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Department Overview

106 Kincaid

Biology is the broadly based study of living organisms and has become an increasingly dynamic and wide-ranging discipline. It may be approached by focus on cell and molecular processes, development, organismal physiology and morphology, natural history, evolution, conservation, or ecology. The aim is to elucidate general principles applicable to many different sorts of organisms rather than to concentrate on any particular taxonomic group. Biology is often interdisciplinary in nature and may involve aspects of biochemistry, botany, genetics, microbiology, zoology, and many other natural sciences.

Undergraduate Program

318 Hitchcock, Box 355320

The Department of Biology offers the following programs of study:

  • The Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in biology.
  • The Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology. Students choose one of the following options: ecology, evolution, and conservation; general; molecular, cellular, and development; physiology; and plant.
  • A minor in paleobiology.

Designed for students desiring breadth of training, the Bachelor of Arts program does not require physics. Students do not select an emphasis, and hence have greater flexibility in upper-division biology electives.

The Bachelor of Science options are as follows:

  1. Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation. Emphasizes ecological and evolutionary processes and conservation biology. Relates these areas to systematics, the distribution and abundance of organisms, and environmental policy. Prepares students for graduate study in ecology and evolution, for professional schools that seek individuals with strong system-level approaches to problem solving, and for careers in natural resources and conservation.
  2. General. Emphasizes breadth of training in biology. This is the most flexible program and offers a greater variety of advanced electives than other options. Attractive to students desiring K-12 teaching credentials or who otherwise wish to tailor their degree to their needs.
  3. Molecular, Cellular, and Development. Designed for students who wish to pursue graduate studies in genetics, biochemistry, microbiology, cell biology, or developmental biology, as well as for candidates for professional schools such as medicine and dentistry.
  4. Physiology. Emphasizes physiological processes from the cellular to the organismal levels, and across all groups of organisms. An attractive option for students interested in graduate and professional fields in animal and human physiology, medicine, and veterinary sciences.
  5. Plant. Offers students both breadth and depth of training in the field of botany. Ideal for students desiring to enter graduate programs in botany or for those wishing to pursue careers in the plant biology or horticultural fields in state and federal agencies.

Each of the above bachelor's degree programs in the biological sciences can be combined with Washington State requirements to prepare students to teach biology in public schools at the secondary level. See the Biology Teaching Program adviser for specific requirements.

Bachelor of Arts

Suggested First- and Second-Year College Courses: Same as for the Bachelor of Science degree as described below, except no physics or third quarter of organic chemistry is required.

Department Admission Requirements

Same as for the Bachelor of Science degree as described below.

Major Requirements

87-98 credits

  1. BIOL 180, BIOL 200, BIOL 220; or BIOL 240 (15 credits)
  2. One of the following general and organic chemistry sequences (15-23 credits)
    1. CHEM 120, CHEM 220, CHEM 221
    2. CHEM 142 (or CHEM 143), CHEM 152 (or CHEM 153), CHEM 223, CHEM 224
    3. CHEM 142, CHEM 152, CHEM 162, CHEM 237, CHEM 238
    4. CHEM 143, CHEM 153, CHEM 237, CHEM 238
  3. Physics: not required
  4. One of the following calculus/statistics sequences (9-10 credits)
    1. MATH 124 and MATH 125
    2. Q SCI 291 and Q SCI 292
    3. Either BIOST 310, Q SCI 381 or STAT 311; Q SCI 482
    4. One approved calculus class and one approved statistics class; see adviser for approved lists.
  5. Genetics: either GENOME 361, GENOME 371, or BIOL 340/FISH 340 (3-5 credits)
  6. Natural history/biodiversity: one course selected from approved list (3 credits)
  7. 300- and 400-level courses, in addition to any 300-/400-level courses taken to fulfill requirements above. See department website for approved courses. (42 credits.)
  8. Minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA for courses applied toward major requirements

Bachelor of Science

Suggested First- and Second-Year Courses: Students should concentrate on general chemistry and mathematics the first year, biology and organic chemistry the second year (see major requirements for specific courses). Transfer students: complete an entire sequence at one school if possible. It is not necessary, or even desirable, to complete the Areas of Knowledge requirement during the first two years.

Department Admission Requirements

Application to the BA and BS degree programs is capacity constrained. Applications, accepted quarterly, are due the second Friday of autumn, winter, spring, and summer quarters, by 11:59 p.m. Applications received after the quarterly deadline are considered for the subsequent quarter.

Minimum requirements for consideration

  1. Matriculated student in good academic standing at UW Seattle.
  2. Minimum 2.0 grade in each of BIOL 180, BIOL 200, and BIOL 220; or in BIOL 240
  3. Minimum 2.50 cumulative GPA for any supporting chemistry, physics, mathematics, and biology courses (or other courses that may apply to major requirements) completed at time of application.
  4. Personal statement: May include description of interest in biology, career goals, undergraduate research interests, degree interest (BA or BS), and any other information applicant believes is useful in evaluating the application.

Meeting minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. Other factors include overall academic record and difficulty of other courses completed; time to degree set by UW Satisfactory Progress Policy, including frequency of incompletes or withdrawal grades and number of repeated courses; relevant work and life experience; and record of honors.

Major Requirements

87-104 credits for all options:

  1. BIOL 180, BIOL 200, BIOL 220; or BIOL 240 (15 credits)
  2. One of the following general and organic chemistry sequences:
    1. CHEM 120, CHEM 220, and CHEM 221
    2. CHEM 142 (or CHEM 143), CHEM 152 (or CHEM 153), CHEM 223, CHEM 224
    3. CHEM 142, CHEM 152, CHEM 162, CHEM 237, CHEM 238, CHEM 239
    4. CHEM 143, CHEM 153, CHEM 237, CHEM 238, CHEM 239
  3. One of the following two-quarter sequences of mathematics (calculus/statistics):
    1. MATH 124 and MATH 125
    2. Q SCI 291 and Q SCI 292
    3. Either BIOST 310, Q SCI 381, or STAT 311; Q SCI 482
    4. One approved calculus class and one approved statistics class; see adviser for approved lists.
  4. Two quarters of physics: PHYS 114 and PHYS 115, or PHYS 121 and PHYS 122
  5. Genetics: either GENOME 361, GENOME 371, or BIOL 340/FISH 340.
  6. Natural history/biodiversity: one course selected from approved list (3 credits)
  7. Option Requirement: 300- and 400-level courses selected from lists specific to each option. See department website for additional information. (34 credits)

    *CHEM 162 is not required for this degree; however, CHEM 237, CHEM 238, and CHEM 239 are required by many professional programs and graduate schools, and that sequence does require CHEM 162.

  8. Additional Degree Requirements:
    1. Minimum 2.00 cumulative GPA for all UW courses applied toward major requirements, including required supporting courses (chemistry, physics, mathematics), introductory biology, and upper-division coursework. (A grade of 2.0 is not required in individual courses.)
    2. Minimum 15 credits of 400-level biology electives taken through the UW.
    3. Two 300- or 400-level laboratory courses

Because of the differing specific requirements and choices for each option, it is extremely important for students to work closely with the Biology departmental advisers to insure completion of these 22-25 credits.

Continuation Policy

All students must make satisfactory academic progress in the major. Failure to do so results in probation, which can lead to dismissal from the major. For the complete continuation policy, contact the departmental adviser or refer to the department website.



Along with the departments of Anthropology and Earth and Space Sciences, the Department of Biology offers a minor in paleobiology. For more information on the minor, see its entry elsewhere in the General Catalog.

Student Outcomes and Opportunities

  • Learning Objectives and Expected Outcomes: The department graduates between 350 and 400 students each year. Biology degrees are applicable to many different fields, depending upon student interests. Students in the program gain analytical and laboratory skills that prepare them for entry-level positions in a variety of biologically related areas, including, but not limited to, biotechnology, laboratory and/or field research support, health science support, wildlife biology, and ecology and conservation work with a variety of agencies, consulting firms, and research organizations in the Northwest. Students may enter graduate programs that focus on some aspect of biological science (such as genetics, microbiology, immunology, ecology, environmental health, or cell and molecular biology), or enter a variety of professional programs, such as veterinary medicine, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, laboratory medicine, and nursing.
  • Instructional and Research Facilities: The Department of Biology occupies 128,000 square feet in Hitchcock, Johnson, and Kincaid Halls. Extensive research laboratories, teaching laboratories, computer workstations, and support services are found throughout the department.

    Specialized facilities include more than 16,000 square feet of greenhouse, seawater facilities, growth rooms, electron microscopes, and other specialized equipment. Undergraduates have access to most of these facilities, especially those engaged in undergraduate research.

    Off campus, the internationally recognized Marine Research Station, Friday Harbor Laboratories, provides many opportunities for undergraduates, from courses to research apprenticeships.

  • Honors Options Available: With College Honors (Completion of Honors Core Curriculum and Departmental Honors); With Honors (Completion of Departmental Honors requirements in the major). See adviser for requirements.
  • Research, Internships, and Service Learning: Biology faculty welcome undergraduates into their research programs, often working closely with them. Approximately 40 percent of the 900 undergraduate biology majors finish with undergraduate research experience.

    UW proximity to such Seattle area organizations as the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Swedish Hospital, numerous biotech companies, NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Research Center, the Seattle Aquarium, and the Woodland Park Zoo, as well as the close ties of Biology faculty to Friday Harbor Laboratories and the faculty in the College of the Environment provide opportunities for biology majors to develop internships within these organizations. See adviser for ways to get credit for such experiences.

  • Department Scholarships: Several scholarships are available, in a few cases to biology majors only. Most of these support students wishing to pursue an undergraduate research experience. They are competitive, sometimes highly so. They include:
    • Howard Hughes Undergraduate Research Internship: approximately 20 per year for freshmen and 20 per year for juniors and seniors.
    • Friday Harbor Laboratory (FHL) Apprenticeships: $3,000 for one quarter, spring or autumn.
    • Mary Gates Scholarships: very competitive, across all science disciplines.
    • Herschel and Caryl Roman Scholarship: $2,500-$5,000 annually to one or two students who have an interest in genetics research.
    • Porath/Johnson Endowed Scholarship: one-year, $5,000 scholarship to an outstanding biology major.

    For qualifications, deadlines, and other details, see adviser or consult the Department of Biology website.

  • Student Organizations/Associations: Beta Beta Beta Biology Honor Society,; Pre Med Society (Alpha Epsilon Delta),

Graduate Program

Graduate Program Coordinator
106 Kincaid Hall, Box 351800

Doctor of Philosophy

Admission Requirements

  1. UW Graduate School requirements as shown at
  2. Academic background equivalent to that required of students receiving a BS degree from the department Assessment of background and requirements for any remedial work occurs prior to the beginning of autumn quarter in the student's first year.

Degree Requirements

  1. Request appointment of a Supervisory Committee no later than autumn quarter of the second year in residence. Meet at least once annually with the Supervisory Committee.
  2. Upon completion of 18 graded credits and 60 regular credits of coursework, schedule the general examination, which consists of a written research proposal followed by an oral examination, taken no later than spring quarter of the second year in residence. Successful completion makes the student a candidate for the PhD degree.
  3. Hold an appointment as a teaching assistant (TA) for at least three quarters while in residence.
  4. Request appointment of a dissertation reading committee at the beginning of the quarter of anticipated graduation. The committee consists of three members of the student's Supervisory Committee.
  5. Successfully defend the doctoral dissertation at the final examination. After completion of 27 dissertation credits, the student is ready to take the final examination, devoted to the subject of the dissertation. The format of the examination is a public seminar.