Biology Major

Major Change

The Biology Major changed in Fall 2016. For previous versions of this major, visit the Archives.

Department Advanced Placement Policy

Students with AP credit in Biology do not receive credit toward the minimum number of course required by the major or advanced standing in the Biology curriculum.


BIOL 161Introduction to Cell & Molecular Biology
BIOL 162Introduction to Mechanisms of Multicellular Life
BIOL 163Introduction to Biol Diversity and Ecology
Select five of the following, with at least one course from three of the four Course Distribution Areas: 1
Cellular and Molecular Biology:
Cell Biology
Biochemistry 1
Biochemistry 2
Molecular Immunology
Mechanistic Organsimal Biology:
Comparative Vertebrate Morphology
Developmental Biology
Organismal Diversity:
Field Botany
Vertebrate History
Ecology and Evolution:
Freshwater Ecology
Marine Biology
Conservation Biology
Ethology & Behavioral Ecology
Ecosystem Ecology
CHEM 181Atoms & Molecules (with lab)
CHEM 221Organic Chemistry 1 (with labs)
or CHEM 231 Equilibrium & Reactivity
MATH 135Calculus 1 (or equivalent)
BIOL 275Biological Statistics
or STAT 220 Statistics
Select two cognate courses chosen from the approved list maintained by the department: 2
Organic Chemistry 1
Organic Chemistry 2
Equilibrium & Reactivity
Techniques of Programming
Data Structures
Discrete Structures
Introduction to Geology
Watershed Hydrology
Calculus 2
Multivariable Calculus
Introductory Physics 1: Mechanics, Fluids and Waves
Introductory Physics 2: Electromagnetism, Optics and Modern Physics
Physiology and Behavior

To be admitted to the biology major, students must have completed at least one introductory biology course and a lab course in chemistry, geology or physics, all at Holy Cross. The applicant must have earned at least a C average in biology and also in the other science courses (both averages are considered separately). Admission is competitive; it depends on classroom performance, an essay submitted with the admission process and on available space. Because the biology major, like all science majors, is structured, it is important that prospective majors begin their science courses as early as possible and certainly no later than their third semester.

All biology majors must earn an average grade of C or better in introductory biology courses to continue in the major. Additional courses, up to a maximum of 14, may be taken at Holy Cross or, with the chair’s permission, in other programs, such as Study Abroad, Study Away, the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts or summer school.

In addition to formal courses, the Department offers qualified students an opportunity to conduct research (BIOL 401 Undergraduate Research) in association with faculty members in their research laboratories. Opportunities also exist for students to pursue individual interests in faculty-directed readings courses based on biological literature (BIOL 405 Directed Readings). Students conducting research for a thesis in the College Honors Program must elect BIOL 407 Honors Research, BIOL 408 Honors Research. Students may receive up to one semester of lab credit towards the major by taking either BIOL 401 Undergraduate Research or BIOL 407 Honors Research. Additional semesters of research count for credit towards graduation from the College but do not count as biology credits. Research credits are subject to the rule of no more than 14 courses in any department.