Biology courses and programs | Mount Allison

Honours Information Session — Oct. 19

An honours information session was held on October 19, 2022 for students considering applying to do honours in their 4th year.  Faculty members briefly discussed their research and types of projects they are considering for next year. See the recording of the information session.


Academic advising

To get the most out of your biology degree, program advisors are available to help you plan your four years at Mount Allison. If in need of assistance, please e-mail biology@mta.ca

In the Department of Biology, program advisors are:

Dr. Karen Crosby
kcrosby@mta.ca
Professor Douglas Campbell
dcampbel@mta.ca
Dr. Matt Litvak
mlitvak@mta.ca

Programs

Minor

MINOR in biology is 24 credits earned as follows: 

6 credits from BIOL 1001, 1501
3 credits from BIOC 1001
9 credits from BIOL 2101, 2201, 2301, 2401, 2701, 2811
6 credits from Biology at the 3/4000 level. Up to 3 credits of this requirement may be obtained from the following courses: BIOC 3041, BIOC 3501, BIOC 3521, PSYC 3101, PSYC 3141, PSYC 3211, PSYC 4101, PSYC 4611, GENS 3431, GENS 3881, GENS 4881

Major

MAJOR in biology is 60 credits earned as follows:  

6 credits

from BIOL 1001, 1501
3 credits from PHYS 1051, 1041
3 credits from MATH 1111 or 1151
3 credits from MATH 1121, 1251, 2211, 2221, or COMP 1631
3 credits from CHEM 1001
3 credits from BIOC 1001
9 credits from BIOL 2101, 2701, 2811
9 credits from BIOL 2201, 2301, 2401, BIOC 2001
21 credits additional credits from Biology at the 3/4000 level. Up to 6 credits of this requirement may be obtained from the following courses: BIOC 3041, BIOC 3501, BIOC 3521, PSYC 3101, PSYC 3141, PSYC 3211, PSYC 4101, PSYC 4611, GENS 3431, GENS 3881, GENS 4881

Notes: 

  • BIOC 2001 is a prerequisite for several 3/4000 biology courses.
  • Additional 3/4000 level courses are needed to fulfill Calendar Regulation 11.3.5

Honours

HONOURS in biology is 75 credits earned as follows:

60 credits as in the major
9 credits from BIOL 4903, 4990
6 credits from biology at the 3/4000 level, chosen in consultation with the program advisor

Note: The thesis required will involve laboratory or field investigation, and unless the candidate shows satisfactory ability to carry on independent work, honours will not be recommended.

How to apply for honours

To apply for the honours program, please fill out the biology honours application form and return it to the administrative assistant in the Department of Biology by the last day of classes of the fall semester.

Honours in biology: FAQs

Honours 2020 presentation (video)

Q. What is it?

A. Students work independently on an original research question/problem in collaboration with a faculty member.

Q. Do I need to choose my own project?

A. No, but you can certainly have input into your project. You need to commit to a supervisor (and vice versa) and together you will come up with your project.

Q. Can I work on anything that interests me?

A. Your project usually needs to fall within the realm of your supervisor’s research program.

Q. What is the first step?

A. Students should make an appointment to visit potential supervisors and ask about their research. Be prepared to tell faculty members about yourself. Just another day in the mangrove swamps.

Q. What are the important considerations in deciding on a project/supervisor?

A. You should keep an open mind. Once you take ownership of a project, you may be surprised about how much in interests you. You should think about:

  • how much direct supervision you would like/require.
  • the working relationship you will have with your supervisor.
  • your goals. Are you interested in potentially publishing your work, attending conferences?
  • the type of research you make like to do (e.g. field, lab, behaviour, ecology, physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, a combination).

Q. What is the time commitment?

A. You may have the opportunity to begin research in May and worth throughout the summer. Alternatively, your project begins in September. You should expect to spend several hours/week on thesis-related work.

Q. How are supervisor-student decisions made?

A. Once you have chatted to several potential advisors, you should let faculty know if you would like to work with them. You are likely to get one of your top 3 choices. Faculty members speak to each other and somehow it all works out!

You must fill out a form (Intent to do Honours Biology) by early December and hand into the administrative assistant in the Department of Biology with your top three choices.

Q. What is BIOL 4903?

A. As an Honours student, you register in BIOL 4990 (Thesis = 6 credits) and BIOL 4903 (3 credits). Both are year-long courses. BIOL 4903 (Current Advances) usually meets every second week. You engage in thesis-related work (e.g. seminars, discussions).

Q. Is it possible to do a minor?

A. Yes, it is usually no problem to have a minor with an Honours. You may use any courses from your Honours towards your minor (there are no cross-over limits).

Q. How am I graded?

A. You receive a grade for 4903 from the 4903 faculty member based on the work you do in this course. Your 4990 grade comes from your written thesis (80%) and a presentation you give on Honours Day in April (20%). You need a B in BIOL 4990 to gain honours. If this does not happen but you pass, you will be given 6 credits as BIOL4950.

Q: What is honours?

A: A degree with honours could be considered an augmented major, allowing you to focus on your area of study a bit more. In biology, the honours programs is thesis-based, meaning that to graduate with honours, you will conduct your own research with a supervisor and write a thesis. See chapter 12 of the Academic Calendar for regulations concerning graduating with honours in biology. 

Note, doing an honours thesis is a privilege, not a right.  You have to be accepted by a supervisor to complete the program and you are not guaranteed to be accepted into honours just by meeting the minimum GPA requirement.

Q: How do I apply for honours?

A: There are several steps to applying for honours in biology. Students typically apply and are considered for honours during their second last year of study. It is recommended to know who your supervisor will be before officially applying. There are two separate application forms:  one for the Biology department (deadline is on the last day of classes in the Fall semester), and another for the Registrar's Office — declaration to pursue honours form — (deadline is in December). To be officially accepted into honours, you need to submit both forms.

Q: How will I know about honours info sessions and deadlines?

A: You will receive emails from the Biology Department about the honours info session. At that session, the Department will go over deadlines and requirements for honours in biology.  This year, the session will likely be online. Look for e-mails from the Department, as well as posts from us!  We will be sharing information from the Department about the honours session!

Q: How do I find a supervisor?

A: During the Fall, the Biology Department will organize an honours information session where professors who are taking honours students for the next year will do short presentations about their research and approximately how many honours students they plan to supervise. (Watch for information about the presentations on the Bio Society's social media!). 

Following these presentations, you should contact a few supervisors whose research seems interesting to you and set up meetings to discuss the possibility of doing an honours project with those supervisors. Once you've met with a few professors, you should think about the type of project you'd like to do and contact a professor whose lab you would like to work in. 

Students don't always end up working with their first choice of professors, but most students find their work enjoyable and rewarding nonetheless. Once you've confirmed that you are working with a certain professor, out of courtesy you should contact the other professors you met with to let them know that you're working with another supervisor.

Q: How many potential supervisors should I contact?

A: There is not a specific number of potential supervisors you should contact.  You should contact the potential supervisors you are interested in working with.  It's recommended to only contact supervisors you are truly interested in working with, and not just for the sake of contacting professors.

Q: Does honours count for course credit?

A: Yes. The honours thesis in biology (BIOL 4990) counts for 6 credits, the equivalent of one class per semester.  In addition, biology honours students also take Current Advances in Biology (BIOL 4903), which is 3 credits for the whole academic year (both semesters). Requirements for honours in biology can be found in the Academic Calendar.

Q: What is Current Advances?

A: Current Advances in Biology is a class where honours students learn skills like presenting their research to various audiences, providing peer feedback, understanding research ethics, managing scientific data, and effectively communicating their research. See the description of Current Advances in the Academic Calendar.

Q: Do I have to go to Current Advances both semesters?

A: Yes. Current Advances is a year-long course, for which you will receive a mark in April, with other Winter semester courses.

Q: If Current Advances is all year, how do I organize my schedule?

A: There are a few options for this. Both semesters, you will have your thesis (6 credits total) and Current Advances (3 credits total). For a full course load, this means you need to have 21 more credits (7 classes) for the full year. It's up to you which semester you take four classes and which semester you take three classes. However, some students prefer to take only three classes during the Winter to have more time to focus on their thesis.

Q: Is the semester I take 3 classes (and the thesis) the semester I'm registered for Current Advances?

A: No. Current Advances runs during both semesters, and you will be registered on Connect for Current Advances in both semesters.  You will receive a final mark for Current Advances in April with your other Winter term courses.

Q: Since one semester I'll be taking the equivalent of 5 and a half courses, do I need to apply for an overload?

A: No. If you are accepted into honours you will be automatically registered for BIOL 4990 and BIOL 4903, and you do not need to seek special permission to overload.  If you want to take more than 30 credits (the equivalent of 10 classes) over the course of both semesters, that's when you would need to apply for an overload.

Q: Do I register for Current Advances and the thesis?

A: No. Once you are accepted into honours, you will be automatically registered into those courses. You do not need to — and cannot — register yourself into these courses.

Q: Do I need to take advanced statistics to graduate with honours?

A: To graduate with honours in biology, students need to take BIOL 2701 (Introductory Design and Statistical Analysis), which is already a required course for the major. BIOL 4711 (Advanced Design and Statistical Analysis) is not a required course for honours in biology, but it is strongly recommended for many honours students to take it. Since many honours projects require advanced statistical analyses, many supervisors recommend that their students take advanced statistics.

Q: I'm not sure if I want to do honours, but I want to get research experience.  What can I do instead?

A: You can consider doing an independent study. Independent studies allow students to gain research experience in a slightly less formal or structured way than honours research. If you have a topic of interest, you can contact a professor whose research relates to that subject and ask if they can supervise your project. 

Professors might also have existing research projects that they have independent study students work on. Independent studies count for credit, so if you do an independent study, you can take fewer courses during the semester.  in addition to independent studies, some professors hire research assistants for their labs or recruit student volunteers to help with lab work.

Certificate in Biopsychology

The courses that comprise the certificate provide students with foundational knowledge about the physiological basis for behaviour. The certificate is interdisciplinary in nature and students are required to take courses in both disciplines, although there is some flexibility that allows them to focus more heavily on either biology or psychology should they choose to do so.


Courses 

The listing of a course in the academic calendar is not a guarantee that the course is offered every year.

Students must obtain a grade of at least C- in all courses used to fulfill prerequisite requirements. Otherwise, written permission of the appropriate department head or program co-ordinator must be obtained.

Please see the timetables for scheduling.

For additional or alternating courses offered by the department, please refer to the academic calendar.

First year — 1000 level courses

BIOL 1001- Foundations of Biology
BIOL 1201- Human Biology
BIOL 1501- Cell Biology; prereq: BIOC 1001
BIOL 1991- Special Topic in Biology

Second year — 2000 level courses

BIOL 2101- Introduction to Ecology; prereq: BIOL 1001
BIOL 2201- Form and Function: Microorganisms; prereq: BIOL 1501, BIOC 2001
BIOL 2301- Form and Function: Plants; prereq: BIOL 1001, 1501 (strongly recommended)
BIOL 2401- Form and Function: Animals; prereq: Second-year standing; BIOL 1001
BIOL 2701- Introductory Design & Statistical Analysis; prereq: 3 credits from BIOL 1001, 1501; 3 credits from MATH 1111, 1151
BIOL 2811- Genetics & Evolution; prereq: BIOL 1001; BIOL 1501
BIOL 2991- Special Topic in Biology

Third/fourth year — 3/4000 level courses

BIOL 3021- Palaeontology; prereq: BIOL 2301, 2401
BIOL 3031- Molecular Analyses; prereq: BIOC 2001
BIOL 3041- Ecotoxicology; prereq:  BIOL 2101
BIOL 3051- Molecular Immunology; prereq: BIOC 2001
BIOL 3111- Environmental Microbiology; prereq: 3 credits from BIOL 2201, 2001
BIOL 3201- Animal Physiology: Adaptation & Environment; prereq: BIOL 2401, 2701
BIOL 3211- Human Physiology; prereq: 3rd-year standing, BIOL 1501
BIOL 3221- Human Anatomy; prereq: 3 credits from BIOL 2401, 3211
BIOL 3301- Physiological Plant Ecology; prereq: BIOL 2101, 2301
BIOL 3351- Marine Botany; prereq: BIOL 2301
BIOL 3361- Coastal Marine Biology; prereq: BIOL 2101, 2401; 3 credits from BIOL 2701, GENS 2431, PSYC 2011
BIOL 3371- Principles of Aquaculture; prereq: BIOL 2401
BIOL 3401- Animal Behaviour; prereq: BIOL 2101, 2401; 3 credits from BIOL 2701, GENS 2431, PSYC 2011
BIOL 3421- Biogeography; prereq: GENS 2421, GENS 2431
BIOL 3451- Entomology; prereq: BIOL 2401
BIOL 3471- Limnology; prereq: Third-year standing; 3 credits from GENS 2431, BIOL 2701
BIOL 3501- Native Flora (Vascular Plants); prereq: BIOL 2301
BIOL 3511- Integrative Invertebrate Biology; prereq: BIOL 2401
BIOL 3601- Ecological Genetics; prereq: BIOL 2811; or 6 credits from BIOL 2601, 2801
BIOL 3621- Applied Genetics; Prereq: BIOL 2811
BIOL 3631- Developmental Biology; prereq: BIOL 2811
BIOL 3651- Introduction to Ornithology; prereq: BIOL 2101, 2401
BIOL 3661- Human Analysis; prereq: BIOL 2811
BIOL 3711- Biochemical Ecology; prereq: BIOL 2101; BIOC 2001
BIOL 3751- Comparative Chordate Anatomy; prereq: BIOL 2401
BIOL 3781- Tropical Marine Biology; prereq: BIOL 2101; BIOL 2401
BIOL 3801- Theoretical and Evolutionary Ecology; prereq: third-year standing; BIOL 2101; BIOL 2701; BIOL 2811
BIOL 3811- Conservation Biology; prereq: BIOL 2101
BIOL 3911- Plants and Human Society; prereq: third-year standing; 3 credits from BIOL
BIOL 3941- Plant Physiology; prereq: 3 credits from BIOL 2301, BIOC 2001
BIOL 3991- Special Topic in Biology
BIOL 4101- Behavioural Ecology; prereq: 3 credits from BIOL 2801, 2811; BIOL 3401
BIOL 4111- Field Ecology; prereq: BIOL 2101; 3 credits from BIOL 2701, 4711
BIOL 4151- Virology; prereq: third-year standing; BIOL 2201; 3 credits from BIOL 2601, 2811, BIOC 3041
BIOL 4201- Environmental Physiology and Biochemistry of Animals; prereq: 3 credits from BIOL 3201, 3211, BIOC 2001
BIOL 4211- Endocrinology; prereq: BIOL 3211
BIOL 4221- Exercise Physiology; prereq: 3 credits from BIOL 3201, 3211
BIOL 4311- Neurophysiology; prereq: BIOL 3211
BIOL 4371- Advanced Topics in Marine Science; prereq: third-year standing; BIOL 2101
BIOL 4401- Evolutionary Biology of Sex and Reproduction; prereq: 3 credits from BIOL 2801, 2811; BIOL 3401
BIOL 4411- Ecology and Biology of Fishes; prereq: BIOL 2101; BIOL 2401; 3 credits from BIOL 2701, GENS 2431, MATH 2311, PSYC 2001
BIOL 4621- Genes, Cells, and Disease; prereq: BIOL 3661
BIOL 4711- Advanced Design and Statistical Analysis; prereq: 3 credits from MATH 2311, PSYCH 2011, BIOL 2701, GENS 2431
BIOL 4903- Current Advances in Biology; coreq: BIOL 4990
BIOL 4950- Independent study in Biology
BIOL 4951- Independent study in Biology
BIOL 4990- Honours Thesis; coreq: BIOL 4903
BIOL 4991- Special Topics in Biology

Course selection FAQ

The following information should be used as a guide and to answer common questions, but should not replace academic advising or program advising

Answers are based on the 2020-21 Academic Calendar

Q: Who are the program advisors for the biology and what do they do?

A: The program advisors for the Biology Department are Dr. Crosby (kcrosby@mta.ca), Dr. Hamilton (dhamilto@mta.ca), and Dr. Litvak (mlitvak@mta.ca).  They can help you figure out what biology courses (or other relevant courses to a biology major) you should take or might be interested in.

Q: How do I know what courses I need to take?

A: Sections 11.1.2 and 11.3 of the academic calendar outline the necessary credits for a Bachelor of Science and chapter 12 (the biology section) of the academic calendar outlines requirements for a minor, major, or honours in biology.  If you are uncertain about what courses you need to take, contact an academic advisor (advisor@mta.ca) or a program advisor (see contact information above).

Q: What courses do I need to take in first year?

A: BIOL 1001 (Foundations of Biology), BIOL 1501 (Cell Biology), and BIOC 1001 (Introductory Biochemistry) are all mandatory courses for a major in biology.

BIOC 1001 is a prerequisite for BIOL 1501, meaning you MUST pass BIOC 1001 with a grade of C- or above to take BIOL 1501. BIOL 1501 is a prerequisite to many second and upper-year classes, meaning you must also pass BIOL 1501 with a C- or higher to take most second-year classes.

To be on track with your major, this means that you need to take BIOC 1001 first semester of first year and BIOL 1501 second semester of first year.

BIOL 1001 is also a prerequisite to many second-year classes, though that class is sometimes offered both Fall and Winter semesters and does not have a prerequisite. Consult the course timetables to see if you can take it in the Winter.

There are other introductory science courses required for a major in biology (see chapter 12 of the Academic Calendar), and you must fulfill your distribution requirements for a degree in science (see sections 11.1.2 and 11.3 of the Academic Calendar), but you have a bit more flexibility about when to take these courses.

Q: Can I take BIOC 1001 in second semester or in second year?

A: It is strongly recommended that you take BIOC 1001 in the first semester of your first year, so that you can take BIOL 1501 in the second semester of your first year.

BIOL 1501 is a prerequisite to many other biology courses, and there are no guarantees that it can be offered during the Spring/Summer semester. Taking BIOL 1501 in your first year allows you to take classes like microbiology, and genetics and evolution in your second year.

Q: I have BIOL 1501 as a transfer credit. Do I still need to take BIOC 1001?

A: Even if you have BIOL 1501 as a transfer credit, BIOC 1001 is a required course for a major in biology. You won't need it as a prerequisite for BIOL 1501, but it is still a degree requirement.

Q: I'm a pre-med student. What classes should I take?

A: Mount Allison does not have specific streams of biology. Regardless of your future goals, you will need to fulfill the academic requirements for a major in biology.

In first and second year, you will largely take introductory biology courses, and these courses will be the same for most students. In third and fourth year, you will have more choice of what courses to take, and you can choose to take courses that you think will be of interest to you and will help prepare you for your future goals.

If you would like to talk to a program advisor about courses that fit your interests, Please contact Dr. Hamilton, Dr. Litvak, or Dr. Crosby (contact information above). Please note, we cannot guarantee that any degree or combination of courses will ensure your acceptance into medical school.

Q: Do I need to take all the second-year biology courses?

A: See chapter 12 of the Academic Calendar. BIOL 2101 (Introduction to Ecology), BIOL 2701 (Introductory Design and Statistical Analysis), and BIOL 2811 (Genetics and Evolution) are mandatory for a major in biology, so you must take all three.

You must take 9 credits (3 classes) from BIOL 2201 (Form and Function: Microorganisms), BIOL 2301 (Form and Function: Plants), BIOL 2401 (Form and Function: Animals), and BIOC 2001 (Enzymology and Metabolism) for a major in biology.

While you don't need all four of these classes, it is recommended to look at prerequisites for third and fourth-year classes to decide which of these options you want to take.

Contact an academic advisor to make sure you are on track for your major, and contact Dr. Hamilton, Dr. Litvak, or Dr. Crosby for biology-specific program advising. If you are majoring in biology and minoring in biochemistry, please see section 11.3.6 of the Academic Calendar for regulations concerning majors and minors with shared degree requirements.

Pre-registration for courses

To maintain the quality of education that comes with small class sizes, there is limited space in certain biology courses at the 3/4000 level. To ensure that you are able to take the classes of most interest to you, the Biology department requires that you pre-register for high demand courses.

How do I pre-register for courses?

For the 2022-23 academic year, pre-registration is required for the following courses:

Fall

  • Biology 3021 (Paleontology)
  • Biology 3361 (Coastal Marine Biology)

Winter

  • Biology 3211 (Human Physiology)
  • Biology 4711 (Advanced Design and Statistical Analysis)

Pre-registration is from April 25 to May 5, 2022. You will have access to pre-registration on Moodle starting at 00:01 on April 25.

  • To access pre-registration on Moodle, follow this path: Moodle--> Miscellaneous--> Biology Pre-registration.
  • When you are in the Biology Pre-registration page, click on the Biology pre-registration link.
  • Go to the tab named 'Add Entry'.
  • Fill in all required fields (marked with an *).
  • Indicate your first, second, third, and fourth choice of courses.
  • When finished, 'Save and View' your submission.

Waitlists

You can stay on a class waitlist until the September registration deadline. Spots often open up in the first few weeks of class as people figure out their schedules. Usually, for required classes at the first and second-year level, people are able to take the classes they need.

For optional classes, you might not get into your first choice of classes, especially if you want to take a class with a low class cap. If this is the case, it can be disappointing, but you can try to find other biology classes with spots available.


Seminars

Seminars are an integral part of the biology program. Our seminar series highlights the work of our graduate students, visiting scholars, and national and international experts. Seminars are 45 minutes long with 5 minutes for questions. Seminars are most Fridays 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. during the academic terms. Seminars are held as either in-person with livecast or online.

Please see the list of speakers below. If you would like to attend and are not in the Biology Seminars MS Teams group, please contact Darlene Estabrooks (dmestabrooks@mta.ca).

Fall 2022 seminars (TBA)

7 October Dr. Rahel Vortmeyer-Kley (Universität Oldenburg) - "About Eddies in the Baltic Sea - a Lagrangian view on their physical and biological impact"
14 October Dr. Jade Adkins (Joggins Fossil Institute) - "The salamander's ancestors: Amphibian development in the fossil record"
4 November Dr. James Watmough (UNB) - "Alternate stable states, resilience, invasions and the mathematics of ecosystems and immune systems"
18 November Dr. Jessica Browne (MTA) - "Sperm competition in gift-giving insects: A tale of long tails and short tails"
25 November Dr. C. Scott Findlay (OU and Office of the Chief Science Advisor) - "Canada's Chief Science Advisor: challenges and opportunities"