University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Biology

Undergraduate Majors & Minors

Benefits of an undergraduate major in the Department of Biology

Our undergraduates receive first-rate, rigorous, modern training in innovative classes that stress conceptual thinking and experienced-based learning. All of our majors and minors are reviewed each year by the entire faculty to assure that students receive the most modern and innovative education in general biology, zoology, and environmental science. Several of our courses in molecular biology and neuroscience have been underwritten by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Our undergraduates are encouraged to join a research group, both in laboratory and field studies, either in the department or across campus in many other life science groups (for example, in the Medical School).

Looking for department details? Discover Biology at UVM.

Carefully designed goals and standards

The Biology Department is the first department on campus to design graduation standards that must be met by the faculty. This means that faculty must present evidence to their peers in the department that all courses are revised often to be up-to-date, and always stress conceptual thinking and quantitative methods. Courses are organized to fit into a coherent plan that allows students to proceed from introductory biology, through intermediate material, and finally to advanced conceptual and practical skills.

The Department has established general Learning Goals that must be met by our curriculum. These goals are:

  1. To have an understanding of the meaning and mechanisms of genetics and evolution, and their manifestations and complexity at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels.
  2. To demonstrate proficiency in the scientific method and critical analysis.
  3. To demonstrate ability in spoken and written expression to communicate biological principles.
Small classes from the very beginning

All undergraduates in any of the majors offered by the Biology Department begin with BCOR 11/12, Exploring Biology. This course is designed only for life science majors and lectures and laboratory sections are kept small (highly unusual for biology majors at larger universities). These small-format lectures, in which class participation is expected and encouraged, include informal discussions applying concepts to current issues that may appear in the popular press. Lectures for Intermediate-level courses tend to be somewhat larger, but laboratory sections are always small, and faculty always are available for office help sessions. All of our advanced courses are small, with ample interaction between students and faculty.

Teaching is done by faculty members, not graduate students

All courses, from introductory biology to advanced, are taught by faculty with the PhD degree and many years of scientific research and teaching experience. Laboratory sessions are taught by our fine graduate students who often also have years of teaching experience and are under supervision of faculty.

Courses are up-to-date and rigorous

Information in biology is growing (and changing!) at an ever-increasing rate. All our faculty are active research scientists, with international reputations. Therefore, all classes are modern in structure and are updated each semester to bring the most recent exciting findings into the lectures.

Advising by knowledgeable faculty members

Each student is assigned a faculty advisor with a strong background in advising students based on individual interests. Two or more times each year, students meet with their faculty advisors who recommend the order of courses that is appropriate and review each student's progress and interests. Students with questions or problems are strongly encouraged to meet with their advisors immediately. All faculty recognize that one size does not fit all in academic plans and progress, and will work to be sure each student has a rewarding experience at the university.

Graduates well-prepared for a wide range of careers

"What can I do with a major from the Biology Department?" The quick answer is: "What can't you do?" Our majors assure that a student receives a broad, general, modern, rigorous education which prepares a student for an enormous range of careers. Our graduates enter excellent medical, dental, and veterinary schools, graduate programs, law schools, as well as begin careers in business, university research, and government. Among the careers reported by our graduates are: physician (many specialties), dentist, veterinarian (one of our graduates was a volunteer vet for the rescue dogs at the World Trade Center ruins), teacher, law, finance, wildlife conservation, zoo management, public health, pharmaceutical production, government service, and environmental management and research. For interest in Veterinary School see: Early Acceptance Program, UVM & Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine LINK.

Work with world-class researchers

Each year approximately 50 of our majors choose to conduct research with department faculty or scientists in other departments on campus. Research courses for credit are available at every level, from entry-level Research Apprenticeships, to Internships off campus, to Undergraduate Research at the intermediate, advanced, and honors level. Students may work with a wide range of model systems including cell lines, viruses, bacteria, plants, animals, and protists. That is, we are a general Biology Department, with emphasis on scientific problems. Examples of ongoing research by undergraduates include: Chemoreception by single-celled organisms (Paramecium) as a window into the function of the nervous system; population genetics of carnivores such as bobcats and bears in Vermont to understand how animals moved into this area after the glaciers retreated; genetic diversity of malaria parasites of wildlife species such as lizards and birds; and cell signaling pathways in brain development.

Guide to Research Courses in the Department of Biology (Click on title)
Funding for undergraduate research

Funding for undergraduate research comes from faculty grants, but also grants students themselves receive from the University's very active funding programs. Students present their research during undergraduate seminars at the Annual University Student Research Conference, and in publications in the major international journals.


Last modified November 03 2014 12:07 PM