Class of 2022 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 will want to take a year of chemistry (CHEM 151/155 and CHEM 161) and the two introductory Biology courses that lay the foundations for all advanced Biology courses.  BIOL181 and 191 can be taken in either order during a student's first 3-4 semesters (see sample paths for the Bio Major).  Note that BIOL 191 requires completion of CHEM 151/155 and completion or co-enrollment in CHEM 161.  Students should consult their MATH and CHEMISTRY placements to determine their options.  Note that MATH 111/(105&106) and CHEM 151/155 should be completed in the student’s first year.  Students interested in a career in medicine should consult the health professions web site for recommendations about completing pre-medical requirements.

AP Credit for Advanced Placement

Students with a Biology AP score of 5 who want to consider placing out of either course must first meet with a Biology Faculty member involved with the course they want to place out of, or an advanced course for which that intro course is a pre-requisite. Approval for placing out requires filling out the following form and submitting it the the Department ADC, Karen Racz ( permission form).

Students who place out of an introductory Biology course 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); please be warned that these classes are generally not open to first year students.  Students placing out of BIOL-181 or BIOL-191 are still required to take a minimum of 7 Biology courses (one intro and 6 advanced courses, including one intro lab and 3 advanced lab courses).  In the exceptional case of a student having placed out of both intro courses, they must take a minimum of 4 advanced laboratory 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 molecular and cellular 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.