Guide for First Year Students


What kind of degree in Biology can I get?

The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) is the degree recommended for students contemplating a career in the biological or biomedical sciences. The B.S. degree requires Calculus II or statistics, organic chemistry, and physics corequisites. Two semesters of introductory biology and eight upper- level courses are required. The upper-level courses include courses in specific areas, as well as elective courses in biology and related biological sciences.

The Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) is the liberal arts major program, appropriate for students planning on careers in law, policy, or secondary school teaching. It requires math and chemistry only through Calculus I and introductory chemistry.Two semesters of introductory biology and eight upper- level courses are required. The upper-level courses include courses in specific areas, as well as elective courses in biology and related biological sciences.

Get more information on course requirements.

A Minor in Biology is available. Several Areas of Concentration are also available to majors and minors. 

Can I get Advanced Placement in Biology?

A score of 4 or 5 on the AP Biology exam will provide you with advanced placement credit, Biology 20 (formerly 19). However, all biology majors, regardless of whether you’ve had AP Bio or not, will start the same biology ‘gateway’ courses: Biology 201L (101L) and 202L (102L). These courses will introduce the three foundations of modern biology: molecular biology, genetics and evolution. The gateway courses will take you deep into the topics, beyond AP Bio, and provide a foundation for other advanced courses in biology.

In addition, advanced placement is possible in chemistry, math and physics, depending on your exam scores and by the decision of the respective departments. Students who place out of the first year of chemistry or math will not have to retake those courses for the biology major. 

Note that although you can only use two AP credits to reduce the number of credits you need to take for graduation (from 34 to 32), any number of AP credits can be used for placement out of introductory courses. So, advanced placement in chemistry, math and physics will reduce the courses needed to complete the biology major, freeing you up to take more advanced courses or courses in other disciplines.

How do I get started in Biology Courses?

BIO 201L (101L) Gateway to Biology: Molecular Biology (taught Fall & Spring)
Introduces major concepts in biology through the lens of molecular biology: DNA structure and function, replication, transcription, and translation. Prerequisite: Chem 101DL (31L) or equivalent.

BIO 202L (102L) Gateway to Biology: Genetics and Evolution (Fall & Spring)
Introduction to principles transmission genetics and evolution.   May be taken before Bio 201L (101L) with a strong biology background (e.g. AP Bio).

What courses should I take in my first two years?

What you take depends on your preparation (see the table of suggested schedules). It is most important to have some exposure to math and chemistry before taking most upper-level Biology courses. It is also important to take a Gateway courses BIO 201L (101L) and BIO 202L (102L) before starting the upper-level courses, typically in the sophomore year.  If you are considering summer school, the summer after your first or second year is a good time to take physics.

Suggested Schedule Options for the First Two Years

Placement Options:

First Year

Fall

First Year

Spring

Second Year

Fall

Second Year

Spring

 

No AP Credits

 

Calculus I*
MTH 111L (31L) or 122L (41)

Intro Chemistry
CHM 101DL (31L) or 110DL (43L)

Calculus II
MTH 112L (32L)  or Statistics 102 or above or BIO 204 (189)

Organic Chemistry**
CHM 201DL (151L)

Organic Chemistry***
CHM 202L (152L)

Gateway: Mol Bio
BIO 201L (101L) or Gen & Evo 202L (102L)

CHM 210DL (32L)***

Gateway: Gen & Evo
BIO 202L (102L) or BIO 201L (101L)

 

w/ AP Biology

 

Calculus I*
MTH 111L (31L) or 122L (41)

Intro Chemistry
CHM 101DL (31L) or 110DL (43L)

Calculus II
MTH 112L (32L) or Statistics 102 or above or BIO 204 (189)

Organic Chemistry**
CHM 201DL (151L)

Gateway
BIO 201L (101L) or BIO 202L (102L) [limited seats available for 1st years]

Organic Chemistry***
CHM 202L (152L)

Gateway
BIO 201L (101L) or BIO 202L (102L)

CHM 210DL (32L)***

Gateway
BIO 202L (102L) or BIO 201L (101L)

 *If you have not had calculus in high school, then check the math placement guidelines as you may wish to start in Math 105L (25L) rather than Math 111L (31L) or 122L (41).  Stats 100-level courses require either a placement exam or AP credit.
**Chem 201DL (151L) may also be deferred to the second year, Fall semester.
***Chem 210DL (32L) and 202L (152L) are not required for the major but are strongly recommended for premeds and many B.S. majors in Biochemistry and related areas

Can I do research and independent study?

All biology majors are encouraged to pursue independent research in the biological sciences under the supervision or sponsorship of a faculty member. The faculty member may be in any Duke department, including Medical Center departments. You can register for independent study and receive a grade and academic credit for your research. Most students will complete at least one or two semesters of independent study during their junior or senior year, although some students begin in their second or even their first year. No credit can be awarded for paid work.

There is no limit on the number of semesters your can enroll in Independent Study, although there only two semesters of independent study can be counted towards the major. Independent Study will also satisfy one of the two laboratory course requirements for the major, as well as the Small Group Learning Experience (SGLE) requirement for graduation. Additionally, Independent Study can be used to satisfy the Curriculum 2000 requirement for a Research Course (R). Students may also request a Writing (W) code for an independent study with approval of their Research Supervisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Many students will have their work published in the scientific literature and use their research as the basis for graduation with distinction. For more information, please visit our independent study page.

What kinds of study abroad programs are available?

Many Biology students will do at least one semester of Study Abroad, typically in their junior year. There are several programs that are especially popular with Biology majors. These include the fall and spring semester studying marine biology in Trinidad, Panama, and Singapore through the Duke Marine Lab , semester and summer programs studying tropical biology in Costa Rica, a summer course in Australian biogeography, and a semester program in savannah ecology of South Africa . In addition, there are many other study abroad programs that allow students the opportunity to take courses in biology. Moreover, the major in Biology is sufficiently flexible to allow students to take semester abroad with out any biology. For more information, visit the study abroad page.

Advising:

Can I talk to an advisor in Biology? Yes! Come by the Undergraduate Studies Office, Room 135 Biological Sciences Building, or contact the Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Julie Reynolds.

Help is also available from the Academic Advising Center (919-684-6217, advising@duke.edu).

Duke Biology Box 90338 Durham, NC 27708 Phone: 919-660-7372 Fax: 919-660-7293