Programme Description

What is Life Sciences?

The Life Sciences endeavour to unravel the mysteries of living things at all scales from the mechanics of protein ‘machines’, to the development of organisms from a single cell, to the splendour and complexity of entire ecosystems. The questions in the life sciences are as varied and intriguing as life itself. How does a single cell ‘know’ how to develop into a complex organism? How is genetic information interpreted? Can we predict the effects of gene mutations on the properties of an organism? Or the effect of climate change on ecosystems? How do organisms protect themselves from viruses, and how do viruses circumvent those protections, continuing on and on in an evolutionary arms race? How might life have arisen on Earth? What drives the formation and stability of ecological communities? What can human genetic variation tell us about the history of human evolution and migration?

Part of the appeal of biology is that the methodologies and technologies we use are as varied as the questions themselves. The methods draw on chemistry, physics and computational sciences, as well as some that are uniquely biological, like genetics.

The Life Sciences major is ideal for the student with a fascination for where we come from, why we are the way we are, and how life works — as well as those motivated by the relevance of biology to issues of human health, the environment and sustainability. The major provides excellent preparation for careers in biological research, biotechnology, law, conservation, public policy, and science writing, as well as the health professions, including medicine, veterinary medicine and public health.


  • Students must take a minimum of 9 courses within the major [≥44 module credits (MC)] and complete a Capstone project (10 MC).
  • Of the nine courses required for the major, one course – Research Seminar – is required of all students.
  • Of the remaining eight courses, one must be Biology Laboratory.
  • Of the remaining seven courses, at least three (15 MC) must be selected from the following 4 courses: Genetics, Molecular & Cellular Biology, Introduction to Computational and Systems Biology, or Evolutionary Biology.
  • At least one advanced module on a topic in life sciences such as YSC4212 Advanced Topics in Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology or Advanced Methods in Cell Biology.
  • The remaining three courses can be electives in the major chosen from courses offered in the Life Sciences at Yale-NUS or at NUS. Courses taken during a study abroad programme can be used towards the major with the approval by the Head of Studies.


Biology Laboratory: This course course will introduce students to modern methods in life science research. Students will learn how to conduct original research, and why and how to apply techniques in a research lab. The course features semester long projects culminating in a research report modelled on the scientific literature. Students are strongly encouraged to take the Biology Lab in their second year, and certainly by the end of their third year.  A techniques oriented course such as Field Research can be substituted for this requirement.

Research Seminar: The purpose of the course is to prepare students to begin independent research projects for the capstone. The course will consist of tutorial style meetings to discuss assigned primary literature, as well as presentations by students on their research to date, whether conducted in the lab or based on literature readings. It is suggested that students take this course in their third year.

Advanced Biology Courses

Students are required to take at least four courses (20 MC) from the Advanced Biology category.  These courses are designed to allow students considerable flexibility to study aspects of biology that are of greatest interest, while also ensuring breadth of knowledge in biology. As of the 1st semester of AY2018-2019, courses that have been offered include:

  • Human Biology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Foundations of Neuroscience
  • Genetics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Cell Biology
  • Animal Behaviour
  • Introduction to Computational and System Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Plant Biology
  • Advanced Topics
  • Advanced Methods in Cell Biology
  • Ecology and Ecosystems
  • Field Research

Additional Courses

  • Microbiomes
  • Conservation Biology
  • Coral Reef Ecology and Environmental Change
  • Experimental Methods in Physical Sciences
  • General Chemistry
  • Accelerated Organic Chemistry
  • General Physics
  • Introduction to Computer Science
  • Applied Calculus
  • Tobacco: A Social Policy Perspective
  • Probability
  • Statistical Inference
  • Human Neuroscience

NUS Courses and Study Abroad

In general, courses comparable to those offered at Yale-NUS will be accepted in lieu of Yale-NUS courses. However, approval by the Head of Studies must be obtained in advance in all cases.


The capstone project will typically be a guided, independent project in laboratory or field research. During the first semester of the Capstone, there will be a seminar component.  Students will begin preparing for the project no later than the third year with the Life Sciences Research Seminar, culminating in a proposal for their fourth year project. Students are encouraged to engage in research earlier in their college years, but the capstone project is required as an intensive research experience that will typically involve the development of hypotheses, design of experiments, collection and interpretation of data, and oral and written presentations of research findings. Proposals for alternative types of capstone projects that do not involve original research, such as policy papers, or the production of educational videos, will be considered with the approval of the Head of Studies.


Students must take 5 courses in the Life Sciences. There are no other requirements.