Biology Major Programs

Biology Major

In addition to the technical core required of all Harvey Mudd students, biology majors must successfully complete a number of other courses.

Biology Core

  • Biology 54: Biology Laboratory
  • Biology 154: Biostatistics (taken concurrently with Biology 54)
  • Biology 101: Comparative Physiology
  • Biology 108: Ecology & Environmental Biology
  • Biology 109: Evolutionary Biology
  • Biology 113: Molecular Biology

Chemistry

  • Chemistry 56: Chemistry of Carbon Compounds
  • Chemistry 58: Carbon Compounds Laboratory
  • Chemistry 105: Organic Chemistry

Biology Electives

Eleven units of advanced biology, selected by the student and advisor, to include:

  • At least two laboratory courses (selected from Bio 103, 110, 111, 184)
  • At least one Harvey Mudd seminar course (requiring student presentations and reading from the primary literature, selected from Bio 121, 122, 164, 185, 189)

Related non-biology technical courses may be substituted for advanced biology courses with permission of the department. With prior permission, up to two credits of Bio 197/198 (Directed Reading) may count as Biology Electives.

Colloquium

Four semesters of Biology 191-192: Biology Colloquium

Capstone Project

Six units of Biology 193-194: Senior Thesis Research, Biology 195-196: Intensive Research or an approved biology-related clinic (Computer Science 183-184, Engineering 111-112, Environmental Studies 190, Math 193 or Physics 193-194)

Changes in the program may be made by agreement between the student and the department. For answers to questions about the most common situations, please check our Biology Major FAQs.

Students particularly interested in molecular biology may select the molecular biology option (see below) within the biology major.

Molecular Biology Option

Students who select the molecular biology option within the biology major must satisfactorily complete the following courses.

Molecular Biology Core

  • Biology 54: Biology Laboratory
  • Biology 154: Biostatistics (taken concurrently with Biology 54)
  • Biology 101: Structure & Function
  • Biology 108: Ecology & Environmental Biology
  • Biology 109: Evolutionary Biology
  • Biology 111: Molecular Biology Laboratory
  • Biology 113: Molecular Biology
  • Biology 182: Chemistry in Living Systems
  • Chemistry 51: Physical Chemistry
  • Chemistry 56: Chemistry of Carbon Compounds
  • Chemistry 58: Carbon Compounds
  • Chemistry 105: Organic Chemistry
  • Chemistry 111: Organic Chemistry Laboratory

Biology Electives

Six units of approved biology electives, selected by the student and advisor, to include:

  • At least one laboratory course
  • At least one seminar course (requiring student presentations and reading from the primary literature, selected from Bio 121, 122, 164, 185, 189) to be taken at Harvey Mudd College.

Note: One chemistry course may be substituted for an advanced biology course with the advisor’s approval.

Colloquium

Four semesters of Biology 191-192: Biology Colloquium or Chemistry 199: Chemistry Colloquium

Capstone Project

Six units of Biology 193-194: Senior Thesis Research, Biology 195-196: Intensive Research, or Chemistry 151-152: Research Problems
Other options available to students interested in molecular biology and biochemistry include:

  • The standard biology major, with electives chosen to form an informal molecular biology concentration
  • The joint major in chemistry and biology
  • The chemistry major with additional recommended courses for Biological Chemistry

Joint Major in Chemistry and Biology

The disciplines of biology and chemistry are undergoing remarkable and converging transformations. In response to these new developments, Harvey Mudd College has established a unique opportunity for undergraduate students: the Joint Major in Chemistry and Biology.

The Joint Major provides an organized framework that will enable students to think at the interface, to effortlessly move back and forth between chemistry and biology. They will have the background to appreciate the biological context of their research questions and will have mastered the chemistry fundamentals that underlie the properties and reactions of biomolecules. These successful students will be able to make connections and have insights that are difficult to obtain without a thorough training in both chemistry and biology. The program in chemistry and biology will capture the imaginations of talented Harvey Mudd students and reinforce their abilities to think across disciplines.

Students interested in the Joint Major should contact Professor Cathy McFadden (catherine_mcfadden@hmc.edu), chair of the Department of Biology and/or Professor Kerry Karukstis, (karukstis@g.hmc.edu) chair of the Department of Chemistry.

Requirements for the Joint Major in Chemistry and Biology

  • Chemistry 51: Physical Chemistry
  • Chemistry 53: Physical Chemistry Laboratory
  • Chemistry 56: Carbon Compounds
  • Chemistry 58: Carbon Compounds Laboratory
  • Chemistry 105: Organic Chemistry
  • Chemistry 111: Organic Chemistry Laboratory
  • Biology 54: Biology Laboratory
  • Biology 154: Biostatistics (taken concurrently with Biology 54)
  • Biology 111: Molecular Biology Laboratory
  • Biology 113: Molecular Biology
  • Biology/Chemistry 182: Chemistry in Living Systems
  • Biology/Chemistry 184: Methods in Biochemistry
  • Biology/Chemistry 189: Topics in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

One pair selected from:

  • Chemistry 103 – Analytical Chemistry/Chemistry 109 – Analytical Chemistry Laboratory OR Chemistry 104 – Inorganic Chemistry/Chemistry 110 – Inorganic Laboratory

One course selected from:

  • Biology 101: Comparative Physiology
  • Biology 108: Ecology and Environmental Biology
  • Biology 109: Evolutionary Biology
  • Three elective credits of upper level Biology courses, to be selected by the student in consultation with her/his adviser. Prior permission from the Department of Biology is required.
  • Two successive semesters of Biology 191–192 (Biology Colloquium) and Chemistry 199 (Chemistry Seminar) (four semesters total).
  • Two semesters of Senior Thesis Research (Biology 193–194, or Biology 195-196, or Chemistry 151–152). The senior thesis will have two readers, a mentor from one department and a co-reader from the other department.

NOTE: In order to optimize their opportunities and to enable individual flexibility, students may request to count other courses not currently listed as Biology electives. These other courses might include new biology courses developed at Harvey Mudd, cross-listed College courses (e.g., topics in biological engineering) and appropriate courses offered by other Claremont Colleges. Prior approval, granted by the faculties of Biology and Chemistry, will be required to substitute electives.

Mathematical and Computational Biology Major

As biology and biotechnology become more important in the coming decades, so will the application of quantitative methods to biological science. Mathematical and computational components are vital to many areas of contemporary biological research, such as genomics, molecular modeling, structural biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, and systems analysis of neurobiology, physiology, and metabolism.

Harvey Mudd students interested in the interface between biology, mathematics, and computer science may pursue the Mathematical and Computational Biology Major, which is jointly administered by the biology, mathematics, and computer science departments.

This major prepares students for graduate studies in areas including applied mathematics, bioinformatics, computational biology, as well as employment in industry.

Harvey Mudd’s core curriculum provides mathematical and computational biology majors with a strong multidisciplinary foundation, and the college offers many opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary research in biomathematics, computational biology, and quantitative biology.

Students who choose this major become immersed in the scientific and intellectual cultures of biology, computer science, and mathematics, and the major is sufficiently flexible to allow students to concentrate in a particular area of interest. Students in this major have one advisor from the biology department and one advisor from either the mathematics or computer science departments. The advisors will jointly help the student plan a program tailored to the student’s interests and goals.

Requirements for the Degree

Introductory Sequence

  • Math 55. Discrete Mathematics
  • Bio 54. Biology Laboratory
  • Biology 154: Biostatistics (taken concurrently with Biology 54)
  • Biology/Math 118. Mathematical and Computational Biology

Biology Foundations

  • Any two of the following:
    • Bio 101. Comparative Physiology
    • Bio 108. Ecology and Environmental Biology
    • Bio 109. Evolutionary Biology
    • Bio 113. Molecular Genetics
  • One biology seminar
  • One biology laboratory

Mathematical and Computation Courses

  • One of
  • One 3-unit mathematics course chosen with your advisor. Suggested mathematics course options include (but are not limited to)
  • One 3-unit computer-science course chosen with your advisor. Suggested computer-science course options include (but are not limited to)
    • CS 60. Principles of Computer Science
    • CS 70. Data Structures and Program Development
    • CS 81. Computability and Logic
    • CS 121. Software Development
    • CS 140. Algorithms
    • CS 133. Databases
    • CS 144. Scientific Computing
    • CS 151. Artificial Intelligence
    • CS 152. Neural Networks
    • CS 155. Computer Graphics
  • Five units of additional coursework in mathematics or computer science

Electives, Thesis, and Colloquium

  • One technical elective chosen with advisorAny course related to your interests in the major. Possible courses satisfying this requirement could be in biology, computer science, or mathematics, or in another field including (but not limited to), chemistry, bioengineering, cognitive science, neuroscience, biophysics, or linguistics.
  • Senior thesis or Clinic
  • Colloquium and Forum
    • Bio 191/192. Biology Colloquium
    • Mathematics 198. Undergraduate Mathematics Forum
    • One semester of “joint” colloquium (0.5 units).Students registered for joint colloquium must attend at least twelve colloquium talks during the semester in any field(s) related to their interests. The talks may be at any members of the Claremont Colleges consortium or a nearby university and may be in any of a wide array of fields including biology, mathematics, computer science, and other science and engineering disciplines including bioengineering, cognitive science, neuroscience, biophysics, linguistics. Students enrolled in the joint colloquium are required to submit a short synopsis of each talk that they attend. Joint colloquium will be administered by the computer-science department and, for purposes of scheduling, will be listed as occurring at the same time as the regular computer-science colloquium.

Sample Paths Through the Major

See the Math department’s description of the major for several different sample schedules for students enrolled in the Mathematical and Computational Biology program.

Biology Minor

The biology minor is only available to those Harvey Mudd students who are pursuing an off-campus major at one of the other Claremont Colleges.

A student pursuing a minor in biology must successfully complete the following courses:

  • Biology 52: Introduction to Biology (included in the Harvey Mudd technical core)
  • Biology 54: Biology Laboratory
  • Four additional biology courses, at least one of which must be accompanied by a lab.

Goals and Learning Outcomes

The focus of Harvey Mudd’s biology program is on preparing students for professional practice in diverse areas related to biology. Following graduation the majority of our students go on to Ph.D. programs in the life sciences or into the workforce in technical fields. With these outcomes in mind, our curriculum is structured to provide students with the general technical and communication skills required to succeed in a broad range of scientific settings. Upon graduation from our program we expect HMC students to:

  • Understand fundamental principles of biology and how we know what we know.
  • Appreciate the breadth of biology, its interfaces with other disciplines, and its impact on society.
  • Be able to take intellectual and practical ownership of their work and demonstrate maturity and responsibility as scientists.

To achieve these broad goals effectively, we believe all biology majors should be able to:

  1. understand and effectively communicate the foundational scientific principles and findings in biology;
  2. read and critically interpret the primary scientific literature;
  3. formulate hypotheses and plan and execute experiments to test those hypotheses;
  4. understand the use of and be able to apply quantitative methods to interpret biological data;
  5. communicate results in writing using conventional scientific formats;
  6. communicate results orally through formal presentations and by leading and participating in discussions;
  7. synthesize ideas from multiple sources into a literature review or research proposal;
  8. demonstrate teamwork and leadership skills;
  9. demonstrate an understanding of how biology relates to current issues in the world.

The Biology curriculum includes five primary components, each of which addresses a subset of these learning outcomes:

Core lecture courses. All biology majors take a required set of lecture courses designed to cover the fundamental principles of biology and to instill an appreciation for the breadth of biology. Each of these core courses also begins to introduce students to primary literature in the field (learning outcomes 1, 2, 9).

Laboratory courses. All biology majors take a required Introductory Laboratory course and at least two upper level laboratories. Laboratory courses are designed to serve learning outcomes 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8.

Seminar courses. All biology majors are required to complete at least one seminar-style course, defined as a course in which material is covered primarily by discussion of readings from the primary literature and students give substantial oral presentations and write a significant synthetic paper. Seminar courses address learning outcomes 2, 6, 7 and (often) 9.

Colloquium. Weekly research presentations by invited speakers from other institutions increase the breadth of biological topics to which students are exposed, encourage critical thinking, and model professional communication skills, serving learning outcomes 1, 2, 6 and 9.

Senior thesis. As seniors, all biology majors put learning outcomes 1-9 into practice by completing a year-long independent research project or team clinic project.