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 improving human health and natural resources, in grappling with the ethical questions that face humanity and in understanding the interdependent web of living organisms on the planet. Important discoveries and advances in the biological sciences occur weekly as scientists and their students around the world develop and use new techniques, theories, and approaches.

The University of Toronto has an enormous depth of faculty members on the St. George campus who conduct leading-edge research and teach 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 (CSB) and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EEB) teach biology courses across the broad spectrum of introductory to advanced topics. Each of these departments offers its own programs and courses, and jointly offer the Biology programs. These co-sponsored Programs of Study include Biology (Specialist, Major, Minor), Bioinformatics & Computational Biology (Specialist), and Genome Biology (Major). The program in Genome Biology also includes the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology as a co-sponsor, and the program in Bioinformatics & Computational Biology additionally includes the Departments of Biochemistry and Computer Science as co-sponsors.

Students should consult the Cell & Systems Biology and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology entries in this Calendar about additional courses available in the broad subject areas of bioinformatics, cell and molecular biology, conservation and environmental biology, developmental biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, genetics, physiology, and genome biology. The diverse course offerings in the Biology programs allow students to customize their educational experience to match their personal interests and career aspirations.


High School Prerequisites and First-Year Requirements

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). These single-semester courses are a prerequisite for almost all further courses in the life sciences. It is possible for students to enrol in BIO220H1 concurrently with BIO130H1.

All co-sponsored Biology programs have unlimited enrolment and no specific admission requirements. All students who have completed at least 4.0 credits are eligible to enrol (most single-semester courses are a 0.5 credit). Program completion requires 12.0-12.5 credits of courses for a Specialist, 8.0 credits for a Major, or 4.0 credits for a Minor. To fulfill graduation degree requirements, students must complete either one Specialist, two Majors, or one Major with two Minors. Students may choose a Specialist to focus in-depth on a single subject area or may pair complementing Majors (or Minors) to customize their education and training to encompass the breadth of their interests.


General Biology Programs

Students in the Biology Specialist and Biology Major programs obtain a foundation in the core areas of cell and molecular biology, ecology and biodiversity, evolutionary biology, physiology and genetics; as well as in calculus, chemistry and statistics (Specialist), or chemistry (Major). These programs are flexible in allowing students many possible course pathways that are compatible with completing program requirements, encouraging students to explore the diversity of their biological interests and to obtain broad training in life sciences. In the upper years, students take advanced courses in specific biological topics, and can also include courses in the biological sciences offered by other units. In their final year, students take at least 1.0 credit (yearlong) or two 0.5 credits (Specialist) or one 0.5 credit (Major) in an 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 either on plant and microbial biology or on animal biology can take courses within these programs that concentrate in these subject areas. Students in these Biology Programs of Study prepare themselves for diverse life sciences career trajectories that depend on critical thinking and practical hands-on skills, including postgraduate study in biological sciences and medicine. The Biology Minor program offers students an introduction to cell and molecular biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, and physiology.

The Biology Specialist, Major and Minor programs are administered by the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and co-sponsored by the Department of Cell & Systems Biology. Students requiring more information or advising about these programs are encouraged to visit the departmental website or to contact the EEB Undergraduate Office, Earth Sciences Centre (25 Willcocks St.), Room 3055B,, 416-978-2084.


Biology Programs in Genomics and Informatics

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 and medicine 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 nature of gene regulation, the extent and causes of adaptive evolution, and the history of species on planet earth, including humans. Genome biology and bioinformatics are highly interdisciplinary fields, encompassing concepts and practices from such diverse fields as cell and molecular biology, evolutionary genetics, and computer science. The Bioinformatics & Computational Biology Specialist program is an interdepartmental, interdisciplinary Program of Study that balances computer-science and life-science courses. 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.

Note: The Bioinformatics & Computational Biology Specialist program has deregulated fees, which are incurred after enrolment in program. Please refer to the Arts & Science Program Toolkit for more information.

The Bioinformatics & Computational Biology Specialist and Genome Biology Major programs are administered by the Department of Cell & Systems Biology, and are co-sponsored by the Departments of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Molecular Genetics & Microbiology. The Bioinformatics & Computational Biology Specialist additionally includes the Departments of Biochemistry and Computer Science as program co-sponsors. Students requiring more information or advising about these programs are encouraged to visit the departmental website,, or contact the CSB Undergraduate Office, Ramsay Wright Building (25 Harbord St.), Room 424, 416-978-3477.