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A Guide to the Six Majors in Biological Sciences

Updated: Mar 27

My name is Mackenzie and I am a fourth-year Ecology student and BSA Academic Coordinator. I entered the University of Calgary as a Zoology major and swapped into the Ecology program after my second year.


There are two pathways you can take to apply for a major in the Department of Biological Sciences. If you apply to the university as an honours student you can choose your major in your application. If you do not take that pathway you will enter as a Biological Sciences major and can apply for a different major (if you wish) after the completion of 30 units (ten three-unit courses). Each major has the same degree opportunities (BSc, BSc Honours, BSc Internship, and BSc Honours Internship). The University of Calgary offers majors in Biochemistry (BCEM), Biological Sciences (BIOL), Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology (CMMB), Ecology (ECOL), Plant Biology (PLBI), and Zoology (ZOOL). In this post, I will highlight what each major means and the main course that each major will take.


The first year will look almost the same for all majors: two introductory biology courses, calculus, two introductory chemistry courses, a math option and a couple of junior breadth options (computer science, geology or physics). The major with a slightly different first year is BCEM, as the breadth option must be physics. The main difference between the majors comes in the later years when you take more specialized courses.


Biochemistry (BCEM)

Biochemistry is ​​the study of chemical processes relating to living organisms. Some required upper-year courses include an introduction to biochemistry, analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, laboratory techniques, proteomics, physical biochemistry, and molecular genetics. You will also have the option to choose between other biochemistry courses.


Biological Sciences (BIOL)

Biological Sciences is the broadest major. Upper-year courses include an introduction to biochemistry, organic chemistry, and 27 units from options of courses labelled BCEM, BIOL, CMMB, ECOL, PLBI and ZOOL.


Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology (CMMB)

CMMB is the study of how single-celled organisms and cells function at a molecular level. Upper-year courses for a CMMB major include an ​​introduction to biochemistry, organic chemistry, microbiology, proteomics or metabolism, genetics, immunology and then you can choose to focus on cell biology or microbiology.


Ecology (ECOL)

Ecology is the study of the relationships that organisms have with their environment. Courses in this major include organic chemistry, evolution, quantitative biology and 24 units from the field of ecology.


Plant Biology (PLBI)

A degree in Plant Biology will mainly focus on aspects of how plants function as organisms and interact with their environment. Some courses you will take include an introduction to biochemistry, organic chemistry and a choice of 27 courses from the field of plant biology.


Zoology (ZOOL)

Finally, Zoology is the study of animals. You will take a range of courses including an introduction to biochemistry, organic chemistry, quantitative biology and 24 courses from the field of zoology.


Change of program requests can be submitted through your MyUCalgary portal. They are accepted from October 1 through February 1 for entry into your major for the next fall semester. Talking to your academic advisors is my number one piece of advice when making this decision. They will be able to help you through a decision and let you know how to apply.


Helpful Links:

Course Requirements for each major: BCEM, BIOL, CMMB, ECOL, PLBI, ZOOL.

Undergraduate Science Centre: Contact Page


Photo by Hiroyoshi Urushima on Unsplash

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