Why Biology @ Berkeley

A message from the former Dean of Biological Sciences, Professor Mark Schlissel

Stem cells. Genetic engineering. Prenatal diagnosis. Global warming. Evolution. Cancer. Cholesterol and hydrogenated fats. Vaccines. Autism. Alzheimer’s Disease. Extinction. AIDS. Pesticides. Famine. Genetically modified crops. Global health. Therapeutic cloning. Deforestation.

The list goes on and on. The impact of biology on our notions of who we are, how we interact with our environment, and ways in which we might effect positive change in the world is impossible to overstate. In less than fifty years, we’ve gone from Watson & Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA to an appreciation for the full instruction set of human life, our genome. We’ve discovered critical aspects of how cells function and learned that all life relies on a common and related set of molecules and biochemical reactions. We’ve learned that an evolutionary perspective is key to understanding most every aspect of life on earth. We’ve found out that the genes that determine the body plan of a fruit fly are very similar to those that define the human form. Biologists invented genetic engineering and gave birth to the biotechnology industry. We’ve changed the way that drugs are developed and used and how healthcare is delivered.

Students in the biological sciences at Cal learn about life at the molecular, biochemical, cellular, genetic, organismal, ecological, and evolutionary levels. Many choose biological science majors as preparation for medical, dental, veterinary, or pharmacy school, while others study biology with the intention to teach or to pursue Ph.D. level training after graduation. A significant number of students major in the biological sciences simply because they are fascinated with life and the effort to understand how it all works.

Biology plays a critical role in the education of an informed citizenry and is important for leaders in all areas of modern society. The list of topics above have each been featured on the pages of recent newspapers and magazines, and in the electronic media. They are all topics of concern and debate and illustrate that the study of biology is a key component of a liberal education.

UC Berkeley offers a wide array of life science majors and tracks within each designed to appeal to the diverse interests and career goals of Berkeley students ranging from the molecular & biochemical to the ecological and medical with everything in between. There are numerous opportunities to engage in original laboratory or field research while a student here. You’ll learn not just the facts scientists have uncovered, but also the methods they use and the thrill of discovery. We urge you to explore the life sciences at Cal!