General Studies & Transfer Students

Q1: Why do I have to take chemistry before biology? 

In high school, you are usually expected to memorize the basic facts and principles. In college, you are expected to learn the facts in much more detail and you are also expected to understand the principles in much greater depth. On exams you will be asked to apply the principles that you have learned to solve problems and to explain totally new situations. If you jump straight into Biology UN2005/UN2401 without a year of college chemistry to help you "rev up" you are likely to find the biology overwhelming.

You may review this exam from a past year of UN2005 and review your answers with the exam key. This will give you an idea of what makes UN2005/6 a unique Intro Bio sequence.

It also pays to take chemistry first for another reason. Biologists use chemistry as language, the way physicists use math. You can explain physics without math, but it takes a lot longer and the explanations are not as satisfying, or you have to teach the math as you go along. So, it is simpler to just do the math first and the physics after. Similarly, it makes more sense to do the chemistry first and the biology second. 

Q2: I am premed, and haven’t taken college level bio before. What biology class should I take?

If you are a postbaccalaureate student, or a student in SPS, you should take Bio. UN2401-UN2402. If you need to fulfill the lab requirement for medical school, you should take the lab Bio UN2501. You can take the lab either term; we advise taking it after you complete UN2401. 

If you are a CC or GS undergraduate, you should take Bio UN2005-2006 instead of UN2401-UN2402 after General chemistry I & II.

You do NOT have to take UN2501. There are many other ways to fulfill the lab requirement for the major, including 2 semesters of BIOL UN3500, SURF or a project lab -- see the major requirements page for details.

Q3: I took introductory biology somewhere else. Should I start with UN2005/UN2401 or should I skip UN2005/6 (or UN2401/2) and start with a higher level (3000 level) course? 

Transfer students are required to start with UN2005/UN2401. Intro bio is required because most students in the past who skipped it found themselves struggling in upper level (3000 level) courses. If you repeat a year of intro bio, you should still receive transfer credit toward graduation for the year of intro you took elsewhere.  However, the previous intro will not count toward your bio or bio related major at CU.  There are exceptions, but they must be approved in advance by an advisor from the biology department. However, in virtually all cases, you will need to take intro bio here. If you plan to ask for an exception, we suggest you register for either UN2005/UN2401 or a 3000 level course and attend both courses for the first week of class. Once you decide which course is the right level, you can drop or add courses as necessary.

Q4: What is the difference between Bio UN2005 and Bio UN2401? 

Short answer: Not much -- there is a single Courseworks site for both classes. 

Long answer: 
The lectures in Bio UN2005 and UN2401 are identical. However, UN2005 has required recitations (with weekly quizzes) and UN2401 has optional recitations (no quizzes). Because of the required recitation, Bio UN2005 is 4 points while Bio UN2401 is 3 points. The same similarities and differences apply to Bio UN2006 vs. UN2402. UN2401 has optional recitations because it is assumed that many students that already have a bachelors degree: 
    (1) have less time available to 'attend' recitations because of jobs & families
    (2) do not want to pay for the extra point
    (3) have had more practice pacing themselves and so are less likely to fall behind. 

The exams in the two courses and the grading scales for the exams are the same - the scale is set using the scores of the UN2005 (undergraduate) students. Therefore, the exam scores needed to earn an A are exactly the same in each class.

Undergraduates in GS &CC should take UN2005, and postbacs and SPS students should register for UN2401.* Note that all exams in both classes, except the final, will be given at 4:10 (or later, if necessary). Students from either class may attend either set of lectures; students can switch back and forth as their schedules change. However, UN2005 students must attend UN2005 recitations and UN2401 students may attend only UN2401 recitations. The recitation sections for UN2005 are listed separately on the directory of classes -- Students in UN2005 must sign up for a section (called UN2015, no points) with the registrar. UN2401 students do not sign up; times and rooms for the optional UN2401 sections will be posted after school starts. All recitations start the second week of classes.

If you need additional information, contact the instructors and/or see the UN2005/UN2401 Courseworks web site, which includes a sample exam and contact info for the instructors, etc.

*If you have a problem with the number of points, and need to take the 'other class' for more or less points (4 for UN2005 or UN2006 vs 3 for UN2401 or UN2402) please contact the DUS, Alice Heicklen at [email protected].

Business Office

Department of Biological Sciences
500 Fairchild Center
Mail Code 2401
Columbia University
1212 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027

Academic Office

Department of Biological Sciences
600 Fairchild Center
Mail Code 2402
Columbia University
1212 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027
[email protected]
212 854-4581