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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
October 21, 2014
Canadian Excellence


Biology at Laurier 

Laurier’s biology program provides a broad foundation in biological concepts, including the newest developments in genetics, cell and molecular biology.

The department offers a Bachelor of Science (BSc) and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in biology. 

  • The BSc provides a firm foundation in chemistry and math, and prepares students for graduate work in biology as well as for professional programs in environmental sciences and the health sciences.
  • The BA is intended for those who want to communicate biological concepts to others. It prepares students for a variety of careers, such as law, teaching, public policy or science journalism. 
  • Double major programs combining the Honours BA or the Honors BSc with chemistry, mathematics, geography or psychology are also available. 

Program highlights  

  • At Laurier, doing science is a hands-on experience. Getting their feet wet and hands dirty during a field course or developing new protocol at the laboratory during an independent directed-studies project teaches students that biology is not only about technical skills but also about attitude, passion and critical thinking. 
  • The Biology Department has an active local field trip program. Field work is a requirement for students in the Honours program and a feature of many biology courses. Some courses include five to ten field courses per term.
  • Internal and external funding makes it possible for students to work with faculty mentors on a diverse range of projects. These projects include work exploring how “gender-bender” molecules affect the sexual development of fish and the detection of potentially pathogenic microorganisms in natural surface waters. 

Courses offered 

First year 

  • Principles & Processes of Biology
  • Calculus for the Sciences
  • Fundamentals of Chemistry

Popular Courses 

  • Molecular Genetics
  • Comparative Animal Physiology 
  • Directed Studies in Marine Sciences
  • Economic Botany

Admissions requirements 

Honours BA Biology

 4U Requirements IB Requirements  Admission Range
English at 60%;

Biology at 70%
HL or SL English at 4; 

HL or SL Biology at 4  

Mid - high 70s

IB Minimum score: 28 

Honours BSc Biology

4U Requirements IB Requirements  Admission Range 

English at 60%; 

Chemistry at 60%; 

Advanced Functions at 60%;

Biology at 70%*

*Combined minimum average of 70% in 4U Math and Science courses

HL or SL English at 4;

HL or SL Biology at 4;

HL or SL Chemistry at 4; 

HL or SL Mathematics at 4 

 Mid - high 70s

IB Minimum score: 28 


Biology students at Laurier gain an in-depth understanding of organisms, from the molecular and cell level to the ecosystem level. They master laboratory techniques while learning about plant and animal anatomy and physiology, developmental biology and histology. They learn the concepts and techniques of field biology. “We stress the basics of biology,” says former chair, Dr. Jane Rutherford. "And we emphasize the ability to communicate the concepts of biology, so no matter where they go, our students are well-prepared.”

Student experience 

000Wagg.jpgSarah Wagg had great high school marks that would have earned her a spot in any Ontario university. She chose Laurier for its “small school atmosphere, interaction and financial support.” She has never regretted her decision. In the Faculty of Science, “the programs are really competitive, more than many people would expect because Laurier hasn’t been known as a science school,” says Wagg, a biology graduate who minored in chemistry. 

She liked the up-to-date facilities and the fact that undergraduate students have the opportunity to work with modern equipment, gaining hands-on experience in the most recent techniques.

Wagg (now Walsh), will be graduating this year with a PhD degree in neuroscience and an MD from the University of Calgary, and is currently doing a rotation at Sick Kids Hospital and plans to pursue a career in medical research. 

Faculty experience 

0000Slawson.jpgThe presence of bacterial pathogens in the watershed is a topic of importance for the protection of public health, and one that interests Dr. Robin Slawson, an associate professor in environmental microbiology at Laurier. “Students are always interested in issues surrounding human and environmental health, which makes it an exciting topic to both research and teach,” says Slawson. 

Slawson’s research laboratory studies the presence of pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 in surface waters in Ontario, with the aid of funds from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. Examining aspects of their survival potential in the water, such as temperature tolerance and antibiotic resistance, will help us better understand how to control these types of microorganisms. 

Alumni experience 

Dr. Jeff Richards earned a BSc in Biology from Laurier in 1995 before going on to complete an MSc at University of Waterloo and a PhD at McMaster University, graduating in 2002. Jeff had a meteoric rise through academia and is now a tenured Associate Professor of Zoology at the University of British Columbia. He has been successful in obtaining many grants and awards and has supervised several undergraduate and graduate students. He has already published close to 50 journal articles and has been honored by national and international organizations as a rising star. As a young investigator, Jeff is making an impact in a new generation of students eager to follow in his steps. 

Richards is a very relaxed, easy going instructor with a “hands-off” approach who really teaches by example and encourages students to explore and self learn, with a teaching philosophy passed on from his own former supervisors: “teach students to question, think critically and integrate knowledge, rather than regurgitate factual information.”

Richards never forgot the teachings of his mentor, Dr. Rick Playle, a faculty member in the Biology Department at Laurier who died suddenly in 2005. He has always been proud of his Laurier upbringing.