Program Structure

The major in Biology offers students the opportunity to learn introductory science in an integrated format in the Foundations of Science program and to use the contemporary tools and approaches that are available to solve problems in areas of the current life sciences. Intermediate and advanced courses provide a broad and intensive background in modern biology for those interested in careers in research, health-related fields, biotechnology, and education, among others. The advanced courses emphasize the fundamental concepts and principles mastered in the Foundations of Science sequence, continuing the emphasis on using interdisciplinary approaches to understand the natural world.

The major in Biology is taught by faculty who carry out research in state-of-the-art laboratories in various areas in the life sciences. The Biology program at NYUAD has strong interactive ties with the Department of Biology, the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, and other laboratories located at NYU New York and within NYU's global network.

Foundations of Science

Majors in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics are required to take Foundations of Science. Students intending to major in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics normally start Foundations of Science in either the first or second semester of the first year. Students who begin the Foundations of Science series in their second year with the intention to major in the sciences have several options for completing their degree. They may take additional courses over the summer at sites within NYU’s global network; they may take more than four courses per semester, or they may need an additional fifth year of study at NYU Abu Dhabi. These options must be considered carefully by the student and the faculty mentors. 

Foundations of Science is an innovative program that responds to the nature of modern science. Instead of the traditional series of discipline-specific introductory courses, Foundations integrates basic concepts from biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics in a demanding three-semester sequence. The program fosters discussion among students and creates a collaborative learning dynamic. Problem-solving and group work in laboratory sessions are stressed, while close contact among students and faculty is a major feature of the program. The interdisciplinary approach and experimental work foster a more comprehensive understanding of science.

Foundations of Science is geared to meet the current demand for scientists with well-integrated backgrounds who become the leaders in modern scientific scholarship and who pursue careers in research, education, industry, health care, law, business, and publishing.

Specialization in Brain and Cognitive Sciences

The Biology major offers a specialization in Brain and Cognitive Science (BCS), which is the collection of disciplines unified by a concern for the function of the brain. BCS investigates some of the deepest mysteries facing science in the 21st century, which concern the higher functions of the central nervous system: perception, memory, attention, learning, language, emotion, personality, social interaction, decision-making, motor control, and consciousness. All psychiatric disorders (e.g., anxiety disorders and depression), neurological diseases (e.g., Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases), and developmental disorders (e.g., dyslexia and autism) are characterized by dysfunction of the neural systems in the brain.

Experimental approaches in BCS vary from analyses of molecular and cellular mechanisms in nerve cells and groups of nerve cells to behavioral studies of whole organisms. Theoretical tools include mathematical and computational modeling approaches that have proved useful in other areas of science. Experimental questions include issues related to biophysical and neurochemical mechanisms within single nerve cells, functional neural circuits consisting of small numbers of neurons, the behavior of large systems of neurons, and the relationship between the activity of elements of the nervous system and the behavior of organisms, as well as the neural substrate of cognitive processes.

To complete the specialization, students take three of their four Biology electives in the BCS area, one of which must be The Brain. The fourth elective must be outside the BCS electives, and finally, students specializing in BCS must take Cognition (in Psychology).

Specialization in Biophysics

Biology, Chemistry, and Physics majors offer a specialization in Biophysics which emphasizes the crosstalk between these three disciplines in understanding biological function.

Everything obeys the laws of physics, and biological systems are no exception. The complexity of biological systems, however, is compounded by the fact that they span a broad range of interacting spatial scales from a few atoms to global ecosystems, and that life inherently functions far from the equilibrium. This complexity poses problems for physicists, chemists, and biologists that are at once interesting and challenging. Biophysics addresses these problems through an interdisciplinary approach that builds on strengths in physics, chemistry, and biology.

Biology majors who elect to complete the Biophysics specialization must complete all courses required for the Biology majors, three required Biophysics courses, and one elective selected from the list below. No more than two of these courses can be used to satisfy the elective requirement for the Chemistry major. The other three would be in addition to the minimum elective requirements for the major.