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Prospective Students

Biology at the University of Oregon

Thank you sincerely for your interest in studying Biology at the University of Oregon, a member of the Association of American Universities which includes 61 leading research Universities in the U.S. and Canada We have developed what we feel is one of the most outstanding Biology programs in the country—one which will prepare you for a multitude of options including graduate schools and careers in biomedicine and research, allied health, private industry, and education. Our graduates have been accepted to top MD, PhD, MS, and internship programs in the US and abroad. [For details, please see What can you do with a Biology degree from Oregon? Based on fall 2010 ratings posted by the National Research Council, the U of O Biology Department is ranked as the number one Biology program at a public institution in the U.S. without a medical school. [For details on rankings please see]

We’re delighted that you’ve considered our Department. Here we’ll give you a brief overview of the requirements for earning a major in Biology. We also encourage you to consider one of our optional Emphasis Areas in Ecology & EvolutionHuman BiologyMarine BiologyMolecular Cellular & Developmental Biology, and Neuroscience & Behavior. Choosing one of these focus areas can help guide you through upper-division course work according to your specific interests and you will receive written documentation when you complete an Emphasis Area upon graduation. Feel free to call us at 541-346‑4525 or come see our outstanding staff in our Biology & General Science Advising Center in 65 Klamath Hall from 10 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday during the regular academic year. You can also find answers to many common questions and much additional information on our websites:

Biology Advising Center:
Biology Department:


Most students take mathematics their first year here. Unless you have credit for Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate Calculus, you should take the standard or advanced math placement test (usually during IntroDUCKtion) to determine which course is most appropriateThe test will more accurately reflect your level if you review the math you’ve done in the past. Placement information and sample questions can be viewed under the Placement Testing link at the U of O Testing Center site The math sequence for Biology majors is MATH 111 (College Algebra), MATH 112 (Elementary Functions), and MATH 246 & 247 (Calculus for the Biological Sciences I & II). We also accept MATH 251 & 252 (regular Calculus I & II) if you’ve transferred to U of O or if scheduling conflicts arise which limit your ability to enroll in MATH 246 & 247.

General – The CH 221, 222, 223 sequence with labs (CH 227, 228, 229), is the one taken most commonly by Biology majors. To be eligible for this sequence you must have had chemistry in high school and have completed or be enrolled in MATH 111 College Algebra. If you haven’t had previous chemistry, you should take CH 111 Introduction to Chemical Principles (offered during summer & fall terms), prior to taking CH 221. There is a challenging honors general chemistry sequence (CH 224H, 225H, 226H) you might be eligible to take, if you have an excellent background in chemistry, physics and math, and you have had or are enrolled currently in Calculus. The laboratories, CH 237, 238, 239, are co-requisites for this honors chemistry sequence.
Organic – For the Biology major, a minimum of two Organic Chemistry courses are required: CH 331 Organic Chemistry I and either CH 335 Organic Chemistry II or CH 336 Organic Chemistry III. Those interested in graduate programs in medicine or allied health should complete a full year of Organic Chemistry lectures (CH 331, 335, 336) with two laboratories (CH 337, 338). Many medical schools require upper-division Genetics and/or Biochemistry, so we also suggest BI 320 Molecular Genetics and at least one upper division Biochemistry course (CH 461, 462, 463 Biochemistry sequence or CH 360 Physiological Biochemistry). Always be sure to check specific medical school requirements.

The Biology major requires a year-long sequence of General Physics, most commonly PHYS 201,202,203, which has MATH 112 as a prerequisite. Some students prefer to take physics with calculus which some medical schools may recommend. [The Physics with Calculus sequence is PHYS 251,252,253 which requires MATH 246/251 as a pre- or co-requisite.] Physics laboratories are not required for the Biology major, but do remember that medical schools and many other graduate and health professional programs often require physics with laboratories.

Biology majors have two options (both with laboratories) for completing lower division Biology in order to prepare for upper division courses: (1) the General Biology sequence or (2) the Honors Biology sequence. The General Biology sequence spans 4 terms (4 credits/term), begins either in the fall or the winter, and includes BI 211 Cells, BI 212 Organisms, BI 213 Populations, and BI 214 Mechanisms. To begin this sequence, students must have successfully completed (≥ C-/P) a college-level, general chemistry course (CH 221 Gen Chem I, CH 111 Intro to Chemical Principles or CH 113 Chemistry of Sustainability at U of O –  or an equivalent course from another institution). The Honors Biology sequence spans 3 terms (5 credits/term), begins during the fall and includes BI 281H Cells, Biochemistry & Physiology; BI 282H Genetics & Molecular Biology; and BI 283H Evolution, Diversity and Ecology. To enter our Honors sequence, students must have strong backgrounds in Math & Chemistry.  Students who have earned a B- or better in Math 111 & CH 223 or 226H may enter the sequence. After completing the General or Honors Biology sequence, students must successfully complete      (> C-/P) 44 credits of upper-division Biology. Please see Requirements for the Biology Major for specific details.

A score of 5 or more on the IB higher level Biology exam provides 12 credits for the General Biology courses BI 211 Cells, BI 212 Organisms, and BI 213 Populations. An AP Biology Score of 4 or higher provides eight general education University credits of 100-level Biology (BI 1xxT, BI 1xxT) and 4 credits for the first course in our General Biology sequence (BI 211 Cells). AP credit for Chemistry is granted as CH 221, 222, 223 with scores of 3, 4 or 5. Credit is not awarded for the laboratory so students are required to take the laboratory sequence (CH 227, 228, 229). We encourage you to discuss your placement and options with us.

To graduate in exactly four years, plan on taking an average of 15 hours per term to earn the total required 180 credits. [The average time from start to finish is ~4.3 yr.] Most students find that compared to their high school or community college classes, being successful in courses at Oregon requires reassessing priorities and refining study skills. Please let us know if we can help you during this adjustment process. A typical first term schedule might include Math (4 cr), Chemistry (4 cr), Chemistry lab (2 cr), Writing (4 cr), and a fitness class or seminar for a total of 15 credits. During the fall term, students with a last name beginning with A-G are given priority in registering for Writing 121. During the winter term, students with the last name H-O have priority. During the spring term, students with the last name P-Z have priority —so if your last name starts with H‑Z, plan on taking another course for fall term— perhaps an Arts and Letters, Social Science, and/or Multicultural class. [Ask us about double-dipping or fulfilling two U of O requirements by taking one class!]  For the second term of writing, we suggest taking WR 123 due to its science-/research-based nature. If you’re a premedical student remember that medical schools do require a full year of writing and/or literature, so plan on taking a more advanced writing (e.g., WR 320 Scientific & Technical Writing) or literature course.

The UO Biology major is a challenging one, which commands respect both on campus and in the outside world where our graduates are employed or are earning MDs and PhDs. It is a rewarding major that prepares students for a multitude of outstanding fields. Ninety-seven percent  of our graduates are satisfied with their preparation, skills, and careers (survey by The Oregonian, Portland, OR) and according toForbes, CareerCast, and US News & World Report, being a Biologist has ranked in the top 10 US jobs over the past 15 years. If you are an excellent student in Biology at Oregon, your future is more than promising.

As you proceed through your major, realize that there are other opportunities to enrich your education both on- and off-campus. We encourage you to consider our outstanding program in Marine Biology at Charleston. Many students take advantage of a fall, spring, or summer term at OIMB, and have enjoyed it immeasurably. Also, you may have the opportunity to pursue a Biology degree with Honors, enjoy an internship experience, or work as a Biology peer tutor, research or teaching assistant or peer advisor. Please let us know if we can help you in any way. Thank you sincerely for considering Biology as a major. We are certain you’ve made an exceptional choice! We look forward to working with you closely over the next several years.


V. Pat Lombardi, Jana Prikryl & Ingrid Newman
Biology Advising Center

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