Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about the Biology Major and Minor

Questions about Transferring Credits

Questions about Signing Up for Courses

Questions about the Biology Major and Minor

The requirements for both the Biology Major and the Biology Minor can be found at  If you have any questions after reading these pages, then speak with your advisor.

Most Columbia Biology and E3B courses (as well as a few others) can be used to fulfill Major/Minor requirements or the science GER. It is important to note that there are several Barnard/Columbia course pairs that are mutually exclusive (for example, BIOL BC3360 Physiology and BIOL UN3006 General Physiology).

A partially complete list of acceptable Columbia courses is available here. Please note that due to frequent changes in course names and offerings, this list may not be complete. If you have any questions you should consult the Associate Chair.

You should first select one of the faculty members in the department to be your major advisor (see How do I select or change a major adviser? below) and then fill out the Major Declaration Form. You will need to indicate the name of your Biology advisor and get the form signed by the Associate Chair.

Once you know what courses you will take to fulfill the minor requirements, then you can complete the Minor Declaration Form that is available at the Registrar and get it signed by the Associate Chair. 

Courses for your major and minor may not overlap. To qualify for a biology minor, a course must be letter-graded A+ to C-. Any previous P's (pass) in courses required for a minor will be converted when the minor is put on the transcript. Courses for your minor may also be used for your general education requirements. 

Research can fulfill a major requirement through enrollment in Guided Research & Seminar (BIOL BC 3591 & BIOL BC3592) and/or Senior Thesis Research & Seminar (BIOL BC3593 & BIOL BC3594) in your senior year. BC3591 & BC3592 can count for up to two upper level labs required for the major while BC3593-BC3594 can count for your senior capstone requirement. However, you may not be enrolled in both BC3591-BC3592 & BC3593-BC3594 in your senior year.

More information is available at:

If you simply want to take research for degree credit, not as Major or Minor credit, then you should take BIOL BC3597 (Guided Research). There is no seminar component to this course.

There is no formal mechanism for finding a research project. You should look at areas of research for faculty at Barnard and at other campuses in the New York region to find out who is doing research in an area that interests you. Once you have a few possibilities, contact that faculty member to enquire about possible openings in the lab and projects that might be available. The earlier you start, the better.

In the biology department, students select their advisors rather than having them assigned. Any faculty member in the department can serve as your advisor. You should pick somebody whose area of biological specialty is similar to yours and/or somebody with whom you feel comfortable. You should then speak with them to determine whether or not they are taking new advisees.

If you haven't yet declared your major, you can fill out the Major Declaration Form from the Registrar, which has a place to include the name of your advisor. If you are changing your advisor, then you can simply fill out the Major Advisor Change Form from the Registrar.

AP credit is transferred by the Registrar's office. If you got a Biology AP score of 4 or 5, then the Registrar will add 3 points to your transcript as degree credit. For the Biology Major and to fulfill the Pre-Health requirements you still need to take the full BIOL BC1500-level Introductory Biology sequence. AP credits do not exempt you from taking any Biology courses at Barnard. 

Questions about Transferring Credits

It is strongly recommended that you obtain approval for any non-Barnard course before taking the course. You can get approval from the Associate Chair once you have completed the Transfer Form from the Registrar. 

Note: this applies for any Biology course, irrespective of whether you are taking it to fulfill major or minor requirements, to fulfill the science GER, or simply as degree credit.

It is strongly recommended that you discuss your plans for studying abroad with your Biology advisor before enrollment. In addition, you should speak with the Study-Abroad Dean for advice. Once you decide upon the classes you want to take, you will need to work with the Study-Abroad Dean to obtain approval. She uses an on-line system, which sends links to your preferred courses to the appropriate departmental chairs for approval.

It is strongly recommended that you obtain approval for non-Barnard courses prior to taking the course. You can get approval from the Associate Chair once you have completed the Summer Course Approval Form.

Note: this applies for any Biology course, irrespective of whether you are taking it to fulfill major or minor requirements, to fulfill the science GER, or simply as degree credit.

You need to contact the organization that administers the AP tests (Educational Testing Service), and ask them to send your AP scores to the Barnard registrar's office.

Questions about Signing up for Courses

If you're on the waiting list for a lab, then there is still a chance that you will get into the course. You should speak with the professor to determine when s/he will offer the course again. Further, you should attend the first lab period to see if any slots have opened up. Realize that we give preferential access to seniors. So, if you are a junior and did not get into a lab, you are almost certain to get into the same lab as a senior.

All Senior Seminars in Biology are limited to 16 students, with preferential access given to seniors fulfilling their capstone requirement. To enroll, add BIOL BC3590 to your program during the registration period. Students will be placed on the waiting list and admitted based on seniority and whether you are a Barnard Biology major. Access to the remaining seats will vary each semester.