Undergraduate Thesis||12+||12+||12+|
Biology Minor Requirements
The biology minor is intended to supplement one of Caltech’s undergraduate degrees. It is designed for students who wish to broaden their studies beyond their major to include biology. Students completing the biology minor requirements will have the phrase ”minor in biology” added to their transcripts.
- Biology fundamentals. Bi 8 and Bi 9.
- Intermediate Biology. Any two of the following classes: Bi 122; Bi 117; and NB/Bi/CNS 150; and Ch 41 a.
- Advanced Biology. 36 units of advanced biology electives (100- or 200-level) that are not applied to the above requirements and are not simultaneously used for fulfilling a requirement of the student’s major option, approved by their assigned biology adviser or the option representative.