ScB in Biology


{return to Biology}

(20 courses)

The concentration program for the ScB in Biology consists of 20 courses (or fewer, if AP credits are used), with Parts A, B, C.

  • PART A: Background courses in math, chemistry and physics
  • PART B: Ten CORE courses in biological sciences, including Research (BIOL 1950/1960); and fulfillment of the AREA requirements.
  • PART C: Three courses for the advanced thematic Track. There are seven tracks offered with flexibility as to the courses that may be included in each: CEMB (Cell and Molecular Biology); EBIO (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology); IMMU (Immunobiology); NBIO (Neurobiology); PHBI (Physiology and Biotechnology); MAR (Marine Biology); and PHSC (Physical Sciences).

Part A: Background Courses (7 courses)

Students are required to take the following courses or have AP or IB equivalents:

  • Physics 0030 (or 0050 or ENGN 0030)
  • Physics 0040 (or 0060 or ENGN 0040)
  • Calculus (MATH 0090 and 0100; or MATH 0170) A Statistics course may substitute for MATH 0100. Equivalent placements may substitute for MATH 0090, 0100. (AP or IB credits are accepted)
  • Equilibrium, Rate, and Structure (CHEM 0330); Organic Chemistry (CHEM 0350); Organic Chemistry II (CHEM 0360)***.

    ***As of this academic year (2014-2015), students pursuing a ScB in Biology have the option to substitute a course for CHEM 0360 in their background core. For students pursuing the Marine Biology track, an upper level course in Geological Sciences may replace CHEM 0360.  For students pursuing all other tracks, BIOL 0280 (Biochemistry) may serve as the replacement course.  Please note that approval from the concentration advisor is required for these background course substitutions. If the student has already declared, then a revised concentration plan must be submitted and approved via ASK. If BIOL 0280 is used as a substitute for CHEM 0360, it cannot be counted as a core course, as a laboratory course, or as an Area 1 course.  Students planning to apply to medical or graduate school should seek additional advising (such as from the Health Careers Office) in crafting their course plan. 

Part B: Core Courses (10 courses), including research courses

  • The Foundation of Living Systems (BIOL 0200) or equivalent (4 or 5 AP score or similar IB or A-levels)
  • At least two BIOL or NEUR courses (numbered at the 1000 or 2000 level)
  • At least three BIOL courses with laboratory
  • No more than one FYS course (BIOL 0190 series) or one Sophomore Seminar (BIOL 0940) may be used towards the core
  • Approved research projects (BIOL 1950/1960) may be included in the Core, and will carry credit as ONE lab and ONE 1000-level course
  • At least one course in each of three broadly defined Areas of biology (see Area course list, below)
  • Research, via an approved project for credit (BIOL 1950/1960); an approved summer UTRA project at Brown; an approved project equivalent to at least a semester of work conducted at an institution away from Brown. Away- or summer projects do not count towards the number of courses required for the Core, so must be replaced by tuition- bearing courses to make up the difference. The content of the research should be conceptually and/or methodologically relevant to the track, and be advisor-approved. Typically, at least two semesters of research is expected. For information, refer to the Research Projects Collection a searchable database offered by the Office of Biology Undergraduate Education. For the Marine Track, research at an approved marine lab or field station is encouraged, for a summer or semester.


Besides BIOL 1950/1960, these other experiences can be used to fulfill the ScB research requirement:

  • UTRA-sponsored research, that is Brown faculty-supervised/sponsored
  • REUs or other 10-week summer research fellowship programs, conducted away from Brown
  • Approved research* conducted during the academic semester at another institution, which requires review of the project by a Brown faculty member conversant with the research area, as well as concentration advisor's approval. Written documentation will be expected for these reviews.
    *These categories require review of the project by a Brown faculty member conversant with the research area, as well as advisor's approval. Detailed written or oral documentation will be expected from the student for this review.
    Note: The ScB requires 13 courses in the Core plus Track, regardless of how the research requirement is fulfilled. For example, approval of a summer project may waive the need for BIOL 1950/1960, but other courses must then be submitted to make up the total of 13 courses.


The breadth of the biological sciences requires students have foundational knowledge in three core areas: 1) Cellular & Molecular Biology, 2) Organismal Structure & Function, and 3) Organismal Diversity. Students pursuing Biology ScB and AB concentrations will successfully complete at least one course in each of these areas.

Area 1 - Cellular & Molecular Biology

Fundamental understanding of cellular processes at the molecular level is essentmial to all biological sciences. Billions of molecules assemble in organized ways to form cells with the ability too respond to the environment, carry out distinctive functions, and ultimately create life. Courses in the Cellular & Molecular Biologt Area requirement draw on the physical sciences to explore the basic mechanisms governing living systems at the cellular level.

Students may choose from:
Introductory Biochemistry (BIOL 0280), Genetics (BIOL 0470), Cell and Molecular Biology (BIOL 0500), Introductory Microbiology (BIOL 0510), Principles of Immunology (BIOL 0530), Biology of the Eukaryotic Cell (BIOL 1050), Developmental Biology (BIOL 1310), Principles of Neurobiology (NEUR 1020).

Area 2 - Organismal Structure/Function

Understanding the form and function of life is essential to biology whether the organism of interest is a plant, invertebrate or vertebrate animal. Organismal structure forms the basis of taxonomic categorization and in this way is essential to understanding the phylogenetic history of life on Earth. The physical and biochemical functions necessary to maintain healthy organs, organ systems and mechanics of locomotion are important concepts for students with interests ranging from plant biology to human health.

Students may choose from:
Biological Design: Structural Architecture of Organisms (BIOL 0400), Invertebrate Zoology (BIOL 0410), Plant Organism (BIOL 0440), Principles of Physiology (BIOL 0800), Biomaterials (BIOL 1120), Developmental Biology (BIOL 1310), Biology of Reproduction (BIOL 1330), Comparative Biology of the Vertebrates (BIOL 1880), The Brain: An Introduction to Neuroscience (NEUR 0010).

Area 3 - Organismal Diversity

The diversity and distribution of life on Earth is a function of the evolutionary relationships that exist between and within major taxonomic groups, the dynamics of populations, and the ecological processes that govern species interactions within communities. The patterns and processes that govern interactions among organisms over space and time are important concepts for students in the biological sciences to understand.

Students may choose from:
Conservation Medicine (BIOL 0140K), Diversity of Life (BIOL 0210), The Fossil Record: Life Through Time on Earth (BIOL 0350), Experimental Evolution (BIOL 0370), Invertebrate Zoology (BIOL 0410), Microbes in the Environment (BIOL 0415), Principles of Ecology (BIOL 0420), The Evolution of Plant Diversity (BIOL 0430), Evolutionary Biology (BIOL 0480), Comparative Biology of the Vertebrates (BIOL 1880), Environmental Science in a Changing World (ENVS 0490).


The Core may include up to two RELATED courses from the approved list below. These must be above prerequisite level, and suitable for science concentrators.

  • Applied Mathematics: Methods of Applied Mathematics I, II (APMA 0330), and above (except APMA 0420)
  • Chemistry: above CHEM 0360
  • Cognitive Linguistic and Psychological Sciences: Brian Damage and the Mind (CLPS 0470), Perception and Mind (CLPS 0500), Principles of Behavioral Neuroscience (CLPS 0410), Psychophysiology of Sleep and Dreams (CLPS 1140), Laboratory in Genes and Behavior (CLPS 1193), Mechanisms of Animal Behavior (CLPS 0110); and others based on neurophysiology, with advisor approval
  • Computer Science: Introduction to Scientific Computing (CSCI 0040), and above
  • Engineering courses above ENGN 0040 except ENGN 0090 and 0900
  • Environmental Sciences: (these two may be used as BIOL courses: 0455,1455)
  • Geology: Physical Processes in Geology (GEOL 0220), and above
  • History or Philosophy of Science: Nineteenth-Century Roots of Modern Science (HIST 1190); others with advisor approval
  • Mathematics: Intermediate Calculus (MATH 0180), and above
  • Physics: PHYS 0470 and above
  • Statistics - e.g., SOC 1100, CLPS 0090, BIOL 0495, APMA 0650
  • Social Studies in Biology: BIOL 0920; BIOL 1920 sections, and BIOL 1070.

Part C: Track (3 courses)

The Track requires three additional courses beyond the Core.


  • Advanced courses for CEMB: 1270,1050,1310,1330,1540, 1200 (typically, BIOL 0280, 0470, or 0500 would be included in this track)

  • Advanced courses for IMMU: 1520,1550,1560,1600, 1290 (typically, BIOL 0530 would be included in this track)

  • Advanced courses for MPPB: 1090,1100,1110,1190,1200,1120,1140,1150, 1200, 1300 (typically, BIOL 0800 would be included in this track)

  • Advanced courses for EBIO:1800,1880,1470,1475,1465,1430,1420,1410,1440, 1480, 1500, 1485

  • Advanced courses for NEUR: see NEUR listings 1000 level or above; and BIOL 1100, 1100, 1190, 1260 (typically, NEUR 0010 would be included in this track)

  • Advanced courses for MAR: 1440, GEO 1100,1110,1120,1130,1240,1330,1580, ENVS 1445 (typically, BIOL 0410 or ENVS 0455 would be included in this track)

  • Note: Biology graduate seminars (2000-level) that invite qualified undergraduates may be used as advanced courses in the Track.


  1. For double concentrations, no more than two courses may be used to meet requirements of both programs.
  2. A given biology course may fulfill both an Area and lab requirement and/or advanced course requirement.
  3. No more than two semesters of directed research (e.g., BIOL 1950/1960) may be used towards the concentration program. Each semester does count as an individual course towards the program; but together carry ONE lab credit towards the three labs required, and serve as one "advanced level" courses required.
  4. A limited number of advisor-approved transfer or study abroad courses may be used within the program, typically no more than four (for AB) or five (for ScB).
  5. Courses numbered below <1000 do NOT carry Biology concentration credit; BIOL 0920, 1070, 1920 sections, and >3000, may only be used toward the concentration as related sciences.