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Biology

Given by Members of the Departments of Cell & Systems Biology and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Students are advised to consult courses listed by these Departments.

Biology is the scientific study of life. At no time in history has biology been more visible and important to human life and the future of our planet. The study of biology has vast applications: in understanding one’s own body, in grappling with the ethical questions that face humanity and in understanding the interdependent web of living organisms on the planet. The biological sciences are experiencing a revolution. Important discoveries occur weekly as scientists and their students around the world develop and use new techniques, theories, and approaches.

The University of Toronto has many faculty members conducting research and teaching courses in the biological sciences. Within the Faculty of Arts and Science, St. George campus, there is no single biology department; members of the departments of Cell & Systems Biology and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology teach biology courses across this broad spectrum. Each of these departments offers its own programs and courses, and jointly offers the Biology programs and, with Molecular Genetics, the Genome Biology Major program. Courses are available in the broad subject areas of cell and molecular biology, developmental biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, genetics, physiology, and genome biology. Students should consult the Cell & Systems Biology and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology entries in this Calendar.

Because many areas of biology draw on mathematics and the physical sciences, background preparation in calculus and chemistry from high school is required for students pursuing some programs in biology and recommended for others.

Students entering their first year in the life sciences take BIO120H1 and BIO130H1. These courses are taken by students who have successfully completed Grade 12 Biology (or an equivalent course); BIO130H1 also requires students to have successfully completed Grade 12 Chemistry (or an equivalent course). One or both of these half courses is a prerequisite for almost all further courses in the life sciences.

Students in the Biology Specialist and Biology Major programs obtain a foundation in the core areas of cell and molecular biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, physiology and genetics; as well as in calculus, chemistry and statistics (Specialist), or chemistry (Major). In the upper years, students take advanced courses in these areas, and can also include courses in the biological sciences offered by other units. In their final year, students take at least one full-year or two half-year (Specialist) or one half-year (Major) advanced integrative, inquiry-based course in the biological sciences offered by the departments of Cell & Systems Biology and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, including seminar, independent research project, and field courses. Students who wish to focus on either plant and microbal biology or animal biology can take courses within these programs that concentrate in these subject areas. The Biology Minor program offer students an introduction to cell and molecular biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, and physiology. The Biology Minor (joint with NUS) program is offered jointly with the National University of Singapore): students complete 2.0 FCEs at the University of Toronto and 2.0 FCEs on exchange in Singapore.

Genomics, the study of the structure, function and evolution of the genome, is among the newest and most rapidly growing fields of both basic and applied science, and nearly all of the more traditional disciplines in biology are being revolutionized by genomic tools. The growing flood of data on the DNA, RNA, and protein sequences of organisms provides unprecedented opportunities to address fundamental biological questions such as the causes of disease, the genetic basis of development, the extent and causes of adaptive evolution, and the nature of gene regulation. Genome biology is a highly interdisciplinary field, encompassing concepts and practices from such diverse fields as cell and molecular biology, evolutionary genetics, and computer science. Students in the Genome Biology Major program will receive a uniquely broad training in these concepts and practices, with a key focus on conceptual training in molecular biology, bioinformatics and evolutionary genetics, and practical training in both computational and wet-lab genomics research. A key focus of the program is to train biologists in the breadth of knowledge and skills required to understand, generate, and use results from genomics. The Genome Biology Major program begins with a core set of courses providing a foundation in biology in the first and second years of study. In the upper years, the departments of Cell & Systems Biology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and Molecular Genetics offer a range of courses that cover various aspects of genomics. These include advanced lecture, seminar, and laboratory courses in addition to research project courses that take students into active labs to pursue their own research. A critical requirement of this program is a practical laboratory component that provides hands-on experience with the collection and/or analysis of genomic datasets.

The diverse course offerings in the Biology and Genome Biology programs allows students to customize their educational experience to match their personal interests.