Life Sciences Major


Animal Biology - Animal Health & Disease - Life Sciences (Multidisciplinary) -
Microbiology & Molecular Biotechnology
- Plant Biology - Wildlife Biology

The Life Sciences (Biological and Agricultural) Major (download a flyer) is a cross-disciplinary biology program offered exclusively at McGill's Macdonald Campus by the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES).  Students in the Life Sciences Major take Core and Specialization courses at the Mac campus but also have access to courses at McGill's downtown campus via the free shuttle bus service (see schedule).  For general information about our programs and studying at Macdonald, see the information for future students, which includes information for prospective Life Sciences students.  Two publications that have great deal of information for students, the Student Viewbook and the Macdonald Essential Guide for New Students (2013), can be downloaded at Macdonald Publications, and McGill offers resources for students for whom English is not their first language.  Questions?  Contact our Academic Advisor Dr. Julie Major or the Student Affairs Office and check out our advising linksFinally, a NEW 12-credit Honours Program is now available (see below)!

Apply to McGill online!

Life Sciences Program Structure

Program description - Course requirements

To meet the BSc (AgrEnvSci) degree requirements of 120 credits, students normally  receive
either a block of 30 credits for completion of a DEC (Quebec CEGEP students) or complete the 30-credit Freshman Program, before they enter the Life Sciences Major.  The Life Sciences Major consists of 66 required credits: 42 credits obtained from Core courses and 24 credits obtained by completion of one of the Specializations.  Of the 42 credits that make up the Core, 27 credits must come from the 9 required U1 courses in the table below; however, the remaining 15 credits may come from any combination of courses from the Complementary Course List.  This leaves approximately 24 credits for electives, and as there is no list of elective courses,  students may take virtually any courses offered by McGill for this purpose!  Students may choose to take less than a full course load in their first year, and some students  may be required to take some additional 100-level courses as part of their program (see below).  A revision to the Life Sciences Major is scheduled to take effect as of September 2014.  The most significant changes are that PARA 438 Immunology and ANSC 400 Eukaryotic Cells and Viruses will become required courses.

Life Sciences Honours Program:

Students interested in the Honours Program must apply in March or April of their U2 year to begin the program in September of their final year.  Students must have a CPGA of 3.3 or higher, have a professor who has agreed to be their research supervisor, and obtain approval from the Program Director.  While FAES offers two different Honours program choices, students in Life Sciences must complete FAES 401 Honours Research Project 1 and FAES 402 Honours Research Project 2 with a grade of B (3.0) or higher (Plan A).

Research and Internship opportunities in the Life Sciences programs:

There are three basic options for students to gain experience in research and Students interested in research may enter the Honours Program or take the LSCI 451 Research Project 1 and LSCI 452 Research Project 2 courses.  The LSCI 451/452 route is analagous to the Honours Program in that students with approved research supervisors can do up to two semesters of research in a professor's lab.  These courses count as complementary credits towards the Life Sciences Major.  As with the Honours Program, permission of the Program Director is required.  Internships are also available via courses FAES 200 and FAES 300 offered through the FAES Internship Office.  From May 2014, FAES 300 will change from a 0-credit to a 3-credit course. This course will count as complementary credits for students entering in the Life Sciences Major from Fall 2014.

Life Sciences Specializations:

Animal Biology - Program description - Course requirements
Animal Health & Disease - Program description - Course requirements
Life Sciences (Multidisciplinary) - Program description - Course requirements
Microbiology & Molecular Biotechnology - Program description - Course requirements
Plant Biology - Program description - Course requirements
Wildlife Biology - Program description - Course requirements

Life Sciences Core Courses:

Required courses: see eCalendar 2013-14) for course descriptions
U1 Fall
U1 Winter
AEBI 210 Organisms 1
AEBI 211 Organisms 2
LSCI 204 Genetics
AEBI 212 Evolution and Phylogeny
AEMA 310 Statistical Methods 1
LSCI 202 Molecular Cell Biology
LSCI 211 Biochemistry 1
AEHM 205 Science Literacy
FDSC 230 Organic Chemistry*
LSCI 230 Introductory Microbiology
*Or elective if an equivalent organic chemistry course (with a lab) was previously completed.  To register for LSCI 211 students must also be registered for FDSC 230 in the same or previous term unless an equivalent organic chemistry course was completed prior to coming to McGill

Complementary courses: see eCalendar 2013-14) for course descriptions
AEHM 330 Academic & Scientific Writing ANSC 234 Biochemistry 2
ANSC 250 Principles of Animal Science ANSC 312 Animal Health & Disease
ANSC 324 Developmental Biology & Reproduction
ANSC 326 Fundamentals of Population Genetics
ANSC 323 Mammalian Physiology
ANSC 330 Fundamentals of Nutrition
ANSC 400 Eukaryotic Cells & Viruses
ANSC 420 Animal Biotechnology
BINF 301 An Introduction to Bioinformatics
BINF 511 Bioinformatics for Genomics
BTEC 306 Experiments in Biotechnology
ENVB 210 The Biophysical Environment
ENVB 222 St. Lawrence Ecosystems
LSCI 451 Research Project 1
LSCI 452 Research Project 2
MICR 331 Microbial Ecology
MICR 338 Bacterial Molecular Genetics
MICR 341 Mechanisms of Pathogenicity
MICR 450 Environmental Microbiology
NRSC 333 Pollution & Bioremediation
PARA 410 Infection & Immunity
PLNT 304 Biology of Fungi
PLNT 353 Plant Structure and Function PLNT 426 Plant Ecophysiology
PLNT 435 Plant Breeding WILD 375 Issues: Environmental Science
WILD 424 Parasitology

Registering for courses on Minerva:
See this link for information on how to register for courses.  The "tutorial video" link on that page is recommended as it will take you through the important and sometimes confusing process.
Search Course Listings 2013-2014
Dynamic Schedule

The Life Sciences Specializations

The five Specializations that work best with the Life Sciences Major are 24-credit sets of courses that range from discipline-specific (Animal Biology, Plant Biology), to interdisciplinary (Animal Health & Disease, Microbiology & Molecular Biotechnology, Wildlife Biology), with the Life Sciences (Multidisciplinary) Specialization offering the broadest choice of courses.  The Wildlife Biology and Plant Biology Specializations may appear to be linked only with the Environmental Biology Major, but they can be taken equally well with the Life Sciences Major.  The on-line registration system may not allow you to choose these at the time of registration, but you can easily make your selection after you arrive at McGill.  You can also easily change your Specialization once you are in the program - ask your Advisor or Program Director if you need help or advice about this.  We advise you to choose a Specialization by the end of your first year of studies (before entering U2), if not sooner, otherwise you will be placed into the Life Sciences (Multidisciplinary) Specialization by default.  While some students take two Specializations, most take only one (as required).  To select or change your Specialization after enrollment in the program, download and complete the Specialization form.

Life Sciences Careers:

Careers in the life sciences require strong grounding in biology, genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology.  A partial list of fields in which you can pursue a career can be found below, but individuals with imagination and ambition are not limited to these examples, the sky is the limit!  Students are encouraged to make full use of McGill's Career Planning Service (CaPS), which has offices on both campuses.

Health sciences and medicine
Veterinary science and veterinary medicine
Molecular and agricultural biotechnology
Pharmaceutical and food industries
Research in microbiology, genetics, parasitology and biochemistry
Plant, cellular, and molecular biology research
Forensic sciences (entomology, molecular biology)
Biological and environmental sciences teaching


Arctic microbiology: Life on Mars? (Prof Lyle Whyte)
Biotechnology:  Neglected tropical parasitic diseases (Prof Tim Geary)
Plant biology:  Climate change and food crises (Prof Don Smith)
Health and nutrition: Obesity (Prof Katherine Gray-Donald)
Environmental biology: Learning in the field (ENVB 222) (Prof Chris Buddle)
The Freshman Program: What's it like studying at Mac?

Freshman Program and additional requirements for 100-level courses

Students entering the Life Sciences Major from high school (Canadian provinces other than Quebec, US high schools) will complete the Faculty's Freshman program prior to entering U1.  Check out this video about the Freshman Program at Mac!  See the list of courses in the Freshman program: these are the courses that all students must complete, at a university or Quebec CEGEP before entering our program, or as part of their program at McGill.  Depending upon your academic background, you may be accepted into the Life Sciences Major with additional requirements for one or more of these courses.  You may have already taken courses equivalent to some of these courses, and while most equivalent courses are recognized automatically, you may need to apply for some course equivalencies.  To do this, complete the Course Equivalency Application form.

English language Skills

The language of instruction at McGill is English.  It is possible to hand-in assignments and write exams in French for most courses, but students coming to McGill will be immersed in English in the classroom.  While this immersion may be a big reason why you have chosen McGill, if English is not your first language you should take every opportunity to work on your English language skills before coming to McGill, and during your time here.  To that end, McGill offers various courses (with initial placement) such as CESL 299 via the McGill Writing Center.  There are also an English Immersion Summer Program for Asian Students and other language programs and courses offered by Continuing Studies.  Students whose first language is not English are encouraged to take a course such as CESL 299 prior to starting their program.  If you feel concerned about your English language skills, you should still register for AEHM 205 but you should, in consultation with your Advisor and the course instructor, make a decision within the first couple of weeks of classes as to whether or not you should remain in that course or take it later (after more ESL).  For most Life Sciences students, regardless of language background, it is advantageous to take AEHM 205 in the first term because it is a course intended to help you start off your university studies strongly.

Academic Advising

Got a question or need an advising appointment?  Contact our Academic Advisor Dr. Julie Major

Life Sciences Academic Advisor: Dr. Julie Major
Phone: (514) 398-8380
Office: Macdonald-Stewart Building, MS2-082
To send an e-mail, click on Dr. J. Major's name (secure e-mail link) on the Academic Advisors web page

Life Sciences Program Director: Dr. B.T. Driscoll
Phone: (514) 398-7887

Advising links and forms:

Student Affairs Office
Important dates
Basic Math-Science Equivalence Tables (CEGEP-McGill)
Undergraduate Programs and Courses
Course Equivalency Application Form
Program Change Application Form
Specialization Form