Program Requirements and Opportunities

Published annually, the Course Catalog sets out the requirements of the academic programs--the majors, minors, and concentrations. Each Bryn Mawr student must declare a major before the end of the sophomore year. Students may also declare a minor or a concentration, but neither is required for the A.B. degree. Students must comply with the requirements published in the Course Catalog at the time when they declare the major, minor and/or concentration.

The Course Catalog also sets out the College requirements. Students must comply with the College requirements published at the time they enter Bryn Mawr College.

For more information, visit the Catalog Homepage to view the current content. To view Catalogs from previous academic years, visit the Catalog Archives page.

Students may complete a major or minor in Biology. Interdisciplinary minors with connections to the Biology Major include Data Science, Environmental Studies, Health Studies and Neuroscience.

The curriculum of the Department is designed to introduce students to unifying concepts and broad issues in biology, and to provide the opportunity for in-depth inquiry into topics of interest through coursework and independent research. Introductory and intermediate-level courses examine the structures and functions of living systems at all levels of organization, from molecules, cells and organisms to populations and ecosystems. Advanced courses encourage students to gain proficiency in the critical reading of research literature, leading to the development, presentation and defense of a senior paper as the capstone experience. Opportunities for supervised research with faculty are available and encouraged. Students considering majoring in Biology are encouraged to make an appointment to meet with the Department’s major advisor, Jennifer Skirkanich (, to determine the best sequence of courses based on their interests and goals.

Major Requirements

  • Two semesters of introductory biology (BIOL110, and BIOL111 or BIOL115)
    • The introductory biology courses must be completed with merit grades before the beginning of junior year.
    • A score of 5 on the Advanced Placement examination or of 7 on the International Baccalaureate examination can be used to satisfy one semester of introductory biology. Students placing out of one semester of introductory biology are still required to take one semester of BIOL 110/111/115 plus an additional Biology course at the 200 or 300 level. In general, the Department highly recommends both semesters for majors since some 200/300-level courses require specific introductory courses (e.g., BIOL 110) as prerequisites.
  • Six courses at the 200 and 300 level (excluding BIOL 390-398)
    • At least two of these upper-level courses must be at the 300 level.
    • At least three of these upper-level courses must be laboratory courses. For students enrolled in two semesters of BIOL 400 or BIOL 403, only two upper-level laboratory courses are required. Please note: students must take a minimum of two writing attentive (WA) laboratory courses to complete the Writing in the Major requirement, as described below.
    • The Writing in the Major requirement is fulfilled by completion of two WA-designated 200/300-level laboratory courses in Biology.
    • No more than two upper-level courses may be taken outside the Bryn Mawr Biology Department.
  • Senior capstone experience (two options)
    • Option 1: Two semesters of senior laboratory research (BIOL 400), which includes written and oral presentation of a senior paper based on this research.
    • Option 2: A topic-based senior seminar course (BIOL 390-398) taken in the senior year, which includes written and oral presentation of a senior paper based on an in-depth investigation of a topic.
  • Two semester courses in general chemistry (CHEM 103 and CHEM 104)
    • These courses must be completed with merit grades before the beginning of junior year.
  • Three semester courses in allied sciences to be selected from Anthropology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geology, Mathematics, Physics, or Psychology. Selection of allied science courses must be made in consultation with the student’s major adviser and be approved by the Department.


Departmental honors are awarded to students who have distinguished themselves academically or via their participation in departmental activities. In order to be considered for honors, Biology majors are required to attend at least six STEM-focused seminars at Bryn Mawr College or Haverford College over the course of their junior and senior years. In addition, students are required to submit a one-paragraph summary of each seminar they attend within 48 hours of attendance. The form to submit summaries can be found here. As part of the process for awarding honors in Biology, interested seniors are also required to write a short (one-page maximum) essay identifying ways in which they have distinguished themselves within the Biology Department, including activities and scholarship beyond the classroom that exemplify their engagement and growth as a Biology major. The form to submit an essay can be found here.

Final selection for honors is made by the Biology faculty.

Minor Requirements

  • Six semester courses in Biology (including up to two introductory biology courses)
  • No more than two of these courses may be taken outside the Bryn Mawr Biology Department

Minors in Data Science, Environmental Studies, Health Studies and Neuroscience

These minors are available for students interested in interdisciplinary exploration in these areas. Check relevant sections of the course catalog for complete descriptions of the minors.

Teacher Certification

The College offers a certification program in secondary teacher education. Consult catalog for further information.

Animal Experimentation Policy

Students who object to participating directly in laboratory activities involving the use of animals in a course required for the major are required to notify the faculty member of their objections at the beginning of the course. If alternative activities are available and deemed consistent with the pedagogic objectives of the course by the faculty member, then the student will be allowed to pursue alternative laboratory activities without penalty.

4+1 Master of Engineering Program with the University of Pennsylvania

Students enrolled in this program may begin coursework towards their master’s degree at University of Pennsylvania as a Bryn Mawr undergraduate. After graduation from Bryn Mawr, students will complete their master’s coursework over the course of a year as a full-time student at UPenn. More information can be found here. Biology majors interested in the 4+1 Program with Penn Engineering should contact Jennifer Skirkanich (

Summer Science Research Program at Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr and Haverford students are eligible to apply to the Summer Science Research (SSR) program. SSR is a 10-week program that supports students who are doing discovery-based research in the laboratory or field with Bryn Mawr faculty. The program provides support for students along with a speaker series and professional development programming. More information can be found here.