Biology Bachelor of Science and Biology Minor

2016-17 General Catalog

Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology Department
225 Sinsheimer Laboratories
(831) 459-2385

MCDB Faculty | MCDB Course Descriptions

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 bio-education 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. 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 Mathematics Placement website at

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.

Biology B.S. Qualification Policy

To qualify for the Biology B.S. majors, students must pass (with a grade of C or better) the following courses or their equivalents:

Chemistry and Biochemistry 1A, General Chemistry;

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, 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 Biology: Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology (BIOL) 20A and Biology: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (BIOE) 20B, and AP credit for Chemistry and Biochemistry 1A, need only pass Chemistry and Biochemistry 1B and 1C to qualify.

  • 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 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 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 Appeal Process website at

Transfer Students

Applications from transfer students in the biological sciences are encouraged. Prior to transfer, students must satisfy major qualification requirements: CHEM 1A, General Chemistry; CHEM 1B, General Chemistry; CHEM 1C, General Chemistry; BIOL 20A, Cell and Molecular Biology; BIOE 20B, Development and Physiology. Junior-level transfer students are also strongly encouraged to complete courses equivalent to MATH 11A, MATH 11B, and AMS 5 prior to transfer. Prospective transfer students should review the transfer information at and our website 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 Petition to Declare website:

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

Lower-Division Requirements

Introductory Biology: BIOL 20A, BIOE 20B and 20C
General Chemistry: Chemistry 1A, 1B and 1C/N
Organic Chemistry: Chemistry 8A/L and 8B
Calculus: Mathematics 11A-B or 19A-B
Statistics: Applied Mathematics and Statistics 5 or 7/L
Physics: Physics 6A/L, and 6B or 6C or may take 7A/B/L (7A/B/L will not satisfy the pre-med requirement and students are better served by the 6 or 5 A/B/C/L series)

Upper-Division 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 (5-7 credits) biology electives chosen from Biological Sciences-EEB courses (BIOE) or Biological Sciences-MCDB courses (BIOL) below.

BIOL 111A, Immunology I
BIOL 114, Cancer Cell Biology
BIOL 115, Eukaryotic Molecular Biology
BIOL 120, Developmental Biology
BIOL 125, Introduction to Neuroscience
BIOL 178, Stem Cell Biology
BIOL 182, Genomes
BIOL 130, Human Physiology

BIOE 108, Marine Ecology
BIOE 112/L, Ornithology
BIOE 114/L, Herpetology
BIOE 117/L, Systematic Botany
BIOE 120/L, Marine Botany
BIOE 122/L, Invertebrates
BIOE 124/L, Mammalogy
BIOE 127/L, Ichthyology
BIOE 129/L, Marine Mammals
BIOE 131, Animal Physiology
BIOE 133/L, Exercise Physiology
BIOE 134/L, Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy
BIOE 135 /L, Plant Physiology
BIOE 137/L, Molecular Ecology
BIOE 140, Behavioral Ecology
BIOE 145, Plant Ecology
BIOE 147, Community Ecology
BIOE 148, Quantitative Ecology
BIOE 149, Disease Ecology
BIOE 155, Freshwater Ecology
BIOE 161, Kelp Forest Ecology
BIOE 163/L, Ecology of Reefs, Mangroves, and Seagrasses
BIOE 165, Marine Conservation Biology
BIOE 172, Population Genetics

Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology (METX) 119, Microbiology

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

BIOE 114L, Field Methods in Herpetological Research
BIOE 112L Ornithology Laboratory
BIOE 117L, Systematic Botany Laboratory
BIOE 120L, Marine Botany Laboratory
BIOE 122L, Invertebrates Laboratory
BIOE 124L, Mammalogy Laboratory
BIOE 127L, Ichthyology Laboratory
BIOE 128L, Large Marine Vertebrates Field
BIOE 131L, Animal Physiology Laboratory
BIOE 133L, Exercise Physiology Laboratory
BIOE 134L, Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy Laboratory
BIOE 135L, Plant Physiology Laboratory
BIOE 137L, Molecular Ecology
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 163L, Ecology of Reefs, Mangroves, and Seagrasses Laboratory
BIOE 172L, Population Genetics Laboratory
BIOE 183, Undergraduate Research in EEB
BIOL 100L, Biochemistry Laboratory
BIOL 105L, Eukaryotic 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 130L, Human Physiology 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 (BIOC) 110L, Advanced Biochemistry Laboratory
METX 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.

Biology Minor Requirements

The biology minor is designed to incorporate elements of both EEB and MCD disciplines.

Lower-division requirements:

  • Introductory biology: BIOL 20A, BIOE 20B, BIOE 20C

  • Introductory chemistry: CHEM 1A, CHEM 1B, CHEM 1C

  • CHEM 8A Organic Chemistry

Upper-division requirements:

  • BIOL 100 Biochemistry

  • BIOL 105 Genetics

  • BIOE 107 Ecology

  • BIOE 109 Evolution

There is no senior comprehensive for the biology minor. Please contact Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology undergraduate advisers for further information.


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.

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 a department adviser before enrolling in numerous upper-division courses at other institutions. For more information on transferring courses to UCSC, please consult the undergraduate website 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 a department 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.

Academic Advising

Academic advising is available at the Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology Department. Students should take full advantage of this opportunity and should keep in frequent touch with the advisers to stay informed about late announcements of courses, changes in scheduling, and opportunities for special study.

The undergraduate website ( 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 website; for further assistance, contact a department academic adviser.

[Return to Top]


Revised: 09/01/15