Biological Sciences (Cell & Molecular Biology)

What Is Biological Sciences (Cell & Molecular Biology) ?

This concentration within the biology major is an opportunity for students to explore in greater detail the molecular basis of living organisms, including cellular physiology and genetics. Students are able to focus their upper level elective courses on cell biology, genetics, molecular biology and related topics.

Biology is the scientific study of life and life processes. Biologists study the organization of life, from the structures of molecules to the balance of ecosystems. Biology majors learn to observe critically the details of all life; they analyze data and apply biological knowledge learned in the classroom to draw conclusions about their observations. 

Biologists are able to make significant contributions to maintaining the health and well-being of the human population, as well as preserving and protecting the environment. They develop a knowledge base and scientific way of thinking that will enable them to make informed personal health and public policy decisions.


This curriculum information is intended as a general information guide for students considering enrollment in this major. These online tools are designed to assist you, but are not a substitute for planning with an academic or faculty advisor.

If you are currently enrolled at UC, you can audit your degree online. If you are considering transferring to this major from another school use the course applicability system (CAS) to see how credits you have earned will apply to this major at UC. For course descriptions by college.

Biology Major Requirements Checklist

Note: After entering the College of Arts and Sciences, biology majors must take all required courses in mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology from the College of Arts and Sciences unless prior permission is obtained. See details below. [1]

First Year
First Year
Course Number Credits
*English Composition ENGL 101, 102 6
Foundations of Applied Calculus (or substitution, or waiver) MATH 224 (QR) 0-3
Applied Calculus I & II MATH 226, 227 (QR) [2] 6
Biology Lecture and Lab BIOL 101/111, 102/112, 103-113 15
First Year Chemistry Lecture and Lab CHEM 101/111, 102/112, 103/113 15
Introduction to Statistics (if not taking 224) STAT 241 [3] 0-4
Total for first year   45-46
(a) Applied Calculus I & II, MATH 226 & 227 (6 credits)    
Second Year
Second Year Course Number Credits
*Intermediate Composition ENGL 289 3
Introduction to Statistics (if not already completed) STAT 241 [3] 0-4
Sophomore Biology BIOL 302, 301, 303 [4] 12
Organic Chemistry Lecture and Lab CHEM 201/211, 202/212, 203/213 [5] 16
*Humanities (HU)   3
*Social Sciences (SS)   3
*Literature (LT)   3
Free electives (recommended to count in a minor or other program)   1-4
Total for second year   45
Third & Fourth Years
Third & Fourth Years
Course Number Credits
Two Upper Level Biology Major Elective Courses with Lab see course list [6] Minimum 6
Four Upper Level Biology Major Elective Courses see course list [6] Minimum 12
College Physics PHYS 101/111, 102/112, 103/113 [7] 15
Biology Capstone (added to a certain biology course) BIOL 686 [8] 1
*Foreign Language see checklist 15-18
*Social Sciences (SS)   6
*Historical Perspectives (HP)   9
*Humanities, Literature, or Fine Arts (HU, LT, or FA)   3
*Social & Ethical Issues (if not already taken, SE)   3
Free electives (recommended to count in a minor or other program)   17-20
Total for third & fourth years   90
Total overall   Minimum 180

*Needed to fulfill A&S college requirements.

[1] Note: After entering the College of Arts and Sciences, biology majors must take all required courses in mathematics, chemistry and biology within A&S unless prior permission is obtained. To obtain permission, students must see the biology department academic advisor and submit a formal, written petition to the Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs Committee, which will consider the request. Petition forms are available in the departmental office, 614 Rieveschl Hall.

[2] Mathematics: A major in biological sciences must take either (a) or (b):
     (a) Applied Calculus I & II, MATH 226 & 227 (6 credits)
     (b) Calculus I & II, MATH 251 & 252/256 (10 credits)

[3] Introduction to Statistics, STAT 241: Required for students beginning in 09A. Students can request that other statistics courses be considered as a substitution on their degree audit. Contact the Biology major advisor to request a substitution.

[4] BIOL 101/111-102/112-103/113 with a GPA of 2.0 or better in lectures and CHEM 101/111-102/112-103/113 with a GPA of 2.0 or better in lectures must be completed before taking BIOL 301, 302 and 303.

[5] Organic Chemistry: Sequence should be taken at the same time (or before) BIOL 301, 302 and 303.

[6] Upper Level Biology Major Electives: Students must complete a minimum of six (6) upper level biology elective courses, of which two (2) must include a laboratory experience. These courses must be selected from the list of Upper Level Biology Elective Courses specific to the Biology of Cells/Molecular Biology Concentration (see list below) and must be at least three (3) credits each. One laboratory experience may be fulfilled by completing three (3) credits of Undergraduate Research in a single quarter and presenting the work at an approved research forum. Click for more details. Students who complete this concentration may choose to replace BIOL 303 "Ecology" with a seventh upper level biology elective course chosen from the Cell/Molecular Biology Concentration electives list. Please consult a biology major advisor before choosing this option.

[7] Physics: A major in biological sciences usually completes the physics requirements by taking (a) or (b). Students are advised to complete their physics requirements in the third or fourth year:
     (a) College Physics with lab PHYS 101-102-103, 111-12-13 (15 cr.) recommended for most students
     (b) General Physics with lab PHYS 201-202-203, 211-12-13 (15 cr.)

[8] Capstone: The Department of Biological Sciences has a number of options for fulfilling the capstone requirement of the general education program. These may be taken late in the junior year or in the senior year. The options include several courses which have been designated "capstone courses." These are generally courses which require synthesis of material from a number of different fields of biology. With the permission of the instructor, the student may designate the course to fulfill the capstone requirement.

A paper or presentation beyond the regular requirements of the course may be required. Other options include summer fieldwork at a biology field station, research in a biology lab, either in the biology department or another part of the university, or work as an assistant teaching assistant (ATA) in one of the undergraduate laboratories. In each of these cases, there is a written component and a presentation required to complete the capstone experience. More details about capstone options are available on the biology website. Click for a checklist of biology major requirements.

  • 15BIOL540 Neurobiology 
  • 15BIOL551 and 552 Microbiology and Lab (Lab optional)
  • 15BIOL573 Developmental Biology
  • 15BIOL574 Sensory Physiology 
  • 15BIOL597 Molecular Microbiology
  • 15BIOL598 Introduction to Molecular Biology
  • 15BIOL599 Eukaryotic Genetics (L)
  • 15BIOL600, 601, 602, or 603 Undergraduate Research (L)
  • 15BIOL639 Virology
  • 15BIOL642 Advanced Cell Biology
  • 15BIOL652 Behavioral Genetics
  • 15BIOL656 Biology of Cancer
  • 15BIOL679 Comparative Endocrinology
  • 15BIOL695 Immunology
  • 15BIOL697 Immune Defense and Disease
       L = fulfills one lab course requirement