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As a first-year Dartmouth student interested in biological sciences, I've been thoroughly exploring the department's offerings. You might be wondering: what classes can I take as a first-year interested in biology at Dartmouth? Here, your first biology class depends on your background or experience from high school in science. I'll break it down for you below.

First-Year Biology Classes:

1) No background in biology:

If you've never taken a biology class, "Biology 11: Intro to Biology" might be your course. Designed for anyone considering a major in biological sciences but with no prior experience, this class usually has different topics each term (this fall, it was "Major Events in the History of Life and the Human Genome") and acts as an introduction to biology as a greater discipline!

2) Some background in biology:

If you have some experience in biology (such as biology courses in high school or an AP/IB biology course), you might consider taking a biology foundation course. The next level after Biology 11 (the intro course) would be taking one of these "foundations." Currently, there are six of these foundation courses offered: Biology 12 (Cell Structure and Function), Biology 13 (Gene Expression and Inheritance), Biology 14 (Physiology), Biology 15 (Genetic Variation and Evolution), Biology 16 (Ecology), and Biology 19 (I'll come back to this one). Any of these are great options, but some might be harder or easier depending on your background in each subject and the complexity of the content area itself. I'm in Ecology (Biology 16), and I've been loving it! Which foundation you choose will depend on your background and what interests you!

3) Thorough background in biology:

If you feel you have a strong background in biology and are ready for an upper-level biology course that's still focused on introducing first-years into the department, you might consider "Biology 19: Honors Cell Structure and Function." Biology 19 is an expedited first-year-only course for students who have a strong background in biology and chemistry and a strong interest in biology. Enrolling in the course requires an application at the beginning of your first year. The course moves fast, and the content is thick, but this is the right course for some!

For most first-years, the question will be whether to take the (intro) Biology 11 course or one of the several foundations. However, many also opt to take the more rigorous Biology 19 course! ​

Extracurriculars in Biology:

There are many ways to get involved with biology outside of the classroom at Dartmouth. How you do so will depend on your area(s) of interest and your passions! Here are a few ways:

Dartmouth Undergraduate Biology Society:

The first organization I joined as a first-year—this is the "biology club," at Dartmouth. Many of our events include casual discussions about random topics in biology with students and professors, dinners with biological sciences faculty, or other fun activities related to biology!

Dartmouth EMS:

For anyone interested in applying their biological knowledge to healthcare or first response settings–Dartmouth EMS (emergency medical services) might be for you! This student-run organization is in charge of managing emergency medical responses on campus!

Nathan-Smith Society:

Dartmouth's largest student-run organization, the Nathan-Smith Society, is kind of like Dartmouth's "pre-health" club. They serve all students interested in the health professions and often organize shadowing opportunities for pre-medical students or informational sessions/advising in those areas (along with much, much more)! The Nathan-Smith Society also contains the Dartmouth Pre-Dental Society and the Dartmouth Pre-Veterinary Medical Society.


These were just a few ways to get involved with biology, not to mention research! Apart from student groups, there are also numerous support programs for students studying biology, such as the Health Professions Advising Program and the "Teaching Science Fellows" tutoring program!

I hope this blog post gave you an idea of how you might explore biology as a first-year at Dartmouth. Since I'm only a first-year, there are plenty of other things I probably left out! Regardless, you won't have a problem exploring your passion for biology here.


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