Coming to college to study life sciences can be scary, especially when you’re not sure about what field of biology you want to study.
Luckily, for UC Davis students, the biological sciences major in the College of Biological Sciences provides students with the opportunity to explore introductory courses across the breadth of fields of biology to help them choose their future focus. From molecules to ecosystems, this major provides the foundation for you to identify and follow your specific interest in biology in upper-division courses.
The popular biological sciences major offers students a wide range of options for focus and a great advising team that connects students with the resources to prepare them for academic success. And like all undergraduate majors in the College of Biological Sciences, it prepares students for medical school.
“My interest in medicine started in high school, so I knew when choosing a major I should keep prerequisites for the application process in mind,” says senior Kacy Stadtmiller.
“The biological sciences major was a perfect fit for me because I could learn more about the things that interest me most, and it also fulfills the prerequisite courses required to apply to medical school.” — Kacy Stadtmiller
General life sciences in the first two years
Studying a variety of subjects, students complete general life science and prerequisite courses in their first two years. After that, students choose upper-division courses that apply to a specific field of biology.
Biological sciences offers three degree options:
- A Bachelor of Arts degree, which allows students to take upper-division electives outside the life sciences
- A Bachelor of Science degree that delves into more rigorous and STEM-based courses than the Bachelor of Arts program
- A minor program that can be attached to any major, whether or not you are based in the College of Biological Sciences
Depending on your degree option, the biological sciences major can lead you to a future in conservation and restoration biology, health sciences, science education and foundational research in biology. At UC Davis, you will have access to a variety of internship and scholarship opportunities on and off campus.
Undergraduate research in a lab
Because UC Davis is a research university, the information and techniques you learn in class apply to the work you could do in campus labs. There are more than 100 research labs in the College of Biological Sciences. Kacy, for instance, does undergraduate research in the lab of Jacqueline Barlow, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics.
“The Barlow Lab studies DNA mutations due to replication stress in cells,” Kacy says. “I work closely with a Ph.D. student, and I’ve been able to use a lot of what I've learned in previous classes to understand some of the experiments we are working with in the lab.”
Understanding biochemistry, genetics and interactions
As you complete your major, you will gain a solid foundation in biochemistry and genetics. This will allow you to understand and explain cell organization and function. You will also gain a broad understanding of the interactions of microbes, animals and plants within their environments.
By understanding these principles, you will be able to explain how the diversity of life is created. This foundational knowledge will create opportunities in many different fields when you look for internships and careers.
Biology clubs and organizations
When not spending time studying, in class or in labs, students discover many clubs and organizations. Seven clubs are available specifically for biology, including the American Society of Microbiology, Genetics Club and Exercise Biology Club.
The campus also hosts a variety of professional fraternities (open to both men and women) specific to pre-med, pre-nursing and other STEM-related fields. Angela Tran ’17, now a graduate of the biological sciences major, recommends these to fellow students.
“I’ve been to the Pre-Health Conference a few times, joined some pre-med clubs my first few years of college, and I committed to Phi Delta Epsilon, a co-ed medical fraternity on campus for my later years at UC Davis,” Angela says.
Best way to approach the major
With experience under her belt, Angela says that being open-minded is the best way to approach the biological sciences major. “Bio-sci is one of the broader majors that allows you to take classes from different biology departments such as microbiology and molecular genetics; neurobiology, physiology and behavior; evolution and ecology; plant biology; and molecular and cellular biology.”
“I would recommend taking advantage of that and really exploring what kind of classes you like,” she says. “Also, enjoy being able to learn a little bit of everything!”
Biology Study Abroad Options
If you have your heart set on studying at a foreign university, the Study Abroad Office on campus offers several programs for students in the biological sciences. In fact, a new program allows students to take their introductory biology courses in Ireland.
Your options include summer and quarter programs in countries such as Guatemala, Thailand and Japan.
As another adventurous option, consider applying for a summer internship — all dealing with global health — in Bolivia, India, South Africa or the Philippines.
Lily Coates is a student intern with the College of Biological Sciences’ marketing and communication team. Her internship combines her love of biology with her love of writing.