Biological Sciences Major

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About the Major

The Biological Sciences address many of the most important and fundamental questions about our world:

  • What is life?
  • How does our brain produce our ideas and emotions?
  • What are the limits to human life and physical capabilities?
  • How do we feed the world's growing population?
  • Could medical science ensure that our children won't have to worry about disease?

Moreover, there has never been a more exciting and important time to study biology. From the mapping of the genome to understanding the molecular basis of human disease to predicting the effects of global climate change on ecosystems to understanding fundamental processes that produce and sustain life on Earth, the Biological Sciences are at the forefront of finding answers to some of society's most vexing problems.

Students in the BIO major at UC Merced can select among specialized “emphasis” tracks, instead of individual majors. In this way, all biology students graduating from UC Merced will have a common foundation necessary for biologists in the 21st century, as well as specialized skills and knowledge to aid in their pursuit of careers in biology-related fields or graduate / professional school training.  There are five emphasis tracks in the biological sciences: Molecular and Cell Biology, Human Biology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Developmental Biology, and Microbiology and Immunology.

The Program

This program teaches biology as a multidisciplinary science, reflecting the increasing role of chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science and advanced technologies in the life sciences.

Students majoring in Biological Sciences can choose between five emphasis tracks providing background in different areas of biology:

  • Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Human Biology
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Microbiology and Immunology

These emphasis tracks consist of a sequence of five or six upper division courses that are taken in the second, third, and fourth years of the program.

Learning Outcomes

Graduates from the Biological Sciences programs will have demonstrated:

  1. An understanding of the tenets of modern biology and an understanding of how cellular functions are integrated at the level of the whole organism to sustain life in functioning ecosystems.
  2. An ability to develop and critique hypotheses and to design experiments, models, and/or calculations to address these hypotheses.
  3. The ability to use appropriate instrumentation and computational tools to collect, analyze and interpret data.
  4. The ability to read, evaluate, interpret, and apply numerical and general scientific information.
  5. A familiarity with, and application of safety in good laboratory and field practices.

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The undergraduate major in biological sciences is an excellent first step towards exciting careers in biology and the health sciences. Biological Sciences will provide you with the skills and knowledge to pursue graduate and professional studies in preparation for careers in basic and applied biological research, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, nursing, pharmacy and other health-related fields. You will also be prepared for positions in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, health care and conservation management, as well as careers like law, journalism, policy and business, which increasingly involve the biological sciences. In addition, the breadth and rigor of this program will prepare you well to teach science at the elementary or high school level.

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In addition to the UC Merced and School of Natural Sciences General Education and Courses Required Outside of Natural Sciences and Engineering, the requirements that must be met to receive the B.S. in Biological Sciences at UC Merced are:

Major Requirements [46-49 units]

  • BIO 1/1L: Contemporary Biology with Lab [5 units]
  • BIO 110: The Cell [4 units]
  • CHEM 2: General Chemistry 1 [4 units]
  • CHEM 8: Principles of Organic Chemistry [4 units]
  • CHEM 10: General Chemistry II [4 units]
  • MATH 11: Calculus I [4 units]
  • MATH 12: Calculus II [4 units]
  • MATH 15: Introduction to Scientific Data Analysis [2 units]
  • MATH 30: Calculus II for Biological Sciences [4 units]
  • Probability and Statistics (MATH 32 or 18, ENVE 105, PSY 10) [4 units]
  • PHYS 18: Introductory Physics for Biological Sciences [4 units]
  • PHYS 19: Introductory Physics II for Biological Sciences [4 units]
  • One additional Upper Division Course in science or Engineering [3-4 units]

Emphasis Track Courses [16-21 units]

  • Molecular and Cell Biology: 4 courses
  • Human Biology: 4 courses
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: 4 courses
  • Developmental Biology: 5 courses
  • Microbiology and Immunology: 5 courses

Upper Division Elective Courses

Two to four thematically linked courses chosen from the emphasis track elective list in the course catalog [pp. 72-75, 8-17 units.]

Undergraduate Major in Biological Sciences Research

As a capstone to the Biological Sciences Program, all Biological Sciences majors are encouraged to participate in a research experience. Students attend research lectures by UC Merced faculty, and students can elect to go on to participate in research projects during their senior year. The relevant course numbers are BIO 190 and BIO 195.

Molecular and Cell Biology Upper Division Core Courses [17 units]

  • BIO 2/2L: Introduction to Molecular Biology with Lab [5 units]
  • BIO 140: Genetics [4 units]
  • BIO 141: Evolution [4 units]
  • Quantitative Biology Elective (BIO 104, 105, 142, 175, 180, 181, 182 or 183) [4 units]
  • At least four courses chosen from the Molecular and Cell Biology elective list:
    • One course with Laboratory component [5 units]
    • Three additional courses [12 units minimum]

Human Biology Upper Division Core Courses [17 units]

  • BIO 140: Genetics [4 units]
  • BIO 101: Biochemistry I [4 units] (requires CHEM 100 [3 units])
  • BIO 141: Evolution [4 units]
  • BIO 161: Human Physiology [4 units]
  • At least four courses chosen from the Human Biology elective list:
    • One upper division Cognitive Science, Psychology, or Neurology Course [4 units]
    • Three additional courses [12 units minimum]

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Upper Division Core Courses [17 units]

  • BIO 2/2L: Introduction to Molecular Biology with Lab [5 units]
  • BIO 140: Genetics [4 units]
  • BIO 141: Evolution [4 units]
  • BIO 148: Introduction to Ecology [4 units]
  • At least four courses chosen from the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology elective list:
    • One course with Field component [5 units]
    • One course with Lab component [5 units]
    • Two additional courses [8 units minimum]

Developmental Biology Upper Division Core Courses [21 units]

  • BIO 2/2L: Introduction to Molecular Biology with Lab [5 units]
  • BIO 140: Genetics [4 units]
  • BIO 141: Evolution [4 units]
  • BIO 150: Embryos, Genes and Development [4 units]
  • Quantitative Biology Elective (BIO 104, 105, 142, 175, 180, 181, 182, or 183) [4 units]
  • At least three courses chosen from the Developmental Biology elective list:
    • One course with Laboratory component [5 units]
    • Two additional courses [8 units minimum]

Microbiology and Immunology Upper Division Core Courses [22 units]

  • BIO 2/2L: Introduction to Molecular Biology with Lab [5 units]
  • BIO 101: Biochemistry I [4 units] (requires CHEM 100 [3 units])
  • BIO 120: General Microbiology† [4 or 5 units]
  • BIO 127: General Virology [4 units]
  • BIO 151: Molecular Immunology† [4 or 5 units]
  • At least two courses chosen from the Microbiology and Immunology elective list (8 units minimum).

† One must be taken with the corresponding Laboratory component 1 unit.

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BIO 001: Contemporary Biology [4]

Introduction to the major concepts in biology including origin of life, evolution, DNA, genes and genomes, principles and patterns of inheritance, genotype to phenotype, gene, environment and disease relationships, biotechnology, ecosystem structure and function, nutrient cycles and pollution, biodiversity, earth systems.  [Syllabus]

BIO 01L: Contemporary Biology Lab [1]

BIO 1L is the laboratory component of BIO 1 Contemporary Biology.  [Syllabus]

BIO 002: Introduction to Molecular Biology [4]

Introduction to the molecules and molecular processes underlying life. Overview of structures and chemical properties of biological macromolecules. Prerequisite: BIO 1.

BIO 02L: Introduction to Molecular Biology Lab [1]

Laboratory exercises demonstrating and reinforcing topics covered in BIO 2.  [Syllabus]

BIO 003: Molecular Basis of Health and Disease [4]

Introduction to the molecular basis of a number of human diseases and molecular-based therapies for disease treatment.  [Syllabus]

BIO 005: Concepts and Issues in Biology Today [4]

Fundamental biological concepts in the areas of genetics, evolution and ecology will be exploredin the context of current issues enabling students to understand the relevance of biology to theirlives both as individuals and as voting citizens.  [Syllabus]

BIO 010: Genetics, Stem Cells and Development [4]

Issues associated with genes, stem cells and embryonic development increasingly impact our lives. This course integrates an overview of biologic topics such as genetic testing, stem cells and the use of animal models with their bioethical considerations. It will place science in the context of personal decisions and ethics.  [Syllabus]

BIO 034: Introduction to Marine Science [4]

An introduction to biological, chemical and physical oceanography, marine geomorphology and their synthesis in the study of marine life; also including relationships with atmospheric, freshwater and terrestrial systems. Areas of emphasis include ecosystems (from the deep sea to saltwater ponds), the integrated coastal zone, resource management and global change. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 43: Biodiversity and Conservation [4]

Introduction to the study of biodiversity and conservation. Patterns, origin and importance of biodiversity will be discussed. An introduction to the major biological groups and the conservation efforts used to preserve contemporary biodiversity.  

BIO 50: Human Development [4]

Male and female reproductive systems, hormonal control of egg-sperm interactions, fertilization, venereal disease, embryonic development, fetal physiology.  

BIO 51: Cancer and Aging [4]

Introduction to the biology of cancer and aging, including discussions of the biological and molecular basis of aging and cancer, novel and conventional cancer treatments, cancer prevention and prospects for new approaches to increase longevity and health.  

BIO 060: Nutrition [4]

Introduction to nutrition science that integrates basic concepts of nutrients, human physiology, microbiology, biochemistry and the psychology of wellness.  [Syllabus]

BIO 90X: Freshman Seminar [1]

Examination of a topic in the biological sciences.  

BIO 95: Lower Division Undergraduate Research [1 - 6]

Supervised research. Permission of instructor required. Pass/No Pass grading only.  

BIO 98: Lower Division Directed Group Study [1 - 5]

Permission of instructor required. Pass/No Pass grading only.  

BIO 99: Lower Division Individual Study [1 - 5]

Permission of instructor required. Pass/No Pass grading only.  

BIO 100: Molecular Machinery of Life [4]

Introduction to the chemical processes underlying life, covering the structure and properties of biological macromolecules, metabolism, regulation and energy transduction. Prerequisite: BIO 1. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 101: Biochemistry I [4]

Advanced course on proteins, enzymes, enzyme kinetics and carbohydrates metabolism in living organisms. Prerequisite: CHEM 100 and BIO 140. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 102: Advanced Biochemistry and Molecular Biology [4]

A Mechanisms of amino acid, nucleic acid and lipid metabolism plus advanced mechanisms of gene expression, signal transduction and regulation of gene expression. Prerequisite: BIO 101. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 104: Biophysics [4]

This course aims to give students an understanding of relevant physical principles for biological systems, introduce them to experimental and theoretical techniques of biophysics and to communicate the excitement of cutting-edge biophysics research. Topics include diffusion, fluids, entropic forces, motor proteins, enzymes, nerve impulses, networks and evolution. Prerequisite: (PHYS 18 or PHYS 8) AND (PHYS 19 or PHYS 9).  [Syllabus]

BIO 104L: Biophysics Laboratory [1]

Laboratory experiments demonstrating and reinforcing topics covered in BIO 104. BIO 104 must be taken concurrently. Prerequisite: BIO 100 or 101; and Chem 10 or ENGR 130 with consent of Instructor.  

BIO 105: Enzymology [4]

Advanced course on enzyme mechanisms and regulation. Prerequisite: CHEM 10 and BIO 100.  

BIO 105L: Enzymology Laboratory [1]

Laboratory experiments demonstrating and reinforcing topics covered in BIO 105. BIO 105 must be taken concurrently.  

BIO 106: Introduction to Molecular and Cell Biology [4]

Advanced course on the mechanisms of nucleic acid replication, transcription and translation as well as gene regulation and expression. Prerequisite: BIO 1.  

BIO 107: Physical Biochemistry [4]

Physical Biochemistry is the study of Biochemistry via properties that can be quantitatively assessed to provide specific molecular information. Such properties include macromolecular folding, multimerization, structure, and ligand binding. This course will instruct students on these properties of macromolecules and on the experimental techniques that can quantitatively probe these properties. Prerequisites: Bio 101 and (Math 11 or 21).  

BIO 110: The Cell [4]

Introduction to the structure and function of bacterial, plant and animal cells, with an emphasis on universal cellular systems, including regulation of subcellular organization, control of cellular processes by internal and external signaling, energy capture, storage and usage and cell cycle. Prerequisite: BIO 101 [can be taken concurrently] or (BIO 2 and CHEM 8).  [Syllabus]

BIO 111: Cells, Tissues and Organs [4]

Introduction to principles of cell structure and the organization of cells into tissues, organs and organ systems. Both the cellular and extracellular components of the primary tissues and their compilation into the major organic systems will be covered. Emphasis on understanding the link between cellular architectures and organ function. Prerequisite: BIO 110.  [Syllabus]

BIO 120: General Microbiology [4]

Molecular basis for diversity in bacteria and archae. Students will explore the significance of molecular diversity in microbial biology and gain an understanding of the genetic, physiologic and structure-function relationships that underlie the remarkable ability of these organisms to adapt to the environment. Prerequisite: BIO 110.  [Syllabus]

BIO 120L: General Microbiology Laboratory [2]

Laboratory experiments demonstrating and reinforcing topics covered in BIO 120. BIO 120 must be taken concurrently.  [Syllabus]

BIO 122: Microbial Pathogenesis [4]

Genetic and biochemical features of infectious agents including identification and characterization of pathogens and the epidemiology of infectious diseases. Prerequisite: BIO 120.  

BIO 123: Human Parasitology [4]

Introduction to protozoan, worm and insect parasitism in animals and humans and resultant diseases. Emphasis will be on epidemiology, diagnosis and immunology of parasitic infections. Prerequisite: BIO 120.  

BIO 124: Microbial Evolution [4]

Evolution of microbes. Concepts covered include horizontal exchange, genome evolution, dispersal of microbes, population size, cryptic genes, mutagenesis and mutagenic pathways, phylogenetics, experimental evolution, metabolic evolution and antimicrobial resistance evolution. Prerequisite: BIO 110 [may be taken concurrently]. Letter grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 125: Emerging Public Health Threats [4]

Multidisciplinary course that covers the historical, sociological, medical, and biological issues underlying new public health threats and the scientific and policy-based approaches to responding to these new threats. Prerequisite:  Biology 1 and 2 and Writing 10.  [Syllabus]

BIO 127: General Virology [4]

Introduction to biology of bacterial and animal viruses, focusing on structure, infective cycle, interactions with host, transmission and methods of detection and control. Discusses scientific literature and current topics in virology. BIO 140 strongly recommended. Prerequisite: BIO 110. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 130: Plant Biology [4]

An introduction to the biology of plant life, including plant cell physiology, plant growth and development and plant evolution and adaptation. Prerequisite: BIO 110.  

BIO 133: Flora of California

This course introduces students to the plant diversity of California. It consists of lectures, discussions, and field trips. The field trips focus on plant identification in the foothills of the Central Sierra Nevada and help illustrate concepts presented in lecture such as endemism, plant/soil interactions, and vegetation types. Prerequisite: BIO001 or ESS001 or BIO148 or ESS050  [Syllabus]

BIO 134: Marine Sciences Theory and Practice [4]

Integrative studies of ocean and coastal ecosystems, including current issues. Also referencingrelationships with atmospheric, freshwater and terrestrial systems. Areas of emphasis includepractical field study in the coastal zone in any area of marine science. Prerequisite: BIO 34 and BIO 141 or BIO 148. Normal Letter Grade only.  

BIO 140: Genetics [4]

Includes concepts of inheritance, structure and function of genes and genomes, recombination, genetic mapping, gene regulation, mutations and recombinant DNA technology including labs and discussions. Prerequisite: BIO 2, (MATH 12 or MATH 22), and (PSY 10 or MATH 18). Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 141: Evolution [4]

Natural Selection and Darwinian evolution, includes concepts of population and quantitative genetics, speciation, neutral theory and molecular evolution, phylogenetics, comparative genomics and macroevolution including labs and discussion. Prerequisite: BIO 2. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 142: Genome Biology [5]

Introduction to the concepts behind genome biology and a detailed overview of the many tools used in comparative genomics. Specific topics include genome assembly, gene modeling and comparative genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics of prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. Students will carry out real scientific projects in collaboration with course faculty and produce new genomic data of publishable quality. This course has a mandatory weekly three hour lab. Prerequisite: BIO 110. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 143: Biodiversity and the Tree of Life [4]

Introduction to the biological diversity in the three domains of the Tree of Life (Archaebacteria, Eubacteria and Eukaryotes): overview of species diversity as well as diversity in the deep characteristics (e.g., reproduction, metabolism, structure) of plants, animals, fungi and microbes. Illustrated by complementary field trips and labs (part of BIO 143L). Prerequisite: BIO 1. Normal Letter Grade only.  

BIO 143 F [1]

Field trips and labs reinforcing topics covered in BIO 143. Five field trips illustrate the biodiversity of different regions of California (seashore, Central Valley, foothills and Sierra Nevada). Wet labs serve to examine the organisms collected during field trips and participate in a long-term DNA Barcoding project of the field sites visited. Prerequisite: BIO 1. Letter grade only.  

BIO 144L: Phylogenetics Laboratory [1]

Laboratory experiments demonstrating and reinforcing topics covered in BIO 144. BIO 144 must be taken concurrently. Normal Letter Grade only.  

BIO 144: Phylogenetics [4]

This course will provide the theory behind phylogenetic reconstruction and an introduction to the diverse methods for phylogenetic inference. How to deal with morphological and molecular characters will be discussed as well as the comparative method. Prerequisite: BIO 140 and MATH 10.  

BIO 145: Introduction to Population and Community Ecology [4]

Comprehensive introduction to the ecology of populations, communities and ecosystems. Course will examine the dynamics of single-species populations and then move to species interactions including competition, predation, parasitism and mutualism. Structure and dynamics of entire communities and food webs will also be examined. Course will discuss conservation biology applications throughout. Prerequisite: BIO 1 and MATH 21.  

BIO 146: Paleobiology [4]

This course will provide an introduction to the major geological factors that have affected the evolution and the diversity of organisms. It will also present how the fossil record can help us understand evolution of Life through time, with an emphasis on macro-evolutionary events (e.g., mass extinctions, transitions between habitats, radiations). Prerequisite: BIO 140.  

BIO 147: Astrobiology [4]

Astrobiology refers to the study of the origin and evolution of life in the cosmos. It is an integrative, multidisciplinary field that includes areas of biology, astronomy, geology, chemistry and physics. Students in the class face some of the most fundamental topics addressed by sciencetoday such as who we are, where we came from, and where we might go. We cover three main themes: How did life begin and evolve? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? What is life’s future on Earth and beyond?
Prerequisite: CORE 001 and (BIO 001, BIO 005, PHYS 006, PHYS 008, CHEM 002 or ESS 001) or consent of instructor. Letter grade only.

BIO 148: Fundamentals of Ecology [4]

Introduction to principles of Ecology ranging from the ecosystem to the population level. Prerequisite: BIO 1 or BIO 5 and permission from the instructor. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 149: Conservation Biology [4]

Detailed examination of the evolutionary, ecological, management and policy issues related to the conservation of ecosystems, species and genetic diversity. Theory and practical aspects of biological conservation will also be presented, with special reference to case studies from California. Prerequisite: BIO 1. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 149F: Conservation Biology Laboratory [1]

Field and laboratory exercises reinforcing material presented in BIO 149/ESS 149. Prerequisite: BIO 149 or ESS 149. Either of which may be taken concurrently. Letter grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 150: Embryos, Genes and Development [4]

Principles of developmental biology as revealed through analysis of invertebrate and vertebrate systems. Animal models will be used to examine the molecular and cellular mechanisms that influence cell fate. Cell signaling will be studied in the context of embryonic pattern formation and the development of body plans and organ systems. Prerequisite: BIO 110.  [Syllabus]

BIO 151L: Molecular Immunology Laboratory [1]

Laboratory experiments demonstrating and reinforcing topics covered in BIO 151. BIO 151 must be taken concurrently.  [Syllabus]

BIO 151: Molecular Immunology [4]

Emphasis on development and function of hematopoietic and immune systems and their roles in responding to environmental change, maintenance of health and disease pathogenesis. Prerequisite: BIO 110.  [Syllabus]

BIO 152: Cancer Genetics and Tumor Biology [4]

Topics include viral and hormonal carcinogenesis, molecular aberrations in cancer, tumor development, epigenetics and cancer, tumor immunology, oncogenes. Prerequisite: BIO 101 or BIO 110.  [Syllabus]

BIO 153: Evolution and Development [4]

This course compares and contrasts the development and developmental cues of a variety of animals and emphasizes how conserved developmental pathways have been manipulated through evolutionary processes to produce different physical features. The effects of regulatory region mutations, gene duplication and genetic co-opting will be investigated. Prerequisite: BIO 110.  [Syllabus]

BIO 154: Developmental Immunology [4]

An in-depth exploration of the development of the immune system. Topics include the biology of primary lymphoid organs (particularly the thymus and bone marrow) and early development of lymphoid and myeloid cells. Emphasis is on the temporal, microenvironmental, genetic and molecular control of immune cell development.

BIO 160: Comparative Physiology [4]

Covers the function of the major organ systems by studying species-specific adaptations across the vertebrate subphylum. It will emphasize physiological adaptations to environmental challenges. Locomotion, reproduction, cardiovascular, renal and pulmonary function will serve as the models for assessing the cellular basis for physiologic adaptation across the spectrum of vertebrates. Prerequisite: BIO 100 or BIO 101.  

BIO 160L: Comparative Physiology Laboratory [1]

Laboratory experiments demonstrating and reinforcing topics covered in BIO 160. BIO 160 must be taken concurrently.  

BIO 161: Human Physiology [5]

Understanding the mechanisms underlying function of major human organs. Emphasis includes neural transmission and action potential, cardiovascular, renal and gastrointestinal physiology, metabolism, and endocrinology. Laboratory experiments demonstrating and reinforcing topcis covered in lecture with an emphasis on scientific method. Prerequisites: Physics 9 or 19 and BIO 101. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

BIO 162: Evolutionary Constraints of Physiology [4]

An introduction to the materials upon which evolution acts. We will study the structure of animals, the materials from which living organisms are made and the limitations that those materials impose upon evolution. Prerequisite: BIO 160.  

BIO 163: Endocrinology [4]

Basic principles of endocrinology; structure and functions of endocrine glands primarily in mammals with reference to other vertebrates for comparison; hormonal control of kidney function, metabolism, neural transmission and reproduction; mechanisms of hormone actions. Prerequisite: BIO 110, CHEM 8 and BIO 160. Normal Letter Grade only.  

BIO 163L: Endocrinology Laboratory [1]

Laboratory experiments demonstrating and reinforcing topics covered in BIO 163 with an emphasis on analytical techniques in endocrinology. BIO 163 must be taken concurrently. Normal Letter Grade only.  

BIO 164: Human Anatomy [5]

Introduction to human anatomy at the cell, tissue, and organ levels, through a system-based approach (skeletal, muscular, nervous, cardiovascular, etc.). Laboratories include demonstration using a human cadaver, dissection of mammal organs (cat, sheep, cow), observation of human models and histological slides of human tissues, and interactive computer-based exercises. Prerequisite: BIO 110. Letter grade only.

BIO 170L: Neurobiology Laboratory [1]

Laboratory experiments demonstrating and reinforcing topics covered in BIO 170. BIO 170 must be taken concurrently.  [Syllabus]

BIO 170: Neurobiology [4]

Examination of the general operations of the central and peripheral nervous system. Course covers cellular neuroscience, including the molecular basis of excitability, synaptic transmission and neuronal signal transduction, as well as the organization and operations of the major neural systems associated with sensation, locomotion and higher brain function. Prerequisite: BIO 110.  [Syllabus]

BIO 175: Biostatistics [4]

Advances statistical techniques to investigate experimental data generated in molecular, cellular and evolutionary biology, and health sciences research. Prerequisite:  (Math 18 or 32) and (Math 12 or 22 or 30).  

BIO 180: Mathematical Modeling for Biology [4]

Statistical analysis and mathematical modeling skills for life scientists. The first half of this course is about building statistical models of complex data sets and the second half is about using population models to describe demographic change, ecosystems and epidemics. Extensive computer laboratories using the “R” statistical language. Prerequisite: (BIO 100 or BIO 101) and (Math 22 or Math 30) and (Math 18 or Math 32).  [Syllabus]

BIO 181: Introduction to Biomolecular Simulation [4]

This course uses lectures and laboratory exercises to teach the principles and practice of molecular modeling with a focus on simulations of biological macromolecules. Topics covered include classical molecular dynamics, molecular mechanics, docking, and visualization. The computational laboratories will involve simulations of systems including water, micelles, DNA, and proteins.  Prerequisites: Bio 2 and Chem 8 and (Math 11 or Math 21) and (Physics 8 or Physics 18) or Consent of Instructor.  [Syllabus]

BIO 182: Bioinformatics [5]

Detailed introduction to the tools, algorithms, statistics and databases used in bioinformatics, emphasizing an open-source, command-line toolbox approach. Topics may include: alignments, search, gene/motif classification, phylogenetics, genomics, gene expression, ontologies, structure and networks. Course includes a mandatory computer laboratory. Prior programming experience recommended, but not assumed. Prerequisites: (Bio 100 or Bio 101), Bio 140 and (Math 18 or Math 32).  [Syllabus]

BIO 183: Population Genetics [4]

This course will study the various factors that affect gene flow and frequency within a population. Theories of selection, neutrality, drift, hitchhiking, recombination, mutation, isolation, in-breeding, and selfish genetic elements will be taught along with statistical tests and experimental methods for detecting these forces. Prerequisite:  Bio 140 and (Math 11 or 21).  

BIO 185: Biomedical Ethics [3]

Ethical issues associated with contemporary biology and the complex relationships among medicine, science and society. Topics include genetic engineering, cloning and stem cell research. Prerequisite: BIO 1 or BIO 3.  

BIO 190: Research Seminar [1]

Student-led presentations of current topics in biological sciences, including independent research presentations.  

BIO 192: Communicating Science [1-2]

Development of skills to effectively communicate scientific topics to broad audiences. Permission of instructor required. Pass/No Pass grading only.  

BIO 195: Research Projects in Biological Science [1 - 5]

Group or individual research projects in the biological sciences under the direction of a BIO faculty member. Permission of instructor required.  

BIO 198: Directed Group Study in Biological Sciences [1 - 5]

Group directed study in the biological sciences under the guidance of a BIO faculty member. Permission of instructor required. Pass/No Pass grading only.  

Upper Division courses


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Assessment Plan

The assessment of the Biology Major at UC Merced will occur in a timely and regular fashion, with an emphasis on determining our success at achieving our Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs). Most of the assessment will be carried out by the Curriculum Assessment Subcommittee, which has been formed for this purpose and is a three-member panel composed of members of the Life Sciences Curriculum Committee.

The assessment of the Biology major will occur over successive five year periods in which we fully evaluate the success of five PLOs. In every year of the five-year period, one PLO will be evaluated, and a full report prepared regarding the achievement of that PLO in relation to the overall state of the Biology major. Within each evaluation, evidence will be collected regarding the success of that Outcome and there will also be an assessment of whether that particular PLO remains a top goal of the program, and whether the wording or the sense of the PLO should be changed. In this way we plan to both assess the success of our program in producing Biology graduates, and also to assess the goals themselves and the tools we use in the overall process.

The goals of our annual assessment will be:

  1. To determine whether students are achieving the outcomes described by each PLO.
  2. To determine whether a particular PLO remains one of the top goals of the Biology program.
  3. To determine whether the Evidence and Process used to assess a particular PLO is indeed able to provide appropriate data regarding student achievement.

Program Improvement Mechanisms

The assessment data will be analyzed to identify strengths and weaknesses of the existing program and to insure that the curriculum remains flexible enough to keep up with changes in the discipline. A number of modifications may be considered:

  • Formative evaluation. We carefully compare the success of students on our exams and assignments from semester to semester to see if changes to our teaching approach are working.
  • Revisions in the content or pedagogy of existing life sciences courses. This particularly includes laboratory exercises, which tend to become outdated quickly.
  • Changes in prerequisites, both within and outside the biological sciences.
  • Elimination of courses that may have outlived their usefulness, or combination of two or more courses into one.
  • Addition of new courses in response to evolving new directions in biology, changes in the relative importance of subdisciplines, or the addition of new faculty with new expertise.
  • Addition of new emphasis tracks in response to new directions in biology or the addition of new faculty with new expertise.
  • Changes in the instructors teaching various courses.

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