General Studies Biology Major Requirements

A grade of C- or better must be earned and revealed on your transcript for any course -- including the first semester -- to be counted towards the major or concentration requirements. The grade of P is not acceptable, but a course that was taken P/D/F may be counted if and only if the P is uncovered by the Registrar's deadline. (Please note that an exception is made for major courses taken in Spring 2020, when all courses were Pass-Fail).

Students may substitute Barnard College courses only with prior permission from an Advisor.

For transfer students, at least 4 biology or biochemistry courses and at least 18 credits of the total (biology, biochemistry, math, physics and chemistry) must be taken at Columbia. Barnard courses may not be substituted for the required Columbia courses without advance permission from the advisor. The two required core courses should be taken at Columbia. Courses covering the same topics as Bio dept core courses, but taken elsewhere,  are counted as electives, not as core courses.

If you are planning to study abroad, please meet with your Advisor before you go. You'll need prior approval for any major courses that you take abroad.

NOTE: Numbering does not reflect difficulty but rather whether UGs & graduate students have different requirements:
3000 – Only UGs register
4000 – UGs and graduate students perform the same
5000 – Only graduate students register, requires additional work beyond the 3000 course; sometimes the 3000 (UGs) & 5000 (Grad.) are different versions of the same course, i.e. same time, location and lectures
Students are welcome to use this Biology Major Requirements Checklist to keep track of requirements. Any exceptions must be approved in advance by an Advisor and you must receive an email notification of that approval.

I. Required Biology & Biochemistry Courses

1. Introductory Biology. (Barnard courses cannot be used for Intro Bio):

  • UN2005 - Introductory Biology I: Biochemistry, Genetics & Molecular Biology
  • UN2006 - Introductory Biology II: Cell Biology, Development & Physiology

    ***GS Majors may take UN2401/2 (contemporary biology) in lieu of Biol UN2005/6, with their Advisor's permission.
    For a description of the differences between UN2401/2 and UN2005/6 see FAQ for GS Students, Q5. Transfer students who have completed 1 year of intro bio elsewhere must take UN2005/6 or UN2401/2 before taking upper level bio classes at CU. Exceptions will not be readily granted and require prior approval of the DUS, (Dr. M)

2. Two lecture courses from this list of core courses:

  • Genetics -- UN3031
  • Cell Biology -- UN3041
  • Developmental Biology -- UN3022
  • Biochemistry -- BIOC UN3501/GU4501 (Biochemistry) or BIOL UN3300
  • Molecular Biology-- BIOC UN3512/GU4512 (Molecular Biol)

3. Laboratory Requirement: One of the following choices:

  • Option 1: A 5-point biology lab. Current offerings include: 
    • UN3058 - Project laboratory in microbiology
    • UN3052 - Project laboratory in molecular genetics
  • Option 2: Two semesters of UN3500 - Independent research in the same lab for either 3 or 4 credits each semester
    • 3 credits of 3500 = 3 credits x 4 = 12 hours / week on average in the lab
    • 4 credits of 3500 = 4 credits x 4 = 16 hours / week on average in the lab
  • Option 3: One summer of SURF program is sufficient to fulfill the bio lab requirement for the bio major. (Students who complete SURF are encouraged to continue working in the same lab by enrolling in independent study, UN3500, or working on their own terms but it is not necessary. Summer lab work under other auspices may not be substituted for SURF. Paid laboratory work may not be substituted for SURF or UN3500. 

Option 4: Two labs for 3 or more points each. Current offerings include: 
UN2501 - Contemporary biology laboratory and one of the following

  • Lab in Molecular Biology (UN3040)- not currently offered
  • A 3 pt. Barnard lab course (Bio advisor approval required)
  • A 5 point project lab

4. Electives: Two additional 3000- or 4000- level lecture courses for 3 or more points. For students who have not taken introductory biology at Columbia, one of these electives must be chosen from the list of core courses above. Current offerings include the courses listed above in (2) and the following. Prior approval is required for any course not on this list.

  • UN3004 - Neurobiology I: Cellular & Molecular Neurobiology
  • UN3005 - Neurobiology II: Development & Systems
  • UN3006 - Physiology
  • UN3019 - Brain Evolution
  • UN3022 - Developmental Biology
  • UN3025 - Neurogenetics
  • UN3031 - Genetics
  • UN3034/GU4034 - Biotechnology
  • UN3799/GU4799 - Molecular Biology of Cancer
  • UN3041 - Cell Biology
  • UN3073 - Cellular and Molecular Immunology
  • UN3193/GU4193 - Stem Cell Biol & Applications
  • BIOC UN3300 - Biochemistry
  • UN3310/GU4310 - Virology
  • UN3320 - Regulation of Behaviors for Survival
  • UN3404 - Antimicrobial Resistance
  • BIOC UN3501/GU4501 - Biochemistry
  • BIOC UN3512/GU4512 - Molecular Biology
  • UN3560 - Evolutionary Biology in the Genomic Era
  • GU4001 - Advanced Genetic Analysis
  • GU4002 - Macromolecular Structure and Interactions
  • GU4008 - Advanced seminar in neurobiology (topic varies)
  • GU4011 - Neural Syst: Circuits in the Brain
  • GU4035 - Seminar in Epigenetics
  • GU4036 - Transformative Concepts in Systems Biology
  • GU4044 - Advanced Topics in Cell Biology
  • GU4075 - Biology at Physical Extremes
  • GU4080 - Ancient and Modern RNA Worlds
  • GU4082 - Theoretical Foundations and Applications of Biophysical Methods
  • GU4290 - Biological Microscopy
  • GU4300 - Drugs and Disease
  • BIOC GU4323 - Biophysical Chemistry I
  • BIOC GU4324 - Biophysical Chemistry II
  • GU4510 - Genomics of Gene Regulation
  • GU4560 - Evolutionary Biology in the Genomic Era

Every effort is made to keep this list up to date. However, last min. changes do occur. See recent changes for new course updates.

Note: SCNC & HPSC courses do not count towards the Major even if listed under Biology courses on Bio web site. BIOT courses will not be counted towards your Major. 

II. Other Required Courses

  1. Chemistry: Chemistry through organic, and accompanying laboratories, are required: One of the following options will fulfill this requirement.
    • Option 1: General chemistry - UN1403-UN1404 and lab UN1500

Organic chemistry - UN2443-UN2444 and lab UN2495-UN2496

  • Option 2: For students who qualify for intensive chemistry 

Second Semester General Chemistry (Intensive) UN1604 and Intensive lab UN1507 

Organic Chemistry - UN2443-W3444 and lab UN2495-UN2496

  • Option 3: For students who qualify for 1st year organic chemistry 

Intensive General Chemistry Lab - UN1507 (Previously W2507)

Intensive Organic Chemisty UN2045-UN2046 and Orgo lab UN2495-UN2496, or UN2545 (Previously W3045-3046, W3493-3545)

  1. Physics: Two semesters of physics are required, including the accompanying labs. The usual choices are General physics (UN1201-UN1202) and labs (UN1291-UN1292). The 1400 sequence is recommended if you plan to take 3 terms of physics. Higher level physics sequences are ok too
  2. Math: The math requirement can be fulfilled by taking either of these
    • Two semesters of calculus
    • One semester of calculus plus one semester of statistics (UN1101 or UN1201)**
    • For students with AP credit, A 4 or 5 in Calculus A/B in high school or a 4 in B/C calculus fulfills the requirement of one term of calculus toward the biology major. A score of 5 in B/C calculus fulfills the requirement of one year of calculus toward the biology major. (Students with these scores are exempt from some bio major requirements, as explained above, but will not receive AP credit if they take Calculus 1, or if they take no calculus at Columbia.) For more details, see the mathematics department web site.

**Note: old course numbers W1111/W1211 still count for the statistics portion of the math requirement. Please consult with your advisor if you are unsure if your course counts toward your major.

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