Welcome to the Department of Biology

Department of Biology at Illinois State University
Department of Biology
State your niche

Undergraduate Students

Overview for prospective undergraduates:

There has never been a more exciting time for the life sciences. Today, biology is not only about understanding how living things work. It is also a suite of concepts and tools that we can apply to pressing societal problems from cancer to climate change. A biology degree is economically valuable: it can put you on a path to a desired career, but also prepares you to take advantage of career opportunities that might not even exist today, in health, biotechnology, conservation, etc. The "careers" tab on this page lists some of the career possibilities associated with a biology degree:

The School of Biological Sciences provides several program options so that you can tailor your undergraduate experience to your career goals.

We offer three Majors:

1) BS in Biological Sciences
2) BS in Molecular & Cellular Biology (MCB) PDF Worksheet
3) BS in Biological Sciences Teacher Education (the Teacher Ed page is here).

Within the BS in Biological Sciences Major, we further offer five different Sequences: General Biology; Conservation Biology; Physiology, Neuroscience and Behavior; Plant Biology; or Zoology (below). You may also Minor in Biological Sciences. To find the graduation requirements for any of these programs, please consult the current ISU Catalog, Biological Sciences section (http://illinoisstate.edu/catalog/pdf/bsc.pdf). The School also offers ~10 Graduate programs (http://biology.illinoisstate.edu/graduate/index.shtml) for students who wish to further develop specific skills after their BS degree.


The five different Sequences within the Biological Sciences Major have unique course requirements tailored to specific goals. They all lead to the BS in Biological Sciences. PDF Worksheets are provided below to help compare the requirements across different Sequences.

1) BS in Biological Sciences: Conservation Biology Sequence

Designed for students seeking careers in the conservation of natural ecosystems and their organisms (all levels of biodiversity). The coursework will also prepare students for graduate studies in conservation biology, and for internships and entry-level positions in conservation-oriented non-governmental organizations, state and federal government organizations, and environmental consulting firms. PDF Worksheet

2) BS in Biological Sciences: General Biology Sequence

Provides broad training in the biological sciences, for students who do not wish to take a more specialized sequence.PDF Worksheet

3) BS in Biological Sciences: Physiology, Neuroscience and Behavior Sequence

Preparation for graduate training or career opportunities that involve basic and applied aspects of behavior, physiology and neuroscience. With additional coursework, students can meet the requirements to apply to veterinary and health professional schools. For more information on the PNB sequence, associated faculty and the curriculum, click here.  PDF Worksheet

4) BS in Biological Sciences: Plant Biology Sequence

Provides broad training in plant biology. This sequence is designed for students seeking jobs with industries, the government and nonprofit organizations working with plants, or for subsequent graduate studies in plant biology. PDF Worksheet

5) BS in Biological Sciences: Zoology Sequence

Preparation for graduate training or career opportunities that involve working with animals. With additional coursework, students can meet the requirements to apply to veterinary and health professional schools. PDF Worksheet.

**To find the complete graduation requirements for any of these Sequences, please consult the current ISU Catalog, Biological Sciences section** (http://illinoisstate.edu/catalog/pdf/bsc.pdf).

Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate research is important for the BS degrees in Biological Sciences or MCB. Getting directly involved in research is a key part of your preparation for many careers. When you join a lab here and conduct original research, you will learn how to apply the knowledge you obtain in the classroom, and acquire additional hands-on skills that may be valuable to an employer. And, more broadly, you will learn how to work as part of a diverse team to solve problems, experience that is highly valued by most employers.

Students are recommended to start research in the Soph. or Junior year. You can begin by reading about the research programs of our faculty at their individual lab pages (links here: http://biology.illinoisstate.edu/facilities/index.shtml), then email the faculty of interest directly to see if opportunities are available (be sure to tell them your academic level and time frame for research.) Students who are in the Honors Program should enroll in BSC 299.

You can also learn about research by participating in our student organizations.
More details here.

Choosing a program

The School of Biological Sciences is devoted to individual attention to students, a hallmark of ISU. The best way for us to help you find the right program is for you to contact Undergraduate Advisor Megan Larson or Assistant Chair for Undergraduate Studies Dr. Wade Nichols .

Here are a few general observations:

--When you apply as a freshman and are admitted, it is not critical for you to make your final decision concerning a major or sequence. Most of the Biological Sciences and Chemistry requirements are the same for all programs in the freshman year, and so you can typically switch programs by the end of freshman year without loosing time (see ISU Catalog for details.) Caution: the MCB Major requires higher math and physics courses than the Biological Sciences Major, and so you may have to take additional courses if you want to switch your major to MCB.

--Medical Schools and other professional programs do not require a specific major, though they do often require specific courses. Be sure to check the requirements of any program that you will want to apply to after your BS, and make sure you take those courses. The MCB Major was designed to accommodate most of the requirements and recommendations typical of Medical Schools. Sequences in the Biological Sciences Major can also be used for pre-medical preparation; be sure to work closely with our advisors to ensure that you meet all the requirements for your desired professional program.

--For the MCB Major, there is basket of options for elective courses; you must take at least two of these, usually as a Senior. The full list of courses that fulfill the MCB elective requirement is here.

Transfers to ISU from other colleges:

--If you are considering transferring to ISU, you are encouraged to plan well in advance. With planning, students who complete an Associateís Degree at their community college are often able to complete the Bachelorís degree in a timely manner, because they will not have to take further general education requirements once they arrive at ISU. It is also wise for students to take the first year of General Chemistry (equivalent to CHE 140 and CHE 141 or CHE 110/112) and Biology (equivalent to BSC 196, BSC 197) at their community college so that they will be able to begin taking core Biology requirements and electives.

--For questions about how your community college credits will articulate at ISU, you can see the following website: http://www.registrar.ilstu.edu/transfer/course.shtml

--Any student who seeks a degree in the Biological Sciences should also be aware that the Department of Biological Sciences is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences. Anyone who plans to complete a degree from a department housed in the College of Arts and Sciences will be expected to complete a foreign language Requirement. Students can do this by either taking foreign language through the second semester of the first year when in college or by having completed three or more years of a foreign language while in high school. It can be helpful to have completed the foreign language requirement before transferring to ISU.

--Prospective transfer students are encouraged to participate in Transfer Days once they are admitted to ISU. Transfer Days will allow an incoming student to become familiar with ISU. Students will also be able to meet with their Academic Advisor and register for classes for the upcoming semester.

--For other questions related to transferring to the School of Biological Sciences at ISU, contact Megan Larson, Academic Advisor of the Biological Sciences Department at (309) 438-8252.

Program details

The links found below, and at the specific program pages, provide several kinds of information to help you compare programs. In particular, the Worksheet PDFs list the requirements for a program, and the Plan of Study PDFs offer suggestions for how those requirements can be completed in 4 yrs.