Biology Major

We offer students a vibrant, highly research-based program with a strong focus on molecular and cellular biology. Through our rigorous sequence of course and lab work, our students develop a solid grounding in biological principles and master experimental methods. For many majors, our distinctive emphasis on hands-on training translates into a deep and abiding interest in biomedical research.

State-of-the-art facilities and unparalleled direct access to high-tech instruments are additional hallmarks of our program. We also offer concentrations and minors for majors interested in exploring more specialized areas, including biochemistry and biophysics, scientific computing, neuroscience, environmental studies, and health studies.

Curriculum & Courses

Our faculty are accessible and engaged teachers and researchers. They teach courses at every level while advancing cutting-edge research in partnership with students in their labs.

Biology majors pursue a program of interconnected classroom and lab work. In preparation for the biology curriculum, students must complete a natural science course (with lab) in the freshman year. Sophomores enroll in a year-long combined lab and lecture course, Biology 200, which introduces cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, cellular metabolism, and cellular regulation. As juniors, they complete multiple half- semester courses covering key topics in greater depth and take the department’s signature “Superlab” class. In this intensive year-long lab, they investigate significant research questions in half-semester modules. For majors, this is vital firsthand experience using leading-edge research techniques in the context of current biological questions and theories. The curriculum is also flexible enough to allow majors to study abroad in their junior year. In their senior year, majors expand their critical and creative abilities through advanced-level seminar courses in which they explore contemporary developments in a particular area of biology. They also develop and write a research-based thesis.

  • Major

    • Both semesters of BIOL H200 and BIOL H201. Successful completion of a one-credit natural science course (which includes a laboratory experience) at Haverford, Bryn Mawr or Swarthmore College is a prerequisite for enrolling in BIOL H200.
    • A minimum of a one-credit chemistry course (with associated lab).
    • At least one semester of advanced coursework (200 level or higher) in a natural sciences department other than biology. Courses crosslisted in biology may not be counted toward this requirement.
    • Two semesters of the junior laboratory, BIOL H300 and BIOL H301.
    • Four half-semester 300-level advanced topics courses (selected from BIOL H311-H329). Occasionally, an upper-level course from Bryn Mawr or Swarthmore may substitute for one or two of the half-semester lecture courses, but only with the specific permission of the student’s major advisor. Students are encouraged to take additional topics classes beyond the minimum of four to enhance their biology experience.
    • One half-semester 450-level seminar course in the Haverford Biology Department (chosen from BIOL H450-H463-; no substitutions permitted). Students may take additional seminar courses to enrich their knowledge of the discipline.
    • A minimum of two 400-level Senior Research Tutorial credits, generally taken over both semesters of the senior year, including active participation in weekly lab meetings and submission of a notebook and a thesis describing the progress and results of the project. The tutorial may be taken for single or double credit each semester.
    • Senior Department Studies, BIOL H499.

    In addition to the required courses, the Biology Department strongly recommends a year of physics, a course in probability and statistics, and advanced coursework in another natural science department.

    Department policy is to limit study abroad biology major credit to a maximum of two 31X/32X courses and one Superlab quarter (with rare exceptions of a full semester Superlab credit).

Associated Programs and Concentrations

Research & Outreach

In this research-intensive major, students routinely frame their own experimental questions and use current techniques to search for answers, a process that culminates in their senior research project.

A senior thesis is required of all majors and is based on original research conducted in the laboratory of one of our faculty members. A few students each year elect to pursue their senior research in an off-campus laboratory, in which case they are assigned an on-campus mentor. The year-long research and writing process, which includes participation in our 400-level senior research tutorial and one-on-one meetings with a faculty advisor, affords seniors invaluable mentoring as well as significant independence.

Our seniors routinely produce theses of exceptionally high quality, resulting in presentations at local and international meetings and publications in peer-reviewed journals.

After Graduation

Our majors graduate prepared to build on the exceptional foundation they have laid at Haverford. Roughly 35% attend medical school, while close to 25% go on to graduate school. Others draw on the problem solving, critical thinking, data evaluation, and communication skills cultivated in our program to pursue careers in fields such as teaching, law, public health, and science writing.

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