Jun 14, 2024  
2014-2015 Catalog 
2014-2015 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

School of Natural Sciences


The mission of the School of Natural Sciences is to share the joy of discovery of our natural world, to provide a stimulating environment that enables our students to better understand the scientific foundation of the world in which we live and to develop the skills of the next generation of leaders to meet the scientific challenges of the 21st century. Science, technology and innovation are the keys to future prosperity and quality of life.

The School of Natural Sciences Offers the Following Majors:

The School of Natural Sciences Offers the
Following Minors:

Letter of Welcome from the Dean

Dear Science Students:

Science and mathematics have become increasingly important in today’s world as we attempt to find new solutions to help society solve important problems in energy, the environment, sustainability, and human health. All of these problems will require novel and creative approaches that depend heavily on interdisciplinary and diverse teams of scientists. A degree in the sciences will open the door to many careers, where you will be able to apply your knowledge to help develop solutions that could have a far-reaching global impact.

The UC Merced Natural Sciences faculty are committed to educating and training a new generation of scientists through the use of the latest theoretical, experimental, and computational technologies. Our graduates develop both the practical skills necessary to immediately start at a career high-tech company as well as the fundamental scientific skills to pursue professional schools and graduate programs.

We welcome you to Merced and invite you to visit any of our faculty members to talk about the many exciting opportunities for you in the School of Natural Sciences and beyond.

Juan Meza
Dean, School of Natural Sciences


The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.
——ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879-1955)

Science Is About…


The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living.

Mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry and Earth systems science are the links to making discoveries about the natural world, the impact of human activities on that world and the impact of that world on human health. The academic programs in the School of Natural Sciences are designed to help students learn fundamental scientific principles in the context of the real world.

Creativity, Innovation and Technology

Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought.

Answering questions requires creativity and innovation— creativity to think about a problem in a different way; to design the strategy to, for example, discover the gene(s) responsible for asthma, cancer or cardiovascular disease; to generate ideas for new technologies. Students in the School of Natural Sciences receive the foundational learning to create innovative technologies to solve problems and implement solutions.

Stewardship of Our Natural Resources

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community.
——ALDO LEOPOLD (1887–1948)

Understanding and prediction must precede protection. Students in the School of Natural Sciences fully understand the complex interactions between the physical and biological world and the consequences of society’s actions on the Earth and its biota. With this understanding, they are well positioned to manage and preserve our resources for future generations.

Understanding the Human Condition

Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.

The understanding of science has improved and will continue to improve. Health and disease, prevention and treatment rely on understanding complex systems. Students in Natural Sciences at UC Merced are at the forefront of state-of-the art research and technology to unravel biological complexity. They are the world’s future scientists, healers and policy makers.

School of Natural Sciences Requirements

All School of Natural Sciences students, regardless of major, are expected to meet the minimum requirements for the BS degree.

The School of Natural Sciences degree requirements are at least 120, but not more than 150 semester units.

All courses required for completion of a major (or minor) in Natural Sciences must be passed with a grade of C- or better, not to include general education courses taken outside of Natural Sciences and Engineering. Students must maintain a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA in all major coursework.

Natural Sciences Early Progress Policy

Majors in the School of Natural Sciences are competitive and space is limited. Students must make appropriate degree progress to remain in any Natural Sciences major. Students in the Natural Sciences must meet the following requirements to continue in the School:

All students must pass the following courses with a C- or better, prior to the start of the third regular (Fall/Spring) semester. If they fail to do this, they are ineligible for continued enrollment in a Natural Sciences major and are moved to undeclared status.

Additional Information

Students may repeat a course only one time (for a total of two attempts to earn a C- or better).

If students do not complete these requirements, they may take these courses at another institution and petition to be readmitted to the School of Natural Sciences.

Students who have been removed from the major for academic reasons must meet the following requirements in order to petition to be re-admitted to the School of Natural Sciences:

  • Cumulative University of California grade point average of at least 2.0
  • Current semester grade point average of at least 2.0
  • Major grade point average of 2.5
  • Completion of all lower division courses with grades of C- or higher

General Education and Courses Required Outside of Natural Sciences and Engineering [24 Units]

 The total GE units are 46-48, with 24 met outside the major and the remaining units are listed within each major.

  • [4.0 units]
  • [4.0 units]
  • One Lower Division elective in the Humanities or Arts [4 units]
  • One Lower Division elective in the Social Sciences [4 units]
  • One Upper Division elective from the Social Sciences, Humanities or Arts [4 units]
  • One Upper Division elective emphasizing oral or written communication [4 units]

Students in Natural Sciences have a freshman year that lays the foundation for further study in the majors. Students have the opportunity to explore the different UC Merced majors during that year through freshman seminars, research experiences and informal contact with faculty and graduate students. Currently freshman seminars are not required but highly encouraged for students within Natural Sciences. Taking a freshman seminar course and also participating in research experiences gives students the opportunity to work closely with faculty.

One General Education course, CORE 001 , The World at Home is common for all freshmen or sophomores entering UC Merced in the lower division. This course lays the foundation in skills and ideals articulated in the UC Merced Guiding Principles for General Education (see General Education  section of this catalog). These include decision-making, communication, ethics, responsibility, leadership, teamwork, aesthetic understanding, creativity and an appreciation of diverse perspectives in both the global and community contexts. All UC Merced students take CORE 001  during their freshman year.

Major area upper division courses and emphasis track requirements are unique to each major. These are presented in the following section on Majors.

Courses taken towards General Education and Major Requirements may only apply to one requirement. Sharing courses between General Education and Major Requirements is not permitted.

Transfer Students

Please see the transfer requirements included in the major portion of the catalog. Students who transfer with fewer than 45 transferable semester units will need to complete the Natural Sciences general education and courses required outside of Natural Sciences and Engineering.

Partnership with Kings Canyon, Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks

UC Merced has partnership agreements for education and research with Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks. In cooperation with schools in the San Joaquin Valley, the partnership has been sponsoring summer environmental education programs for high school students. With the dedication of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute Yosemite Field Station, the partnership has kicked off a new phase of research collaboration that is advancing scientific and cultural understanding, meeting regional needs and enriching university and public education. Research buildings are also available in Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks.