Biology (Bachelor of Science)

2014-15 General Catalog

Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs Office
142 Jack Baskin Engineering Building
(831) 459-4143

Program Description

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 Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) and Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) offer a broad spectrum of courses that reflect the exciting new developments and directions in the field of biology. An outstanding group of faculty, each with a vigorous, internationally recognized research program, is available to teach courses in their specialties as well as core courses for the major. Areas of research strength within the departments include RNA molecular biology, molecular and cellular aspects of genetics and development, neurobiology, microbial biochemistry, plant biology, animal behavior, physiology, evolution, ecology, and marine biology. Many students take advantage of the numerous opportunities for undergraduate research, allowing students to interact one on one with faculty and other researchers in a laboratory or field setting.

Students may plan a program that leads to a bachelor of arts (B.A.), including a bioeducation concentration, or bachelor of science (B.S.) degree. Advanced undergraduates, with the guidance of faculty mentors, have access to extensive departmental laboratory facilities for independent research. Fieldwork draws on a remarkable variety of terrestrial habitats, as well as ready access to Monterey Bay and the open Pacific. Hospitals, convalescent and physical therapy centers, veterinary clinics, and other enterprises in the vicinity of the campus provide the opportunity to pursue field projects and internships comparable to on-the-job training. This array of opportunities for directed independent study enables biology majors to enhance their upper-division programs to reflect and strengthen their own interests and goals in the sciences.


The introductory biology sequence is prerequisite to virtually all upper-division biology courses. BIOL 20A has a prerequisite of Chemistry 1A and 1B. Therefore, it is essential for students considering a major in biology to start chemistry as soon as possible. Students who have not taken Chemistry 1A or 1B but are prepared to begin biology may begin the introductory sequence with BIOE 20C. The entire introductory biology sequence should be taken the first and second year, concurrently with or following the general chemistry sequence.

An online Mathematics Placement Examination is offered at various periods prior to enrollment for each quarter. Biological science majors are expected to take this examination. For more information see the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs web site at

Transfer Students

Applications from transfer students in the biological sciences are encouraged. Students who transfer without having completed the required and recommended coursework may have difficulty enrolling in courses and may require more than two years to complete a degree. Prior to transfer, students should satisfy major qualification requirements or their UCSC equivalents:  Chem 1B, General Chemistry; Chem 1C, General Chemistry; BioL 20A, Cell & Molecular Biology; BioE20B, Development and Physiology. Junior-level transfer students are also strongly encouraged to complete courses equivalent to MATH 11A, MATH 11B and AMS 5 or AMS 7/L prior to transfer. Intended human biology majors are strongly encouraged to complete the Spanish language requirement prior to transfer. Prospective transfer students should review the transfer information at or contact the Undergraduate Affairs office for further information.

Academic Advising

Academic advising is available at the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs office. Students should take full advantage of this opportunity and should keep in frequent touch with the office to stay informed about late announcements of courses, changes in scheduling, and opportunities for special study.

The undergraduate web site ( serves as the program handbook containing advice and information pertinent to students’ most frequently voiced questions. Each student in the major should review the information posted on the web site; for further assistance, contact an academic adviser.

Biology B.S. Qualification Policy

To qualify for the Biology B.S. majors, students must pass and achieve a cumulative GPA of 2.30 or greater in each of the following courses or their equivalents.

Chemistry and Biochemistry 1B, General Chemistry
Chemistry and Biochemistry 1C, General Chemistry
Biology: Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology (BIOL) 20A, Cell and Molecular Biology
Biology: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (BIOE) 20B, Development and Physiology

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

When calculating grades to determine cumulative GPA in policy courses:

  • All courses must be taken for a letter grade, see Letter Grade Policy.

  • Students with AP credit for Biology: Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology (BIOL) 20A and Biology: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (BIOE) 20B, may base their cumulative GPA on three grades: a single A for AP Biology and their grades in Chemistry and Biochemistry 1B and 1C.

  • Students with non-grades (I, IP, DG, etc.) in any of the policy courses will not be eligible to declare until a grade has been assigned.

  • Every student who satisfies the major admission requirements and who petitions to declare the major by the campus major declaration deadline (i.e., before enrolling in their third year or the equivalent) will be admitted to the major. Students enrolled in their final qualification policy course at the major declaration deadline may submit the petition, but will not be declared until satisfactory grades and qualifying GPA have been posted. 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.

  • Students who are informed that they are not eligible to declare the major may appeal this decision by submitting a letter to the MCD Biology Faculty Advisor within 15 days from the date the notification was mailed. Within 15 days of receipt of the appeal, the department will notify the student, college, and Office of the Registrar of the decision.” 

 For more information about the appeal process see the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs web site at

Declaring a Biology B.S. Major

Students may submit a petition to declare after completing the qualification policy courses noted above. Students enrolled in their final policy course may submit the petition to declare, but will not be declared until grades have been posted. For instructions on petitioning to declare go the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs web site:

Students may not pursue multiple majors combining a Biology major (B.A., B.S., bioeducation concentration, or minor) with any other biological sciences major (Ecology and Evolution; Marine Biology; Plant Sciences; Environmental Studies/Biology combined major; Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology; Neuroscience; Human Biology; and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology).

Biology B.S. Major Requirements

Introductory Requirements

Introductory Biology: BIOL 20A, BIOE 20B and 20C
General Chemistry: Chemistry 1A, 1B and 1C/N
Organic Chemistry: Chemistry 108A/L and 108B
Calculus: Mathematics 11A-B or 19A-B or Applied Math and Statistics 15A-B
Statistics: Applied Mathematics and Statistics 5 or 7/L
Physics: Physics 6A/L, and 6B or 6C

Advanced Requirements

Students must complete one upper-division biology course that includes regular laboratory or fieldwork. (In addition to BIOL 101L, a lab or field course must be completed).

Six core courses and one lab course:

Biochemistry: BIOL 100/K
Molecular Biology BIOL 101*
Molecular Biology Laboratory: BIOL 101L
Genetics: BIOL 105
Cell Biology: BIOL 110
Ecology: BIOE 107
Evolution: BIOE 109

*Instead of Biochemistry (BIOL 100) and Molecular Biology (BIOL 101), students may complete the series in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 100A, 100B, 100C. (Upon completion of the series, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 100C may be used to satisfy one lecture elective.)

Students must complete three additional upper-division biology electives chosen from Biological Sciences-EEB courses (BIOE) or Biological Sciences-MCDB courses (BIOL).

BIOL 111A, Immunology
BIOL 113, Mammalian Endocrinology
BIOL 115, Eukaryotic Molecular Biology
BIOL 125, Introduction to Neuroscience
BIOL 130/L, Human Physiology and Laboratory (laboratory optional)
BIOE 108, Marine Ecology
BIOE 131/L, Animal Physiology and Laboratory (laboratory optional)
BIOE 133/L, Exercise Physiology and Laboratory

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy that major's upper-division Disciplinary Communication (DC) requirement. The DC requirement for the biology bachelor of science degree is satisfied by completing courses BIOE 107, Ecology, or BIOE 108, Marine Ecology, and BIOE 109, Evolution, or BIOE 159A, Marine Ecology Field Quarter.

Biology B.S. Sample Planners

For freshmen:
For transfer students:

Comprehensive Requirement

All majors in the biological sciences require a comprehensive requirement. This requirement can be satisfied in one of the following ways:

  • by passing course 190, Senior Seminar;

  • by receiving a passing grade in an internship, independent research laboratory, or field course:

BIOE 114L, Field Methods in Herpetological Research
BIOE 141L, Behavioral Ecology Field Course
BIOE 145L, Field Methods in Plant Ecology
BIOE 150L, Ecological Field Methods
BIOE 151, Ecology and Conservation in Practice
BIOE 158L, Marine Ecology Laboratory
BIOE 159, Marine Ecology Field Quarter
BIOE 161L, Kelp Forest Ecology Laboratory
BIOE 183, Undergraduate Research in EEB
BIOL 100L, Advanced Biochemistry Laboratory
BIOL 105L, Eukaryotic Genetics Laboratory
BIOL 105M, Microbial Genetics Laboratory
BIOL 109L, Yeast Molecular Genetics Laboratory
BIOL 110L, Cell Biology Laboratory
BIOL 111L, Immunology Laboratory
BIOL 115L, Eukaryotic Molecular Biology Laboratory
BIOL 120L, Developmental Biology Laboratory
BIOL 121L, Environmental Phage Biology Laboratory
BIOL 178L, Protocols in Stem Cell Biology
BIOL 186L, Undergraduate Research in MCD Biology
BIOL 186R, Undergraduate Research in MCD Biology
BIOL 187L, Molecular Biotechnology Laboratory
BIOL 189, Health Sciences Internship
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 110L, Advanced Biochemistry Laboratory
Biomolecular Engineering 122, Environmental Virus Bioinformatics Laboratory
Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology 119L, Microbiology Laboratory

  • by completing a senior thesis;

  • by achieving a graduate record examination (GRE) score at or above the 50th percentile on the biology subject test or the biochemistry, cell, and molecular biology subject test. Reports of GRE scores must be submitted to the biological sciences advising office before the last day of the graduating quarter;

  • by obtaining a medical college admission test (MCAT) score at or above the 50th percentile on the biological sciences section. Reports of MCAT scores must be submitted to the biological sciences advising office before the last day of the graduating quarter.


Honors in biology 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.

Letter Grade Policy

For all students entering UCSC in fall 2001 and later, all courses used to satisfy any of the biological sciences majors must be taken for a letter grade.

Course Substitution/Transfer Credit Policy

At least half of the upper-division courses (numbered 100–190) required for each major must be taken through the biological sciences program at UCSC, not as transfer credits from another department or institution. Transfer students are advised to contact the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs office before enrolling in numerous upper-division courses at other institutions. For more information on transferring courses to UCSC, please consult the undergraduate web site at

A maximum of one upper-division course requirement may be met with a research-based independent study or graduate-level UCSC biology course or a course offered by another UCSC department.

Education Abroad Opportunities

The UC Education Abroad Program (EAP) offers qualified students unique opportunities to broaden their educational horizons. Both the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology departments encourage 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. Visit the EAP office as soon as possible to begin planning; you must seek advice about your EAP plan for major courses at UCSC from the biological sciences undergraduate adviser and/or faculty adviser and receive their approval for your plans.

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.

[Return to Top]


Revised: 09/01/14