2015-2016 Catalog 
    Jul 24, 2024  
2015-2016 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Biophysics Major

Major Requirements

The major in biophysics requires a minimum of 16 courses, distributed as follows:

5. Computer Programming (1 course)

One course selected from:

  • CSCI005  HM - Introduction to Computer Science

6. Upper Division (5 courses)

  • 3 upper-division biology  courses, at least one of which must include a laboratory component. CHEM 116L KS - Organic Chemistry  may be substituted for one of the 3 upper-division biology courses, but one of the 2 remaining upper-division biology courses must still include a laboratory component.
  • 2 upper-division physics  courses.

7. Senior Thesis (1 or 2 courses)

Biophysics majors must complete a 1- or 2-semester senior thesis in biology or physics.


  • The introductory courses in biology, chemistry, and physics may also be completed through both semesters of the Accelerated Integrated Science Sequence (AISS) .
  • All upper-division courses and the senior thesis must be approved in advance by the Biophysics advisor at Keck Science Department.
  • Students who wish to dual major in Biophysics must determine which two electives may be eliminated from the overall requirements for the major in consultation with the Biophysics advisor at Keck Science Department.

Senior Thesis in Science

The senior thesis is a general education requirement and the capstone experience of a student’s undergraduate education. Students must complete a senior thesis in at least one of their majors under supervision of a faculty reader who teaches within that major, unless granted a special exception.

Science majors have the following senior thesis options. Refer to the major requirements above for major-specific senior thesis requirements.

2-Semester Thesis with Summer Research (2 courses, 1 credit)

Students interested in completing a 2-semester thesis by conducting a substantial research project during the summer after their junior year should register for one of the following pairs of courses in the 1st semester of the senior year. There is no credit or lab fee for 189L.

1-Semester Experimental Thesis with Lab (1 course, 1 credit)

Students interested in a 1-semester experimental thesis with lab take one of the following in the 1st or 2nd semester of the senior year:

1-Semester Library Thesis without Lab (1 course, 1 credit)

Students interested in a 1-semester library thesis without lab complete an extensive library research thesis in the 1st or 2nd semester of the senior year, chosen from:


The Senior Thesis Research Project course (188L) or the Summer Research Project course (189L) may  not be counted as elective courses in the major.

Special Options for Majors in Science

Dual Major in Science

Students selecting a dual major including science should discuss their program requirements with the conveners of the appropriate programs. Usually up to 2 electives in science may be waived for dual majors including science. Unless otherwise specified above or exempted by the appropriate convener of the Keck Science Department, science students with dual majors are required to complete a 1- or 2-semester thesis in science.

Honors in Science

To be eligible for departmental honors in a science major, students must:

  • Achieve a minimum GPA of 10.5 in courses in the major;
  • Complete a 1- or 2-semester thesis project in which the student has demonstrated excellence by making a significant contribution to the progress of the research, by producing a thesis document judged to be of honors quality by the department, by presenting the work in a cogent fashion, and by engaging in the departmental seminar program.

Students with a dual major including science who wish to be considered for honors in science will only receive honors if they:

  • Have completed all requirements for a full major in science and are granted honors, or
  • Qualify and receive honors in both disciplines of their dual major. See Academic Honors at Graduation  for details.

Study Abroad for Science Majors

The Keck Science Department supports study abroad for science majors, however majors need to be aware that spending a semester off-campus requires careful advanced planning and program selection. Science majors interested in study abroad should discuss their interest with their major advisors as soon as possible.

General Education Requirements for Science Majors

General Education Requirement in Science

Every CMC student must complete one (1) laboratory science course offered by the Keck Science Department or elsewhere within the Claremont Consortium. This requirement must by satisfied by the end of the 2nd year at CMC.

General Education Requirements in the Social Sciences and the Humanities

For students with science majors, general education requirements in the social sciences and humanities must be met by courses outside of a student’s major field(s). Students in most science majors, including this major, must take courses in 3 of the 4 fields of the social sciences and in 2 of the 4 fields of the humanities for a total of 5 courses. 

Science majors with a dual or double major in either the humanities or the social sciences will be required to take an additional general education course in those categories.

Learning Goals and Student Learning Outcomes of the Biophysics Program

Learning Goals

While biophysics is primarily a physics major, it can serve students who possess interests from multiple disciplines within the natural sciences. The design of this major is intended to provide students with a strong background in physics, mathematics, and computer programming for careers that are applicable to the life sciences and health fields.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students who have completed a major in biophysics, when confronted with a natural phenomenon, should be able to examine, model and analyze the system and effectively communicate the findings. Specifically, students should be able to:
• Develop a conceptual framework for understanding the system by identifying the key physical principles, relationships, and constraints underlying the system.
• Develop a physical experiment to analyze the system within the framework.
• Translate that conceptual framework into an appropriate mathematical format/model.
• Demonstrate knowledge of and proficiency with the standard mathematical tools of physics and engineering.
• Use with proficiency standard methods of data analysis.
• Intelligently analyze, interpret, and assess the reasonableness of the answers obtained and/or the model’s predictions.
• Effectively communicate findings to diverse audiences.