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Biology

 


 
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FAQ - Prospective Students


Why should I major in biology at JMU?

Is there a pre-medical (or another pre-professional) major at JMU? 

Should I major in biology if I want to go to medical (or another professional) school?

I want to major in zoology (botany, microbiology, ecology, marine biology, etc.).  Do you have these programs?

What can I do with a Biology or Biotechnology degree?

What are the requirements for a Biology or Biotechnology degree?

What is the core biology series at JMU?

I am a recent graduate from high school. Will my AP (or IB) credits in biology count at JMU?

When should I take chemistry?

What math sequence should I take?

Why do I have to take so much chemistry and math?

What classes should I take my first semester?

How many credits should I take each semester if I want to get good grades?

How large are biology classes?

Are the laboratory sections of courses taught by graduate students or full-time faculty?

How do college biology classes differ from high school classes?

 



Why should I major in biology at JMU?

See the “Prospective Students” page.
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Is there a pre-medical (or another pre-professional) major at JMU?

No, but there are a number of pre-professional health programs.  Pre-professional health programs are not majors or minors; they are preparation programs that outline a set of JMU courses and requirements that commonly serve as pre-requisites for admission to graduate-level professional programs. Schools of professional health are most concerned with the overall scope and quality of a student’s undergraduate performance and it is important that students select a major based on their interests and aptitudes. Program Coordinators are available to assist students in making career decisions. Additional information about each pre-professional health program is available on the Web site at www.iihhs.jmu.edu.
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Should I major in biology if I want to go to medical (or another professional) school?

We suggest that you choose a major that you enjoy the most, not the one that you think will get you into medical school.  That way, you are more likely to do well, and it keeps more career doors open for you should you eventually decide that you don’t want to go to medical school.
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I want to major in zoology (botany, microbiology, ecology, marine biology, etc.).  Do you have these programs?

No, we only offer majors in biology and biotechnology.  Over specialization at the undergraduate level is risky since it narrows your career options.  We strongly believe that a broad undergraduate education is best since that is the time to explore and find out what appeals to you.  You may have an idea of what interests you now, but chances are good that your interests will change as you learn more about biology, and the opportunities for students with biology degrees.
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What can I do with a Biology or Biotechnology degree?

Because these degrees allow you to develop problem solving, writing, and thinking skills, they will prepare you for a lot of careers in or out of biology!  To learn about careers in the various and diverse sub-fields of biology, see our Careers page. For a glance at what JMU graduates are presently doing with their biology degrees please look at the Alumni News page.  Career information and links to career pages are maintained at the JMU office of Career and Academic Planning.
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What are the requirements for a Biology or Biotechnology degree?

The official requirements are in the paper and online catalog.  Streamlined versions of the requirements are on this site under "Undergraduate Programs" however, the official listing of requirements is the one in the paper catalog for your year.
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What is the core biology series at JMU?

We introduce our majors to most of the fields of biology through four required core courses usually taken during the first two years: Organisms (BIO 114), Ecology and Evolution (BIO 124), Cell and Molecular Biology (BIO 214) and Genetics and Development (BIO 224).  Each of these courses is 4-credits and each has a laboratory component.  The latter two courses are taken in the second year because they have a prerequisite of college chemistry.
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I am a recent graduate from high school. Will my AP (or IB) credits in biology count at JMU? p>

Yes.  For up-to-date information, look at the "AP and IB Scores" page in the  Admissions section fo the catalog.  Note that presently a “5” on the Biology AP or a “7” on the IB test will substitute for the first two core courses in biology but we recommend that you take them anyway.  Our core courses are all integrated and cover a lot more in the way of laboratory and writing skills than most AP or IB courses.  If you take our courses, your scores will still give you credit toward graduation as GBIO 103, GSCI 104 and BIO 000 as listed in the catalog section.
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When should I take chemistry?

CHEM 131 is a required prerequisite for the sophomore-level BIO 214 core course so it is best to start the chemistry sequence as soon as possible.  If your math placement scores are high enough we recommend starting CHEM 131 and 131L, and calculus in the fall of the first year.  In the case of lower placement scores, your freshman advisor may recommend that you wait until the second semester to take CHEM 131.
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What math sequence should I take?

Biology and Biotechnology majors must take calculus and one statistics course.  See the catalog for specific options. Most students opt for Calculus with Functions I and II (MATH 231-232) but those with a strong background and quantitative interest can take Calculus I (MATH 235).  Both of these calculus paths end up at essentially the same place. Usually students start with calculus before statistics; however, you can discuss this with your advisor.  To keep more career options open we recommend taking the most rigorous course you can handle.
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Why do I have to take so much chemistry and math?

Because they are good for you!  No, seriously, chemistry and mathematics help you understand biology in different ways.  Graduate programs and employers expect you to have taken these classes.  Our requirements are typical of most biology programs. If you are transferring into JMU as a BIO major we strongly recommend that you have college chemistry upon entrance. 
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What classes should I take my first semester?

Most first year biology students will take BIO 114, Chemistry 131 and 131L, Math 231 and a GenEd class during their first semester.  However, there are many ways to get from the start to the finish so plan on being flexible. It is important that you discuss this fully with your advisor if you have any questions. 
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How many credits should I take each semester if I want to get good grades?

That depends on a lot of factors including your high school preparation, study habits and motivation.  We recommend that full time students  start with 12-15 credits per semester and then increase the load to 16-17 in later semesters if they do well.
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How large are biology classes?

Class sizes in our core courses are usually 100 or less.  Introductory laboratory sections are capped at 24 and often there is an undergraduate teaching assistant in the lab along with the instructor.  Upper division classes normally have 12-24 students. We are not permitted by fire regulations to add extra students into a room with a designated seating capacity.  This is why overrides are not possible. 
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Are the laboratory sections of courses taught by graduate students or full-time faculty?

Faculty members teach most lab sections.  However, we have a small masters program in biology so graduate students teach some lab sections but only after they have assisted in the lab and completed a semester-long training program.  
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How do college biology classes differ from high school classes?

Great question.  In high school you may have done well without studying much, and you were probably tested often.  Much of the homework was probably "directed" meaning that teachers gave you handouts or worksheets to help you organize the new material.  In college you will have to work much more outside of class to do well, and usually it will be reading and writing notes on your own.  Most classes have 1-3 midterm exams and a comprehensive final exam so to do well you will have to keep up and be able to retain a lot of information.  Rarely will you be asked to just regurgitate facts.  Many questions (even multiple choice and objective formats) will require that you synthesize information and apply what you have learned to new situations.  Self-motivation is the key.  The sooner you get it, the better you will do overall.  If you have trouble, resources are available through Career and Academic Planning.
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