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The discipline of biology is extremely broad and deep. The curriculum in biology reflects this breadth with offerings ranging from introductory courses for biology majors and non-majors to advanced instruction in the various sub-disciplines in biology. Depth is provided within the biology major by courses that focus on progressively more specific aspects of selected subject areas within biology. The primary goal of the program in biology is to provide students with a broad background suitable for future work in any area of biology or in related fields. In the junior and senior years, students have the opportunity to deepen this general background or to begin specialization in various areas such as aquatic biology, plant biology, cellular and molecular biology, ecology, premedical and pre-professional studies, and zoology.
Furthermore, the sequential and developmental nature of the biology program emphasizes skills and techniques that are used to complete St. Mary’s Projects. Through a careful choice of courses, made in collaboration with their faculty advisers, students may prepare themselves for secondary school teaching, for graduate work in biology or related areas, for careers as professional biologists in laboratories or field stations, for work in environmental studies or conservation, and for professional training in health and medicine-related fields. The location of the College on the St. Mary’s River, a sub-estuary of the Chesapeake Bay, provides excellent opportunities for field studies in aquatic biology. Other research opportunities are available in laboratories at St. Mary’s College and, through the internship program, at government and privately funded research laboratories in Maryland and elsewhere. A cooperative agreement between the College and the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science provides opportunities for St. Mary’s College students to take special seminars and conduct research with faculty members at the nearby Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons. Each student is encouraged to participate in field and/or laboratory research in the biological sciences through independent study, internships, or St. Mary’s Projects. Biology students are expected to take seriously the opportunity to become broadly educated in the liberal arts. To earn a bachelors of science degree with a major in biology, a student must satisfy the following minimum requirements.
- Demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the theories, principles, and/or literature relevant to the biological subdiscipline
- Use core concepts to explain biological processes found in the biosphere
- Design experiments using the scientific method to address a biological problem
- Develop a curated bibliography from the scientific literature that supports a line of inquiry in the biological sciences
- Construct questions based upon analysis of primary literature in the biological sciences
- Construct an organized written product and deliver an organized oral presentation that convey scientific information at a level appropriate to the audience
General College Requirements
General College Requirements (see Curriculum section), including the following requirements to satisfy the major
Physical Science Courses (12 credit hours)
In Addition to Those Three Courses
The following are recommended for all students and are required by most graduate and professional schools.
Biology Core Courses (16 credit hours)
Biology Core Laboratories (4 credit hours)
A minimum of 16 credit hours in upper-level biology courses is required, excluding Laboratory Teaching Assistant (BIOL 307 ), Internship (BIOL 398 , BIOL 498 ), and Independent Study (BIOL 399 , BIOL 499 ). The second four credit hours of a St. Mary’s Project in biology (BIOL 494 ) may be counted toward the total 16 credit hours. Of the 16 credit hours, at least eight, not including the St. Mary’s Project, must include a laboratory component. At least eight of the 16 upper-level credits as well as the St. Mary’s Project must be taken at the College.
St. Mary’s Project
Every biology major must complete a St. Mary’s Project.
This project may be in biology or in another major discipline or a study area. The guidelines established in the elected area apply. The project must be proposed to a mentor and to the chair of the Department of Biology at least three weeks before the last day of classes of the second semester of the student’s junior year, and it must be approved by the mentor and the department chair.
Minimum Grade and GPA Requirements
Students must earn a grade of C in CHEM 103 and a C- or better in all other chemistry courses listed under Physical Science Courses. Students must earn a grade of C or better in each biology course taken to fulfill the major.
At least half of the credits required for the major must be taken at the College.
Upper-Level Biology Courses
A liberal arts education in biology should include both the breadth of the subject and its depth. While students may wish to focus on one particular area of biology, such as aquatic biology or plant biology, we strongly advise them to be sure that their advanced coursework includes at least one course from each of three levels of biological organization: population/community/eco-system, organismal and cellular/biochemical levels. Please note, though, that these categories are somewhat artificial because many of our courses are designed to integrate material from more than one level of organization or taxonomic kingdom. For example, microbiology bridges ecology and molecular biology of bacteria, and genomics discuss the genetics of organisms from several kingdoms along the genetic interactions with the environment and organisms addressing questions at all three levels of organization. Such courses may be especially useful in helping students gain an integrated view of biology that will enable them to pose and solve complex or interdisciplinary questions. In addition, students should expose themselves to biodiversity by taking care not to concentrate solely on one group of organisms: for example, plants or animals.
Sequence of Study
The following sequence of courses is a typical model for the fulfillment of the requirements for the major:
*optional but recommended course requirements for teacher certification
Requirements for Teacher Certification
A Master of Arts in Teaching program is available at St. Mary’s College of Maryland after completion of the baccalaureate degree. Students who are interested in becoming teachers should contact the chair of the Department of Educational Studies or an education adviser in their major field of study for suggested coursework in educational studies and their specific major. These consultations should take place during the first semester of the sophomore year.