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
  • EcoQuest
    Hands-on environmental studies for U.S. students
    Ecology, sustainability, and environmental science were the focus of a special visit by EcoQuest’s international students to the Ramsar wetland at Pūkorokoro Miranda on 28 October 2022.
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  • Assistant Professor Easton White
    From First-Gen College Student to Accomplished Scientist and Professor
    Easton White is an assistant professor in COLSA’s department of biological sciences, and he runs the Quantitative Marine Ecology Lab.
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  • UNH student Nathaniel Lemai '24
    Jumping In & Helping Out
    Nathaniel Lemai is a biology major from Hampton, New Hampshire.
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  • UNH Thompson Hall
    Dept. Faculty Offer Cheers and Good Wishes
    The Department of Biological Sciences wants to make sure all its 2020 graduates know that the faculty are thinking of them as they celebrate their achievements and look forward to what's next.
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  • UNH Professor Bonnie Brown Graduates from LEAD21
    Bonnie Brown, Amy Papineau Graduate from LEAD21
    Bonnie Brown and Amy Papineau were among the 90 professionals from the nation's land-grant system who recently completed the LEAD21 leadership development program.
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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 multicellular 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.

Degree Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement: 128 credits
Minimum Residency Requirement: 32 credits must be taken at UNH
Minimum GPA: 2.0 required for conferral*
Core Curriculum Required: Discovery & Writing Program Requirements
Foreign Language Requirement: No

All Major, Option and Elective Requirements as indicated.
*Major GPA requirements as indicated.

Major Requirements

The biology courses in the core curriculum constitute an integrated sequence that train students in the basic skills and concepts of knowledge inherent to 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.

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. 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.

Core Curriculum Courses
BIOL 400Professional Perspectives on Biology 11
BIOL 412Introductory Biology: Evolution, Biodiversity and Ecology4
BIOL 411Introductory Biology: Molecular and Cellular4
BMS 503
BMS 504
General Microbiology
and General Microbiology Laboratory
BIOL 541WEcology0 or 4
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 658AGeneral Biochemistry3
BIOL 780Capstone Companion Course1
Total Credits51-55

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. All courses must be 500-level or above. There must be one animal-identified course (A) and one plant/fungal/algae course (FP). One capstone experience is required of all seniors; see subsequent section on capstones for detailed requirements. 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 (FP)4
BIOL 709Plant Stress Physiology (FP)3
BMS 507Human Anatomy and Physiology I (A)4
BMS 508Human Anatomy and Physiology II (A)4
BMS 702Endocrinology (A)4
BMS 718Mammalian Physiology (A)4
MEFB 628Marine Invertebrate Evolution and Ecology (A)5
NR #625Physiological Ecology4
ZOOL 518Comparative Morphology and Biology of Vertebrates (A)4
ZOOL 625Principles of Animal Physiology (A, ZOOL 626 Lab optional)3
ZOOL 777WNeuroethology (A, C)4
MEFB 773Physiology of Fishes (A)4
MEFB 754Anatomy and Function of Marine Vertebrates (SML, A)4
Category 2: Genetics/Development (including molecular biology and bioinformatics)
ANSC 612Genetics of Animals (A)4
BMCB 605Principles of Cell Biology4
GEN 704Genetics of Prokaryotic Microbes5
GEN 705Population Genetics (GEN 725 lab optional)3
GEN 706Human Genetics (A)4
GEN 711Genomics and Bioinformatics4
GEN 721Comparative Genomics4
GEN 771Molecular Genetics4
GEN 772Evolutionary Genetics of Plants (FP)4
GEN 774Techniques in Plant Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (FP)4
NSB 705Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology (A, 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 Kingdom (FP)4
BIOL #550Mushroom Madness (FP)3
BIOL 566Systematic Botany (FP)4
BIOL 601Biology and Ecology of Plants (FP)4
BIOL 704Plant-Microbe Interactions (FP)3
BIOL 720Plant-Animal Interactions (FP, C)4
BIOL 752New England Mushrooms: a Field and Lab Exploration (FP)4
GEN 715Molecular Evolution4
MEFB 503Introduction to Marine Biology4
MEFB 510Field Ornithology (SML, A)4
MEFB 530Evolution and Marine Diversity (SML)4
MEFB 625Introduction to Marine Botany (FP)5
MEFB #630Biodiversity and Biology of Marine Invertebrates (SML, A)4
MEFB 674Ecology and Marine Environment (SML)4
MEFB 714Field Animal Behavior (SML, A)4
MEFB 717Lake Ecology4
MEFB 725Marine Ecology4
MEFB 747Aquatic Plants in Restoration/Management (FP, C)4
NR 506Forest Entomology (A)4
MEFB 772Fisheries Biology: Conservation and Management (A)4
NR 642Introduction to Biogeography4
NR 660Ecology and Biogeography of New Zealand5
NR 663Applied Directed Research in New Zealand4
NR 712Mammalogy (A)4
NR 713Quantitative Ecology4
NR #765Community Ecology4
SAFS 651Plant Pathology (FP)4
ZOOL 542Ornithology (A)4
ZOOL 555Introduction to Entomology (A)4
ZOOL 566Herpetology (A)4
ZOOL 613WAnimal Behavior5
ZOOL 690Evolution4
ZOOL 708Stream Ecology4
ZOOL 710Sharks and Bony Fishes (A)4
ZOOL 726Conservation Behavior (A)4
ZOOL 733WBehavioral Ecology0 or 4
ZOOL 740Acoustic Ecology4
Other Elective Options
BIOL 600Field Experience 31-4
BIOL 633Data Analysis for Life Science4
BIOL #675Medical Botany (FP)4
BIOL 695Biology Teaching Practices 31-4
BIOL 700Current and Controversial Issues in Biology (C)4
BIOL 706Data Science with R for the Life Sciences4
BIOL 711Experimental Design & Analysis4
BIOL 770Senior Seminar in Biology (C)2
BIOL 795Independent Investigations in Biology 31-4
BIOL 799HHonors Senior Thesis2-8
BMCB 753Cell Culture5
BMCB 760Pharmacology4
BMCB 763Biochemistry of Cancer4
BMS 602
BMS 603
Pathogenic Microbiology
and Pathogenic Microbiology Laboratory
BMS 655Human and Animal Parasites (A)3
BMS 703Infectious Disease and Health4
BMS 704Pathologic Basis of Disease4
BMS 705Immunology (BMS 715 optional lab)3
BMS 706
BMS 708
and Virology Laboratory
BMS 711Toxicology4
GEN 717Molecular Microbiology5
HMP 501Epidemiology and Community Medicine4
MEFB 631Ecotoxicology and Quantitative Reasoning4
MEFB 741Sharks: Biology and Conservation (A)4
MEFB 755Biological Oceanography (C)3
NR 508Communicating Science4
NSB 727Animal Communication (A, C)4
NSB #728Research Methods in Animal Behavior (A)4
PSYC 531Psychobiology4
PSYC 716Cognitive Neuroscience4
PSYC 731Brain and Behavior4
PSYC 733Drugs and Behavior4
PSYC 737Behavioral Medicine4
SAFS 651Plant Pathology (P)4
TECH 797Undergraduate Ocean Research Project (A, C) 42
ZOOL 610Principles of Aquaculture4

BIOL 400 Professional Perspectives on Biology is required only for first-year biology majors.


Students exploring pre-health professions should take a full year of Organic Chemistry (CHEM 651/CHEM 653 and CHEM 652/CHEM 654).


A 600, 695, 795, or 799 experience may substitute for one elective with academic advisor approval, but only if taken for at least four credits. These four credits may be spread over multiple semesters if they are consecutive and with the same faculty mentor.


This class requires enrollment in both fall and spring sections, 2 credits/semester for a total of 4 credits.

A 600, 695, 795, or 799 experience may substitute for one elective in any category with academic advisor approval, but only if taken for at least four credits. These four credits may be spread over multiple semesters if they are consecutive and with the same faculty mentor.

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.)

Capstone Experience

As part of the University of New Hampshire’s Discovery Program requirements, all students must complete a capstone experience during their senior year (after earning at least 90 credits). The capstone experience for students majoring in Biology consists of BOTH (1) an approved individual experience AND (2) the successful completion of the BIOL 780 Capstone Companion Course. Students will not be approved for graduation until capstone certification has been granted.

1) The individual experience

The individual experience may be satisfied through various forms of experiential learning (e.g., Honors thesis, mentored research project, internship) or a course denoted with a “(C)” in the courses listed above. The individual experience must fulfill at least one of the University’s capstone criteria:

  • synthesizes and applies disciplinary knowledge and skills
  • fosters reflection on undergraduate learning and experience
  • demonstrates emerging professional competencies
  • applies, analyzes, and/or interprets research, data, or artistic expression
  • explores areas of interest based on the integration of the prior learning

Before beginning any capstone individual experience, students MUST SUBMIT A COMPLETED CAPSTONE APPROVAL FORM to their Program Coordinator.

Students can obtain this form on the Department's Capstone page or from their Program Coordinator. Here they will describe their proposed individual experience and how it fulfills at least one of the University’s capstone criteria listed above. If the student is selecting a “C” course for their individual experience, they should obtain the course syllabus from the instructor for information about the course’s content and learning objectives.

2) Enrollment in BIOL 780

Students will also be required to enroll in BIOL 780 Capstone Companion Course (1 cr.) during the semester of their individual experience. BIOL 780 is offered every Fall and Spring semester.

  • If the individual experience is a two-semester thesis, BIOL 780 should be taken during the second semester.
  • If the individual experience occurs during the summer (e.g., internship), BIOL 780 should be taken during the Fall semester that immediately follows.
  • Note: Because BIOL 780 is not offered during the summer, students cannot complete their individual experience during the summer and graduate during that same August. Summer experiences could only be used as individual capstone experiences if completed the summer before the student’s senior year.

  • Students demonstrate that they understand basic principles of biology. Demonstrate a fundamental understanding of the relationships between structure, function, and process at the level of molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. Describe the principles and mechanisms of organismal evolution and genetics as the central unifying and explanatory concepts of biology. Explain the relationship between organisms and their physical, chemical, and biological environments. Explain what biodiversity is, its value in ecosystems, and the need for its conservation.
  • Students demonstrate that they can undertake scientifically valid methods of inquiry. Demonstrate proficiency in searching, reading, and understanding scientific literature. Apply the scientific process, including the framework of initiation, designing, and conducting experiments, and the appropriate analysis and discussion based on the data gathered. Exhibit technical skills in the use of appropriate laboratory and field techniques commonly used in biology.
  • Students demonstrate that they can think critically and analytically. Demonstrate an ability to critically and objectively evaluate data, develop hypotheses, interpret and or design biological experiments and studies.
  • Students demonstrate that they can communicate effectively. Communicate scientific material effectively in written and oral formats.
  • Students practice science responsibly and ethically, and acknowledge the influence of cultural and historical biases in the sciences.

Explore Program Details

Does the Biology 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 400, BIOL 411, CHEM 403 – in the spring semester – BIOL 412, CHEM 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. Most of the pre-med bound students major in 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 masters of science programs in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture along with seven 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 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.

As part of the University of New Hampshire’s Discovery Program requirements, all students must complete a capstone experience during their senior year (after earning at least 90 credits).  

For students in catalog years AY 20-21 and earlier, the following is a list of capstone options and the capstone designation form:
Capstone Designation Form

For students in catalog years AY 21-22 and later, the capstone requirements have changed.   Learn More

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