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Undergraduate Program

Upper-Level Writing (ULW) Requirement

UPBM majors require successful completion of two upper-level writing (ULW) courses. Although students are strongly encouraged to complete both ULW requirements by taking biological science courses (BIOL, BCH, MBI), ULW courses within a natural science discipline may also be used to meet one of the requirements, i.e.: CHEM 210w. Writing courses within the humanities and social sciences may not be applied to UPBM majors.

While some of the UPBM majors allow students to select their upper-level writing courses, others have specific writing courses that need to be taken.

Majors that allow students to select their own ULW course:

Majors that do not allow students to select their own ULW course:

Please refer to the major requirements page of your intended major for more information on individual requirements.

For the majors who have flexibility in the selection of their ULW courses there are four ways to meet this requirement - by taking:

  • Half-Credit Add-On Writing Courses
  • Two or Four-Credit Writing Intensive Courses
  • Four-Credit Labs with ULW components
  • Bio Science Independent Research (395w) and Independent Study Courses (391w)

See below for further details on each.

Half-Credit (0.5) Add-On Writing Courses

Concurrent or previous enrollment in parent lecture course with permission of instructor is required.

Note: All interested students should email the instructor for permission and IPC for online registration.

  • BIOL 202w: Molecular Biology
  • BIOL 204w: Principles of Human Physiology
  • BIOL 205w: Evolutionary Biology
  • BIOL 206w: Eukaryotic Genomes
  • BIOL 210w: Molecular Cell Biology l
  • BIOL 217w: Principles of Human Anatomy with Lab
  • BIOL 220w: Advanced Cell Biology l
  • BIOL 222w: Biology of Aging
  • BIOL 225w: Laboratory in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (BEB Majors Only)
  • BIOL 226w: Developmental Biology
  • BIOL 228w: iGEM 
  • BIOL 243w: Eukaryotic Gene Regulation
  • BIOL 253w: Computational Biology
  • BIOL 257w: Applied Genomics
  • BIOL 259w: Applied Population Biology
  • BIOL 260w: Animal Behavior
  • BIOL 263w: Ecology
  • BIOL 268w: Laboratory in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology

One, Two, or Four-Credit Writing Intensive Courses

Instruction of these courses are collaborated between the Writing, Speaking, and Argument Center and the Department of Biology faculty. Registration of a parent lecture course is not required.

All interested students should email the instructor for permission and IPC for online registration.


  • BIOL/WRTG 272w (2-credits) Fall/Spring: Communicating your Professional Identity in Biology
  • BIOL/WRTG 275w (2-credit): Writing Biological Reviews (Cancelled Fall19 / May use if taken)
  • BIOL 276w: Technology, Healthcare and "Being Mortal" (Fall)


  • BIOL/WRTG 270 (2-credits): Exploring a Research Topic in Evolution (Cancelled Spring20 / May use if taken)
  • BIOL/WRTG 272 (2-credits) Fall/Spring: Communicating your Professional Identity in Biology
  • BIOL 273w (2-credits): Writing for Grants, Fellowships, and Special Opportunities
  • WRTG 273/277 (2-credits):  Communicating your Professional Identity (cross-diciplinary)
  • BIOL 274w/WRTG 262 (4-credits): What Do You Mean I Can't Do That? Learning to Write Like an "Insider" in Your Discipline(s)
  • BIOL/WRTG 396w (.05-credits): Research Paper Writing in Biology -Spring (BIOL 395 and submission of figures or instructor permission

NEW:    UPBM majors may use only one of the following to complete the upper-level writing requirement: BIOL 274w/WRTG 262w, BIOL/WRTG272w, BIOL/WRTG396W.

Four-Credit (4.00) Labs with ULW Component Included

In these courses the upper-level writing component is included and registering a separate writing course is not required.

  • BCH 308w: Biochemical and Molecular Biology Techniques - Contact instructor for permission
  • BIOL 261w: Genetic Research A* - Spring, Contact instructor for permission
  • BIOL 262w: Genetic Research B* - Fall, Contact instructor for permission 
  • MBI 221w: Microbiology Laboratory* - Fall, Register online

Independent Research Biology Science (395w)
Independent Study (391w)

Students may complete their requirement (one or both) by registering for 395w, Independent Research, or 391w, Independent Study. These courses must be within a discipline of the biological sciences (BIOL, BCD, IND, MBI, NSCI, PHP...) and require completion of a well-written final report that effectively communicates the scientific justification and results of their research. 

In such an independent research writing course, a student works closely with a faculty member and naturally engages in an intense writing process that exceeds the minimum criteria. 

The final report must be a scientific paper at least six pages in length. Upper-level writing documents are expected to undergo at least one cycle of and edits, and rewrite are ideally done with students and research mentors incrementally throughout the semester. 

Please note that upon course completion, the final report is subject to further review by the student's faculty advisor for application to major. Although the faculty mentor (PI) is responsible for the report's adherence to guidelines and grading, the track advisor decides to allow a student to use it to satisfy a writing requirement.

Students with final reports that do not receive approval for application to the major will have the opportunity to take a half-credit research paper writing course (BIOL 396w) during the spring semester. Successful completion of 396w will still require the original research advisor (or equivalent) to edit a first draft of the paper for scientific accuracy.

A poster cannot be submitted if the student is using the course to satisfy an upper-level writing requirement.

Additionally, students who take more than one semester of 395 coursework in the same laboratory for upper-level writing credit they will need to submit an entirely new paper at the end of the second semester. While it is appropriate to include work from a previous semester, the second paper must contain at least six pages of new prose.