While biology is a popular major at VCU, not all VCU students are pursuing a scientific degree. However, students are required to take general education courses and therefore may end up in Bio 101. This class, also known as Biological Concepts, is intended for non-majors, so it only covers the most basic biological knowledge. Listed below are some of the things you learn about in this specific course at VCU.

Themes and Concepts of Biology

In Unit 1, you learn a variety of basic but critical concepts in biology. The class begins with a brief history of the earth and a very quick overview of fossils. You also review the common properties that all life shares: order, response, reproduction, adaptation, growth & development, homeostasis, and energy processing. Each property has one or two vocabulary words or key concepts to know. This unit is very short and fairly easy to tackle because the information doesn’t get too specific and should have been learned in earlier biology classes in high school.


Organizational Levels of Life and Biodiversity

This section covers the basic definitions of everything from individual atoms to entire biospheres. While this may sound overwhelming, the chapter is broken down in a fairly simple way, and the information is very straightforward. You begin with the levels of structure inside organisms, then move on to the levels of structure inside ecosystems. All together, this is about ten vocabulary terms. The biodiversity portion discusses taxonomy, which is the system of grouping organisms based on how closely they are related; this includes the 8 levels you likely learned in elementary school- domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. In addition, you learn about the scientific naming of organisms and the phylogenetic tree.


Climate Change

Though still a controversial topic for some, climate change is a part of the curriculum for Bio 101. The unit covers information about the earth’s history and some of the mechanics of climate change. However, most of the content is about the human impact on climate change, the future projections for global warming, and ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Some professors offer extra credit for students that do something good for their environment and write a report on it.


Parts and Functions of the Cell

Yes, in college you still learn that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. You review in detail each organelle in the cell and its specific functions and structures. The goal is to understand the relationships and roles between the organelles to better grasp how the cell functions as a whole. In addition, you learn about cells and their malfunctions. The most discussed malfunction is cancer; you learn about the basic causes and formation of cancer as well as various treatments for the disease.



Because the field of genetics is so expansive and complex, the course spends a considerable amount of time focusing on the genetics unit. It begins with the basics: Gregor Mendel and his pea plants, Punnett squares, and alleles. From there, things begin to get a little more complex. You discuss the specifics of mitosis & meiosis, chromosomes, and their associated disorders. That leads you in to the mechanisms of genetic diversity, which includes natural and sexual selection. It is important that you pay attention to this section as the content is heavily related to what you learn in the next chapter.


Evolution and Speciation

In this section, you pair your knowledge of genetics with the fundamental elements of evolution and the mechanisms that operate within it. It begins with Charles Darwin and his “On the Origin of Species” and ties in the information previously learned on natural selection. This leads the class into the discussion of species and their mechanisms of origination such as mutations and genetic drift. You study specific research cases and their findings to support and fill in the blanks of the factual textbook content. This unit can seem kind of scattered, which makes the test a little more difficult than the rest, so it is important to study hard and know the key differences between each term.


Biology, or science courses in general, can be intimidating to some students. While not everyone has the right brain to comprehend complex science courses, Biology 101 at VCU sticks to fairly basic information and offers many tools to help students who are struggling. If you find any of the concepts above challenging or difficult to understand, there is a team of TA’s to help you out. If the concepts above are interesting to you and you’d like to learn more about them, you might consider taking more biology classes in the future.




Chandler Girman

Mass Communications major at Virginia Commonwealth University Dallas, Richmond, Philadelphia

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