Biology Major (B.S.)

Biology Major (B.S.)

MEFB Students going to Saywer Pond with Canoe

What is biology?

Biology is the study of living organisms, including microbes, plants and animals, and the way in which they interact with one another and their environment. Core courses in this degree program give students a foundation in subjects such as evolution, biodiversity, ecology, molecular and cellular biology, microbiology, and the principles of genetics. The biology major prepares students for jobs in a wide range of competitive fields, as well as for further studies in graduate, medical or veterinary schools.

Why study biology at UNH?

The biology major combines a challenging laboratory curriculum and engaging fieldwork with courses that capture the diversity of nature’s biological systems. UNH’s state-of-the-art facilities and location close to the New Hampshire Seacoast, Lakes Region and White Mountain National Forest provide a wide range of dynamic, hands-on research opportunities. Students are strongly encouraged to work closely with faculty in both the classroom and laboratory, and to participate in research projects related to freshwater, estuarine and marine biology, physiology, neurobiology and behavior, genetics and behavior ecology, biology education, tissue culture, and biodiversity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Potential career areas

  • Administration/management in biology fields
  • Biotechnology companies
  • Educational institutions
  • Environmental conservation organizations
  • Environmental consulting
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Research hospitals and medical centers
  • Science writing
  • State and federal agencies


University of New Hampshire
Spaulding Hall
38 Academic Way
Durham, NH 03824

  • A Goodbye, a Surprise Hello and an Unexpected Honor
    In May, botanical sciences professor Alan (Al) Baker retired after 47 years at UNH, and the department of biological sciences threw Baker a retirement party that included a surprise guest.
    A Goodbye, a Surprise Hello and an Unexpected Honor
    In May, botanical sciences professor Alan (Al) Baker retired after 47 years at UNH, and the department of biological sciences threw Baker a retirement party that included a surprise guest.
  • Leading and Teaching By Example
    This August, Piper Bartlett-Browne, who graduated from UNH in 2009 with a degree in biology, will be heading to Nome, Alaska, where she’ll spend three weeks collecting climate change data in the Bering and Chukchi Seas as a part of the PolarTREC...
    Leading and Teaching By Example
    This August, Piper Bartlett-Browne, who graduated from UNH in 2009 with a degree in biology, will be heading to Nome, Alaska, where she’ll spend three weeks collecting climate change data in the Bering and Chukchi Seas as a part of the PolarTREC...
  • Curiosity Keeps Runner on the Move
    Ryan Spelman ’20 came to UNH with a deep curiosity for the world around him and a desire to study science.
    Curiosity Keeps Runner on the Move
    Ryan Spelman ’20 came to UNH with a deep curiosity for the world around him and a desire to study science.

Curriculum & Requirements

Biology is one of the most popular science majors since it provides a broad background in the biological sciences while allowing flexibility and specialization within the major. It integrates theoretical and practical (hands-on laboratory and field work) courses in different aspects of the biology of multi cellular life. It encompasses the study of structural and functional relationships of living organisms at the molecular, cellular, and organismal level, the interactions of living systems with the environment and with each other, and the evolutionary relationships of life. Our goal is to create an environment for those with a scholarly interest in the biological sciences, and to extend their understanding, awareness, and appreciation of the diversity inherent in the biological sciences. Our major is aimed at promoting an excellent education in biological sciences by involving undergraduate students in a strong interaction with faculty both in the classroom and in research laboratories.

The biology major prepares students for post graduate degrees in the biological and medical fields, and for job opportunities in industry (environmental, biomedical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnological) and governmental research, and secondary school teaching. Completion of the four-year undergraduate program plus a fifth-year internship will be necessary for biology teaching certification. Students who plan to enter medical, dental, or related professional schools are advised to confer with their faculty adviser to work the requirements for these programs into their academic majors.

Core courses in the biology major are from departments that contribute to the biological sciences community at UNH. The core curriculum consists of introductory and upper-level science courses plus seven additional courses in the biological sciences; three of these must be selected from course lists in three broad categories.

While students are advised to declare the biology major as incoming first-year students to assure adequate program planning, transfer into this major at a later stage is also possible. Several of the other biological science majors share the same biology core curriculum. For the first to two years, it is quite easy to change to or from these other majors.

Biology Core Curriculum

The biology courses in the core curriculum constitute an integrated sequence that train students in the basic skills and concepts of knowledge inherent in the biological sciences. The biology core allows a student to obtain a broad background in biology, and in the related physical sciences and math that provide a foundation for success in understanding biological principals.

Core Curriculum Courses
BIOL 400Professional Perspectives on Biology 11
BIOL 412Introductory Biology: Evolution, Biodiversity and Ecology4
BIOL 411Introductory Biology: Molecular and Cellular4
BIOL 541Ecology4
BMS 503
BMS 504
General Microbiology
and General Microbiology Laboratory
GEN 604Principles of Genetics4
CHEM 403
CHEM 404
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
MATH 424BCalculus for Life Sciences4
or MATH 425 Calculus I
BIOL 528Applied Biostatistics I4
PHYS 401
PHYS 402
Introduction to Physics I
and Introduction to Physics II
CHEM 545
CHEM 546
Organic Chemistry
and Organic Chemistry Laboratory 2
BMCB 658
BMCB 659
General Biochemistry
and General Biochemistry Lab
Total Credits56

Biology Electives

In addition to the biology core curriculum, students must complete seven biology elective courses. One course must be taken from each of the three categories/disciplines; the other four electives can be chosen from the category lists or can be any other biological sciences course with approval of the student's adviser. At least two of these must be courses with labs. The last four courses must be 500-level or above.There must be one animal-identified course (A) and one plant-identified course (P). One capstone experience, supervised and approved within the major, is required of all seniors. The capstone requirement is completed in the senior year, and may be satisfied by a course (C), created work or product, or some form of experiential learning (e.g., honors thesis, mentored research project, and other special student activity). A complete list of approved courses in each category/discipline is available from the student's adviser, the Department of Biological Sciences office, and the biology website at Corequisite lecture and lab courses count as one course.

Category 1: Form and Function (Morphology, Anatomy and Physiology)
ANSC 511Anatomy and Physiology (A)4
ANSC 512Anatomy and Physiology (A)4
ANSC 701Physiology of Reproduction (A)4
BIOL 701Plant Physiology (P)4
BIOL 702Lab Techniques in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry (P, C)4
BMS 507Human Anatomy and Physiology I (A)4
BMS 508Human Anatomy and Physiology II (A)4
BMS 702Endocrinology4
NR 625Physiological Ecology4
BMS 718Mammalian Physiology (A)4
ZOOL 518Vertebrate Morphology (A)5
ZOOL 625Principles of Animal Physiology (A, ZOOL 626 Lab optional)3
ZOOL 773Physiology of Fish (A)4
ZOOL 777Neuroethology: The Neural Basis of Animal Behavior3
MEFB 754Anatomy and Function of Marine Vertebrates (SML, A)4
Category 2: Genetics/Development (including molecular biology and bioinformatics)
ANSC 612Genetics of Domestic Animals (A)4
BMCB 605Principles of Cell Biology4
GEN 704Genetics of Prokaryotic Microbes5
GEN 705Population Genetics3
GEN 706Human Genetics (A)4
GEN 711Genomics and Bioinformatics4
GEN 771Molecular Genetics4
GEN 772Evolutionary Genetics of Plants (P, C)4
GEN 774Techniques in Plant Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (P, C)4
ZOOL 529Developmental Biology (A)4
ZOOL 736Genes and Behavior (A, C)4
Category 3: Evolution, Ecology and Biodiversity (including population biology)
BIOL 510Mushrooms, Molds, and Mildews: Introduction to the Fungal Kingdom4
BIOL 550Mushroom Madness3
BIOL 566Systematic Botany (P)4
BIOL 601Biology and Ecology of Plants (P)4
BIOL 704Plant-Microbe Interactions (P)3
BIOL 720Plant-Animal Interactions (P)4
BIOL 752New England Mushrooms: a Field and Lab Exploration4
GEN 715Molecular Evolution4
MEFB 510Field Ornithology (SML, A)4
MEFB 530Evolution and Marine Diversity4
MEFB 625Introduction to Marine Botany (P)4
MEFB 630Biodiversity and Biology of Marine Invertebrates (SML, A)4
MEFB 674Ecology and Marine Environment (SML)4
MEFB 714Field Animal Behavior (SML, A, C)4
MEFB 717Lake Ecology4
MEFB 725Marine Ecology (C)4
MEFB 747Aquatic Plants in Restoration/Management (P)4
NR 506Forest Entomology (A)4
NR 642Introduction to Biogeography4
NR 660Ecology and Biogeography of New Zealand5
NR 663Applied Directed Research in New Zealand (C)4
NR 712Mammalogy (A)4
NR 713Quantitative Ecology4
NR 765Community Ecology4
ZOOL 542Ornithology (A)4
ZOOL 555Introduction to Entomology4
ZOOL 613Animal Behavior (A)5
ZOOL 628Marine Invertebrate Evolution and Ecology (A)5
ZOOL 690Evolution (C)4
ZOOL 708Stream Ecology4
ZOOL 710Elasmobranchs and Bony Fishes (A)4
ZOOL 733Behavioral Ecology (A, C)4
Other Elective Options
BIOL 633Data Analysis for Life Science4
BIOL 675Medical Botany4
BIOL 700Current and Controversial Issues in Biology4
BIOL 711Experimental Design & Analysis4
BMCB 753Cell Culture5
BMS 602
BMS 603
Pathogenic Microbiology
and Pathogenic Microbiology Laboratory
BMS 655Human and Animal Parasites (A)3
BMS 703Infectious Disease and Health4
BMS 706
BMS 708
and Virology Laboratory
BMS 711Toxicology4
HMP 501Epidemiology and Community Medicine4
MEFB 631Ecotoxicology and Quantitative Reasoning4
NSB 727Animal Communication (A)4
NSB 728Research Methods in Animal Behavior (A)4
PSYC 531Psychobiology4
SAFS 651Plant Pathology (P)4
ZOOL 610Principles of Aquaculture4
ZOOL 726Conservation Behavior4
ZOOL 750Biological Oceanography4

Note: It is strongly recommended that students participate in an exchange semester at another university, or in a field-oriented program or internship. There are many exchange opportunities available in which a full semester of credits toward the major may be earned.It is further recommended that students explore possibilities of one or more semesters of independent investigation (research projects). For details, students should contact their adviser. Financial support is available for most of these programs. In addition, students can explore the courses at the Shoals Marine Laboratory (SML), which provides an excellent setting for several "field-oriented" courses during the summer. Often there is financial support available for the SML programs. (See the SML website at or the Cornell website at for details.)

One 600, 695, 795, or 796 experience totaling three or more credits or any two 795-796 experiences of two credits each can fulfill one course requirement in any category with adviser approval. A Petition for Academic Variance approved by the chair of the Department of Biological Sciences is required to count 795-796 experiences for more than one major-required course. Students should check the biology website and the UNH online catalog for updates and current course offerings.

Academic Requirements
To receive the B.S. degree in biology, students must complete 128 credit hours with at least a 2.0 cumulative grade-point average for completion of the degree. All UNH Discovery Program requirements, biology core curriculum requirements, plus seven additional courses from the biological sciences, and a capstone experience or course must be taken. The capstone explores areas of interest based on the integration of prior learning. Departments are responsible for certifying that graduating seniors have met the capstone requirement for their majors. A minimum grade of C- is required in all biological science courses that are counted toward the requirements for a degree in biology. Students who expect to compete successfully for post-baccalaureate programs should attain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher by the end of the sophomore year and maintain it at that level.

Explore Program Details

The Capstone must be taken during the senior year, or after 90 credits have been taken.

Capstone Experience List

Why attend the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture at UNH?

If you are interested in using science to make a difference in the world - through Biotechnology, Genetics, Genomics & Bioinformatics, Ecology, Marine Sciences, and many other fields - make UNH your living laboratory. A land-grant, sea-grant, and space grant university, we're raising a new generation of scientists. As you'll discover, our top-notch faculty places no limits on your growth and accomplishments. This is your opportunity to acquire skills and knowledge in a particular area; joining close-knit groups of students and faculty who love a subject; and preparing yourself for a lifetime of growth and learning. It all begins with Biology. The core biology sequence at the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture was developed to provide you with a solid grounding in the physical, quantitative, and biological sciences. The core satisfies the basic science requirements for all biological sciences, so you gain the flexibility to explore a wide range of subjects before choosing one that best meets your interests.

When people talk about the sciences, they often talk about developments on the cutting edge. Welcome to the edge. At UNH, you can develop an impressive array of skills and understanding of powerful new technologies, regardless of what field you study. You will explore the life sciences in a detail that would impress even those giants of science on whose shoulders we stand today.

UNH labs are research powerhouses and our scientists are among the nation’s best. The Institute for Scientific Information ranked UNH among such “high impact” universities as Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, and Carnegie Mellon.

Does the program include internships or field experiences?

These experiences are plentiful in the Biology program. Internships can take place anywhere, for example, in a business, a research facility, or a wildlife refuge. Students engaged in career-oriented work experiences may earn academic credit through a faculty sponsor associated with their department. Also, UNH and Cornell University offer a summer field program in marine sciences on Appledore Island of the Isles of Shoals. Undergraduate courses introduce students to a broad array of marine sciences, including oceanography, marine biology, fisheries, and marine resources.

How about research opportunities?

We want research to play an important role in your intellectual development. Not someone else’s research, but your research. Programs such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program allow undergraduates to experience the thrill of designing their own research projects, collaborating with faculty experts and presenting their research in a public forum. Students conduct research year-round, as freshmen and seniors, on campus and off, and even abroad.

Are there also service learning opportunities?

Service learning is a process that actively engages students in authentic, community-based problem solving as an integral component of the academic curriculum. The biological sciences faculty actively participate in service-learning activities in the community to help students understand “real-life” problems. Your college education is not confined to classrooms, laboratories and the library, but is the sum of a broad array of experiences.

What if I am not sure about the Biology major?

A first-year student can enter the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture as an Undeclared student. A first-year Undeclared student takes the same courses as the Biology majors. In the fall semester – LSA 400BIOL 411CHEM 403 – in the spring semester – BIOL 412CHEM 404, and MATH 424B. As you can see, it is extremely easy to enter any one of our Biological Sciences degree programs and not be behind.

What do I major in if I want to do Pre-med?

You can major in any field of study here at UNH. Pre-med is a program with a certain set of courses that must be taken before entering Medical school. The majority of the pre-med bound students major in General Biology, as the requirements are the same for the Biology degree as they are for pre-med.

What are the opportunities for advanced study?

UNH’s Graduate School offers 14 Master of Science program in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture along with 7 Ph.D. programs. The B.S. degree in Biology would prepare you adequately enough for any of these programs of study.

Who will be teaching the classes that I will be in?

Full time faculty members teach all lecture sections in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture. Graduate Teaching Assistants participate and set up the laboratory experiences for the various faculty members.

Welcome! Incoming Freshman pursuing the Biology Major.

The transition from high school to college can be intimidating and overwhelming. There are many activities available for your participation, while the challenges of academic success should be paramount. Balance is critical. Guidance can be provided through conversations with your classmates or your advisor, but often just “knowing” how things are done or what you could do comes with time. Particularly useful are links available at the UNH website found by googling “what I wish I knew as an incoming freshman.” Some opportunities, such as pre-Orientation programs (Marine Immersion, Connect, NH Outing Club) can be found at the Office of First-Year Programs website (, which are given before classes start.

On to Academics! When people talk about Biology, they often talk about developments on the cutting edge. WELCOME TO THE EDGE! The Biology Core Course Sequence provides a solid grounding in the physical, quantitative, and biological sciences. –This sequence allows you to successfully transition into many of the other majors in the broad area of biological sciences, as well as provide the appropriate background courses for those interested in the biomedical/pre-professional sciences.

Q: How large are the classes?
The lectures in the biology core curriculum are medium-sized. However, our labs have no more than 24 students. Small laboratory sections are taught by faculty and/or graduate teaching assistants and include all students in the design and testing of scientific hypotheses based on data obtained in the field and lab. These laboratory experiences involve students in an exploration of an objective scientific process as scientists.

Q: Are the lectures in the Biological Sciences taught by Graduate Students?
A: NO! Our faculty members teach you from the introductory through the advanced levels.

Q: Will I be assigned an academic advisor?
A: YES! We have faculty members in the Biological Sciences who are involved with advising Biology majors.

Your faculty advisor will:

  • Advise and recommend appropriate courses while expecting you to become involved in choosing your background courses in biology.
  • Meet with you at least twice a year before registration, and you will be able to request additional meetings throughout the semester.
  • Recommend the best order to take courses in, always considering students' interests and needs. This "order" can vary.
  • Advise and recommend procedures for the Biology Honors in Major degree.
  • Advise students on how to get involved in research in laboratories or fieldwork across campus.
  • Suggest options available through CFAR (Center For Academic Resources) for students that are struggling with courses.

Q: Will my Biology degree help me find a career in Science?
Yes. Many of our Bachelor of Science degree graduates go on to professional schools (medical, dental, optometry, veterinary, etc.), graduate schools, laboratories, consulting, state and federal agencies, and science teaching, in New England and throughout the United States.

Q: Will I be able to work with faculty in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture?
A: All faculty in the Biological Sciences are active researchers, publishing in major national and international scientific journals. Grant support has led to hundreds of major publications by our Biological Sciences faculty over the past ten years. Every faculty member welcomes undergraduate participation in this research -- this research is done through our Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program at UNH. Students can participate in these unique laboratory/research experiences as early as their sophomore year. Undergraduates have access to state-of-the-art equipment and techniques. These projects often result in our students being a co-author on a scientific paper or papers.

Could I transfer into the Biology Major from another major at another school?
Yes, provided that you meet the academic qualifications for the University of New Hampshire and if we have openings in the Biology Major. Class sizes are kept at a certain level so that students do not experience course access problems.

How many credits will UNH take?
If you are transferring from an accredited school, UNH will transfer in a maximum of 96 credit hours.

When can I apply?
You need to submit your transfer application by March 1st for September admission and by November 1st for January admission.

How can I find out which courses satisfy the Biology major requirements as well as the University's Discovery Requirements?
The initial evaluation of transfer courses and credit is made by the Admissions Office. Transfer credit is awarded for courses that are completed with a grade of "C" or better and are equivalent to courses offered at the University. Semester credits and course units are accepted at the value placed on each course by the sending institution. Quarter hour credits are converted to the semester hour according to the formula: One quarter hour equals 2/3 semester hour (1 Q.H. = 2/3 S.H.). Transferred courses that can be used to satisfy Discovery Program requirements are determined by the Admissions Office. Your advisor will determine which courses meet major program requirements. Courses that are not chosen to meet Discovery or Biology Major requirements will be applied toward meeting the 128 credits needed for graduation.

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