School of
Integrative Biology

Prospective Undergraduate
IB Students

High School Student FAQ


What is Integrative Biology?

Integrative Biology is the study of life, from the level of molecules and cells to that of global ecosystems. The word integrative merely means that the emphasis is on how different parts of biological systems interact with one another.

How is IB different from MCB?

As the name implies, the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) has a heavy emphasis on cells and the molecules that make them function, including DNA. Integrative Biology (IB), on the other hand, has an emphasis on systems biology, in which the relationship of one component is studied in relation to other components.

Is Integrative Biology a good major to prepare for medical or dental school or for training in other health professions?

Yes! IB majors are highly competitive in gaining admission to professional schools, including medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry, nursing, and pharmacy. While you can gain admission to a professional school via a wide variety of majors, many students choose to major in Integrative Biology because our courses prepare students well for the necessary admissions test (for example: MCAT, DAT, GRE) and also provide a solid foundation for the demands of future schooling. Also check out The Career Center's FAQ for more information on this topic.

Does it cost more to be a Biology student?

Yes. Instruction that involves laboratory or field work is much more expensive than that involving lectures only. For this reason, the University charges a higher (differential) tuition to students majoring in many STEM fields, including biology (both IB and MCB).

What are IB certificates?

Certificate programs typically involve fewer courses than a minor, while enabling students to develop additional knowledge in a field or subfield.

When should I apply to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign?

You should apply in the fall of the year preceding the year in which you want to enroll. You should check out the LAS Admissions web site for more specific information.

Do I have to register for classes by myself?

No. The first time through, academic advisors and upperclassmen in Biology will assist you with registration. They will be available for registration questions in subsequent semesters as well.

Is there a foreign language requirement?

Yes. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences requires that undergraduate students show proficiency in a non-primary language (NPL), either through high school or college study or via a proficiency exam. Check out the LAS language requirement page for specific details.

Will I be in large classes with several hundred other students?

IB 150 and MCB 150 must be taken by all biology majors and are also taken by students who require biology credits but will not major in it. Therefore, both IB 150 and MCB 150 are large. The IB core courses may also have 100-200 students in them. However, in IB 300- and 400-level classes sizes are typically fewer than 100 and more often about 50 or so. The IB student to faculty ratio is 13:1.

Can I get to all my classes with only 10 minutes between classes?

Yes. Though the campus is large, classes in broad disciplines like Engineering or Liberal Arts and Science tend to be clustered in just a few buildings. Most science and general education courses you will be taking are given in buildings around the quad. Furthermore, there's good bus service for those instances where you might have to go some distance between classes.

Can I apply AP credits in biology and other sciences?

Yes, but... You can certainly receive AP credit for biology or other science courses, but we encourage you to take the introductory IB 150 and MCB 150 courses even though you might have scored high enough on the AP exam to bypass them. This is because these courses cover such a diversity of material that it is hard to consider that any experience you had in high school is genuinely equivalent. We also encourage you to take the introductory chemistry sequence here rather than opting out via AP credit. In other subject areas, if you have the required score, we encourage you to bypass the relevant class to give yourself time to take classes you might want to take.

Do I have to take bio and chemistry and math together in a semester?

You do have to double up on some science and math courses. Since as an IB (or MCB) major you must take biology, chemistry, physics, and math, it is unavoidable that you will have to take at least two of these subjects in the same semester several semesters. Take a look at our sample 4-year plans of study for regular IB students or pre-med IB students to see how you might do this.

Can I do research and what's the process?

You certainly can, and we encourage you to do so. Check out our Undergraduate Research web page for detailed information.

Can I get paid to do research?

Yes and no. Some laboratories hire undergraduates as paid assistants, but you should not expect the same kind of experience as an assistant as you would have doing independent research. Furthermore, if you are a paid assistant, you will not receive academic credit for your research. On the other hand, it may be possible for you to obtain financial assistance while you are doing independent academic research. Check out our Undergraduate Support web page for more details.