Biobridge > Declaring

Majoring in Biology

Biology is a diverse and exciting field. Both as preparation for specific professional careers and as the focus of a general liberal arts curriculum, a major in Biology is an excellent choice for many Stanford students. The Biology major can serve as a stepping-stone for a wide variety of career opportunities. For students planning to attend medical, dental, or veterinary school, or graduate school in biological and applied sciences, the biology major provides a strong foundation in the basic life sciences. This foundation of knowledge, plus laboratory experience, also prepares students well for research and technical positions in universities, government, and industry. The recent tremendous growth in the biotechnology industry has opened up many additional career opportunities for individuals with a background in biology, including marketing and scientific writing. In addition, individuals combining an undergraduate degree in Biology with advanced degrees in law or business are uniquely qualified to meet the growing needs for people in patent law and biotechnology business administration.

While a major in Biology provides an excellent background for these technical careers, it can also serve as a valuable and satisfying focus of a liberal arts education for those not planning careers in science-related fields. An understanding of basic biological principles is of increasing importance in todayís world. Environmental issues are of growing concern as we struggle to deal with the effects of contemporary civilization on the environment. Modern medicine has provided us with new insights into the basis for disease and has greatly improved the quality of human life, but the rapid advances in genetic engineering and other areas of biomedical research are also raising new moral and ethical questions. A knowledgeable and concerned citizenry is the best guarantee that these issues will be resolved most effectively. Finally, an understanding of the processes of life can heighten our perception and appreciation of the world around us, in terms of its beauty, variety, and uniqueness.

The Department of Biology offers its majors an impressive set of resources and experiences. Its world-renowned faculty is involved in research in many different areas, including ecology, neurobiology, population biology, plant and animal physiology, biochemistry, immunology, cell and developmental biology, genetics, and molecular biology. A wide range of courses is available, both on campus and at the departmentís Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey Bay. In addition, selected courses at the medical school and in other departments, such as psychology and human biology, may be taken for biology elective units. Biology majors are encouraged to pursue independent research, and several research opportunities are available including the popular summer research program. Top students are eligible to participate in the departmental honors program, which includes a presentation at the Undergraduate Research Symposium held every spring. Another advantage of the Biology major is that the required course load in the junior and senior years is sufficiently light to allow students to take elective courses outside of the major and to study abroad.

The department is committed to providing its majors with a solid and broad-based education in the principles and experimental approaches of modern biology. We value our interactions with students and appreciate comments and suggests about our program.

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Declaring the Major and a Field of Study

  1. Declare Biology (and your chosen field of study, if applicable) in AXESS. In the event that youíve already declared your major through AXESS before turning in your declaration form, you will only have 30 days in which to turn in your declaration form to Gilbert 108.
  2. Fill out the Biology Major Declaration form
  3. Select a department advisor. For assistance in selecting an advisor:
    • Consult with the departmentís BioBridge Undergraduate peer advisors and/or staff in the Student Services Office
    • Read the faculty profiles on the departmentís web site:
    • Consider faculty from whom youíve already taken courses
  4. Make an appointment with your potential advisor
  5. If the faculty member agrees to be your advisor, discuss your academic goals with him or her, as well as the information on the declaration form. Obtain the advisorís signature on side 2 of the form.
  6. take the declaration form to the Student Services Office in Gilbert 108

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Declaring Honors in Biology

  1. Students wishing to pursue honors in Biology must apply for Honors by filling out the Honors Petition. The deadline is normally two quarters prior to the planned quarter of degree conferral. More detailed information about the Honors Program and petition process is on the Honors Website.
  2. Once a student has applied and been approved for honors, he/she must officially declare it in Axess in the Student Services Center.

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Declaring the Minor

  1. Students must submit a minor request including an Academic Plan via Axess. The academic plan is a list of courses they plan to take in order to fulfill the minor in Biology, as part of their minor declaration.
  2. Once a student has submitted a minor declaration form via AXESS, the department will review the studentís Academic Plan to verify its compliance with the minor requirements.
  3. Approved minor declarations will appear on Axess. If you do not see the minor in your student record, please contact Jennifer Mason ( in the Biology Student Services Office.
  4. Denied minor declarations will be returned to the student with comments. A student whoís minor declaration is denied may resubmit the declaration once any necessary changes or corrections have been made.

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