Biology Overview

The Department of Biology offers a program that allows the student to obtain a thorough preparation for graduate or professional school, to meet state requirements for a teaching credential in the life sciences, to acquire the laboratory training necessary for entry into advanced programs in biotechnology, or to supplement other major studies with a broad background in biology.

Students entering the University of San Diego and/or declaring a major during 2015-2016, should follow information contained in the printed course catalog (also known as the "catalog of record") published on October 1, 2015. Access the catalog of record at http://catalogs.sandiego.edu.

The Biology Major

The Department of Biology offers a program that allows the student to obtain a thorough preparation for graduate or professional school, to acquire the laboratory training necessary for entry into advanced programs in biotechnology, or to supplement other major studies with a broad background in biology. A strong emphasis is placed on laboratory and field experience, not only to acquaint the student with the working methods of science, but also to foster active learning skills. Moreover, in recognition that all biological understanding has its origin in research, and this fundamental activity is as exciting as it is enlightening, all biology majors are required to include a Research Experience in their program of study. The Research Experience can be fulfilled in several ways, including research on campus under faculty supervision (see Undergraduate Research) or off campus through our internship program. The following high school preparation is strongly recommended for students planning a major in biology at USD: elementary algebra, plane geometry, intermediate algebra, trigonometry, chemistry, physics, and biology.

Students are urged to consult departmental advisors early in their college career in order to select a program of courses most suitable to their future goals. The high faculty-to-student ratio allows each student to receive individualized assistance in course selection and career planning. The flexible structure of the biology major allows each student to focus his or her studies in one or more areas of interest. To assist those students preparing for careers in the health sciences, the university offers a Pre-Health Advising office within the Dean’s office of the College of Arts & Sciences. By working together with the Pre-Health advisor and their academic advisor within the Biology Department, pre-health students can design a course of study that best prepares them for their chosen professional school.

The Life Science Teaching Credential

The California Life Science Teaching Credential requires a major in biology. Students seeking this credential should consult a biology faculty advisor.

Undergraduate Research

Deeper exposure to the research process can be a valuable component of the undergraduate experience. All biology students are invited to participate in the research programs of our faculty members. Alternatively, a student may wish to design a project of his/her own with faculty supervision. Either of these options can earn upper division biology units (BIOL 496) and fulfill the Research Experience requirement of the biology major. Students interested in graduate school will find the research experience an instructive preview of what lies ahead, and students applying to professional schools will find it a significant asset. USD students often publish their findings and/or present them at scientific meetings, including the annual USD undergraduate research conference “Creative Collaborations.”

Special Emphases within the Biology Major

Several model programs of study are listed below and should serve to illustrate the adaptable nature of the biology curriculum. Specific programs of study other than those listed below can be designed with the aid of an advisor from the biology faculty. .

Pre-Health Sciences Emphasis

The biology major provides an excellent preparation for those students interested in pursuing future studies in one of the health professional programs (medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, optometry, podiatry, nursing, physical therapy. etc.). Our curriculum provides students with a strong foundation in biological concepts as well as in the analytical and communication skills needed by health professionals. To assist students preparing for a career in the health sciences, the university’s Pre-Health Advising Office can provide students with specific graduate program prerequisites, help locate volunteer and community service opportunities, and help students understand the professional school application process.

Most of the prerequisite courses for the pre-health programs are included in the preparatory courses required for the biology major. In addition, many programs now strongly recommend or require additional courses in genetics (BIOL 300), cell/molecular biology (BIOL 480, BIOL 482), statistics (BIOL 301), and biochemistry (CHEM 331); an increasing number of dental, pharmacy, optometry, nursing, and physical therapy programs require human anatomy & physiology (BIOL 212, BIOL 213). Additional biology courses that would likely be of interest to those students planning to pursue a career in the medical field include Evolution of Vertebrate Structures (BIOL 320), Microbiology (BIOL 342), Animal Development (BIOL 376), Vertebrate Physiology (BIOL 478), and Immunology (BIOL 484). By working together with the pre-health advisor and their academic advisor within the biology department, pre-health students can design a course of study within the Biology major that best prepares them for their chosen professional school.

Molecular and Cellular Biology Emphasis

An emphasis in molecular and cellular biology (MCB) provides a student with a broad understanding of biological principles while focusing on cellular and subcellular biology. An emphasis in MCB can prepare students for entry-level careers or graduate/professional studies in the health professions, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, higher education, government, and many other areas. These include traditional graduate programs in the biological sciences as well as Professional Science Masters degree (PSM) programs for those interested in leadership roles in biotech/pharma companies. Recommended upper-division biology courses include Molecular Biology (BIOL 482), Techniques in Molecular Biology (BIOL 382), Cell Physiology with Lab (BIOL 480 & BIOL 480L), Immunology (BIOL 484), Microbiology (BIOL 342), Electron Microscopy (BIOL 432), Animal Development (BIOL 376), and Biostatistics (BIOL 301). Addition of Biochemistry (CHEM 331) and Biochemistry Laboratory (CHEM 335) should also be considered. Students with an interest in physiology should also consider taking Plant Physiology (BIOL 472), Invertebrate Physiology (BIOL 477), and/or Vertebrate Physiology (BIOL 478). MCB students should also consider taking additional mathematics and a basic computer programming course. Biology majors pursuing this emphasis can meet their Research Experience requirement by doing research in the lab of a Biology or Biochemistry faculty member with a research program in these areas, or in the lab of an off-campus researcher through our internship program.

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology emphasis

A specialization in ecology and evolution (EE) provides a broad understanding of biological principles that can be applied to a variety of career paths. Graduates may take positions with local, state and federal government agencies (wildlife and fisheries management, natural resource management, park rangers, and game wardens), enter consulting firms (environmental consulting or environmental law), or continue with graduate studies for an academic career at colleges, universities, museums, or other research organizations such as zoological parks and aquariums. Students will have the option of tailoring their course and lab requirements to emphasize animal, plant, or ecological studies with an emphasis on field studies. Recommended upper-level division course include: Plant Systematics and Evolution (BIOL 344), Vertebrate Natural History (BIOL 346), Insect Biology (BIOL 348), Conservation Biology (BIOL 364), Desert Biology (BIOL 340), Ecological Communities of San Diego BIOL 361), Insect Biology (BIOL 348), Population Biology (BIOL 416), and Biological Oceanography (BIOL 451W). Students with a particular interest in comparative physiology should take courses in Invertebrate Physiology (BIOL 477), Plant Physiology (BIOL 472), and Vertebrate Physiology (BIOL 478). Students interested in environmental consulting should consider taking courses in Geographic Information Systems (ENVI 314) and (ENVI 315). All students pursuing an EE path should take Biostatistics (BIOL 301). Biology majors pursuing this emphasis can meet their Research Experience requirement by doing research in the lab of a Biology or Marine Science faculty member with a research program in these areas, or in the lab of an off-campus researcher through our internship program

Marine Biology Emphasis

Developing an emphasis in marine biology is ideal for those planning to focus on the biological dimension of life in the sea, either in preparation for graduate school or for a career in the care or study of marine life. In addition to the general program, Biostatistics (BIOL 301), Vertebrate Natural History (BIOL 346), Invertebrate Zoology (BIOL 350), and Biological Oceanography (BIOL 451W) are recommended. Students with a marine biology emphasis should also consider including courses from the Marine and Environmental Studies Program to complement their foundation in general biology. The University of San Diego also offers a major in marine science (see Marine Science Program section). A minor in marine science is recommended for those students interested in field applications in biology that include a marine element. Biology majors pursuing this emphasis can meet their Research Experience requirement by doing research in the lab of a Biology or Marine Science faculty member with a research program in this area, or in the lab of an off-campus researcher through our internship program.

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Phone: (619) 260-4729
Fax: (619) 260-6804
biology@sandiego.edu

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