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Biological Sciences Major

Improving lives, through the science of life

At Cornell, students can choose to study Biological Sciences through The College of Agriculture & Life Sciences or The College of Arts & Sciences. Both programs will offer the same core curriculum and the opportunity for you to excel in your chosen field, but it is important you understand the differences between them. Students tailor their individual academic goals with their biology concentration, and specific courses to meet requirements.

Major in Biological Science

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Biology students are broadly educated in chemistry, physics and mathematics while developing an excellent foundation in biology from our entry-level biology courses and more advanced courses in genetics and biochemistry.

At Cornell, you have the opportunity to study and research in almost any aspect of the biological sciences. Our program in the Biological Sciences is composed of faculty members from the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Arts and Sciences and Veterinary Medicine. The size of the program and the diversity of the faculty's teaching and research interests are reflected in more than 380 biology course offerings and in the design of our 14 major concentrations and overall flexibility of the undergraduate curriculum.

CALS seeks students who maintain a rigorous high school curriculum and demonstrate an outstanding record of academic achievement.

  • 4 Units of English
  • 4 Units of Mathematics (including calculus)
  • 3 Units of Science (biology, chemistry and physics)
  • Also recommended: an additional unit of science

BIOMI 3210 – Human Microbes and Health

The human body is coated with microbes outnumbering “our own” cells 10 to 1, providing us with capacities we have not had to evolve on our own. This course will introduce the microbes of the human body, discuss their origins, adaptations to the body, molecular interactions and associations with health and disease.

BIONB 3950 – Molecular and Genetic Approaches to Neuroscience

Focuses on how different molecular and genetic approaches have led to major advances in neuroscience. Lectures, student presentations and discussions examine original research articles. Topics include ligand-gated channels, potassium channels, seven membrane spanning receptors, development of the neuromuscular junction, neurotransmitter release, learning and memory, neurodiseases and optogenetics.

BIOEE 2650 – Tropical Field Ecology and Behavior

Gives students a broad hands-on understanding of tropical biology, ecology and behavioral ecology. Students gain experience with experimental design and data collection, field methods, basic statistics, interpretation and evaluation of primary scientific literature and scientific paper writing.

BIOMG 4450 – Stem Cell Biology: Basic Science and Clinical Applications

This course will cover basic aspects of tissue morphogenesis and homeostasis with emphasis on the biological role of embryonic and adult stem cells in development, and their possible clinical applications. The focus will be placed on mouse and human stem cells. The discussion will be structured around relevant research papers that allow more in-depth analysis of the material taught during lectures.

  • Animal Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Biodiversity and Systematics
  • Computational Biology
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • General Biology
  • Genetics, Genomics, and Development
  • Human Nutrition
  • Insect Biology
  • Marine Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Neurobiology and Behavior
  • Plant Biology

•     Explain the basic structures and fundamental processes of life over a range of levels of organization within the full scope of biology from molecules to ecosystems, integrated with the basic principles of inheritance and evolution.

•     Apply quantitative reasoning and basic principles from the physical sciences to thinking about biology.

•     Explain principles by which hypotheses can be evaluated scientifically using examples of observations and experiments that have shaped biological thought.

•     Explain, evaluate, and effectively interpret claims, theories, and assumptions in the biological sciences, including those presented in the scientific literature.

•     Communicate scientific arguments and ideas clearly and explicitly through writing and speech.

•     Demonstrate a deeper working knowledge of one or more biology disciplines (specific outcomes defined by the programs of study).

Minor in Biological Science

The minor in biological sciences has been designed to provide students with a broad background in biology while allowing them significant flexibility to choose courses of interest.  Students enrolled in any of Cornell’s seven undergraduate colleges may declare the minor.  

Transfer Student Admissions

Study the fundamentals of biology while concentrating on: animal physiology; biochemistry; biodiversity and systematics; computational biology; ecology & evolutionary biology; genetics & development; insect biology; marine biology; microbiology; molecular & cell biology; neurobiology & behavior; nutrition; and plant biology.

Academic Record

  • Strong academic record at the college level. In general, competitive applicants have at least a minimum GPA of 3.5.
  • CALS Required Coursework should be completed or in-progress with a “B” or better before applying.
  • The most competitive applicants are full-time students who have met the GPA and course requirements.

For transfers entering as sophomores or transfers with two full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at the time of application.

Required:

Strongly encouraged (but not required):

  • Organic Chemistry I & II
  • Physics I with labs

For transfers entering as juniors or transfers with four full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at the time of application.

Required:

Strongly encouraged (but not required):

  • Courses that meet the CALS social science and humanities requirements in Cultural Analysis, Historical Analysis, Knowledge, Cognition and Moral Reasoning, Literature and the Arts, Social and Behavioral Analysis and Foreign Language.

Biological Sciences at Cornell

At Cornell, students can major in Biological Science in CALS or in the College of Arts and Sciences. The major requirements for Biological Sciences are the same for both colleges, but courses taken outside of the major—known as distribution requirements—are different. Determine if studying Biological Sciences at CALS is the best fit for you:

  • Review the CALS Academic Experience section to learn more about what you will study as a CALS student, and our mission to tackle the complex challenges of our time through purpose-driven science.
  • Evaluate your interests and goals. If your interest in biology is focused on areas such as animal physiology, ecology, insect biology, marine biology, and plant biology, consider the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. CALS’ offerings in specialized life science majors (such as Animal ScienceEnvironmental Science and SustainabilityEntomology, and Plant Sciences) could enhance your study of general biology.

Careers in Biological Sciences

Gloved hand holding glass bottle.

Business

  • Medical affairs coordinator
  • Business analyst
  • Management consultant
  • Investment banking analyst
  • Healthcare consultant
  • Product management
  • Technology advisory consultant
  • Marketplace support specialist

Education

  • Public outreach assistant
  • Teaching fellow
  • Science teacher
  • Museum educator
  • Outdoor educator
  • Student life specialist

Food Industry

  • Winemaking assistant
  • Product developer
  • Marketing associate
  • Dairy contractor

Healthcare

  • Quality assurance
  • Research assistant
  • Flight paramedic
  • Medical case manager
  • Healthcare consulting analyst
  • Financial and operation management associate
  • Healthcare strategy associate
  • Global health associate
  • Public health advisor
  • Project manager
  • Clinical information manager
  • Disaster program specialist

Law/Legal Services

  • Chief compliance officer
  • Associate client services
  • Paralegal

Research

  • Research associate
  • Clinical research coordinator
  • Bioinformatics programmer
  • Associate scientist
  • Medical center laboratory manager
  • Pharmaceutical associate scientist
  • Academic research associate
  • Ornithology research assistant

Research Spotlight

Study of recently evolved facial-recognition abilities of the paper wasp

Assistant professor Michael Sheehan after being named the new NIH innovator.

Explore your opportunities

A CALS education goes beyond the classroom and gives students frequent opportunities to apply what they learn in real-world settings.