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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Biological Sciences


Coker, home of the biology department.

Undergraduate Program Overview

The Department of Biological Sciences is located in the Coker Life Sciences Building, located on Sumter Street across from the Longstreet Theater. The Department office is located on the 4th floor, and the Undergraduate Studies office is located on the 1st or ground floor. Classrooms and teaching laboratories are on floors 1-3 and the basement, while professor research laboratories are on floors 3-7.  [USC map]

The mission of the Department of Biological Sciences is to provide a fundamental, intellectual, framework for science in which each student in the major may develop an understanding of the structures, functions, and inter-relationships among diverse biological systems.

A Biology degree is relevant to everyone. A solid foundation in biological principles is certainly of relevance to students interested in careers in some aspect of medicine, biologically relevant research, management of natural resources or teaching. But such a foundation empowers any citizen to confront issues of ever increasing complexity of medical care, environmental deterioration, bioethics, agricultural economics, public health or biotechnology. A major in Biological Sciences provides students with a broad education in the sciences and empowers students with knowledge critical to surviving life in the 21st century.

The Department of Biological Sciences offers a focused program of courses for students seeking a Major in Biological Sciences, as well as courses for students needing to satisfy specific for other Majors including Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health, and courses with broad impact for students seeking to satisfy a science requirement for other programs. Courses are taught by a faculty of some 40 professors with exceptional academic backgrounds and expertise ranging from molecular and cell biology to organismal and environmental biology, from bacteria to plants and animals, from neuroscience and behavior to developmental biology and cancer. See professors and their interests here.

Courses are progressive in that introductory courses provide broad surveys of biological issues, and more advanced courses are increasingly focused and detailed. Although class sizes can be fairly large for introductory courses, they are often quite small for more advanced courses (8-20 students). Small class sizes, practical laboratory components of many courses, and undergraduate research offer many opportunities to students to develop close relationships with their professors.

A major advantage of education at a large university is the opportunity students have to participate in research projects of professors. Professors of Biological Sciences maintain dual lives as educators and researchers; many research labs include undergraduate researchers. Typically, students become familiar with professors through their classes and through the descriptions of professor research on the department web site. Students can join laboratories as early as their freshman year. Research efforts can receive course credit (6 credits towards graduating, with 3 credits satisfying the major requirement). In many cases students receive financial support for research, especially during the summer, from either research grants of professors or from several competitive fellowship programs offered by the Department and University.