Foundation Biology Courses

Prospective majors in the biological sciences, as well as other students who would like a thorough introduction to biology, should take the BIOL 101–104 sequence, which provides a solid foundation in modern biological science. However, majors in biomedical engineering are only required to take BIOL 101 and 102. This sequence of four half-term, half-credit modules is offered jointly by the departments of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

BIOL 101–104 together make up a yearlong foundation to biology. However, each module is taught as a separate course for which students must register and receive a grade. The modules are to be taken in order. BIOL 101, Biochemistry and Biophysics, and BIOL 103, Genes and Development, are offered in the first half of both fall and spring terms; BIOL 102, Principles of Cell Biology and Membrane Physiology, and BIOL 104, Principles of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, are offered in the second half of both fall and spring terms. Each course covers a different area of biology and has its own instructor, as listed below. Please direct any questions about BIOL 101–104 to the course coordinators, Surjit Chandhoke or Samantha Lin.

  • BIOL 101, Biochemistry and Biophysics (Michael Koelle & Anthony Koleske)
  • BIOL 102, Principles of Cell Biology and Membrane Physiology (Mark Mooseker & Valerie Horsley)
  • BIOL 103, Genes and Development (Vivian Irish & Weimin Zhong)
  • BIOL 104, Principles of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (TBD & Michael Donoghue)

Students with advanced preparation from high school may be eligible to place out of one or more of these courses; see Special Programs, Placement and Preregistration: Biology for details.

Majors in the Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering

Yale offers three different undergraduate majors in the biological sciences and a major in biomedical engineering.

The biological sciences majors include Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (E&EB), Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry (MB&B), and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB). The distinctions between these majors reflect the types of biological systems analysis each represents: the analysis of whole organisms, populations, and ecosystems (E&EB); use of the tools of chemistry and physics to study life at the molecular level (MB&B); and molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, genetics, and neurobiology (MCDB). These approaches cover the vast breadth of disciplines in the biological sciences.

The foundational course work applicable to the three majors is similar, so students need not commit to a specific major during the freshman year. Most prospective majors begin study as freshmen of at least two subjects from among the basic science prerequisites of chemistry, biology, and mathematics. The specific combination and sequence of courses that best serve a given student’s needs depend on factors such as advanced placement and the student’s other academic and extracurricular commitments. It is therefore critically important for students to seek individualized advice from one of the directors of undergraduate studies or other departmental representatives about the selection of freshman-year science courses.

In addition, a Biomedical Engineering major is available for students interested in studying biological systems from the perspectives of the physical sciences and engineering. As in the other biological sciences majors, students need not commit in their first year, but should in most cases begin their preparation by taking courses in mathematics and in at least one of the basic sciences of biology, chemistry, or physics. The appropriate level and combination of courses will depend on each student’s preparation and interests, and students are urged to seek individualized advice before selecting fall-term courses.

See each program’s individual entry in this section for more information.