Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply for the Minor?

Fill out the form in conjunction with your advisor in the Bioethics Program, Prof. Jarrett Zigon.   Take the completed form to Cocke Hall room 120.   You will be given a copy for your records, a copy will be made for program records and the original will be sent to the registrar’s office in Monroe Hall via messenger mail.

Who may apply for the Minor?

Any undergraduate at the University who successfully completes the above requirements can qualify for the Bioethics Minor.

When should I declare the Minor?

We appreciate knowing your intentions to minor, the earlier the better.  In general, it's a good idea to declare the minor near the end of the second semester of your second year.

Can I substitute advance placement high school biology for the Minor's biology requirement?

No. If you have advance placement credits and don't wish to take 2010, you should either take BIOL 1210, or any Biology elective at or above the 3000 level.

How can I get my name on the Bioethics Program email list?

Just Sign up here.  You will then receive periodic updates on special events, guest speakers on grounds, course lists for registration, and notification of webpage updates.

May students substitute directed reading courses for bioethics electives?

In general, no. Only under extraordinary circumstances--e.g., no regular electives available, an impressive reading list, a guarantee of close faculty supervision, etc.--will such a substitution be contemplated.

Why is there no major in bioethics?

We don't have a structured major in bioethics because many advisers to the program have argued, successfully for the time being, that students need the focus and depth that more traditional majors provide.

Is there no way, then, for me to major in bioethics?

Yes, there is a way, but you have to work for it. We don't have a structured major in bioethics because we believe that students need the focus and depth that more traditional majors provide. Even though there is no official, pre-structured, off the shelf major in bioethics, students can still major in this area via two different routes:

(1) an Echols interdisciplinary major, or

(2) the "interdisciplinary major program."

Students selecting this latter option must work with faculty advisers from three different disciplines (e.g.,  biology, religious studies, anthropology) in designing their own curriculum for their 3rd and 4th years.  A thesis is also required.   For more information about this program, see

Some good reasons to craft an interdisciplinary major in bioethics:

  • You are obsessed with bioethical issues and you want to go as deeply and as broadly as you can into this field.
  • You wish to do a thesis in bioethics (this is not necessary for students majoring through the Echols program).
  • No pre-packaged standard major promises to satisfy your very specific intellectual interests (i.e., you feel that you cannot learn what you wish to learn within the confines of a traditional major and bioethics minor).
  • You are a highly motivated self-starter. (Doing such a major requires that you construct your own course of study in consultation with one or more faculty advisers.)
  • You are planning on going to graduate school in medicine, law, nursing, or public health-all of which are congenial to this kind of interdisciplinary major.

Some good reasons NOT to do an interdisciplinary major in bioethics:

  • You are on a pre-med track and find that you are primarily interested in going to medical school, period. You are not keen on majoring in biology or in any other traditional field.
  • You are not passionate about bioethics and have no definite ideas about what you wish to accomplish.
  • You are not a self-starter.
  • You are planning on going to graduate school in a discipline like philosophy or religious studies (which definitely prefer that applicants major in their respective disciplines).

Good alternatives to an interdisciplinary major in bioethics:

  • A traditional major (e.g., in biology, religious studies, philosophy, politics, etc.) with a bioethics minor.
  • A major in "Human Biology"which could include a significant amount of bioethics coursework,
  • An interdisciplinary major in "Political and Social Thought" with an emphasis and thesis in bioethics.     See:
  • An interdisciplinary major in "Philosophy, Politics & Law" (PPL), with an emphasis and thesis in bioethics.Inquire with Prof. Colin Bird in Politics,