Online Edition

(Last Revision: August 2005)


Dear Biology Student,

The primary goal of this handbook is to provide you with information you need to be successful in completing the degree requirements and meeting the expectations of the Biology Department. Specifically, it provides guides to required courses, course sequence choices and a description of the departmental outcomes and how they are demonstrated. This handbook also describes policies and general information that will help to answer many of the questions you may have as to what is expected of you as a biology student. Beyond the handbook, your advisor is always willing to assist you with any additional questions.

We are delighted that you have chosen to join us in an area of study that offers us opportunities to keep searching for new patterns and relationships. What makes Biology exciting is its diversity. A Biologist could be gathering field samples for environmental impact statements, studying whole organisms’ responses to stress, or inserting new genes into a microbe. Biologists seek to unravel the mystery of living organisms from biomolecules to ecosystems. Alverno’s Biology curriculum is constantly evolving to make sure you have the knowledge and up-to-date skills to participate effectively in this fast-paced field.

The Biology faculty of Alverno College believe that to understand science as a way of knowing, you must actively “do” science, and reflect on what you are doing. A Biology major needs to understand how data are gathered and how conclusions are drawn. Our courses will teach you to make observations and form conclusions in settings that range from controlled laboratory experiments to field studies of living organisms.

You can focus your studies in one of several core areas leading to a variety of careers in fields like teaching, industry, health care, or research – or you can apply your biological knowledge to careers outside the traditional, like science writing or environmental law. If you are a student whose interests lie in both biology and chemistry, you may wish to specialize in molecular biology. In the molecular biology specialization, you major in biology and minor in chemistry, or earn a double major in biology and chemistry. For your electives, you focus on courses in molecular biology, working closely with faculty in both fields. Your internship combines both biology and chemistry laboratory techniques.


The Biology Major & Your Support Areas

Biology is an enjoyable but challenging major. The possible career options are as varied as your imagination can make them. The Biology outcomes and courses (Tables 1 and 2) will help prepare you for a variety of careers. You need to carefully consider future career options and it is always wise to consider several options. You will gain the maximum benefit from your biology degree if you think about your planned career and select electives, internships, and support areas that strengthen you as a candidate for employment or post-baccalaureate study in that area. Selection of your support areas (or a second major) is as important as your decision to declare biology your major.

Should I double major with biology?

You may wish to select two support areas or double major with biology. Either choice will prepare you for the workplace or graduate school. Two considerations are the additional time to complete a double major and the amount of study time required for your coursework. The choice is up to you, but should be made in consultation with your advisor. Information on supports for the biology major can be found at: If you are a double major, you will be assigned an advisor from your other major in addition to your biology advisor.


Imagine... you have been at Alverno studying biology for four years and are planning to graduate. You need only one more course to complete all of your graduation requirements. But when you look in the course offerings booklet, the one course you need has not been offered! This nightmare scenario can be easily avoided by working closely with your faculty advisor (or advisors if you are a double major). Completion of your degree requires careful long-term planning. A list of predicted course offerings is available at: However, you need to anticipate such problems such as course cancellations, scheduling conflicts, or changes in course offerings.

Occasionally, students find that their interests change during their course of study. If you find a specific area of biology interesting, or would like to integrate your biological training into a specific career after graduation, tell your advisor(s) so that you can work together to plan the appropriate course sequences. The elective studies option may allow you to count credits for your previous major or support.

Student Responsibilities With Respect To Advising

Your advisor is a resource. Your advisor depends on you in order to be effective. You know more about your plans and goals than your advisor, the primary responsibility for setting and pursuing them is yours. Therefore, you are responsible for:

  1. Keeping track of your own progress: You should consult the "General Checklist To Complete A Major In Biology" (Table 3) and create an overall plan for completing your program. You are responsible for checking your progress and making sure you are completing the required courses (Table 4) and earning validations in the abilities. Arrive at your registration appointments with at least a tentative schedule based on your overall plan. Make a list of questions for your advisor in advance.
  2. Keeping your advisor informed about your progress: If you are having trouble in a course, let your advisor know as soon as possible. Your advisor knows about the kinds of help available on campus and about study strategies, as well as how the course fits into your plan of study. Some courses can be dropped for a semester without affecting your graduation plans. Others are vital prerequisites (Table 5) and can't be put off. Consult with your advisor before dropping a course. If you are doing well in a course or having other important successes, let your advisor know so this information can be recorded in your student file. The file is used by faculty who are writing letters of recommendation and narrative transcripts. Also keep your advisor up-to-date on your goals; advisors receive information about summer internships and job opportunities. If you're looking for one, let your advisor know.
  3. Using College, Division, and Department Resources: The Natural Science, Mathematics and Technology Division maintains a student opportunity folder in the secretary’s office. Internships, travel courses, scholarships, and other opportunities are filed here. You should check these sources and the bulletin boards often. Contact the Internship, International Studies, and Career Education offices months before you expect to begin your internship, study abroad, or begin a job search.
  4. Checking your homework file and e-mail often: This enables your instructors and advisors to rapidly communicate information to you regarding your academic progress.
Role Of Department Advisor

Once you officially declare biology as a major, the department will assign you an advisor. Your advisor will (with your assistance) monitor your progress as a student, offer advice, and facilitate the proper completion of your degree by directing your course sequence planning. Advisors often have a good feel for career opportunities for biologists. They also know what coursework and experiences many employers and graduate schools require. A degree without adequate research experiences and coursework in the proper areas may make obtaining the job you desire difficult. Occasionally, your advisor may also guide you in exploring career options. Your strongest abilities might be in an area that you had not anticipated. This may open new career possibilities for you! Your advisor will give you assistance in:

1. Determining which classes will best meet your career goals: As a Biology major, you have some flexibility in course selections. Your advisor can provide information about their content and help you choose classes most appropriate to your career goals. Your advisor also has information about course requirements for pre-professional programs.

2. Planning your individual course sequence: Your advisor can tell you when particular courses will be offered, and can help you plan your long-term schedule so you don't miss your only chance at a course. Your advisor will also know about changes in course scheduling and curricular changes, and how they affect your plans.

3. Dealing with course conflicts and other problems: Your advisor can help you negotiate arrangements to deal with some course conflicts or changes in sequence.

4. Keeping on track: Your advisor will review your progress with you twice during your program - at the mid-program review and at the graduation audit.

Preparing for Graduate & Professional Study (Dental, Medical, Veterinary)
If you are interested in pursuing graduate or pre-professional programs, consult with your biology advisor early in your academic career. Students majoring in biology in preparation for professional school will be assigned or referred to the pre-professional advisor in addition to the assigned biology advisor. You must be enrolled in the pre-professional program if you intend to enter medical, dental, or veterinary school. This will help you get valuable preparations and will keep you informed regarding special seminars, admission standards, and testing (MCAT, GRE) deadlines.


Because biology is such a diverse area of study, your options for courses cover a wide spectrum of topics. While you are encouraged to take a variety of courses in biology, some consideration of your career plans will assist you in selection of the most appropriate sequence of courses. Completion of your degree in biology requires careful planning and a logical sequence of courses that continually build on those skills and information learned in previous courses. To complete your degree in the shortest time possible and to minimize scheduling conflicts, you should (with your advisor’s assistance) carefully plan your entire sequence of biology and support area courses and periodically review your progress. Tables 1-5 will assist you in your planning.

Liberal Arts Requirements and Support Area Requirements
The Liberal Arts requirements for Biology majors include courses in humanities and fine arts, communication, psychology, social science, chemistry and physics. Biology majors are also required to take two support areas or one second major area.

Required Courses for Support Area in Biology
As a Biology support you are required to complete four biology courses at the 300/400 level and you must demonstrate each departmental outcome once (see Table 2).

Biology Course Prerequisites (Majors & Supports)
Prerequisites (Table 5) are an important aspect of course sequence planning. Prerequisites allow you to enter a course with the proper skills and knowledge base to succeed in the course. It is important that you, with the help of your advisor, plan your sequence of courses to ensure that you obtain the required prerequisites or your graduation may be delayed.

All biology majors are required to complete one internship in biology. Typically this occurs in your junior or senior year. You must have successfully completed two or more 300-level biology courses and demonstrated behavior consistent with success in a professional setting. Consult with your advisor and contact the internship office regarding deadlines and requirements for off campus experiential learning. Start planning early!

Electives and Areas of Study
If your interests lie in one particular area, you may wish to take the electives related to that area. For example, if you are interested in medical biology, you might take immunology, virology, and physiological mechanisms of disease (pathophysiology). If your interest is in molecular biology, you can take the molecular biology specialization. Ask your advisor about this option.

Courses Taken at Other Institutions
You might take one or more courses at other institutions. You may be transferring in from another college, have an opportunity to take a course that Alverno does not offer, or choose to spend a semester or two abroad. While the Biology faculty encourage you to take advantage of special opportunities, we also must have strong evidence of success in advanced level biology courses at Alverno before we grant an Alverno Biology degree. Therefore, all Alverno Biology majors must successfully take at least 15 credits of 300- or 400-level biology courses at Alverno. At least 3 of the courses must have a laboratory. Your supports may have similar requirements. Taking biology electives at another institution will be limited at the discretion of the department. Contact your advisor well in advance of registering for such courses elsewhere. You may also have to investigate additional opportunities for ability validation.

Interrupted Program of Study
 Occasionally, you may encounter a situation that requires you to interrupt your program of study at Alverno. Before requesting a Student On Leave (SOL) status, consult with your advisor to obtain departmental permission to interrupt your program of study. It is often difficult to resume where you left off after any extended absence from college. The Biology Department reserves the right to require remedial coursework (including re-taking courses in which you were successful) of any student whose program of study is interrupted for more than 2 consecutive semesters. You must also complete the SOL process with the registrar's office prior to interrupting your studies. If your concerns are financial, please see the financial aid department before you make any final decisions. They can often find solutions for students in financial difficulties. Visit them even if you have already received financial aid. Changed circumstances might allow you additional resources.

Keep an eye on the bulletin board on the second floor of TLTC. There are often announcements for journal clubs and other activities. Regularly check the Student Opportunities folder in the NSMT office (CO 226) for exchange courses, internships, scholarships, jobs, and other opportunities.

Meeting Of The Minds
Meeting of the Minds is a student- organized and operated club for pre-professional students (pre-medicine, pre-dental, pre-veterinary, etc.). The club meets twice a month during the semester. Information on meeting times, dates and announcements are posted on the second floor of the TLTC. Among the many activities provided for members, Meeting of the Minds arranges guest speakers from professional schools, information sessions regarding professional school requirements, and information exchange regarding specific professional school programs. Meeting of the Minds also supports student scholarships for qualified members.

You will probably require letters of reference from your instructors when you apply for employment, internships, scholarships, or graduate/professional school. Obviously, excellent work in courses is critical. To make the best impression, make sure your advisor and instructors can also report that your professional behavior was excellent. Set priorities that allow you to do your best work with plenty of time to recover from technology problems. Be prepared for your classes. Carefully follow directions and criteria and ask for clarification when necessary. Get to class on time every day. If you know you must be absent for a critical event that is impossible to schedule at another time, contact your instructor and state how you plan to mitigate the effects of your absence. If you are unable to attend because of a sudden emergency, contact your instructor as soon as possible to say when you will return and which student you will contact to find out what you missed. Not only will these behaviors result in glowing recommendations, they will help you to get the most from your education.

Academic Honesty

              Plagiarism is a serious academic offense.  Briefly, plagiarism is representing the work of another as one's own.  One common form of plagiarism is using the words of another without acknowledging the source of those words.  This is plagiarism even if the material has never been published or copyrighted.  Even text from the Internet, from a fellow student, or from an instructor must be immediately preceded or followed by a citation. The quote must be an exact copy of the original and it must be set in quotation marks or in indented text to distinguish it from your own words.  Do not merely change a few words of a quote: representing the slightly altered text as your own is still plagiarism. In general, it is best to avoid using quotes because this prevents you from learning to express ideas in your own words.  Representing the ideas of another as your own is also plagiarism.  Follow the statement of another’s ideas with a citation.  Penalties for plagiarism may range from a U on an assignment to expulsion from the college.
            Students must do the plagiarism exercise and fill out the plagiarism form in their SC 118 or 120 class, and must fill out the form in each BI class.  After this, they are expected to know how to properly use information from sources. This includes paraphrasing in their own words, giving sources for all material including pictures used in presentations, and properly indicating quotes.
            In introductory courses, we are teaching the proper conventions of attribution. Failures to properly format attributions (e.g. quoting with a citation but without using quotation marks, failing to cite sources of figures in presentations) may be corrected by revision.  In more advanced courses we assume that students know and understand the importance of proper attribution. Failure to use it will result in a U on the paper or presentation involved and a note in the student’s biology file. 
            In both introductory and advanced courses, repeated or multiple failures in attribution, whether in the same or subsequent courses, will be treated as intentional plagiarism, will result in a U in the course, and will be reported to the student’s advisor.
            If a student does not know whether what she intends to do is plagiarism or not, it is her responsibility to ask the instructor. This is especially important where the assigned work at risk may be required to pass the course.
            A lot of Alverno work is collaborative, but most assessments and some key assignments are not.  Cheating includes copying work from other students or sharing data on assignments that have been assigned as individual work, seeking help from others on takehome assessments, using unauthorized notes during assessments or quizzes, and using any other unauthorized sources of information on assessments or quizzes.  Allowing work to be copied or providing help on individual assignments is as much cheating as copying another’s work. Students are responsible for asking the instructor if they are in any doubt about what resources have been authorized for use on takehome assignments, homework, or assessments.  To avoid accusations of cheating, students should be aware of and avoid suspicious behavior during assessments and quizzes.
            Accusations of cheating will be reviewed by the Biology Department. Confirmed cases of cheating may result in a U for the course or a U on the assignment with no opportunity for retake, and will be reported to the student’s advisor and noted in her biology file.  A second instance of cheating, whether in the same or a subsequent course, will result in a U for the course, and most likely in expulsion.
            In upper-level courses, students are expected to understand what constitutes plagiarism and cheating, and the first instance of these behaviors will be treated as intentional dishonesty.  The penalty will be determined by the instructor/instructors teaching the course, with or without consultation with the student’s major advisor or the Biology Department.

The faculty and staff of Alverno College and the Biology Department value each student. If you need information, have concerns about your program of study, or would like to discuss other aspects of your education, please contact a faculty or staff member as soon as possible. Our goal is for each student to reach her full potential and to find a rewarding career.


Table 1. Biology Outcomes For The Major & Supports

Table 2. Brief Curriculum Overview

Table 3. General Checklist To Complete A Major In Biology

Table 4. Required Biology Courses for Majors

Table 5. Prerequisites for Required Biology Course (Majors & Supports)

Appendix A: Writing in Biology
Appendix B: How to Read a Primary Research Article

Appendix C: Writing Abstracts of Journal Articles

Appendix D: Statistics on Excel

Table 1. Biology Outcomes For The Major & Supports

1. Accurately Interpreting Biological Information And Showing The Limitations Of Scientific Analysis
Demonstrated by:

2. Demonstrating Proficient Library, Mathematical And Computer Skills In Biological Data Gathering And Analysis
Demonstrated by:

3. Designing, Conducting And Communicating Biological Experiments
Demonstrated by:

4. Applying Concepts Of Biology To Environmental And Societal Issues
Demonstrated by:

5. Working As A Professional In The Community
Demonstrated by:

Table 2. Brief Curriculum Overview
The level of a course generally indicates the level of information and student independence required for successful completion. The information below is a general guide to course expectations as you progress in your biological studies.

Expectations And General Criteria For Course Levels
In general, the level of performance expected increases as you reach the more advanced courses:

Level 200 courses:
Faculty provide strong guidance and structure, but students have some independence and initiative in choosing methods to complete tasks.
General Criteria:
1. Explains the relationships in models and predicts possible outcomes of a changed situation.
2. Demonstrates skill in gathering, manipulating and analyzing data.
3. Independently applies calculations and statistics. Applies a quantitative sense to a problem.
4. Self-assesses, giving evidence from her performance.
5. Designs and conducts an experiment which meets criteria of design for SC 120 Laboratory.
6. Articulates relationships between social and scientific values.

Level 300 courses:
Student sets her own goals within given parameters
General Criteria:
1. Builds and evaluates models.
2. Chooses appropriate data to gather.
3. Decides on relevant calculations and statistics to apply.
4. Applies specific concepts to a problem.
5. Self-assess accurately and exhibits changed performance as consequence.
6. Makes all appropriate scientific citations and references

Level 400 courses:
Student exhibits attributes of professional responsibility

General Criteria:
1. Selects and applies appropriate statistical and mathematical approaches. Is able to explain why choices were appropriate.
2. Selects and applies appropriate concepts to a problem.
3. Sets goals in unstructured learning, such as internships
4. Sets criteria for demonstration of goal completion.
5. Consistently self-assess her development as a professional

In addition to the general criteria outlined above, you will be expected to demonstrate the five Departmental Outcomes (see Table 1). These Departmental Outcomes incorporate the eight abilities with which you are familiar. Each upper level course incorporates specific outcomes.

Table 3. General Checklist To Complete A Major In Biology
 (Your checklist may vary slightly in the sequence of items completed)

______ Successfully complete SC 119 & SC 120
______ Declare biology as your major
______ Declare two support areas OR a second major
______ Meet with advisor to plan sequence of courses
______ Take initial science and support area courses
______ Meet with advisor for mid-program review
______ Maintain good standing as a biology major
______ Non-probationary status
______ All external assessments successfully completed
______ Faculty review and approval to continue as a major - formal admission to upper division standing (BI 399)
______ Complete Mathematics requirement
______ MT 123 [College Algebra] & MT 124 [Trigonometry]
______ MT 256 [Probability and Statistics]
______ Complete PH 231 & 232 [General Physics 1 & 2] completed
______ Complete Chemistry requirement
______ CH 221 [Organic Chemistry 1] or CH 234 [Analytical Chemistry/Quantitative Analysis]
or CH 260 [Inorganic Chemistry] or BI/CH 328 [Biochemistry]   
______ Complete coursework in Biology (See Table 4)
______ Complete one or two internships [BI 383 or BI 483] successfully
______ Complete required courses in biology successfully
______ Complete at least 34 semester hours of Biology (BI) courses
______ Complete support area’s courses or second major's courses successfully
______ Complete validation matrix for required 8 abilities and levels
______ Senior self assessment completed and participation in an exit interview

Table 4. Required Biology Courses for Majors
As a Biology major you are required to take the following Biology courses:
BI 221 or 222 (3) Biology of Plants or Biology of Animals
BI 231 (4) Human Anatomy and Physiology
BI 251 (4) Microbiology
BI 325 (4) Cellular Biology
BI 341 (4) Ecology
BI 361 (4) Genetics
BI 374 (0) Effective Citizenship Assessment
BI 383 (2-4) Internship B
BI 399 (0) Formal Introduction to Advanced Work
BI 491 (2) Senior Seminar

You must also take at least 5-7 credits of the following (5 credits if your BI 383 was a 4-credit course; 7 credits if your BI 383 was a 2-credit course)

BI 221 or BI 222 (3) Biology of Plants or Animals (one not taken as required course)
SC 200 (2) Coral Reef and Island Biology
BI 300 series (3) Advanced Topics in Biology, including:
301-Microbial Ecology
303-Evolutionary Ecology
BI 328 (4) Biochemistry
BI 338 (4) Physiological Mechanisms of Disease
BI 393 (1-4) Independent Research
BI 425 (4) Molecular Biology
BI 441 (4) Animal Behavior
BI 443 (3) Chronobiology
BI 452 (3) Immunology
BI 483 (2-4) Internship C
BI 493 (1-4) Independent Research

Your program must contain at least 34 credits of Biology.

Table 5. Prerequisites for Required Biology Course (Majors & Supports)
BI 221 or 222 - Biology of Plants or Animals
SC 120 [Foundations of Natural Science II]
BI 231 - Anatomy & Physiology and BI 251 - Microbiology
SC 120 [Foundations of Natural Science II] and
CH 113 [Chemistry Survey/Biochemistry] or CH 221 [Organic Chemistry 1] or CH 234 [Analytical Chemistry] or CH 260 [Inorganic Chemistry]

BI 325 - Cellular Biology
CH 113 [Chemistry Survey/Biochemistry] or one CH 200-level course
BI 251 [Microbiology]
MT 123/124 [College Algebra and Trigonometry]
Analysis level 3
Communications (Writing) level 3

BI 341 - Ecology
SC 120 [Foundations of Natural Science II]
BI 251[Microbiology] or BI 221 or BI 222 [Biology of Plants or Animals]
MT 123 [College Algebra]

BI 361 - Genetics
SC 120 [Foundations of Natural Science II]
CH 113 [Chemistry Survey/Biochemistry] or CH 221 [Organic Chemistry 1]
BI 251 [Microbiology]
MT 123 [College Algebra]

BI 374 - Effective Citizenship Assessment
Effective Citizenship level 3

BI 383 - Internship (not required for supports)
Departmental Consent Previous Completion of two 300-level Biology courses

BI 399 - Formal Introduction to Advanced Work
Two of the following courses completed:
BI 221 [Biology of Plants]
BI 222 [Biology of Animals]
BI 231 [Anatomy and Physiology]
BI 251 [Microbiology]
BI 325 [Cellular Biology]

BI 491 - Senior Seminar
Senior standing
Previous Completion of two 300 or 400-level Biology courses
Last update: 5/23/03 by Rebecca Burton, Dept. of Biology, Alverno College.