Jul 04, 2020  
2014-2015 Undergraduate Catalog 

Biology Major (BS)

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs

Biology Major - Bachelor of Science (BS)

Please see the UNLV College of Sciences, Biology department web page at www.unlv.edu/lifesciences for information about department programs, faculty and facilities.

Please see advising information at the UNLV College of Science Advising at www.unlv.edu/sciences/advising.


Institution - Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities www.nwccu.org

Learning Outcomes

All students graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences should be able to:

*Outcomes marked with an asterisk apply to students graduating with a minor in Biological Sciences.

1. Understand the nature of scientific knowledge.

  • Describe the differences between opinions, facts, and scientific theories
  • Appropriately utilize the scientific method within the laboratory environment
  • Apply their understanding of the scientific method to successfully design an experiment
  • Critically analyze scientific content presented both orally and in writing

2. Understand cell structures and functions.

  • Explain the similarities and differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells
  • Explain the similarities and differences between plant and animal cells
  • Describe the structure and function(s) of common eukaryotic organelles (nucleus, ribosomes, rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, vesicles, lysosomes, mitochondria, chloroplasts, peroxisomes, vacuoles, and cytoskeleton)
  • Diagram the structure of an animal cell membrane, including the phospholipid bilayer, cholesterol, proteins, and carbohydrates
  • Explain the functions of the cell membrane, including passive and active transport and communication/information processing

3. Understand the physical nature of genetic information.

  • Describe the structure of DNA
  • Diagram the basic structure of a gene, including regulatory and coding sequences
  • Explain how genetic information is used in reproduction, including the processes of mitosis and meiosis
  • Explain how genetic information is utilized during transcription, translation, DNA replication, and cell division
  • Explain how genetic information can be changed through processes of mutation
  • Explain how epigenetic regulation of gene expression can occur

4. Understand that all organisms are genetically related, have evolved, and are evolving.

  • Explain the relationship between genetic information, physical characteristics, and the environment
  • Provide a timeline of major evolutionary events describing the emergence of the main forms of life (prokaryotes, eukaryotes, multicellular life, fungi, plants, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals)
  • Articulate the mechanisms of evolution including mutation, selection, and speciation
  • Apply their understanding of evolutionary relationships to accurately interpret phylogenetic trees
  • Explain experimental techniques used to investigate evolution

5. Understand the metabolic complexity of cells and organisms.

  • Provide examples of diverse mechanisms used by cells/organisms to extract energy from the environment
  • Explain the reactions of energy transformation that occur in mitochondria, chloroplasts, microbes, and multicellular organisms
  • Provide examples of diverse mechanisms used by cells/organisms to synthesize biological molecules
  • Explain how cells/organisms regulate the internal environment

6. Understand the complex interplay of how organisms respond to and interact with each other and their environment.

  • Describe how interactions change as the scale of life transitions from cells to ecosystems
  • Articulate the different patterns of population growth and explain the environmental factors that underlie each pattern
  • Explain community structure and the various forms of biodiversity
  • Provide examples of the types of interactions that can occur between community members, including competition, predation, parasitism, coexistence, mutualism, and commensalism
  • Explain how communities can respond to disturbances
  • Discuss the interactions that occur between organisms and the nonliving components of their environment, including the role of biogeochemical cycling

7. Effectively communicate complex biological concepts, orally and in writing.

  • Effectively discuss individual biological concepts in short written format such as a two to four paragraph response
  • Effectively articulate the relationships between many biological concepts in an extended written format such as an eight to ten page paper
  • Effectively explain individual biological concepts in a ten to fifteen minute oral presentation
  • Effectively answer questions from the audience following an oral presentation
  • Summarize key points from a peer-reviewed journal article in a written report or during a group discussion

8. Fulfill their professional goals.

  • In addition to the outcomes listed above, concentration specific outcomes are as follows:


  • Understand how organisms can be genetically manipulated for the production of a useful biological commodity.

Cell and Molecular Biology

  • Explain the interrelationship between chemistry and biology, including how physical and chemical laws influence the structure and function of intracellular components and macromolecules.

Comprehensive Biology

  • Understand the general complexity, diversity, and interaction of living organisms at organizational levels ranging from cells to communities.

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

  • Articulate in detail the interactions organisms have with each other and with nonliving components of the environment and how organisms and environments change over time.


  • Accumulate the knowledge necessary to provide biology instruction to middle- and high-school students. Students in the Education concentration will also work with an advisor in the College of Education to ensure they are simultaneously fulfilling the requirements necessary for licensing in secondary science education.

Integrative Physiology

  • Explain how cells and organisms acquire and process nutrients, transform energy, and maintain homeostasis in a variable environment to survive and reproduce.


  • Explain the diversity and similarity of microbes, including their physiology, mechanisms of pathogenesis and host defenses, and unique ecology.


  • Become competitive candidates for admission into professional schools.

University Graduation Requirements


Admission Policies

Minimum GPA Requirement: 2.50

Prospective biology majors with a GPA less than 2.50, but at least 2.0, may be admitted on probationary status. A student placed on probation must meet with an advisor to design and agree upon a probationary course of study based on the student’s previous progress and on established degree program requirements. This course of study must include at least 15 credits that apply toward a degree in the major, with a majority of the credits coming from courses in the college, unless all requirements within the college have been completed by the student. The advisor will place a memorandum outlining the course of study in the student’s file. Students are expected to complete the probationary course of study within two consecutive semesters and one summer. Students who complete the probationary course of study within the allotted time with a cumulative GPA (for the course of study only) of at least 2.00 will be removed from probation.

Biological Sciences Major:

Course requirements:
Biological Sciences majors must complete a set of required 100-level science, math, and composition classes with a satisfactory grade before they can enroll in more advanced 300- and 400-level biology classes. In the first two semesters the typical student will complete the seven biology, chemistry, math, and composition courses listed below with a C or better (C- is not sufficient) as a prerequisite for enrollment in any upper division biology course. These courses, which satisfy university and science major requirements (25 credits), are typically taken in the freshman year:

  or higher

With satisfactory completion of these classes (“C” or better in each class), students will be able to enroll in 300- and 400-level biology classes, subject to any additional prerequisites listed in the course catalog.

If a student does not earn a “C” or better the first time they take a required course, it is expected that they will repeat the course one time and utilize available resources to improve their academic performance. Continuation as a biology major requires a C or better (C- is not sufficient) in each course (or equivalent transferred from another institution).

Transfer Policies

Transfer students must have a minimum GPA of 2.50. All students are required to meet with an advisor to determine course work that can be used to satisfy degree requirements. Biology, chemistry, physics and math transfer courses will be accepted to fill specific degree requirements only with a grade of C or better.
Although rare, it is possible for superior pre-professional students to gain admission to a professional school upon completion of 94 units of undergraduate work. Such students may, under certain circumstances, be awarded a baccalaureate degree from UNLV upon successfully completing one year of full-time study with courses equivalent to the School of Life Sciences major at the professional school. To apply for a degree after one year of professional school, students must have completed 94 units at UNLV with a GPA of 3.50 and meet university and college graduation requirements. Any student contemplating such a program must obtain approval from the departmental chair and college dean in advance of departure from UNLV.

Community College Articulation

The School of Life Sciences has course articulation agreements with several community colleges both within and outside Nevada. For specific information about transfer of credits from two-year institutions, students should seek advising about specific courses of study from the department.

Department Policies

Academic Policies:

In addition to the General Education Core requirements, all study courses must include a minimum of 39 credits in the Biological Sciences and satisfy the specific requirements of one of the five concentration areas offered by the department.

In accord with UNLV requirements, at least 40 credits must be earned in upper-division-level courses. This requirement may be satisfied by selecting courses within and outside the School of Life Sciences.

To graduate with a degree in the biological sciences, a GPA of at least 2.00 must be maintained for all courses in the major field (BIOL). All BIOL core courses taken (BIOL 196, 197, 300 or 304, 351, and 415) must be passed with a grade of C- or better to fulfill prerequisites for other upper-division courses and to apply to the B.S. degree in Biological Sciences.

BIOL 100, 104, 109, 113, 189, 120, 121, 122, 148, 208, 220, 223, and 224 are designed for non-biology majors and do not fulfill the School of Life Sciences curricular requirements. Although these credits will apply to the general university total credit requirement; or might be required or advised for other programs or career tracks (e.g., primary or secondary teaching), they are not recommended for Biological Sciences majors and do not fulfill any requirements for the biology major. The faculty of the School of Life Sciences urge all new majors in the department to enroll in and promptly complete fundamental course work, which will serve as a foundation for success in the study of the life sciences. By the end of the second full year of study (or its equivalent), Biological Sciences Instructors will expect that Biological Sciences majors in all concentrations will have completed: ENG 101 and 102; MATH 127, 128 or MATH 181; CHEM 121 and 122; and PHYS 151/151L and 152/152L (or the equivalent from the PHYS 180 series). BIOL course content will reflect these expectations.


All pre-majors and majors in the School of Life Sciences are required to meet with an advisor once a year at the College Advising Center located in Paul McDermott Physical Education Building. Students who fail to meet with an advisor will not be able to register for courses in the fall semesters.


Requirements for the major have been revised. The new requirements apply to biology majors in the class of Fall 2014 and later. Students in prior classes follow the requirements that were in place when they entered the program. Students needing help in bridging gaps between old and new programs should contact the School of Life Sciences office (WHI 101).


Biology Degree Requirements - Total: 120 Credits

General Education Requirements - Subtotal: 33-37 Credits

First-Year Seminar - Credits: 2-3

 (see note 1 below)

English Composition - Credits: 6

Second - Year Seminar - Credits: 3

Constitutions - Credits: 4-6


Distribution Requirement - Credits: 18

Please see Distribution Requirements  for more information.

  • Humanities and Fine Arts: 9 Credits
    • Two courses 3 credits each from two different humanities areas - 6 credits
    • One course in fine arts- 3 credits
  • Social Science: 9 Credits
    • One course each from three different fields.
  • Life and Physical Sciences and Analytical Thinking:
    • Automatically satisfied by Major requirements

Multicultural and International

(see note 2 below)

Multicultural, one 3 credit course required
International, one 3 credit course required

These courses may overlap with general education and major requirements.  A single course may not meet the multicultural and international requirements simultaneously. For the list of approved multicultural and international courses, go to: http://facultysenate.unlv.edu/students.

Biology-Biotechnology Requirements - Credits: 20-24

A minimum of five courses are required.

  • and a minimum of two upper-division BIOL courses from lists B and D with at least one from list A, C or E. Other course work important for biotechnology careers, such as Quality Assurance/Quality Control may be petitioned to be substituted for UNLV courses.

Electives - Total Credits: 0-11

Total Credits: 120


  1. It is strongly recommended that students take   to satisfy the First Year Seminar requirement.
  2. It is strongly recommended that students interested in biomedicine or attending graduate school take additional appropriate upper-division biology courses and research units to meet their elective credit requirements.
  3. At least 40 credits must be earned at the upper-division level (300 and above).
  4. BIOL 196 or 197 lectures may be waived. See Advising Center before enrolling.

Remaining credits selected from Lists A, B, C, D, E

Electives - Credits: 4-11

Total Credits: 120

Biology - Comprehensive Requirements - Credits 20

A minimum of five courses are required. A maximum of three courses from any one list (A, B, C, D or E) depending on the areas of interest, with the remaining credits selected from a least two other lists.

Electives - Credits: 4-14

Total Credits: 120

Major Requirements - BS in Biology - Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Concentration - Subtotal: 77 Credits

 (see note 2-4 below)

Biology - Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Requirements - Credits: 24

A minimum of six courses is required. BIOL 341, one course from List A, one from List E and one additional course from either A or E, and two courses from any two of Lists B, C and D. BIOL 441 is strongly recommended for any EEB student with an Ecological career focus.

Electives - Credits: 0-10

Total Credits: 120

Biology - Education Requirements - Credits: 20

A minimum of five courses are required, taken from Lists A, B, C, D, or E. One course must deal with Botany (

 ,  ,  ,  ,  ). Students must meet with an Advisor in the Education Department in order to determine what requirements are for both a minor in Education and middle/high school certification.

Electives - Credits: 14

Total Credits: 120

Biology - Integrative Physiology Requirements Credits: 20

Biology - Integrative Physiology Requirements Credits: 20

A minimum of five courses are required.

Electives - Credits: 0-14

Total Credits: 120

Electives - Credits: 0-6

Total Credits: 120

Major Requirement - BS in Pre-Professional Concentration - Subtotal: 76-80 Credits

Electives - Credits: 0-11

Total Credits: 120

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs