Courses & Requirements

The requirements below apply to those students with a 2019-2020 catalog year. Students are required by college policy to follow the major (and minor) requirements found in the catalog in effect at the time they declared their first major. To find your catalog year, please visit your Grades and Academic Records found in myOxy and access the catalog that matches your catalog year.

Biology

Overview

Biology is a rapidly expanding, multifaceted discipline, full of possibilities for undergraduate research and for stimulating graduate study and employment after Occidental. Within an evolutionary framework, our program investigates the interactions between molecules, cells, organisms, populations, and ecosystems that constitute life on earth. Interdisciplinary and integrative by nature, the biology program at Occidental engages both majors and non-majors in a curriculum that emphasizes laboratory and field investigation. Our students are encouraged to collaborate with faculty mentors, whose research employs current methods in addressing questions from the molecular to the global in scale. Students acquire skills from careful observation through hypothesis formulation and experimental design to formal oral and written presentations of results. After participating in the biology program at Occidental College, students are prepared for rewarding work and lifelong learning, armed with the tools necessary to understand large complex data sets and help explain the intricacies of living systems. This rigorous program provides our students with the training to enter the work force after graduation and/or transition to an advanced degree program. After completing the major, many students elect to take graduate training toward the PhD. in biological sciences or doctorates of medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacy or dentistry. Many of our students complete Masters programs in Biological Sciences, teaching, environmental health and safety, and resource management. Receiving a degree in Biology at Occidental College enables our students to excel in any post-baccalaureate professional pursuit.

The Department of Biology is housed within the Bioscience building which is contiguous with the Moore Laboratory of Zoology. Facilities include the bird and mammal collections (70,000 specimens) of Moore Laboratory, greenhouses, facilities for microscopy (scanning and transmission electron and fluorescence), a tissue culture suite and fluorescence-activated cell sorter, fully-equipped molecular biology laboratories, field vehicles, and three research vessels for nearshore marine studies and SCUBA diving. Because of its proximity to the Mojave Desert, the Santa Monica, San Gabriel, and San Bernardino Mountains, and seacoast, Occidental College is ideally suited for field and laboratory studies of environmental biology.

Major Requirements

COURSEWORK

Students are required to complete all major requirements and supporting coursework as detailed below in order to earn their degree in Biology.

 

Introductory Biology

Select one course from the list below:

BIO 105Marine Biology

4 units

BIO 106Biology of California

4 units

BIO 110Organisms on Earth

4 units

BIO 115General Zoology

4 units

Cellular and Molecular Biology (2 courses)

BIO 130Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology

4 units

 

And one from:

BIO 221Molecular Biology

4 units

BIO 224Genetic Analysis

4 units

BIO 226Cell Biology

4 units

Environmental Biology

Select one course from the list below:

BIO 106Biology of California

4 units

BIO 260Biodiversity and Organization of Marine Ecosystems

4 units

BIO 270Ecology

4 units

BIO 275Flora of Southern California

4 units

Evolutionary Biology

BIO 280Evolutionary Biology

4 units

Organismal Biology

Select one course from the list below:

BIO 240Vertebrate Physiology

4 units

BIO 250Plant Form and Function

4 units

BIO 275Flora of Southern California

4 units

Upper-division Biology

Students must select three 300-level Biology courses. At least two of these must be Occidental College Biology laboratory courses.

Senior Seminar

BIO 490Senior Seminar

4 units

Supporting Coursework

Students are required to complete five additional courses. Two must be in chemistry as detailed below and three additional quantitative courses.

Chemistry

CHEM 120Foundations of General Chemistry

4 units

Or

CHEM 130Advanced Placement General Chemistry

4 units

 

And

CHEM 220Organic Chemistry I

4 units

Quantitative Coursework

Three 4-5 unit courses are required to satisfy the quantitative requirement. These courses include a Mathematics/Calculus, Data Analysis and an elective Quantitative Course. Two 2-unit courses taken at Occidental College may be combined to satisfy one quantitative elective requirement.

Students are required to take one of five classes (Calculus 1, Calculus 2, Math 210, Math 212, or Math 214) to satisfy the math requirement for the Biology major. Students who pass out of Calculus 2 may take Math 210, Math 212, Math 214 or an additional Data Analysis course to satisfy the math requirement for the Biology major. 

Mathematics/Calculus

Select one course from the list below:

Calculus 1Scientific Modeling and Differential Calculus

4 units

Calculus 2Scientific Modeling and Integral Calculus

4 units

MATH 210Discrete Mathematics

4 units

MATH 212Multivariable Calculus

4 units

MATH 214Linear Algebra

4 units

Data Analysis

Select one course from the list below:

BIO 260Biodiversity and Organization of Marine Ecosystems

4 units

BIO 268Biostatistics

4 units

COGS 255Data Analysis and Visualization

4 units

GEO 255Spatial Analysis with Geographic Information Science

4 units

MATH 150Statistical Data Analysis

4 units

PSYC 201Statistics in Psychological Science

4 units

Additional Quantitative Course

Select an additional course from the math or data analysis lists above or one course from the list below.

BIO 270Ecology

4 units

BIO 326Molecular Evolution and Phylogenomics

4 units

BIO 340Sensory Biology and Neurophysiology

4 units

BIO 369Biological Oceanography

4 units

BIO 370Field Ecology

4 units

BIO 373Computational Biology

4 units

Calculus 2Scientific Modeling and Integral Calculus

4 units

CHEM 221Organic Chemistry II

4 units

CHEM 300Physical Chemistry I

4 units

CHEM 301Biophysical Chemistry

4 units

COGS 242Computational Approaches to Cognition

4 units

COMP 131Fundamentals of Computer Science

4 units

COMP 157Programming in C++

2 units

COMP 161Programming in Java

2 units

COMP 165Mathematica

2 units

COMP 167MATLAB

2 units

COMP 311Data Structures and Algorithms

4 units

COMP 353Information Theory

4 units

MATH 210Discrete Mathematics

4 units

MATH 212Multivariable Calculus

4 units

MATH 214Linear Algebra

4 units

MATH 310Real Analysis

4 units

MATH 312Complex Analysis

4 units

MATH 322Number Theory

4 units

MATH 330Probability

4 units

MATH 332Mathematical Statistics

4 units

MATH 340Ordinary Differential Equations

4 units

MATH 342Partial Differential Equations

4 units

MATH 350Mathematical Logic

4 units

MATH 352/COMP 352Computability and Complexity

4 units

MATH 354Set Theory and Foundations of Mathematics

4 units

MATH 360Axiomatic Geometry

4 units

MATH 362Topology

4 units

MATH 370Numerical Analysis

4 units

MATH 380Combinatorics

4 units

MATH 382Graph Theory

4 units

MATH 392Mathematical Models in Biology

4 units

MATH 396Mathematical Modeling

2 units

PHYS 110Introductory Mechanics

4 units

PHYS 115General Physics I

4 units

PHYS 120Introductory Electricity and Magnetism

4 units

PHYS 125General Physics II

4 units

 

Concentration in Cell and Molecular Biology

Requirements

In addition to completing all major requirements, students pursuing this emphasis must complete:

  • Two of the following courses to satisfy the 300-level requirement

 

BIO 320Developmental Biology

4 units

BIO 322Principles of Biochemistry

4 units

BIO 323Histology

4 units

BIO 325Microbial Diversity

4 units

BIO 326Molecular Evolution and Phylogenomics

4 units

BIO 330Immunology

4 units

BIO 333Neurobiology

4 units

BIO 336Microbial Pathogenesis

4 units

BIO 340Sensory Biology and Neurophysiology

4 units

BIO 349Biochemistry I

4 units

BIO 350Microbial Symbiosis

4 units

Concentration in Marine Biology

Requirements

Students are required to satisfy all the requirements for the biology major and must take four of the following upper-division courses:

 

BIO 260Biodiversity and Organization of Marine Ecosystems

4 units

BIO 268Biostatistics

4 units

BIO 344Invertebrate Morphology and Physiology

4 units

BIO 356The Biology of Marine Fishes

4 units

BIO 369Biological Oceanography

4 units

GEO 245Earth's Climate: Past and Future

4 units

 

Concentration in Environmental Science

Requirements

Introductory Biology

Select one course from the list below:

BIO 105Marine Biology

4 units

BIO 106Biology of California

4 units

BIO 110Organisms on Earth

4 units

BIO 115General Zoology

4 units

Organismal Biology

Select one course from the list below:

BIO 240Vertebrate Physiology

4 units

BIO 250Plant Form and Function

4 units

BIO 275Flora of Southern California

4 units

Cellular and Molecular Biology

BIO 130Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology

4 units

Environmental Biology

BIO 260Biodiversity and Organization of Marine Ecosystems

4 units

Or

BIO 270Ecology

4 units

Evolutionary Biology

BIO 280Evolutionary Biology

4 units

Upper-division Biology

Students must select three 300-level Biology courses from the list below. At least two of these must be Occidental College Biology laboratory courses.

BIO 325Microbial Diversity

4 units

BIO 350Microbial Symbiosis

4 units

BIO 356The Biology of Marine Fishes

4 units

BIO 360Avian Biology

4 units

BIO 369Biological Oceanography

4 units

BIO 373Computational Biology

4 units

BIO 380Plant Physiological Ecology

4 units

Chemistry Component

CHEM 120Foundations of General Chemistry

4 units

One additional Chemistry course (with a lab)

4 or 5 units

Economics Component:

(Two courses required)

ECON 101Principles of Economics I

4 units

ECON 301Environmental Economics and Policy

4 units

ECON 301: Students may petition for another 300-level course from another department to substitute for ECON 301. An appropriate substitute must deal with environmental policy and be chosen in consultation with the academic adviser.

Geology Component:

(Three courses required)

GEO 105Earth: Our Environment

4 units

GEO 245Earth's Climate: Past and Future

4 units

GEO 255Spatial Analysis with Geographic Information Science

4 units

Mathematics Component:

Select one option as detailed below:

Option 1-
Calculus 2Scientific Modeling and Integral Calculus

4 units

Option 2-
Calculus 1Scientific Modeling and Differential Calculus

4 units

And

Department-approved statistics course

4 units

Senior Seminar

BIO 490Senior Seminar

4 units

Second-Stage Writing Requirement

Students majoring in Biology will satisfy the second-stage writing requirement by successfully completing two courses at the 300-level (or appropriate course work). Students should familiarize themselves with the departmental requirement at the time of declaring the major. See the Writing Program and consult the department chair for additional information.

Comprehensive Requirement

The Senior Comprehensive in Biology provides an opportunity for every senior to demonstrate mastery of a topic of current importance and research interest in contemporary biology.

Seniors enroll in small, one-semester seminars (BIO 490) organized around current topics that are meant to span a number of scales in biology. The seminar includes extensive reading (both assigned and independently chosen), discussion and evaluation of primary literature, selection of an appropriate subtopic on which to focus, synthesis and writing of a précis or summary of research on the subtopic, and a major oral presentation by each student. The seminar also involves collaboration in that presenters partner with discussion leaders and work together throughout the semester to hone each other’s written and oral presentations.

College Honors

Requirements

  • Student typically will have worked on a research project for 2 semesters (or 1 semester + summer session) minimum, before applying for honors
  • Student must have an average GPA of 3.25 (college policy)

Application Process

  • Student should discuss with their research mentor and submit an official Letter of Intent to the Biology Chairperson by the beginning of their senior year, or sooner.
  • The letter of intent should include a summary of research results (realized and projected), as well as significance of the research and any projects in progress at the time of submission.
  • Applications will be evaluated by the Biology faculty.
  • Students nominated for honors will be notified by the Biology Chairperson.

Completion Process

  • At the time of nomination, each candidate will be assigned an honors thesis committee of two Biology faculty members, in addition to their faculty mentor. This committee will be available for guidance and to help ensure that milestones are met in a timely manner.
  • Milestones will include a thorough literature review, written drafts of the introduction, methods, and results sections, including draft figures, and a final discussion section, as well as preparation of a public seminar.
  • The candidate must complete a written thesis of their work. It is expected that the student will spend part of their final semester or directed research writing the thesis.
  • The written thesis will be due to the mentor by Monday in the 4th week of February.
  • The revised honors thesis will be due to the committee by Monday in the 3rd week of February.
  • The thesis will be reviewed by committee, and final revisions must be submitted by the last day of March.
  • Honors candidates will also give a presentation on their research during the week of April 15. These presentations will last approximately 15 minutes, with 5 min for questions.
  • Honors grades are Pass/Fail and reported to the registrar by the Chair. The chair will inform the students of their grade when it is decided upon by the committee.

Minor Requirements

COURSEWORK

Choose two introductory courses:

BIO 105Marine Biology

4 units

BIO 106Biology of California

4 units

BIO 110Organisms on Earth

4 units

BIO 115General Zoology

4 units

BIO 130Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology

4 units

Upper-level electives

Choose three additional courses at the 200 or 300 levels, two of which must be taken in the Occidental College Biology Department. Independent Studies and Advanced Placement credit may not count toward the minor.

Transfer Credit Policies

The Biology Department policy on transfer credit conforms to College policy. Students should reference the Transfer Credit section for more details. AP Biology with a score of 4 or 5 may be used in place of BIO 130. IB or A-level examinations in Biology will not substitute for an Occidental course, place students into advanced courses, or allow a wider opportunity for choice of electives in the Department. For the major at most two 200-level courses and at most one 300-level course will be accepted in transfer. For the minor at most one course in transfer may be counted toward the 200 and 300 level requirement.

Graduate Study

Graduate study toward the degree of Master of Arts under the thesis plan may be undertaken in Biology by properly qualified students. Thesis projects may be elected in any of the following fields: cellular biology, developmental biology, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, neurobiology, biochemistry, comparative physiology, animal behavior, environmental biology, ecology, systematics and evolutionary biology, and marine biology. Graduate courses, numbered 500 and above, are valued at five units unless otherwise noted. Consult the department chair for further information on graduate studies.

Courses

Biology Courses