For all majors in the College of Biological Science, there are some common preparatory major core classes that all students in CBS are required to take in the first two years of college. Regardless of your major, you will have to take calculus, chemistry, biology, physics, and statistics. These classes are important because they provide fundamental knowledge in the field of biological sciences. Before you start in-depth major classes, mastery in core classes gives you the essential tool kit.
I am currently a third year Genetics and Genomics major. In this blog post, I will talk about some core classes I took and my experiences in them.
Usually students in College of Biological Sciences take MAT17ABC to fulfill the math requirement. MAT17 is a year-long calculus class designed for biology students, featuring calculus applications in biology topics. MAT21AB, the first two classes of the MAT21 series, is an alternative option. Honestly, I chose to take MAT21A and MAT21B in my first year because I wanted to finish calculus in two quarters instead of three (which might not work for everyone). The two classes focused more on principles and theories, including solving proof questions and calculus equations. I took a light workload along with MAT21A and MAT21B, since I did not have much background in calculus.
The Calculus Room is a great place to get academic help besides the Student Academic Success Center and the Residence Hall tutoring hours.
BIS2ABC: Introduction to Biology
I really enjoyed the BIS2 series because the series includes everything from micro to macro. BIS2A is about cell organelles, photosynthesis, chemical bonds, and properties of bio-molecules. BIS2B is an introduction to ecology, evolution, and biodiversity. BIS2C focuses on phylogenies, the five kingdoms, and life cycles of fungus/plants/animals. Note that BIS2A and BIS2B can be taken in either sequence, but BIS2C has to be taken after BIS2B. In addition, it is recommended for students without a strong chemistry background to start with BIS2B.
(My BIS2C study notes for the final)
CHE2ABC: General Chemistry
CHE2 lectures are always in big lecture halls with hundreds of people. It is one of the most commonly taken classes for first year students, since many majors have chemistry as a requirement. CHE2 series provided me a solid background in chemistry, which helped a lot in my upper division biochemistry classes. I also learned to use the titration apparatus, the pH meter, and other cool equipment in the labs. An alternative option for general chemistry is the CHE3 series (“Integrated General and Organic Chemistry intended for majors in the life sciences”), which incorporates water-based reactions and some organic chemistry. CHE3 is a relative new course, and only certain biology related majors accept it for major requirement. If you plan to switch majors, take CHE2 series for more flexibility!
Get ready for General Chemistry with your lab coat, goggles, and carbon notebook:)
CHE118ABC: Organic Chemistry for Health and Life Sciences
Students in the college can choose to take either CHE118 (a three quarter series) or CHE8 (a two quarter series). I took CHE118, since a year of organic chemistry is required for many medical schools. I personally think that organic chemistry (especially CHE118B) is one of the most difficult classes I have taken in UC Davis. The class is all about understanding how electrons transfer between molecules and memorizing different reaction mechanisms. It is like putting together pieces of a puzzle to get a full picture of chemistry – this class will definitely change your view of the subject on a molecular level. After all, organic chemistry is very different from general chemistry, since no calculation skills are required for the class. You might enjoy the class even if you are not a fan of gen chem!
PHY7ABC: General Physics
In PHY7 series, students spend 5 hours in Discussion Labs (DLs) and 1 hour in lecture every week. Most of the learning will happen in the discussion labs with your small group of classmates and TA. In the DLs, we did short experiments and discussed about the results with our small group. In PHY7A, I was tired with having two 2.5 hour labs every week, but as I moved towards 7B, and then 7C, I felt that the DLs gave me a better understanding on the lecture topics. I learned the best by solving questions, so the DLs matched with my learning style after I got used to it. Topics in PHY7 include: chemical bond energies and thermodynamics (7A), Newton’s Laws and circuits (7B), mirror/optical lenses and electromagnetic forces (7C).
STA100: Applied Statistics for Biological Sciences
STA100 is a very informative class, in which students are taught to analyze biology data with the statistics program R studio. In the first two weeks of class, the professor went over basic statistics including calculating the mean, medium, and standard deviation. Later, we learned more advanced concepts such as p values and the ANOVA table. There were two group projects in the quarter. We had to process a given data set (in my class it was about diabetes population) with methods learned in class and wrote two four-page reports. A few quarters after STA100, I joined a fish ecomorphology research, and our project was heavily based on data analysis. Thus, I really appreciated learning about R Studio in the class.
BASC Peer Advisor
Third Year, Genetics and Genomics Major