Natural Sciences - Interdisciplinary Major - Course Catalogue Skip Navigation

Natural Sciences

(For 2016–2017 academic year)

Director D. McHugh

Students may consider a natural science topical major if they wish to focus their studies in disciplinary or interdisciplinary areas not encompassed by approved majors. Students may complete a topical major in marine science — freshwater science or develop their own topical major. Requirements for the marine science — freshwater science topical major appear below.

Students pursing an individualized major must first discuss a possible program of study with an appropriate academic adviser, and then provide the division director with the proposed program and a rationale for this program no later than the student’s fifth term at Colgate.

The major comprises at least 10 courses that closely relate to a common theme and are complementary. Normally, eight courses must be major courses in departments within the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Five or more of these courses must be at the 300 or 400 level, and at least one must be a non-independent study, 400-level course in a science department. An overall GPA of at least 2.00 is required for the courses chosen to meet major requirements.

Marine Science — Freshwater ScienceTopical Major

This program is particularly applicable for students who wish to take courses in both biology and geology. Students major in natural sciences, with a topical emphasis in marine science — freshwater science. Students completing this program have pursued graduate, health-related, and law degrees, as well as private and government consulting positions and nautical education. Students anticipating graduate study should plan their course selections carefully. Interested students should see biology professors Fuller or McHugh, or geology professors Leventer, Selleck, or Soja.

The requirements for this major are as follows:

  1. BIOL 181 (formerly BIOL 211) and GEOL 135
  2. BIOL 304 (formerly BIOL 254) or GEOL 215
  3. Two of the following courses: BIOL 182 (formerly BIOL 212), 335, 340
  4. Two of the following courses: GEOL 217, 302, 403, 415, 416, 426
  5. One 400-level research-focused course: BIOL 478, BIOL 487, BIOL 491, GEOL 441, GEOL 491
  6. CHEM 111 or  CHEM 101 and either CHEM 102 or GEOL 203
  7. One year of cognate courses (two courses) from one of the following departments: chemistry, mathematics, or physics, in addition to requirement 6.
  8. One field experience at a marine or freshwater science station. In consultation with their major advisers, students are encouraged to seek off-campus opportunities where they can be engaged in field work.

A semester’s course equivalence (two or three courses such as marine ecology, aquatic ecology, geological oceanography, etc.) on an approved off-campus study program or at a marine or freshwater station may be substituted for some of the above courses when approved by an evaluating committee representing both the biology and geology departments. Students must petition the evaluating committee for approval once they are accepted at a marine or freshwater station, prior to actual enrollment in the courses.


Following consultation with his or her research/capstone adviser and the director of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, a student may be allowed to stand for honors in Natural Sciences following the regulations in the research/capstone adviser’s department or program. The awarding of honors will be decided by faculty members from all departments or programs involved in the student’s topical concentration in Natural Sciences and must be approved by the director of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Course Offerings

100  Essential Mathematics
T. McCay, A. Robertson
A 0.50–credit mathematics course that serves as preparation for quantitative courses across the university. The course covers topics such as rates, algebra, logarithms, trigonometry, graphing, and estimation. Taking a placement test is required. Open to first-year and sophomore students. Juniors and seniors wanting to enroll require co-registration in an analytical/quantitative course and permission from the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division Director. Not open to students who have received Calculus AP credit or have completed MATH 101 or higher. No transfer credit is given for this course.

291, 391, 491  Independent Study