College of Science & Engineering

FAQs

General Advising

How do I declare a biology pre-major (Phase I)?

To declare a pre-major (Phase I) in biology, students must visit the Biology Department Office (BI 315) and fill out a blue major declaration card. Once completed, their major declaration card is processed by the biology department and forwarded to the Registrar’s office to be included in their official record. When this happens, students will receive an email from the biology department confirming their Phase I biology major status and their assigned faculty advisor.

How do I advance into Phase II of the biology major?

Admission to Phase II of the biology major is based on academic performance in the introductory courses (CHEM 161, 162, 163 and BIOL 204, 205 and 206). Students must have achieved a combined GPA of 2.9 or higher in the six introductory biology and chemistry courses before they may advance to Phase II and begin taking upper division courses. In addition to meeting the GPA requirement, students must also attend a Phase II Advancement Session while enrolled in BIOL 206. More information on biology major and admission requirements may be found on our advising page under 'how to declare a major'.

I know I am interested in Biology, but I’m not sure what area of biology to pursue. Where can I find more information about all the biology degree programs available at Western?

The University Catalog offers information that is very useful in helping students identify, explore and choose a major at Western. Within each program description, students will find a brief summary of the major and provide information regarding required coursework, prerequisites, career opportunities, advising contacts and how to declare or apply to the major.  Students are also encouraged to visit the Biology Department Office and explore or information wall which includes information on all of our available degree programs. Declared majors are also encouraged to meet with their faculty advisor to discuss career pathways as well as to utilize the wide variety of resources available within Academic and Career Development Services (ACDS).

Do I have to wait until I finish the requirements for Phase II before I can declare my major?

Students do not need to wait until after students complete BIOL 206 to declare a biology major. Students may declare a biology major at any time and there are a couple of advantages in doing so as soon as possible. First, they are assigned to a faculty advisor who can assist in developing a course schedule and answer their questions.  Second, as a declared major, students will be automatically included in department announcements regarding special course offerings, schedule changes, and registration.

How do I schedule an appointment with my faculty advisor? 

If a student is a declared biology major, then they should make an appointment with their faculty advisor via email, phone, or Advisor Contact Form via the department website. Faculty contact information is posted outside the department office and office hours are available online. If students have not yet declared, then they should visit the department office and complete a blue major declaration card to begin the process of obtaining a faculty advisor assignment.

Is it possible to complete a biology degree in four years?

On average, students who enter Western with no transfer credits earned will graduate in just over 4 years. Time to completion of a biology degree is largely dependent on a student’s entering math level. Students seeking to obtain a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Biology within a four year time span should have completed the following courses (or their equivalents) by the end of their sophomore year: MATH 124, BIOL 204, 205, 206; CHEM 161, 162, 163; two quarters of organic chemistry or physics; and 25 credits of non-science General University Requirements (GURs) including ENG 101. Major omissions from this list may make it difficult to complete the degree in two additional years. 

If I am going to major in Biology, should I register for BIOL 101?

No, BIOL 101 is intended for non-majors at Western.  If students plan to major in Biology, they should complete the general chemistry and general biology series as soon as possible. It is recommended that students register for CHEM 161 as soon as precalc I (Math 114) in completed. Contact biologyadvising@wwu.edu for further assistance in planning their first year course schedule.

Phase I and Phase II

I didn’t meet the GPA requirement for Phase II, what should I do?

Students who do not meet the GPA requirement of 2.9 average after completing BIOL 204, 205, 206 and CHEM 161, 162, 163 have the option to retake ONE of the six introductory courses in an effort to improve their GPA and remain eligible for Phase II. If a student repeats a course, the new grade will replace the existing grade for the course and the student’s GPA will still be calculated by averaging only six courses. If the student is still unable to meet the GPA requirement after retaking one course, the student will not be advanced to Phase II and will not be able to continue in the biology major.

I took AP/IB Chemistry in high school and it transferred as equivalent to CHEM 161 and 162. Will these courses count towards my phase I requirements?

Yes. Students will get credit for completing CHEM 161 and 162 and the AP/IB credits will count for the necessary prerequisites. However, their AP/IB test score will not be factored into their phase I GPA.

I am currently a Phase I major enrolled in BIOL 206. Is there a way I can be advanced to Phase II before registration for next quarter begins so that I can take upper level biology courses?

Phase I majors who are currently enrolled in BIOL 206 and who have earned a combined GPA above 3.0 from BIOL 204, 205 and CHEM 161, 162 may be advanced to Phase II while they are in the process of completing the final course(s) in the series if the student has a grade of B or better in BIOL 206 (and CHEM 123 (if applicable) at the midpoint of the quarter. This early advancement will happen automatically IF students are a declared biology major. Students who qualify for early advancement will be notified via email a week before registration begins. If students do not meet early advancement criteria, they will not be notified and will be evaluated for advancement to Phase II after final grades have been posted. Students who are retaking a course to improve their GPA are NOT eligible for early advancement.

Biology Degree Programs

I’ve heard the WWU offers a degree in Biochemistry but I do not see it listed under biology. Do you offer a biochemistry major?

Western does offer a degree program for students interested in Biochemistry and this program is offered through the Chemistry Department.

Do you offer a degree program in Zoology?

Students interested in Zoology, Botany, Ecology and Organismal Biology may be interested in our EEO Degree Program.

I’m a pre-health student, which biology major is best for me to pursue?

Depending on their area of interest, many pre-health students are attracted to our Molecular and Cell Biology, Behavioral Neuroscience, or the combined Biology/Anthropology degree program.  However, all of our programs are suitable for students with a pre-health focus as all of our Bachelor of Science programs require supporting coursework in chemistry, math and physics.  Pre-health students are highly encouraged to contact the pre-healthcare advisors in the Career Center during their first couple of quarters at Western to discuss suitable options for study at WWU and how to best prepare for application to medical school.

Transfer Equivalency

I’m not sure if the biology courses I took at my community college will transfer over, where can I go to find this out?

The Transfer Equivalency Guide (TEG) available online through the WWU Admissions Office shows direct transfer equivalencies for most many community colleges and universities.  Students should pay special attention to equivalencies that require a full series to be completed at the community college level before Western will accept the transfer credits as equivalent. If students experience trouble using the TEG tool, they should contact Academic Advising or Admissions for assistance. If transfer equivalency questions still exist, students may contact the Biology Department.

I have transfer credits from an out of state college and/or a college that is not listed on the Transfer Equivalency Guide and/or did not show up as directly equivalent on my TER. How do I know if the course is equivalent to something that Western offers?

If students are transferring from out of WA State, or their transfer school is not listed on the Transfer Equivalency Guide, students should contact the Biology Department to inquire if a transfer equivalency currently exists. If it does not, students will be asked to complete and submit a Biology Transfer Equivalency Request Form from the department website.

Registration

When does my registration window open?

A few weeks before each registration period begins, the Registrar releases a Registration Schedule that shows when the registration system will be available to students. Students may find their registration date and time on the schedule based upon the number of credits they have completed. Note: their current credit load should NOT be included in their total credit count, nor should students include credits from courses students have repeated.  

I am trying to register for a biology course, but the system is not allowing me to do so. What should I do?

First, students should refer to the Biology Department’s Registration Information Sheet to determine if they meet all the requirements to register for a particular course. This information sheet clearly outlines all major restrictions and prerequisites for each course that we offer.  If students still need assistance, they should contact the biology department office.

I am not a biology major, but my degree program requires several biology courses. Will I be able to register for the classes I need?

While nearly all of our courses are restricted to biology majors initially, select courses are available to students in other academic programs that require some biology coursework including biochemistry, kinesiology and environmental science. If students are pursuing any of these programs, they should refer to the Registration Information Sheet on the department website to determine at what point during registration select biology courses will open up to students. If students are a pre-health student or student majoring in another area, students should contact the instructor of the course to request an override.

How do I request an override for a biology course?

To request an override, first refer to the Biology Registration Information Sheet to determine who the override request should be sent to. Most likely, the override request will need to be sent directly to the instructor of the course.  Fill out an online Override Request Form, and send to the instructor.

I am unable to register for a course because the system says I have not met the prerequisites. However, I completed the prerequisite course last quarter. What is wrong?

All prerequisite courses must be completed with a C- or higher. If students did not earn at least a C- in the prerequisite course, then they will not be able to register. Transfer students who have completed the prerequisite course at another institution, should check their Transfer Equivalency Report (TER) and make sure that they were awarded equivalency for the course. If there has been an error on their TER, students will need to contact the biology department for an override code and steps will need to be taken to correct the equivalency on their TER to avoid registration issues in the future.

What is my position on the waitlist?

Students may view their position on a waitlist via Web4U. Instructions are available via the Registrar's website. They should not contact the Biology Department office, course instructors or faculty advisors regarding their position on the waitlist.  Students should carefully review the Biology Department’s waitlist policy available on the department website for more information on waitlist priority for specific courses.

I’m currently waitlisted for a biology course, what are the chances that a spot will open up for me?

There are too many variables to give students an accurate estimation of how likely they are to get into any biology courses that are waitlisted. Instead, students are encouraged to check their WWU email several times a day and to sign up for waitlist notifications via text message to ensure that if a spot opens up, they do not miss their opportunity to register. Waitlist notifications are managed automatically by the registration system and are sent 24 hours a day, on the weekends and during holidays.  For more information about waitlisting during registration, students should visit the Registrar’s registration webpage.

What is the policy on retaking upper division courses?

Any questions regarding the university retake policy should be directed to the Registrar's Office. 

Undergraduate Research, Jobs and Internships

I’m interested in pursuing undergraduate research opportunities here at Western. Where do I start?

If students are interested in undergraduate research opportunities, a great place to start would be to review the Undergraduate Research Opportunities information sheet to learn about the current research interests of WWU faculty in the biology department.  After students have identified one or more faculty members that are involved in research that is of interest to them, they should contact the faculty directly to inquire about working in their research labs. There are a few different levels of undergraduate research available to students that range from simply assisting in a lab to conducting an independent research project under the supervision of the faculty member. Students should discuss what level of research would be appropriate and complete the required research webform (BIOL 395, 494, 495 or Independent Study – BIOL 300 or 400).

Can Phase I majors participate in undergraduate research opportunities?

Phase I majors may pursue a research opportunity with a faculty member under BIOL 395. However, this is up to the discretion of the faculty member based on the relevant coursework students have already completed. The more advanced undergraduate research courses (BIOL 494, 495) are only available to Phase II biology majors.

Where does the biology department advertise external job and internship opportunities?

All job and internships announcements that the biology department receives are shared with the WWU Career Center and advertised on the WWU online job and internship database – Viking Career Link. Biology majors and recent graduates are highly encouraged to visit the Career Center and set up an account on Viking Career Link. Occasionally, the biology department will also post opportunities on the Biology Department Facebook Page and/or on the large bulletin board outside the department office on the 3rd floor of the Biology building.

Graduation

What do I need to do to apply for graduation?

It is highly recommended that students begin the process of applying for graduation at least two quarters before their intended graduation date.  As part of the application for graduation, students must submit a Degree Works Look Ahead Audit that has been reviewed and signed by their faculty advisor. This process can take about a week, so students should give themselves plenty of processing time before the deadline.  For more information about degree application, visit the Registrar’s Page.

The requirements for my degree have changed since I declared my major last year, do I have to graduate under the old requirements or can I graduate under the new requirements?

If the requirements for their degree program have changed since students were admitted to Phase II of the biology major, students may elect to graduate under the original requirements, or students may elect to graduate under the new requirements. Your Degree Works Worksheet will show the requirements based on the catalog year in which a student declared their Phase II major.