Biology Major

Biology at Wheaton College

The Department of Biology introduces students to the concepts and characteristics of nature as part of God’s creation. Students who major in Biology are expected to comprehend and integrate biological principles at the molecular, cellular, organismal, population, and ecosystem levels in preparation for teaching, entering the health professions, pursuing graduate work, or entering the biotechnology industry. Students are expected to understand the concepts and processes of biology as a scientific discipline and as an integrative science. The Department of Biology aids students in the development of both Christian and biological perspectives for their careers and practices as stewards of God’s creation.

The biology faculty maintain ongoing research projects and encourage students to participate in collaborative research groups. Research experiences are designed to provide students with opportunities to gain and hone skills pertinent to the processes of scientific investigation and to contribute to current scientific knowledge. Active participation in these experiences develops the student's understanding of the processes of science, encourages critical thinking skills, and improves one's ability to better evaluate published scientific reports. Students who are interested in participating in research should contact individual faculty members.          

Students who complete a Biology major are granted a Bachelor of Science degree unless they request a Bachelor of Arts degree.

We also offer an Honors in Biology Program.

Biology Major Requirements

(36 hours of Biology + 16 hours supporting: to develop a sound understanding of biological and chemical processes) 

Required Courses (22 hours)
BIOL 241 (4) Organization of Life: Genetics and Cell Biology
BIOL 242 (4) Diversity of Life: An Introduction to Zoology and Botany 
BIOL 243 (4) Processes of Life: Ecology and Evolution 
BIOL 252 (4) Modeling the Systems of Life - a research methods course taken in the sophomore year
BIOL 356 (4) Genetics
BIOL 494 (2) The Integrated Biologist - Senior capstone.

Cluster electives (14 hours) Take at least one course from each of the three course clusters below. The same course may not be used to meet the requirements for more than one cluster.

Cellular and Molecular Biology
BIOL 322 (4) Advanced Cellular and Developmental Biology
BIOL 323 (4) Introduction to Pharmacology
BIOL 324 (4) Advanced Microbiology
BIOL 325 (4) Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis
BIOL 461x(4) Biochemistry

Organismal Biology and Physiology
BIOL 331 (4) Human Anatomy and Physiology I
BIOL 332 (4) Human Anatomy and Physiology II
BIOL 334 (2) Parasitology
BIOL 335 (4) Invertebrate Biology
BIOL 336 (4) Neurobiology
BIOL 338 (4) Economic Botany
BIOL 339 (4) Plant Physiology

Ecology, Environment and Evolution
BIOL 305 (4) Environmental Ethics
BIOL 319 (2) Environmental Ethics
BIOL 342 (2) Introduction to Bioinformatics
BIOL 343 (4) Plant Taxonomy [Only if high demand—summers in Black Hills]
BIOL 345 (4) Disease Ecology
BIOL 347 (4) Evolutionary Biology
BIOL 348 (4) Marine Biology
BIOL 349 (4) Animal Behavior
BIOL 382 (4) Field Natural History [Summers in the Black Hills]
Study Abroad-ISDSI1 (4) Culture and Ecology of Andaman
ACCA2-Shedd Aquarium: Freshwater Ecology [Fall]
ACCA-Shedd Aquarium: Marine & Island Ecology of the Bahamas [Spring]                                 

Additional Electives (to complete the required 14 credit hour cluster elective requirement):
Choose courses from the clusters or from the following:
BIOL 304x (4) Bioethics
BIOL 372 (4) Field Zoology [only if high demand—summers in Black Hills]
BIOL 495 (2,4) Biological Research [Fall, Spring, Summer: pre-arrange with faculty member]
BIOL 496 (2, 4) Internship [Fall, Spring, Summer: pre-arrange with faculty member]
BIOL 497 (1) Biology Research Seminar [only if sufficient student demand]
Study Abroad-ISDSI (4) Sustainable Foods [also SIP]

16 hours of Supporting Courses:
A student majoring in biology is required to develop a sound understanding of chemical processes; this requirement is fulfilled in one of two ways: (1) by completion of CHEM 231, CHEM 232, and CHEM 341 and CHEM 342; or (2) by completion of CHEM 231, CHEM 232, CHEM 241, and an additional four credit hours in 1-2 natural sciences course(s) that are not Scientific Issues & Perspectives (SIP) or Advanced Integrative Seminar (AIS) courses.

Medical, Dental and Health Professions:
Biology majors interested in medical, dental and other health professions must meet specific requirements of the professional schools to which they apply. See these requirements and recommendations by the Health Professions Office. Please also talk to your Biology Major Advisor for guidance.

Biology Major Requirements + Neuroscience Certificate
Requirements for a Neuroscience Certificate are 24 credit hours. The Neuroscience Certificate requirements include 8 hours core courses + 16 hours electives (includes up to 8 hours Biology courses). 

Neuroscience Core courses (8 hours)
BIOL 336 (4) Neurobiology or NEUR 241 (4) Foundations of Neuroscience
NEUR 369 (2) Neuroscience Collaborative Research
NEUR 494 (2) Neuroscience Capstone

Electives (16 hours; at least 2 disciplines)
Up to 8 hours from these Biology courses:
BIOL 322 (4) Advanced Cellular and Developmental Biology (Cellular and Molecular Biology cluster course)
BIOL 331 (4) Human Anatomy & Physiology I (Organismal Biology and Physiology cluster course)
BIOL 336 (4) Neurobiology (Organismal Biology and Physiology cluster course) (cannot count as required too)
BIOL 356 (4) Genetics (a Biology core required course)

At least 8 hours from these courses outside the Biology student’s major:
AHS 351 (4) Human Anatomy
AHS 361 (4) Integrative Human Physiology
AHS 452 (4) Applied Physiology
CHEM 461 (4) General Biochemistry             
CHEM 462 (2) Advanced Biochemistry
CFM 459 (4) Spiritual Formation and the Brain
PHIL 341 (4) Nature of Persons
PSYC 343 (4) Sensation & Perception
PSYC 345 (4) Learning
PSYC 351 (4) Cognition
PSYC 371 (2) Intro to Psychopharmacology

*Biology faculty are prepared to advise students regarding courses that will best prepare them for graduate programs, health professions, or other career objectives.

Requirements for a Minor in Biology are 20 hours, including BIOL 241, BIOL 242, and BIOL 243. The additional 8 hours must include at least 4 credit hours at the 300-level. Unless accepted for the major, Biology General Education classes do not count toward a minor.  

Cross-referenced courses cannot be used for the minor in Biology and cannot be counted toward a Biology major if they are included in the major or minor program of another department.

Students may register for biology elective credit in courses within cooperative programs such as those offered by the Associated Colleges of the Chicago Area (ACCA), and listings of courses at the Morton Arboretum and/or the Shedd Aquarium.

Requirements for teacher licensure by the State of Illinois in biology are listed here.

A Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program is available with a Biology major. A combined Bachelor’s/M.A.T. program may be completed in five years and one summer. This combined Bachelor's and Master's program is only available to currently enrolled students. See the Education section for further details.

View the Course Catalog with descriptions of Biology Department Courses.

Note: Course offerings are subject to change based on faculty availability, class enrollment, or other unforeseen circumstances.