Department of Biology
Concentration Programs. The Department of Biology offers the following five concentration programs:
- General Biology
- Plant Biology
- Cell and Molecular Biology
Advising. Students who are interested in any of the concentrations offered by the Department should consult a general advisor during the freshman year and a concentration advisor during the second term of the sophomore year. It is not necessary to complete every prerequisite before declaring a concentration.
Teaching Certificate. Students interested in obtaining a secondary teaching certificate with a major or minor in Biology should consult the "Teacher Certification Program" section in this Bulletin and the School of Education Office of Academic Services.
Writing Requirement. The LS&A Junior/ Senior writing requirement in Biology may be met by completing Biology 301, Writing for Biologists, with a grade of C or better. Enrollment is open to prospective concentrators who have completed the prerequisites for Biology 301 as well as those who have formally entered one of the concentration programs in Biology. Biology 301 also counts 3 credits toward the biology concentration.
Field of Concentration. For purposes of calculating grade point average, the term "field of concentration" (for all Biology concentration programs) means the following:
- All Biology and Biological Station courses, including cross-listed ones, at the 200-level and above.
- All required cognate courses (if any).
- All mandatory prerequisites.
Introductory Biology Credit Limitation: The maximum amount of credit that can be earned in introductory biology courses is 12 credits. Students interested in concentrating in biology or a related science must complete Biology 162 or equivalent.
Course Listings by Biology Distribution Group
Laboratory courses or courses that include a laboratory are marked with an asterisk (*)
- Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology:
||Introductory Microbiology |
||Introduction to Neurobiology |
||Animal Physiology |
||Introduction to Plant Biology |
Note students taking 225 are also encouraged to take 226* - Animal Physiology Laboratory (2 credits).
- Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology:
||Introduction to Plant Biology |
||Chordate Anatomy and Phylogeny |
||Plant-Biology-Organismic Approach |
||General Ecology |
||Introduction to Animal Diversity |
Note students taking 281 are also encouraged to take 282* - General Ecology Lab (3 credits).
Students planning careers in biology are encouraged to choose a variety of courses involving the study of plants, animals, and microbes; basic courses in genetics and biochemistry are required.
Supporting Facilities. Modern teaching and research laboratories house electron microscopes, controlled environment rooms, analytical and preparative centrifuges, spectrophotometers, and other tools essential for modern research in all areas of the biological sciences. In addition, the Herbarium, the Museum of Paleontology, the Museum of Anthropology Ethnobotanical Laboratory, the Museum of Zoology, and the Matthaei Botanical Gardens supplement the instructional and research programs. University-owned research facilities in the vicinity of Ann Arbor include Saginaw Forest, Edwin S. George Reserve, Stinchfield Woods, and Mud Lake Bog. The Biological Station provides additional facilities for instruction and research. The University of Michigan is also a member of the Organization for Tropical Studies.
Biological Station. It is recommended that students with concentrations in the Biology Department give serious consideration to spending a summer at a field station, especially the University of Michigan Biological Station, or a marine laboratory. The training and experience provided by such facilities are particularly valuable for students interested in ecology, systematics, animal behavior, and evolutionary biology.
The curriculum at the Biological Station places a strong emphasis on ecology, systematics, field biology, and environmental studies. Courses are taught during the Spring and Summer Half-Terms (IIIa and IIIb) at the Biological Station on the shores of Douglas Lake in northern Lower Michigan. The Biological Station occupies a 10,000 acre tract between Burt and Douglas Lakes and is the world's largest inland field station for instruction and research in biological science. Located in the transition zone between coniferous forests to the north and deciduous forests to the south, it is surrounded by a remarkable variety of natural communities.
The Biological Station offers students and faculty an opportunity to study together the biota of the regions with a full appreciation of the dynamics of the natural systems involved. The small community of students, faculty, and scientists shares knowledge during meal and recreation times as well as in the classroom, field, and laboratory. Many courses offered at the Biological Station can be used as part of a concentration plan in biology or botany with approval from a concentration advisor.
Two courses in college biology are normally required for admission to Biological Station courses, all of which are either upper level or graduate level and are offered for 5 credits. A normal load at the Biological Station is two courses (10 credits). Each formal course occupies the entire days assigned to it. Field work is supported by modern equipment, vehicles, boats, laboratories, and a fine library.
The campus office is located at 1111 Natural Science Building, 763-4461.
Biology Honors Programs
The Biology Department Honors Programs train students to conduct independent research in Biology, Cell and Molecular Biology, Microbiology or Plant Biology. In addition to completing all the requirements for one of the Biology departmental concentrations, an Honors degree requires a concentration GPA of at least 3.3, and the completion of a significant piece of independent research that is reported in an Honors thesis.
Admission to a Biology Honors Program
Students interested in the Honors Program should complete an application for admission. This application includes (a) a transcript and (b) a statement describing the student's general area of research interest. It is not necessary to have a research mentor identified at this time.
The Honors Program
- Biology 201. All students are required to enroll in Biology 201, "Introduction to Research in the Life Sciences," a course designed to help students identify a research mentor. This course surveys the range of research opportunities available in the Department of Biology, and in other life science units at the University of Michigan. Students should complete Biology 201 during their sophomore year, although in unusual circumstances, a student may enroll during the first term of the junior year.
- Research. The student must identify a research mentor, preferably by the end of the sophomore year. The research mentor can be a member of the Department of Biology, or a life scientist holding a faculty appointment in another unit of the University, such as the Medical School or the School of Public Health. If the mentor is not a member of the Department of Biology, the student must also identify a co-sponsor within the Department of Biology.
Students must register for independent research (Biology 300 or 400) for at least two terms; most students will register for three or four terms of independent research. All students working in labs in the Biology Department must register for Biology 300 during their first term of Honors research, and for Biology 400 in subsequent terms. Students working in labs outside of the Biology Department must identify a co-sponsor within the Biology Department. The student will usually sign up for Biology 300 and 400 through the co-sponsor's independent study number. However, it is permitted to use the independent study number of another department if the co-sponsor approves it.
- Honors thesis proposal. The thesis proposal must be submitted during the student's third year. A thesis proposal should be approximately 5 pages long, and state the specific hypotheses to be tested, the methods to be used, and the potential results. This proposal must include the signature of the mentor (and co-sponsor if there is one) indicating that he or she supports the proposal. The Honors committee will review all thesis proposals, and communicate any concerns they have about the appropriateness and feasibility of the project to the student and mentor. If the committee judges a project to be unlikely to succeed, or on a topic that is outside the student's are of concentration they can vote not to approve a proposed topic. For instance, research in molecular neurobiology would be appropriate for a Biology or CMB concentration, but not for a student concentrating in microbiology or plant biology. The Honors committee will communicate their approval or disapproval of an Honors thesis proposal within one month of its submission
- Readers. Within one month after the thesis proposal is approved, the student should identify three readers for the thesis, one of whom is the sponsor. At least two readers must be faculty members of the Department of Biology, unless the student receives written approval of the Biology Honors committee for an exception. Readers must agree to turn in their evaluations within 10 days after the thesis is due. Once the thesis is submitted, a member of the Biology Department Honors committee will be designated as a fourth reader of the thesis.
- Summer research. It is highly recommended that students arrange to work full time on their Honors thesis during the summer between their junior and senior years. A limited amount of funds are available from university fellowships, so in most cases support will have to come from the sponsoring lab. For students working in areas of field biology it is often necessary to arrange for two field seasons to complete a project. For this reason students working on field-based topics are urged to contact faculty about the possibility of starting work during the summer between their sophomore and junior years.
- The Honors thesis. For April/May graduates the Honors theses will be due one week after the end of winter break. This will allow time for the readers and the Honors committee to evaluate all theses prior to the Spring symposium. For students graduating in December or August the thesis will be due one month before the last day of classes; there will be no Honors symposia in these terms.
The Honors thesis is expected to be a report of a substantial body of original results obtained during a sustained period of investigation. It will be written in the form of a research paper that could be submitted to a specialty journal in the student's area of interest, with the exception that the introduction is expected to provide substantially more background on the research area than is typical of a research article. Based on the material presented in the Honors thesis and the student's overall record, the readers of the thesis can recommend a rating of no Honors, Honors, high Honors, or highest Honors. Highest Honors will be given only in rare cases when (a) the student has a concentration GPA of 3.6 or above, and (b) all reviewers agree that the material, as presented, would be likely to be accepted into a professional journal with only minor modifications.
Readers of Honors theses are expected to file their reports within 10 days after the thesis is submitted. The reports of all readers should address the quality of the science reported in the thesis, as well as the quality of the presentation. The report of the mentor should also address the role the student played in the design, carrying out and interpretation of the experiments reported in the thesis, and should point out the role that others in the lab played.
The Biology Department Honors Committee will meet approximately two weeks after the due date of theses to review the recommendations of the readers. The member of the committee appointed as the fourth reader will summarize the thesis and the reports of the reviewers. The Committee will then vote on the appropriate level of Honors. The committee will attempt to maintain uniform standards for Honors, and is not constrained by the level of Honors recommended by the readers. The Honors Committee is permitted to table discussion and request the student to revise the thesis if they believe that a revised version might merit a higher rating.
- Honors symposium. An Honors symposium will be held during the second week of April. Each Honors graduate will be expected to prepare a poster describing his or her work. At the end of the poster session there will be an awards ceremony. At this ceremony, any student whose thesis has been given highest Honors will be invited to present a 15 minute talk summarizing the key results of his/her research. The awards ceremony will be followed by a reception.
Typical Honors schedule
Year 1. Fall or Winter Term - Complete Introductory Biology (Biology 162). (Students with advanced placement credit in Biology should begin the second tier courses, Biochemistry and Genetics, during their first or second year).
Year 2. Fall or Winter Term - Enroll in Biology 201.
Year 3. Fall term - Begin research and submit Honors thesis proposal.
Winter term - Continue research - Submit Honors thesis proposal if this was not done fall term.
Spring/summer - continue working in lab or field.
Year 4. Fall term - Finish research and begin writing.
Early March - Turn in completed thesis.
Early April - Receive rating of thesis and present poster at Honors symposium.
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