Class of 2020 Students

Welcome to the Biology Department at Amherst College

The information on this page is for first-year students interested in Biology, excerpted from Biology's Major page:  

Introductory Course Placement

Students interested in the insights of biology but whose area of specialization is likely to lie outside biology should consider the courses for non-majors: BIOL 104, 106, 108, 110, and 114. Each of these focuses on a particular topic within biology and is intended for students who do not plan to major in biology.

Students interested in a possible major in biology should plan to begin with BIOL 181 in the spring semester of their first year and BIOL 191 in the fall semester of their sophomore year. This will require completing MATH 111 and CHEM 151—or their equivalents—in the student’s first year.

AP Credit for Advanced Placement

Students with a Biology AP score of 5 who wish to place out of either course must first seek permission from the Biology Department.  Students who have placed out must substitute an advanced laboratory course during their time at Amherst.  Students placing out of BIOL-181 must substitute a laboratory course from our "Bin III" category (evolutionary explanations); students placing out of BIOL-191 must substitute a laboratory course from "Bin I" (molecular and cellular mechanisms).  Thus, students placing out of BIOL-181 or BIOL-191 must take the other introductory lab course + 3 advanced lab courses (4 lab courses total).  In the exceptional case of a student having placed out of both intro courses, he/she must take 4 advanced lab courses.  Please see the Biology Major page for a list of Bin III and Bin I laboratory courses.

Science Requisites

CHEM-151 "Introductory Chemistry" and/or CHEM-161 "Chemical Principles" are requisites for several Biology courses. Students are therefore encouraged to take CHEM-151 (or CHEM-155 "Fundamental Chemical Principles") in the fall of their first year, particularly students whose planned courses emphasize integrative processes or cellular and molecular mechanisms. Students preparing for graduate study in life sciences should consider taking CHEM 221 "Organic Chemistry I" and CHEM-231 "Organic Chemistry II", PHYS-117 "Electromagnetism & Optics", and a course in statistics in addition to the minimum requirements for the Biology major. Note that CHEM-221  and CHEM-231 are requisites for BIOL-331 "Biochemistry", and that prior completion of PHYS-117 or PHYS-124 "Maxwellian Synthesis" is recommended for BIOL-351 "Neurophysiology."

Please see our Major page for additional requirements for Biology majors.