BSc in Biological Sciences

From 2018 UC offers a 3 themes in Biology (plus Biochemistry) at undergraduate level. This makes planning your degree easy and still allows you to create a personalised Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences that suits your interests.  

Our themes are: 

  • Biochemistry - the chemistry of life
  • Molecular/Micro Biology & Systematics - how molecules and micro-organisms are structured, function, interact with their environment and evolve.
  • Cell & Organismal Physiology - how the processes within cells, tissues and individuals function
  • Ecology, Evolution & Behaviour - how organisms interact and change over time in ecosystems

There is overlap between the themes. This overlap is important – the area of molecular genetics, for example, is just as important to the study of biodiversity as it is to the study of animal or plant development.

As well as core 100-level courses we offer BIOL 116 Human Biology and SCIM 101 Science, Maori and Indigenous Knowledge as additional courses.

Modern biological research is undergoing some exciting changes.

The barriers between traditionally separate areas of biology are breaking down and at the same time researchers trained in mathematics, statistics, chemistry, physics, geology, geography and computer science are collaborating with biologists in new and exciting ways.

This doesn’t mean you need to be an expert in everything, but the more you are comfortable talking with and working with scientists from other fields the better prepared you will be for the job market, whether you wish to work in industry, a research university or institute or even science journalism.

Getting started and complementary courses

More and more areas of biology require a basic knowledge of Statistics, Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics.

Molecular biology and biochemistry both require a working knowledge of chemistry, the study of populations requires some understanding of basic algebra and Statistics, the mathematics of networks applies to areas as diverse as biochemistry and ecological food webs, and to analyse biological data, Statistics is a must.

There are many niches in biological and ecological sciences for those that are not chemically or mathematically inclined, but a background in these areas may expand your options.

If you lack confidence in Mathematics and Statistics or haven't done them at NCEA level MATH 101 and CHEM 114 offer a good grounding tailored to the needs of Biological Sciences students.

UC also offers the summer Headstart programme.

Endorsements and pathways

 An endorsement can be added to your Biological Sciences major in recognition of the fact that your studies have had a particular focus. They are Biotechnology, Biosecurity and Ecology.

Our 200 and 300-level courses provide advanced training in specialised pathways.

  • For recommended courses in a particular pathway see the sections below.
  • UC offers Environmental Science as a double major with other BSc subjects including Biological Sciences.

Pathways

Suggested courses for each theme in the Biological Sciences and Biochemisty majors. (For students enroled prior to 2018 information on the former pathways is still available in the Biological Sciences Undergraduate Handbook

100 level courses

  • BIOL 111 Cellular Biology and Biochemistry (S1)
  • BCHM 112 Structure and Reactivity in Chemistry and Biochemistry [1] (aka CHEM 112) (S2)
  • SCIE 101 Science, Society and Me (S2)

You may also like:

200 level courses

You may also like:

  • BCHM 206 Organic Chemistry (S2)
  • BIOL 209 Introduction to Biological Data Analysis (S1)
  • BIOL 210 Vertebrate Biology (S2)
  • BIOL 213 Microbiology & Genetics (S2)
  • BIOL 250 Principles of Animal Physiology (S1)
  • BIOL 254 Principles of Plant Physiology (S2)
  • CHEM 211 Molecules (S1)
  • PSYC 206 Research Design and Statistics (S1)

300 level courses

You may also like: 

  • BIOL 333 Molecular Genetics (S1)
  • BIOL 334 Evolutionary Genetics & Genomics (S2)
  • BIOL 351 Cell Biology 2 (S2)
  • BIOL 352 Plant Development and Biotechnology (S1)
  • BIOL 335 Organometallic Chemistry & Catalysis (S2)
  • CHEM 337 Organic Synthesis (S2)
  • CHEM 340 Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology (S1)
  • PSYC 333 Biological Psychology (S1)
  • SCIE 303 Internship (Su)

Notes

  1. If you have fewer than 14 credits of NCEA level 3 chemistry take CHEM 114 before starting BCHM/CHEM 112
  2. BIOL 209 is required if your BSc Major is Biology 
  3. BCHM 381 is usually required for postgraduate Biochemistry
  4. The Science Student Advisor and Biology Undergraduate Advisor are available to help you plan your degree.

Choose this theme if you are interested in topics such as:

Biotechnology, animal physiology, plant development, medical biochemistry.

Biochemistry uses the techniques of chemistry, physics and molecular biology to probe the mysteries of biology at the molecular level. At UC, biochemistry courses are taught as a collaboration between the Department of Chemistry and the School of Biological Sciences. For Biochemistry students it is important to consider both biology and chemistry courses in addition to the biochemistry core when designing your degree.

Within the broad field of biochemistry, research interests at UC focus on the following key areas:

  • The molecular basis for diseases
  • Medical biochemistry
  • The molecular basis for biological phenomena: studies of molecular biology; gene expression and control; hormones and physiological phenomena
  • Enzyme inhibition and drug design
  • Natural products chemistry and drug discovery
  • Intermediary metabolism: studies of the integration of reactions in living cells; how cells make and use energy; biosynthesis of proteins; DNA & RNA; and cellular control mechanisms
  • The nature of enzyme-catalysed reactions
  • Ultrastructure: studies of the coordination of the structure and function of cells, their organelles and their proteins
  • The structure of biopolymers: studies of the structure of proteins, DNA & RNA, cell walls, etc
  • Applied biochemistry: studies of immobilised enzymes; biochemical engineering, food biochemistry, etc
  • Free radical biochemistry 

100 level courses

You may also like:

  • BCHM 112 Structure & Reactivity in Chemistry & Biochemistry (S2) [1]
  • CHEM 114 Foundations of Chemistry (S1)
  • LAWS 101 Legal System: Legal Method & Institutions (W)
  • HLTH 106 Nga Take, Te Wero - Maori Health Issues & Opportunities (S2)
  • HLTH 110 Epidemiology (S1)
  • SCIM 101 Science, Maori & Indigenous Knowledge (S2)

 

200 level courses

  • BIOL 209 Introduction to Biological Data Analysis (S1)
  • BIOL 213 Microbiology & Genetics (S2)
  • BIOL 215 Origins & Classification of Life (S2)
  • BIOL 231 Foundations in Molecular Biology (S1)

You may also like:

  • BCHM 222 Biochemistry B - Metabolism; the Reactions of Molecules in Cells (S2)
  • BCHM 281 Practical Biochemistry (S2)
  • BIOL 211 Insect Biology (S2, offered even years)
  • BIOL 250 Principles of Animal Physiology (S1)
  • BIOL 254 Principles of Plant Physiology (S2)
  • BIOL 271 Evolution (S1)
  • BIOL 273 New Zealand Biodiversity and Biosecurity (S2)
  • BIOS 201 Issues in New Zealand Biosecurity (Su)

 

300 level courses

  • BIOL 309 Experimental Design & Data Analysis for Biologists [1]

At least 4 courses selected from:

  • BIOL 305 Practical Field Botany (Su)
  • BIOL 313 Advanced Molecular & Industrial Microbiology (S2)
  • BIOL 333 Molecular Genetics (S1)
  • BIOL 335 Bioinformatics & Genomics (S1)
  • BIOL 352 Plant Development & Biotechnology (S1)

You may also like:

Notes

  1. BIOL 309 is usually required for postgraduate Biology.
  2. The Science Student Advisor and Biology Undergraduate Advisor are available to help you plan your degree.
  3. Endorsements in biosecurity and biotechnology are also available, see the UC Calendar for regulations.

Choose this theme if you are interested in topics such as:

Microbiology, biotechnology, bioinformatics, molecular biology, genomics, biodiversity, drug development, plant biology, biosecurity, ancient DNA, taxonomy, phylogenetics.

About Molecular/Micro Biology & Systematics

Genetics is at the heart of the Molecular/Micro Biology and Systematics theme. It is the science of heredity. It has a history of less than 150 years, yet the most significant discovery, the double helix, celebrated its 50th birthday in 2003. The completion of the human genome project, followed by a proliferation of genome projects on endemic and endangered species has promised to challenge the creativity of future scientists. Genetics provides a platform for the development of new drugs to combat diseases, methodology for the conservation of endangered species and understanding evolutionary patterns and processes. Furthermore, it helps us to understand who we are and what we are, enhance our biosecurity and even catch criminals. Genetics is a rapidly advancing field that creates challenges and opportunities for society. Our graduates and staff also work in civil society organisations and for government agencies providing expertise to maximise the benefits of genetic technologies while minimising risk.

Molecular Biology is the field of biology that studies the structure and function of genes at a molecular level. The study of chromosomes and gene expression of an organism can give insight into heredity, genetic variation, and mutations.

Microbiology is the study of organisms such as algae, fungi, bacteria and viruses that cannot be seen with the naked eye. These micro-organisms are abundant and diverse, and they affect humans in both negative and positive ways. Some micro-organisms cause diseases in humans, other animals, or agricultural crops, and are therefore of significance to our biosecurity. Others can be used to benefit humans, such as microbes that can be used to kill insect pests (bio-control) and those that destroy harmful chemicals such as pesticides (bio-remediation). Other microbes are simply essential to the maintenance of all life, such as those that generate oxygen and other critical elements.

Systematics aims to describe and classify biological diversity and to understand its origins. It encompasses the description, identification, nomenclature, and classification of organisms (taxonomy) and the reconstruction of their evolutionary history (phylogenetics). Knowing the identity and evolutionary relationships of organisms is crucial to any biological study, and Systematics therefore unifies all of biology. Molecular methods in genetics have revolutionised systematics during recent decades leading to a far deeper understanding of how species are related and the processes that underlie biodiversity.

Career Opportunities

The broad and transferable skills gained from following this pathway open up many career options, many of which may include some component of laboratory work such asculturing micro-organisms, sequencing DNA, identifying species.

  • Graduates who specialise in Molecular/Micro Biology and Systematics may take up careers like:
  • Craft Brewery Manager at a micro brewery
  • Technical Compliance Officer for a food safety company
  • Genetic Services Specialist at PIC
  • Laboratory Technician - Microbiology at Hill Laboratories
  • Technician - Pathogens at AsureQuality Ltd
  • Laboratory manager
  • Secondary school teacher
  • Medical laboratory technician at Canterbury Health
  • Biotechnology technician
  • Assistant Cereal Breeder with the Cereal Research and Development team at PGG Wrightson Seeds
  • Entry level Fisheries Modeller - NIWA

100 level courses

You may also like:

  • BCHM 112 Structure & Reactivity in Chemistry & Biochemistry (S2) [1]
  • BIOL 116 Human Biology (S2)
  • CHEM 114 Foundations of Chemistry (S1)
  • LAWS 101 Legal System: Legal Method & Institutions (W)
  • HLTH 106 Nga Take, Te Wero - Maori Health Issues & Opportunities (S2)
  • HLTH 110 Epidemiology (S1)
  • MATH 101 Methods of Mathematics (S1, S2)
  • PSYC 105 Introductory Psychology - Brain, Behaviour and Cognition (S1)
  • SCIM 101 Science, Maori & Indigenous Knowledge (S2)

 

200 level courses

  • BIOL 209 Introduction to Biological Data Analysis (S1)
  • BIOL 231 Foundations in Molecular Biology (S1)
  • BIOL 253 Cell Biology (S1)

At least 1 course selected from:

  • BIOL 250 Principles of Animal Physiology (S1)
  • BIOL 254 Principles of Plant Physiology (S2)

You may also like:

300 level courses

  • BIOL 309 Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Biologists (S2) [1]
  • BIOL 351 Cell Biology 2 (S2)

At least 3 courses selected from:

  • BIOL 313 Advanced Molecular & Industrial Microbiology (S2)
  • BIOL 333 Molecular Genetics (S1)
  • BIOL 352 Plant Development & Biotechnology (S1)
  • BIOL 354 Animal Ecophysiology (S2)
  • BIOL 355 Neurons, Hormones & Behaviour (S1)

You may also like:

Notes

  1. BIOL 309 is usually required for postgraduate Biology.
  2. The Science Student Advisor and Biology Undergraduate Advisor are available to help you plan your degree.

Choose this theme if you are interested in topics such as:

Biotechnology, animal physiology, ecophysiology, plant development, biochemistry, genetics.

About Cellular and Organismal Physiology

Cellular and organismal physiology focuses on the normal vital processes of organisms. This theme is directed at understanding biochemical, biophysical, molecular, and genetic states of normal functioning at the subcellular, cellular, or whole-organism level.

Many of the recent advances in biology have focused on cellular and molecular processes, and these will always be a need to be related back to the function of the whole organism.

Within this theme a broad range of areas of focus are possible. Cell and organismal physiology in many ways links biochemistry with behaviour, and there is a large amount of overlap with our other themes.

The lines between areas of focus often are blurred and students interested in this area may want to develop backgrounds in ecology and evolution, genetics and developmental biology, or cellular and molecular biology in order to supplement their background in basic cell and organismal biology.

Cell biology is the science of the living cell. Cell theory, developed in the 1800s, states that all organisms are composed of one or more cells, that cells are the smallest living units of all living organisms, and that cells arise only by division of a previously existing cell. Recent decades have seen stunning advances in the study of cell biology as a range of different imaging, biochemical and molecular techniques have been used to investigate how cells work, and how cells interact with other cells.

Animal physiology is the study of the physical and chemical processes that occur within animals—in other words, how animals work. Animal physiology is concerned with such topics as gas exchange, blood and circulation, osmoregulation, digestion, nervous and muscle systems and endocrinology.

Biotechnology is of national and international importance. It can be defined as fundamental research contributing knowledge about biochemical, molecular, ecological and evolutionary processes; research underpinning biodiversity and biosecurity management in New Zealand; and research directed towards technology development with dual economic and environmental outcomes. Consequently, biotechnology research has key roles to play in helping us characterise New Zealand’s indigenous genetic heritage through bio-systematics, to protect New Zealand’s indigenous genetic heritage through the provision of tools to identify biosecurity threats, and, through research, to help counter the environmental impacts of farming in areas such as agricultural methane emissions and nitrogen fixers in pastures.

Biotechnology goes beyond genetic modification and includes a range of laboratory based tissue culture and breeding techniques such as the use of somatic hybridisation.

Plants are central to the maintenance of life on Earth and for the basis of agricultural production. Plant biology is a very broad discipline that covers the study of the structure, function and evolution and diversity of plants. Plant biologists study processes at the cellular and whole organism level, and address questions on how plants respond to the environment and other organisms. Others study the evolutionary history of the huge diversity of plant species. The study of plant biology can be undertaken in the lab or in the field, and is central to agricultural production and ecosystem function.

Career Opportunities

The broad and transferable skills gained from following this pathway open up many career options, many of which may include some component of laboratory work such as preparing assays, screening bio-active compounds or microscopy.

  • Graduates who specialise in Cell and Organismal Physiology may take up careers like:
  • Research Technician in Genetics AgResearch
  • Research Technician at Synlait Milk Ltd
  • Seed Production Technician at AgResearch
  • Forensic Senior Technician - ESR
  • Plant development and breeding at a crop seed supplier
  • Research technician at a university
  • Bioinformatics analyst
  • Scientific sales consultant for a pharmaceutical company
  • Bio-imaging specialist
  • Animal caretaker at a wildlife park
  • Technical Laboratory Assistant at Scion

100 level courses

You may also like:

  • ENVR 101 Introduction to Environmental Science (S2)
  • GEOG 106 Global Environmental Change (S2)
  • GEOG 109 Physical Geography: Earth, Ocean, Atmosphere (S2)
  • GEOL 111 Planet Earth: An Introduction to Geology (S1, Su)
  • GEOL 115 The Dynamic Earth System (S2)
  • FORE 111 Trees, Forests & the Enviroment (S1)
  • MATH 101 Methods of Mathematics (S1, S2)
  • PSYC 105 Introductory Psychology - Brain, Behaviour & Cognition (S1)
  • SCIM 101 Science, Maori & Indigenous Knowledge (S2)
  • ANTA 201 Antarctica & Global Change (S2)

 

200 level courses

You may also like:

  • BIOL 211 Insect Biology (S2, offered even years)
  • BIOL 212 Marine Biology & Ecology (S1)
  • BIOL 215 Origins and Classification of Life (S2)
  • BIOL 250 Principles of Animal Physiology (S1)
  • BIOL 254 Principles of Plant Physiology (S2)
  • BIOL 273 New Zealand Biodiversity and Biosecurity (S2)
  • GEOG 201 Environmental Processes: Principles & Applications (S1)
  • GEOG 205 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (S1)
  • MGMT 230 Business, Society & the Environment (S1, S2)
  • WATR 201 Freshwater Resources (S2)
  • WATR 203 Freshwater Science Field Skills (Su)

300 level courses

  • BIOL 309 Experimental Design & Data Analysis for Biologists [1]

At least 4 courses selected from:

  • BIOL 305 Practical Field Botany (Su)
  • BIOL 332 Genetics & Evolution of Invasive Species (S2)
  • BIOL 334 Evolutionary Genetics & Genomics (S2)
  • BIOL 354 Animal Ecophysiology (S2)
  • BIOL 355 Neurons, Hormones & Behaviour (S1)
  • BIOL 371 Evolutionary Ecology (S1)
  • BIOL 375 Freshwater Ecosystems (S2)
  • BIOL 377 Global Change and Biosecurity (S1)
  • BIOL 378 Population Ecology & Conservation (S1)
  • BIOL 383 Behavioural Ecology (S1)
  • BIOL 384 Marine Ecosystems (S2)

You may also like:

  • BIOL 355 Neurons, Hormones & Behaviour (S1)
  • WATR 301 Water Resource Management (S1)

Notes

  1. BIOL 309 is usually required for postgraduate Biology.
  2. The Science Student Advisor and Biology Undergraduate Advisor are available to help you plan your degree.
  3. Endorsements in biosecurity and ecology are also available, see the UC Calendar for regulations.

Choose this theme if you are interested in topics such as:

Conservation biology, genetics & genomics, biosecurity, terrestrial/marine/freshwater biology and ecology, animal behaviour, environmental sciences, computational biology, bioinformatics.

Students of the Behaviour, Ecology, and Evolution theme study a broad diversity of organisms and ecosystems, and employ a wide range of methods in studies of both basic and applied questions. Courses are highly integrative and often include both laboratory and field-based components. Our staff have significant strengths in areas such as animal behaviour, ecosystem ecology, conservation biology and evolution.

Ecology is the study of organisms and how they relate to their environment. Evolution is a closely related area of study that focuses on how species change to adapt to their local surroundings and, more broadly, the processes that shape biodiversity. Animal behaviour is the study of the “how” and “why” of what animals do.

Ecology is an increasingly important field, as we struggle to protect plants and animals from growing human impacts. Amongst others, ecologists and evolutionists try to understand the threats to our endangered native organisms such as kiwi, kakapo and rare plants. They also try to predict or mitigate the effects of exotic pests such as possums and old man’s beard.

Water is an important natural resource necessary for the survival of all ecosystems. From the glaciers of South Westland and braided rivers of Canterbury to the deep marine canyon off Kaikoura, New Zealand has an abundance of fresh and marine water systems.

Freshwater and marine ecology focus on the understanding of the ecology of rivers, lakes, wetlands, coastlines and oceans. Focussing on ecological concepts but also applying water science, it includes the study of water chemistry, plant/algae, invertebrate and fish diversity and communities. With increasing land use pressures and climate change there is a need to better understand these water systems to support management decisions regarding usage, conservation and rehabilitation.

Humans probably always have been fascinated by the behaviour of animals. Studies of animal behaviour can range from addressing questions about how animals communicate and how neural mechanisms control behaviour, to questions about why animals are altruistic to family members, why some animals look after their offspring while others do not, or why species differ in their mating systems. By studying animal behaviour through a scientific framework, we can understand the reasons for the rich behavioural repertoire seen across the animal kingdom and, in the process, perhaps learn something about our own sometimes perplexing behaviour. Understanding the behaviour of animals in nature is also becoming increasingly important in conservation biology programmes to ensure that they survive and reproduce. There is a large amount of overlap between Animal Behaviour and the Cell and Organismal Physiology theme.

Evolution complements Ecology in areas such as conservation biology, how species respond to climate change, the spread of introduced plant and animals, and predicting the potential spread of GMOs. Evolution complements Behaviour in explaining topics such as sexual selection and social behaviour. An understanding of evolution is also fundamental to the designing of effective drugs and predicting the spread of new diseases such as Zika virus. Tools and technologies of evolutionary biology underpin all the biological sciences, including in fields such as molecular biology, cell biology, ecology, biodiversity and behaviour. The common theme is the study of how species change and adapt to their local environment.

Career Opportunities

The broad and transferable skills gained from studying this theme open up many career options, many of which include some component of outdoor work such as monitoring, sampling and managing of species, as well as laboratory work and computational analyses.

Graduates who specialise in Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour may take up careers like:

  • District conservation officer for the Department of Conservation
  • Monitoring of ecological values along streams, rivers and estuary for the a city council
  • Field technician in Landcare Research’s programme to help meet Kyoto agreements on global warming
  • Operating an aquaculture facility for a Marlborough Sounds seafood company
  • Biosecurity officer for MAF involved in predicting and managing the spread of introduced organisms
  • Boarder control officer at an international air or sea port.
  • Scientist for AgResearch working in biocontrol
  • Regional council water quality scientist
  • Fisheries officer for the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI)
  • Policy analyst for a government agency
  • Laboratory technician at Cawthron Institute
  • Environmental education officer
  • Environmental and Compliance Consultant
  • Biodiversity Advisor
  • Scientist such as an ecologist, evolutionary biologist, environmental scientist.

For all enquiries about a Biological Sciences major please contact:

Pieter Pelser

Senior Lecturer
Plant Systematics
Undergraduate Advisor
and Director of UC Herbarium
Biological Sciences 530
Internal Phone: 95228

Anna Chapman

Advisor
Senior Academic Advisor
Okeover 110
Internal Phone: 94117