Chair, Associate Professor DANIEL V. LYNCH

Professors: ART, DEWITT, J. EDWARDS, ZOTTOLI. Associate Professors: ALTSCHULER, LYNCH, H. WILLIAMS**. Senior Lecturer: D. C. SMITH. Assistant Professors: ADLER*, LASKOWSKI, MEYER, RAYMOND*, ROSEMAN, SAVAGE, SWOAP. Associate Professor of Marine Science for the Williams-Mystic Program: CARLTON. Visiting Assistant Professor of Marine Science for the Williams-Mystic Program: MCKENNA. Part-time Lecturer: HEINS. Part-time Instructor: THEILING.

The Biology curriculum has been designed to provide students a broad base for understanding principles governing life processes at all levels, from biochemistry and cell biology to physiology to environmental biology and behavior. Courses emphasize fundamentals common to all subdisciplines including the coupling of structure to function, the transfer of energy in living systems, communication, and the molding of diversity by the evolutionary process. In upper-level courses and in independent and Honors research, students have the opportunity to investigate areas at the frontiers of modern biology.

Although the biology major is specifically designed to provide a balanced curriculum in the broader context of the liberal arts, it is also excellent preparation for graduate studies in medicine and the life sciences.


In order to make the major accessible to students with diverse interests, required courses are kept to a minimum. The Biology major is satisfied by nine courses, as follows:

Biology 101 The Cell

Biology 102 The Organism

Biology 202 Genetics

Any two 300-level courses, one of which must have a laboratory associated with it.

Any one 400-level course.

Any other three courses or any other two courses and Chemistry 201-202.

NOTE: Independent study courses do not fulfill the 300-level course requirement. Both WIOX 215, Biology: Ecology of Flowering Plants and WIOX 216, Biology: Evolution, in the Williams Oxford Program qualify for major credit. BIMO 406 satisfies the 400-level requirement; however, students electing this option must take nine courses in addition to BIMO 406 in order to satisfy major requirements. NSCI 401 does not satisfy the 400-level requirement in the major.

Distribution Requirement

In order to ensure that majors broaden their knowledge of biology, one of the elective courses for the major must include a course covering biological processes at levels of organization above the cell. Courses that satisfy this distribution requirement are indicated in the individual course description.


It is preferable for students who plan to major in biology, or think they may be interested in doing so, to take Biology 101, 102 during their first year at Williams. It is also possible to begin the biology major during the sophomore year, although students should understand that it may require taking several semesters with two or more biology courses.

Students interested in biology, whether or not they intend to major in it, are encouraged to take Biology 101, 102. It is also possible, with permission of the department, to take Biology 203 Ecology and Biology 204 Animal Behavior without prerequisite. Other biology courses designed specifically for students who do not intend to take additional upper level courses in biology are open to all students. These include Biology 132 Human Biology and Social Issues and Biology 134 The Tropics: Biology and Social Issues. Both of these courses satisfy the Division III distribution requirement; in addition, Biology 134 satisfies the Peoples and Cultures distribution requirement.

Beginning students should normally enroll in Biology 101 and 102. Students with unusually strong backgrounds in biology, such as those with outstanding performance on the College Board Biology Advanced Placement Test, may be permitted to elect a sophomore-level course in lieu of Biology 101 and/or Biology 102 upon successful completion of a departmental qualifying exam.

Students interested in attending graduate school in biology are advised to take organic chemistry (Chemistry 201-202).


In order to be recommended for the degree with Honors, a biology major is normally expected to have completed the equivalent of two semesters and a Winter Study (031) of independent research culminating in a thesis which demonstrates outstanding achievement of an original and innovative nature. Presentation of a thesis, however, should not be interpreted as a guarantee of a degree with Honors. The principal considerations in admitting a student to the program of independent Honors research will be mastery of fundamental material and skills, ability to pursue independent study successfully, and demonstrated student interest and motivation. Students interested in participating in the Honors program should consult with the Department prior to spring break; approval must be received before spring registration in the junior year.

The minimum course requirements for a degree with Honors in Biology are Biology 101, Biology 102, Biology 202, two 300-level biology courses (one of which must have a laboratory associated with it), one 400-level biology course, Biology 493, Biology 494, WSP 031, and any other two courses in biology (or any other one course and Chemistry 201-202).

In addition to the normal Honors route, which includes two semesters (Biology 493-494) and a Winter Study of research (WSP 031) during senior year, students have the option, subject to the approval of their thesis advisor, to begin the Honors research during Winter Study junior year or during the second semester junior year. Students beginning Honors in Winter Study of junior year would take Biology 494 in the spring of their junior year followed by Biology 493 in the fall of their senior year; students beginning Honors during the second semester of junior year would take Biology 494 that semester, followed by Biology 493 in the fall of senior year and Winter Study research in the winter of the senior year.


Students interested in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology should consult the general statement under Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Biology majors not enrolled in the BIMO program can take Chemistry/Biology/Biochemistry 321 and 322 if they have required prerequisites.


Students interested in Neuroscience should consult the general statement under Neuroscience.