Frequently Asked Questions for Undergraduates

Department of Biological Sciences

Frequently Asked Questions for Undergraduates

General Questions

1. Are pre-requisites enforced in Biological Sciences courses?

Yes they are! When you enroll online, the registrar's computer may initially let you into a course, but the computer periodically checks to see if you have the appropriate prerequisites. If you do not, you will be automatically removed. A compelling case (i.e. you have either high grades, transfer credits, similar prerequisite) should be made if you are to seek to have a pre-requisite waived. You should first speak to the instructor of the course. Waiver forms can be obtained from the Biology administrative assistant (room F234), but you must have them signed by the instructor and then given to the administrative assistant. Afterwards, she will issue you the override, but you will still need to log into the registrar's site and register in the course.

2. Who should I speak to regarding course requirements to graduate?

At present, the Biology Chair provides undergraduate counselling for Biology Majors. See the Administrative Assistant (room F234) for details.

3. What is plagiarism?

"Plagiarism means presenting work done (in whole or in part) by someone else as if it were one's own. Associate dishonest practices include faking or falsification of data, cheating, or the uttering of false statements by a student in order to obtain unjustified concessions"

(taken from Brock University faculty handbook 12.1):

4. Can I substitute BIOL 1F25 in place of BIOL 1F90?

BIOL 1F25 is a science context credit for non-science majors, covering biological material with a human perspective, though high school biology is not required. As such, it does not cover material similar to BIOL 1F90, which deals specifically with biological molecules and organic evolution. There is no justification for substituting 1F25 in place of 1F90 as a prerequisite for BIOL, BCHM, BTEC or NEUR courses. However, either BIOL 1F90 or BIOL 1F25 will satisfy the science context requirement, though BIOL 1F25 is designed for non-science majors (i.e. students pursuing a BA, BKIN, BPHED, BRLS, BBA, BBE, BACC etc.) and BIOL 1F90 for science majors (i.e. students pursuing a BSc).

Questions regarding Degrees and Concentrations

1. Can I switch majors?

Yes you can. The more common time to consider switching majors is at the beginning of second year after you have taken courses and thought about your favourite topics and academic strengths. The BIOL, BTEC, BCHM, BMED, HLSC and OEVI degrees are sufficiently similar to make this transfer possible.

2. How do I switch majors?

To switch into a major in the Biological Sciences, please obtain a Change of Major form from the registrar's website ( and speak to the Biology Chair or representative.

Questions regarding 4th year Honours

1. What marks do I need to enroll in the honours research project (BIOL 4F90/4F91)?

At present, an overall average grade of 75% is required. Students may be enrolled in the Honours Biology Program, but not guaranteed a place in 4F90/4F91 due to changes in research funding or space constraints in researchers' labs. The 4F90/4F91 course is designed to assist in preparation for graduate school (MSc/PhD) in the sciences. Currently, most graduate schools in the sciences have at least a 75-78% minimum entrance requirement, so this requirement is quite reasonable all considered.

2. Why are there limited spaces for 4F90/4F91?

4F90/4F91 projects are intense research projects in the laboratories of researchers in the Department of Biological Sciences. No two students have identical experiences, since research projects are geared toward the discovery of new knowledge. To conduct an effective research project, the student should expect to spend at least 20 hours/week conducting experiments (which will differ according to field, project, or supervisor!), reading background scientific literature, or writing up parts of their thesis. This commitment is also matched by time commitments by your supervisor, who is also engaged in teaching, research and administrative duties of their own. Most faculty members are unable to take on multiple 4F90/4F91 students in a given year. Further, the research you would be conducting is usually part of a larger scale project in the researcher's lab which is funded by National or International granting councils. Scientific research is not cheap, so the 4F90/4F91 spots available in research labs can become limited for financial reasons as much as time and space constraits.

3. Should I take BIOL 4F90/4F91 or 4F92?

As mentioned above, the 4F90/4F91 course is a large time commitment, often requiring comitting your weekends and evenings to get the experiments to work. Students with a full course load and a part time job are not recommended to engage in the 4F90/4F91 program simply because of the time commitment required in the laboratory. If you are seriously considering doing research at the graduate level and have the grades to do so, then 4F90/4F91 is highly recommended. If not, then the 4F92 route is recommended.

4. What marks do I need to enroll in the honours literature research project (BIOL 4F92)?

A minimum average of 75% is required for BIOL 4F92. In spite of that, however, this course is not to be taken lightly! This literature based thesis requires considerable commitment to reading primary scientific literature. This course is particularly suited to students with multiple commitments during the academic year that might prevent them from dedicating the hours required to conduct a lab-based research project.

5. BIOL 4F90/4F91 do not appear to have pre-requisites. What courses should I take before entering fourth year honours?

This depends on what field you plan to study. Labs that focus on molecular biology would recommend that you take courses with a molecular focus. Likewise if you wish to work on animal behaviour, you should have an animal behaviour or zoology background. Generally, your professors can help to recommend courses that are appropriate. Note that most research projects in the biological sciences will involve statistics, so it is recommended that students planning on pursuing the BIOL 4F90/4F91 route should take more advanced statistics courses such as BIOL 3P96.

6. When/where can I get more information on the 4F90/4F91 program?


7. How should I decide what I would like to do for a research project?

Start thinking about this in 2nd and 3rd year. Visit your professor's websites to find out what they work on. Reading their papers is a great start as well! It is best to come up with an idea and see if a professor is able to support you with that idea. Taking a course that they teach is an easy way to find out more about the possible research questions you could ask.

8. Who can I conduct a 4F90/4F91/4F92 research project with?

Any professor who is listed as a Biology Professor or a Cross Appointed Professor (nearly 27 people in total to choose from). You may elect to conduct a 4F90/4F91/4F92 project with an Adjunct Professor, though normally you will be required to have a Biology Professor as a co-supervisor. Consult the Biology People page or the links highlighted above.