Choosing a First Course
Below are the introductory Biological Sciences courses at Wellesley College. Along with first course description, make sure to visit our FAQ regarding Introductory Courses and Taking a Science Course as a First Year.
1. We offer introductory courses in both cell and organismal biology that satisfy major requirements, act as prerequisites for all upper level biology courses and meet medical school requirements. You can start with Cellular and Molecular Biology or Organismal Biology:
Cellular and Molecular Biology
BISC 110: Introductory Cellular and Molecular Biology with Laboratory
A gateway course that focuses on the study of life at the cellular and molecular level. Open to all students who have satisfied the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) component. Unit: 1.25
BISC 110P: Introductory Cellular and Molecular Biology with Laboratory
This course is a version of BISC110 that is intended for students who have not yet taken or will be simultaneously taking Quantitative Reasoning QR140 and/or require additional academic support. The course includes an additional two hour class meeting each week. Unit: 1.25
BISC 112: Exploration of Cellular and Molecular Biology with Laboratory
Seminar-style course designed as an alternative to 110 for students with strong high school preparation (AP, IB, other) and who have satisfied the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) component. One of the two sections in the fall (112Y) will be open to first-year students only. Class meets for one discussion and one lab/week. Unit: 1.0
BISC 116 and CHEM 116: Fundamentals of Chemistry and Molecular/Cellular Biology with Laboratory: An Integrated Approach
A gateway course that covers the content of both BISC 110 and CHEM 105 in an integrated fashion and is recommended for students interested in the application of chemical principles to understand biological systems. Class meets for one lab, one discussion and two double lecture periods/week. Unit: 2.5
BISC 111: Introductory Organismal Biology with Laboratory
A gateway course that focuses on the study of life at the organismal level. Open to all students who have satisfied the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) component. Fulfills the Data Literacy (DL) component. Unit: 1.25
BISC 113: Exploration of Organismal Biology with Laboratory
Seminar-style course designed as an alternative to 111 for students with strong high school preparation (AP, IB, other) and who have satisfied the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) requirement. Fulfills the Data Literacy (DL) component. One of the two sections in the fall (113Y) will be open to first-year students only. Class meets for one discussion and one lab/week. Unit: 1.0
BISC 111T: Introductory Organismal Biology with Laboratory (Tropical Island)
A different version of our gateway course that focuses on the study of life on tropical islands and reefs. Lectures and discussions during the Spring semester will prepare for the laboratory and field portion taught at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute in Little Cayman. Open to all students who have satisfied the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) requirement, but requires an application. Fulfills the Data Literacy (DL) component. Unit 1.25
For 2022-2023 Academic Year
BISC 110 offered in Fall 2022 & Spring 2023.
BISC 110P offered in Fall 2022.
BISC 112 offered in Spring 2023.
BISC 112Y offered in Fall 2022.
BISC 116 and CHEM 116 offered in Fall 2022.
BISC 111 offered in Fall 2022 & Spring 2023.
BISC 113 offered in Fall 2022 & Spring 2023.
BISC 113Y offered in Fall 2022.
AP credit does not replace any course offered in the Department of Biological Sciences. AP courses may count for credit toward graduation but do not fulfill distribution requirements or count toward the major in Biological Sciences.
For students with strong high school preparation in biology (AP, IB or multiple courses), our seminar-style classes, BISC 112 and BISC 113, are designed to build upon your high school experience and develop the intellectual and lab skills you need to succeed in the biological sciences. Like BISC 110 and BISC 111, they meet medical school admission requirements. These classes meet for one discussion and one lab session each week.
Here is a flow chart to help you decide what course might be the best fit:
2. We also offer introductory courses designed for students who would like to explore their interest in the biological sciences. All require fulfillment of the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) component. These courses satisfy college science distribution requirements and count toward the major in Biological Sciences, but are not required for the major. BISC108 and BISC109 also satisfy prerequisites for select upper level biology courses.
BISC104: Science or Science Fiction (Summer)
This course will examine the scientific facts behind phenomena portrayed in a variety of Hollywood and foreign movies. We will cover topics ranging from the definition and recreation of life, genetics and behavior to evolution and environmental issues. The course will include weekly screenings of movies outside of class time as well as lectures, assigned readings and discussions. While obtaining an introduction to key concepts in biology, students will also explore misconceptions about science and scientists that are perpetuated by these movies. Unit: 1.0
BISC106: Natural History of National Parks (Summer)
The U.S. National Parks Systems was designed to preserve wild landscapes that contain unique communities of organisms. But ecosystems in National Parks are not static: historical context and management decisions play a critical role in structuring the ecology of National Parks. Furthermore, many ecosystems in National Parks are experiencing current stress due to climate change and other human impacts. This intensive, field-based course will use National Park as a study system to observe and interpret the interactions among biological organisms, the context of the physical environment, and human management actions that shape emergent ecosystems. We will also investigate the ways in which scientists and managers working in National Parks study and plan for future scenarios of rapid change. The majority of the course will be conducted in the field during an intensive 1-week trip to a U.S. National Park. This course does not have laboratory and fulfills NPS requirement. Unit: 1.0
BISC108: Environmental Horticulture with Laboratory (Spring 2023)
This course will examine how plants function, both as individual organisms and as critical members of ecological communities, with special emphasis on human uses of plants. Topics will include plant adaptations, reproduction, environmentally sound landscape practices, urban horticulture, and the use of medicinal plants. The laboratory involves extensive use of the greenhouses, experimental design, data collection and analysis, and field trips. Unit: 1.25
BISC109: Human Biology with Laboratory (Fall 2022)
This course focuses on human anatomy, physiology, and evolution. Lecture topics will include: human origins and evolutions; the structure and function of the major physiological systems; exercise physiology; and human genetics. Laboratories explore human physiology, focusing on the development and application of skills in experimental design, statistical analysis and scientific writing. Fulfills the QR Data Literacy (DL) component. Unit: 1.25
BISC 150H/ES 150H: Climate Change and Global Agriculture (Not Offered 2022-2023)
Agricultural systems both contribute to and are impacted by the growing threat of global climate change. Promoting the resilience of agricultural systems is essential for feeding rapidly growing populations, eradicating global malnourishment, and minimizing the impact of agriculture on Earth's other ecosystems. This course will use scientific evidence to evaluate the way in which agricultural systems contribute to climate change and to assess climate change risks to agricultural sectors in regions around the globe. Students will collaborate on sustained research projects that develop their skills in systems analysis and decision-making under conditions of scientific uncertainty regarding the type and severity of climate change risks. A central focus of the course will be on the presentation of quantitative data in visually intuitive formats for decision-making support. Unit: 0.5