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Foundations of Biology

The Foundations of Biology course sequence for biological sciences majors takes an active learning approach that challenges students to apply their knowledge and work collaboratively to solve real-world problems. 

The goal in Foundations is not to teach biology; it is rather to train biologists. As such, students gain a background not only in the biological content standard for an introductory course — albeit in a sophisticated and integrated manner — but also develop the skills (e.g, in communication, collaboration, information management, self-assessment) required for a person to be a successful scientist within the discipline of biology.

BIOL 1951/1951H: Foundations of Biology for Biological Sciences Majors, Part I

BIOL 1951/1951H is intended for majors in the College of Biological Sciences. It is the "concept lab" (in place of lecture and complementary to "research lab") for the first semester of the Foundations sequence). The course content emphasizes evolution, organismal diversity, and genetics within the context of problem-solving and application of understanding. Student assessment is individually as well as team-based, with the latter occurring through a series of short-term and long-term inquiry projects. Students are tasked with thinking like biologists as they read and critique primary scientific literature, work on team projects, and analyze experimental results to draw conclusions about the operation of the biological world. Active participation by students is required.

BIOL 1961/1961H: Foundations of Biology for Biological Sciences Majors, Part I Laboratory

BIOL 1961/1961H is the "research lab" component for the first semester of the Foundations sequence. Students are challenged to formulate scientific questions, make observations, develop hypotheses, and design and conduct experiments. Students are also introduced to advanced tools of the discipline (e.g., protein and DNA analysis, PCR, fluorescent microscopy, phylogenetic analysis, bioinformatics) so as to build a research “toolkit.” The complexity of the lab work ensures that there will be unexpected results, mistakes, and an opportunity to learn the critical role of good lab skills for obtaining reliable data. Students have the opportunity individually, in small groups, and in the full lab section to discuss results and critique the work of others. BIOL 1961/1961H provides students with a firm foundation on which to later launch their team-based inquiry into authentic scientific research in BIOL 3004.

BIOL 2003/2003H: Foundations of Biology for Biological Sciences Majors, Part II

BIOL 2003/2003H is the concept lab for the second semester of the Foundations sequence. The course is similar in structure to BIOL 1951 and covers the topics of cell biology and ecology.

BIOL 3004/3004H: Foundations of Biology for Biological Sciences Majors, Part II Laboratory

In BIOL 3004/3004H student teams (established in BIOL 1961) design and perform novel research projects. This course is structured as a working research lab, where instructors serve as advisors to help student teams plan and execute their proposed research. Required activities of the course include reading of primary literature relevant to the specific project undertaken, maintenance of a detailed lab notebook, and active participation in planning and discussion of the team's work. Each laboratory section is devoted to one of the following general research areas: Pseudomonas adaptive radiation, zebrafish environmental toxicology, or microbiome/bioinformatics research. All projects examine the relationship between biology and other sciences, and stress application of quantitative skills, the scientific method, and modern biological tools to answer meaningful questions. Skills developed include designing and execution of experiments, appropriate use of the primary literature, written documentation of methods, analysis and presentation of results, and peer review.

Biol 1951+1961 enrollment for non-CBS students

Priority enrollment in Foundations of Biology will be given to current and admitted CBS students. As space is available, non-CBS students who have completed the prerequisites and are interested in transferring to CBS will be allowed to enroll in BIOL 1951+1961. This access will be based on evaluation of the student’s academic record, with particular attention to science coursework.

Steps for enrollment:
  1. Complete the BIOL 1951+1961 Enrollment Request form online.
  2. Each student’s academic record will be evaluated to determine if they are a viable candidate for transfer based on CBS admission requirements.
  3. After transfer eligibility is determined, the names of eligible students will be entered into a lottery for seats in BIOL 1951+1961. The seat lottery will be composed of multiple tiers taking progress in major courses into consideration. 
  4. Students will be emailed with an update on their status and next steps for enrollment. Timeline will be specified on the online request form.

Please contact Geri Grosinger from the Biology Department at with questions about this process.

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