Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
- Lars O. Hedin
Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Jonathan Levine
Director of Graduate Studies
- Bridgett vonHoldt
- Andrew P. Dobson
- Andrea L. Graham
- Bryan T. Grenfell
- Lars O. Hedin
- Simon A. Levin
- Jonathan M. Levine
- Stephen W. Pacala
- Daniel I. Rubenstein
- David S. Wilcove
- Robert M. Pringle
- Corina E. Tarnita
- Bridgett vonHoldt
- Julien F. Ayroles
- Sarah D. Kocher
- Carolyn S. McBride
- C. Jessica Metcalf
- Christina P. Riehl
- Mary C. Stoddard
Courses in the biological sciences at Princeton are offered in two departments. Students with an interest in whole-organism and large-scale processes--evolution (including molecular evolution and developmental evolution), physiology, disease, behavior, neuroscience, ecology, ecosystem biology, conservation, and climate change--should enroll in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB). Those with interests in molecular, cellular, and developmental processes should enroll in the Department of Molecular Biology (MOL). Both departments provide an excellent background for medical school.
The EEB department emphasizes research and teaching from an evolutionary perspective, combining theory and empiricism and linking areas that are often treated as separate disciplines. Many of the research projects and courses are interdisciplinary. A description of these core areas, faculty interests, and unique features of the program, including details about the department's field programs, can be found on the department's website.
Every student considering majoring in EEB should attend the departmental open house held in the spring term. It introduces potential majors to departmental courses, faculty, and the wide-ranging research and field-course opportunities open to students. See the department's website for examples of recent student research activities.
Information and Department Plan of Study
Required core courses:
All EEB concentrators must take EEB 309 and EEB 321 in the fall of their junior year or earlier.
Departmental areas of study:
Students must successfully complete a minimum of eight upper-level departmental courses at least six of which must be EEB courses. The first semester of organic chemistry and biochemistry (MOL 345) can each be counted as a departmental course (the second semester of organic chemistry will not count as a departmental). Other MOL courses might count as an EEB departmental with prior approval of the departmental representative.
Students can choose their departmental courses from six areas of study as listed below, but must ensure that their courses represent at least 4 different areas of study (the EEB 309 and 321 core courses count towards Evolution and Genomics and Ecology and Environment, respectively). Students can find sample sequences for each area of study on the EEB website.
(i) Ecology and Environment: EEB 321; EEB 308; *EEB 346; *EEB 338; EEB 417.
(ii) Evolution and Genomics: EEB 309; EEB 326; EEB 409;
(iii) Behavior and Organismal Biology: EEB 313; EEB 314; EEB 329; EEB 403; *EEB 404; *EEB 406.
(iv) Disease Ecology: EEB 304; EEB 327; EEB 328; EEB 351.
(v) Conservation Biology: EEB 308; *EEB 380; EEB 417; EEB 303.
(vi) Mathematical and Computational Biology: EEB 324; EEB 325.
* offered as part of semester abroad program (described below)
EEB students must complete an upper-level laboratory course. In most cases, this will be satisfied by the core course EEB 321.
No course taken P/D/F can be counted as a departmental or to satisfy requirements of the major. The minimum grade for a course to count as a departmental is C-. Only one course with a policy perspective can be counted as a departmental. Only Princeton courses can count as departmentals; the one exception is for pre-approved courses taken during a study-abroad term – these can be counted as departmentals, but the grades do not transfer.
Integrated Biology Sequence: Students who have completed the two-year sequence need to meet with the EEB departmental representative to discuss placement in upper-level EEB courses.
Students interested in medical school should consider taking EEB 314 Comparative Physiology, which will count towards one of the four required areas of study. In addition, medical schools require two terms of physics; physics can be delayed to senior year if necessary. The Health Profession advisers recommend that students wanting to study abroad, especially in EEB’s field semesters, should do so. They recommend contacting them early to formulate a plan of study that allows students to fulfill the pre-medical prerequisites and allows them to study abroad during spring of the junior year.
Advanced placement will be granted to students who received a 5 on the Biology AP exam. Nevertheless, all students planning on majoring in EEB must take EEB 211 during their first year or sophomore year.
The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology requires the following prerequisites, which should normally be completed by the end of sophomore year.
- Two terms of introductory biology: EEB 211 and either EEB/MOL 214 or EEB/MOL 215);
- Mastery of calculus to the level of MAT 103 or above, or advanced placement (an AP score of 5 on the AB test or an AP score of 4 on the BC test);
- Two terms of introductory chemistry (or equivalent, or an AP score of 5);
- The first term of introductory physics (or the equivalent, or an AP score of 5);
- A statistics course. SML 201 is preferred, but the following courses will fulfill the requirement: ORF 245;ECO 202, ORF 245, POL 345, PSY 251, GEO 422, WWE 200 or WWS 332. It is best to fulfill the statistics requirement before junior year, but it must be fulfilled by the end of the fall term senior year.
Prerequisite courses may not be taken using the P/D/F grading option.
Students who are passionate about solving problems in the areas of ecology, evolution, behavior, conservation, and disease may apply for early concentration in ecology and evolutionary biology. Students having advanced placement in biology and having taken at least one upper-level EEB course, in addition to having completed many of the department's required pre- and co-requisite courses with grades of at least B+, are eligible. Early concentrators will begin independent work during the spring of their sophomore year. Students interested in early concentration should contact a departmental representative at the end of the first year or at the start of the sophomore year.
Junior independent work: Early in the fall semester, students will attend periodic meetings on Tuesday evenings that will include presentations by EEB faculty members on their research and on opportunities for senior independent work. After the faculty presentations, which will take place early in the semester, students will identify those faculty with whom they are interested in working. If the faculty member agrees to take on a particular student, together they will develop a plan of study.
During the second half of the fall term, students participate in a tutorial in which they work closely with a faculty member to address a problem and write a first junior paper. In the spring semester, students carry out a program of independent research with their faculty adviser, which can include empirical or theoretical work. Students will summarize this research project in a second junior paper, which can be structured either as a research project, a literature review, or a research proposal. The second junior paper is due in early May.
Senior Independent Work. During the fall of the junior year each student selects a senior thesis adviser (see above). The adviser and the student choose a research project that the student generally pursues during the summer preceding the senior year and both terms of the senior year. The research project can involve primarily laboratory, field, data mining, theoretical, or library study that will be written and presented as a senior thesis.
Senior Departmental Examination
A one-hour oral examination, consisting of a defense of the thesis research and general questions in the biological sciences will be held in May.
Special Features of the Plan of Study. EEB offers two tropical field study programs: a semester in Panama, and a semester in Kenya. Four courses, built around experiential learning, are taken in sequence at each location typically during the spring of junior year. Please note that seniors, who are well along with the thesis are encouraged to consider fulfilling their last two courses spring of senior year by attending the first half of the semester in Kenya or Panama. Seniors who choose to do this would return to campus at spring break to complete the senior thesis. Details of these programs can be found on the department's website.
Princeton’s Tropical Field Programs. Students interested in learning about or undertaking research in the tropics have a number of options.
1. Panama. The department offers a spring term in Panama in conjunction with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Students take four intensive three-week courses in sequence, beginning with an introduction of key concepts in tropical ecology and conservation. The program also includes courses on coral reefs, parasitology, and anthropology (focusing on Pre-Columbian peoples and their land-use practices).
2. Kenya. This four-course program on Tropical Biology and Sustainability, also taught in three-week segments, takes place at Princeton University's Mpala Research Centre in central Kenya and other sites in Kenya, in collaboration with scientists there, EEB faculty, other appropriate faculty from Princeton University, and faculty from Columbia University; Columbia students participate in the program. The courses delve into the ecology of savannas, conservation in Africa, the natural history of mammals, tropical agriculture, engineering and field hydrology and paleoecology.
3. Other. Individual students are welcome to pursue other independent field opportunities, with scientists from the Smithsonian Institution and the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, or other research institutions, such as the School for Field Studies at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, or James Cook University in Australia.
Program in Teacher Preparation. As the need for qualified science teachers increases, some students may wish to earn a teaching certificate. Working with the departmental representative and the teacher preparation program, an appropriate course of study can be arranged.