Student with Microscope

The Biology Department offers majors a solid foundation in modern biology providing breadth in biological study through an array of diverse course topics and the opportunity for advanced coursework and independent investigation within the framework of a liberal arts curriculum. Because biology is a diverse discipline united by common principles, completion of certain core courses is required for all majors. The required core courses include BIOL 167 Introductory Topics, BIOL 212 Biostatistics, and BIOL 460 Senior Seminar. However, because biology is a diverse discipline, our curriculum allows students to select many electives courses. Elective courses are organized into two categories that represent different types of questioning and different levels of analysis within biology. Biology offers two disciplinary majors, a B.A. and a B.S., and a disciplinary minor.


If you'd like to view a full listing of our course options in Biology or any other subject, please visit the Online Course Catalogue.

Click for the Course Catalogue


Requirements for the Major (B.A.)

disciplinary, 12 courses

Nine biology courses, seven of which must be completed at HWS or as part of HWS-sponsored abroad programs. Biology courses must include BIOL 167, BIOL 212, and BIOL 460. The remaining six courses are electives, three of which must be completed at the 200-level and three of which must be completed at the 300-level. Of the six biology electives for the BA, three must be completed in Category A and three in Category B (see Table 1 in the Catalogue). BIOL 450 Independent Study may substitute for one 300-level biology course. Completion of BIOL 495 Honors may substitute for BIOL 460. Other required courses are MATH 130, CHEM 110, and CHEM 240.

At least six courses must be unique to the major. All courses for the major must be completed with a grade of C- or better. Of the nine biology courses for the BA, seven must be HWS courses or as part of HWS-sponsored abroad programs. At least five biology courses must have a laboratory.

Requirements for the Major (B.S.)

disciplinary, 16 courses

All of the requirements for the B.A. major, plus one additional 200- or 300-level course from biology, and three more courses from chemistry, computer science, environmental studies (ENV 200, ENV 203 or ENV 310 only), geoscience, mathematics, physics or psychology. Of the 10 biology courses for the B.S., seven must be completed at HWS or as part of HWS-sponsored abroad programs.  At least five biology courses must have a laboratory. All courses must be passed with a grade of C- or higher. Credit/no credit courses cannot be counted towards the major.

Requirements for the Minor

disciplinary, 6 courses

BIOL 167 and five additional biology courses. Students minoring in biology should work with a biology advisor to select courses that best compliment your major and your career goals.


Our students chose from a variety of introductory and advanced courses, each designed with classroom and lab components that build a strong foundation in modern biological topics and methods.

Below, you'll find a sampling of some of our most popular classes, as well as suggestions for making Biology a part of your larger interdisciplinary experience at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

BIOL 167 Topics in Introductory Biology


Develop your skills for scientific inquiry, learn to articulate the central concepts of biology and explain your knowledge to your peers. Once you've done that, consider enrolling in WRRH 351, The Science Beat. Armed with knowledge of animal minds, biotechnology or exotic species, you'll read articles written by major science writers and write your own.

BIOL 238 Aquatic Biology


Learn about the general biology and ecology of aquatic systems and of the organisms that make up aquatic communities. Study in the classroom and field focuses on lake systems, but also includes streams and rivers, wetlands, and ponds. Once you've explored how and why aquatic organisms thrive, investigate how and why the physiological characteristics of plants can alter the course of history in HIST 286, Plants and Empire.

BIOL 340 Neurobiology


Discover your nervous system: how its parts are specialized, how complex emotions and other processes are produced and how it's modified by your experiences. You'll compare neural processes in both invertebrates and vertebrates (including humans) and participate in computer simulations and hands-on experiments. Once you've learned about the biology of the brain, check out PSYCH 211, Research in Behavioral Neuroscience, to learn more about the psychological nature of the brain-behavior relationship.


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.