Jul 15, 2024  
2023-2024 Academic Catalog 
2023-2024 Academic Catalog


The mission of the VMI biology department is to broadly train students to understand how living organisms function and to appreciate the intricacies and interactions that govern all living systems. This mission supports the broader VMI mission of creating citizen soldiers, by equipping students to make informed decisions that will better society. We accomplish this by providing students with broad training and a fundamental background in the biological sciences. The biology department offers both a B.S. and B.A. degree.  The B.S. degree is designed for those students seeking a traditional biology curriculum that prepares them well for continuing their education at the post-graduate level (M.S., Ph.D., M.D., D.O, D.D.S, or D.V.M.).  The B.A. degree provides the flexibility for a student to pursue a double major, either in the sciences or humanities, or for a student to pursue multiple minors in different disciplines.  Both the B.S. and B.A. degrees require completion of the introductory course sequence (BI 111 , BI 112 , and BI 113 ) and the capstone course (BI 420W ).  Within biology, both B.S. and B.A. students must take one class in each of the four, Core Areas and an additional 14 hours of biology course work.  In addition, students completing the B.S. in biology will take five semesters of chemistry (general chemistry I and II with labs, organic chemistry I and II with labs, and biochemistry) and two semesters of physics (general physics I and II with labs).  Students completing the B.A. in biology must show proficiency in a foreign language (completion through the 200 level of a language), take two semesters of chemistry (general chemistry I and II with labs) and then either the organic chemistry sequence or the physics sequence. Both degree programs are tailored to allow a student to pursue a concentration within the major as described under “Academic Concentrations in Biology” or the minor in Exercise Science.  Faculty members believe that interaction with cadets in the classroom, laboratory, and on an individual basis is critical in the development of the successful biology major. In keeping with this philosophy, class sizes are small, laboratories accompany most courses, advising is conducted on an individual basis, and undergraduate research is encouraged.  The biology department has a funded summer research experience, the Dr. Fred C. Swope Summer Scholars Program, and many additional opportunities for funded undergraduate research experiences exist through VMI’s Summer Undergraduate Research Initiative (SURI).

Capstone Experiences in Undergraduate Research Requirement (3 credits)

Successful completion of the Capstone Experience in Biology is a graduation requirement. It is intended to provide a comprehensive experience involving the application, integration, and critical analysis of information and data through an intensive literature-based paper or an independent research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. The requirement is fulfilled by completing BI 420W  Senior Seminar. For students enrolled in the Institute Honors program, BI 420W should be taken in place of HN 400  - HN 401  Institute Honors.

Dr. Fred C. Swope Summer Scholars Program

The Dr. Fred C. Swope Summer Undergraduate Research Program in Biology at the Virginia Military Institute was established in 1991 and is named after one of VMI’s most visionary Biology Department Chairmen, COL Fred C. Swope.  This summer program in combination with Institute opportunities is designed to acquaint undergraduate students with the philosophy, practices, and techniques of research.  During the months of May, June, and July students engage in a research project with a faculty mentor.  At the end of the summer or during the following academic year students in the program present their research findings to the department’s faculty and other biology majors.  Students are encouraged to continue their research interests into the following academic year and beyond in anticipation of completion of a Department or Institute Honors Thesis. Upon the completion of these undergraduate research experiences the student has acquired a meaningful and in depth knowledge of the research process and has a realistic idea of what is involved in pursuing post-graduate studies.

Honors in Biology

A cadet can earn departmental honors by completing a research project in their 1st class year and presenting the research to the department. Eligibility to apply for departmental honors requires 1st class standing and a minimum cumulative and biology GPA of 3.000. An application in the form of a research proposal is submitted to the department at the end of the 2nd class year or at the beginning of the 1st class year. If the department approves the proposal, then the cadet will enroll in BI 490/490W  (independent research in the fall) and then BI 491/491W  (independent research in the spring). By the middle of April, a formal research paper will be submitted to the department at least two weeks prior to the oral presentation (defense). The awarding of Honors in Biology will be made following successful completion of the research project and oral defense.

Majors in Biology

  Bachelor of Science

  Bachelor of Arts

Concentrations in Biology

These concentrations offer an opportunity for cadets to focus their interests in various fields of biology and to develop intellectual pursuits with their professors as mentors in undergraduate research. If cadets wish to pursue an area of specialty, they are strongly encouraged to select one of the concentrations listed below no later than fall pre-registration during their third class year. A student successfully completing a concentration will earn a B.S. or B.A. degree with recognition of the concentration on the final transcript.

Minor in Human Performance and Wellness

The Minor in Exercise Science is designed to provide cadets with a comprehensive introduction to the foundations of exercise and fitness. This interdisciplinary minor can be declared through the department of biology or the department of Human Performance and Wellness. 



    Department of Biology
    Department Head: Colonel Bell

    Requirements for major in biology are specified in Biology .