University of Sydney Handbooks - 2021 Archive

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Biological Science is offered by the School of Life and Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Science. Units of study in this major are available at standard and advanced level.

About the major

Biology is the study of living organisms, whether single-celled or multi-cellular, as individuals or in groups, and their interaction with their environment and with each other. It is concerned with all levels of biological complexity from the molecular level through to cells and tissues, to organisms, their populations and the ecosystems of which they form part. Biologists seek to understand the structure and function of the living world. Biologists investigate how organisms access and use energy and the processes by which they develop and replicate. Evolution provides an overarching framework for understanding changes that have occurred in individuals or groups of organisms over time.

The major will initially cover fundamental concepts in biology, such as life cycles, the structure and function of molecules, cells and organisms and processes including metabolism and respiration.

Biology is a particularly dynamic discipline. As a broad and interconnecting major, it is characterised by integrating 'biology' sub-disciplines which are distinguished by:

  • their subject matter
  • the scale of the subject matter
  • the suite of tools used for investigation.

This major has been structured to allow students to focus on their preferred sub-disciplines. Key areas of study in biology (e.g. genetics and molecular biology) have developed relatively recently. Biology is now moving into a phase of rigorous and rapid expansion that places biologists at the forefront of scientific research and discovery in fields that impact on human and planetary health.

Requirements for completion

The Biology major and minor requirements are listed in the Biology unit of study table.

Contact and further information


Professor Pauline Ross

Dr Thomas Newsome

Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate from Biology will be able to:

  1. Exhibit a broad and coherent body of knowledge by articulating the methods of biology and explaining why current biological knowledge is both contestable and testable through further inquiry.
  2. Evaluate the importance of biological processes to our society and recognise and appreciate the role of biodiversity in sustaining life on our planet.
  3. Exhibit deep knowledge of identified core concepts in biology and related subdisciplines and recognise the interdisciplinary connections of biology with other sciences.
  4. Source, collate, synthesise and critically evaluate biological information from a range of relevant sources to further their understanding in biology.
  5. Work competently safely and responsibly in the field and laboratory, using a variety of practical and analytical techniques.
  6. Deploy skills in numeracy and data analysis to analyse experimental outcomes and obtain answers to biological questions.
  7. Communicate biological concepts and findings through a range of modes for a variety of purposes and audiences, using evidence-based arguments that are robust to critique.
  8. Design, plan and carry out field, laboratory-based, or virtual experiments in biology. Collect, accurately record, interpret, analyse, and draw conclusions from collected data.
  9. Recognise that biological knowledge has been acquired by curiosity and creativity and demonstrate creativity in thinking and problem solving.
  10. Critically analyse observations of biological phenomena by creating and developing models and/or proposing and testing hypotheses.
  11. Address authentic problems in biology, working responsibly and professionally within collaborative, interdisciplinary teams.
  12. Examine and evaluate contemporary issues in biology from a range of ethical and cross-cultural perspectives.