Information for Incoming Freshman Biology Majors

Most biology freshman will take four courses in their first semester.  Except in very unusual circumstances, the first three of these will be First Year Seminar (FYSM-100), General Biology I (BIOL-110 or BIOL-170), and General Chemistry I (CHEM-110).  In fact,  you will be pre-registered for FYS,Biology and Chemistry.  Please note that, in addition to lecture, you will have each of the following once per week: a 3 hour general biology lab, a 3 hour chemistry lab, and a 1 hour chemistry Studio session.

BIOL-110 and BIOL-120 are taken in the Fall and Spring of the freshman year by the majority of biology majors.  Each course is accompanied by a one/week 3 hr. laboratory. The Fall semester focuses on evolution, genetics, and some basic cellular biology.  The Spring semester focuses on the diversity of life and evolutionary adaptations for survival.

Biol-110 or Biol-170
The majority of incoming freshman will take General Biology I (BIOL-110). However, students who completed Advanced Placement Biology in High School and who have scored (or are fairly confident they will score) a 4 or a 5 on the AP exam, may opt to take our Advanced General Biology sequence.  These students should indicate a preference for BIOL-170 instead of BIOL-110. 

At Siena, we do not allow students to place out of freshman biology.  However, we do offer an advanced sequence in general biology for students who are especially well-prepared. 

  • BIOL-170 and BIOL-180 are taken in the Fall and Spring of the freshman year.   The advanced sequence is completely optional; approximately 20-25 qualified students opt to enroll in this sequence. 
  • Both include a 3 hr laboratory, and there is no difference between the lab sections of the regular and advanced general biology sequences. 
  • BIOL-170 is fairly similar to BIOL-110 but generally will cover more material at a somewhat faster pace. 
  • Unlike BIOL-120, BIOL-180 is taught in a once/week 1 hr. seminar format.  Typically, students focus on a specific topic chosen by the professor (often something related to the professor’s research area).  With help from the professor, students research various aspects of the topic, and give presentations to one another throughout the course of the semester.
The biggest advantage is that in the spring term of the freshman year, students can take another core, or even scientific writing, as the AP gen bio is just a 1 hr seminar, so there is a little more flexibility in the schedule. The labs are exactly the same, and are taken with the other g. bio. Students. The pace is accelerated in the fall term. In spring, the 1 hr seminar is pretty neat, and normally involves students delving in to scientific research papers with a common "theme", i.e. the cytoskeleton, or sensory biology. So it's really a judgment call on the part of the student. If they opt to take the regular gen. bio., they'll be just fine. If they want something a little more accelerated, and a little more unusual, and feel confident, then the AP series might be a good choice.

If you are unsure about whether BIOL-170 is right for you, or have additional questions, contact us at

For more information on Siena's Biology program, look at