What do Biology majors study?
The Department of Biological Sciences views five areas as central to the field of biology. These areas, described below, shape our bachelor’s degree requirements.
Genetic information determines molecular structure, which directly influences function. Mutation of genetic material produces variation within populations. Natural selection, a process that acts on mutation, serves as the engine for evolution. As a result of iterations of mutation and natural selection, extant organisms, genes, and proteins represent modified descendants of common ancestors.
All energy enters the biosphere as light or geochemical energy and leaves the biosphere primarily as heat. Oxidation and reduction, the transfer of electrons between atoms, chemically move this energy around within the biosphere. All organisms use ATP as a universal, energy-transducing molecule. Carbon serves as food for all organisms, though some organisms are unable to reduce inorganic carbon themselves.
Nucleic acids provide information that enables cells to carry out fundamental functions. Regulation of common genetic information allows cells to differentiate their functions and to assume different fates. A cell’s ability to detect input from other cells or from the external environment allows a cell to respond to the world outside its membrane. The aggregation of this ability allows communication across a wide range of species. Transmission of hereditary information between generations permits the persistence of information beyond the life of a particular cell or organism.
Form and Function
All biological systems share similar organization, beginning at the atomic level. The arrangement of cells within an organism as well as interactions between cells and between organisms inextricably link form and function. Changes to form affect function and, therefore, can have cascading effects on these higher order interactions.
Biological components are organized at the level of molecules, cells, tissues, organs, organ systems, organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems, and the biosphere. Interactions between component parts can produce complex phenomena. Synergistic properties emerge through interactions within and between biological systems.
Biology is a scientific discipline that focuses on the study of life in all of its aspects. Biologists make use of many approaches ranging from molecular to populational, in their efforts to understand animals, plants, and microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses. They also make use of many techniques in the laboratory or field, which often draw on knowledge of other disciplines such as chemistry, mathematics and physics.
Are there other special opportunities offered to biology majors?
Biology remains a favorite major for premedical students. The B.S. degree is generally recommended for students who are interested in medical, dental, or graduate school. Students interested in health careers may join the Allied Health Club which sponsors field trips to medical schools, alerts students to special requirements of medical schools, and provides faculty mentors for advising of premedical students.
Beta Beta Beta, a national honor society for biology students, is also associated with the Biology Department. Known as Tri-Beta, the UNC Charlotte chapter of Beta Beta Beta sponsors various lectures and community service activities.
Undergraduate students have the opportunity to do individualized research under specific professors either through the honors program or through special courses in Undergraduate Research. The Honors Program is a research program for students majoring in biology. Qualified students are invited to participate in the program during their junior year by the Department Honors Committee. Students majoring in biology may obtain practical work experience while pursing their degrees. The Cooperative Education Program allows qualified students either to alternate semesters of academic study with semesters of work experience or to combine academic study and work during the same term.
If you have questions about admissions requirements, programs, or would like to schedule a campus tour, we encourage you to contact the Office of Admissions, UNC Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223 or call 704‑687‑5507.