The BIOS Program 2024

Overview | Testimonials | Timelines and Due Dates | Costs | Schedule | Application

2022 BIOS students in front of campus pond

The BIOS (Biology Intensive Orientation Session) Program is a week-long in-person learning session for incoming first year students enrolled in Introductory Biology (BIOL 151) in the fall semester (see schedule below). During the week, students experience 9 lectures, 2 quizzes, an exam and develop a project related to stem cell biology that they present to peers, faculty and their parents on the last day of the program. Students live together in the dorm, eat in the dining halls, and attend lectures and project workshops in classrooms and all over campus.

Key to the program design is the participation of peer mentors who were BIOS students from previous years. The peer mentors not only help guide the students through the academic work, but act as critical resources about all things UMass ranging from how to manage your schedule, how to deal with problems that may arise in courses to how to join a club or how to set yourself up properly for med school admission.

BIOS is designed with three basic goals in mind;

  1. Providing academic support and preparation for their Intro Bio coursework,
  2. Building social support and inclusion in a community of students who get to know each other through working together on challenging academic coursework,
  3. Developing a sense of comfort and competence as a UMass student.

2022 BIOS students at workBIOS began in 2010 and has run every year since 2010 with the exception of 2021—where remote learning made an in-person learning experience all but impossible. It was modelled after a program first developed at Louisiana State University that showed demonstrated improvement among BIOS students not only in their first course in the life sciences, but also improved their on-time graduation rates.

BIOS students at UMass have consistently reported in post-BIOS surveys that the program was instrumental in helping them settle into campus as a new student, was critical to finding a set of friends that they trusted as study partners and academic peers, and helped uncover the hidden curriculum and made them aware of ways to navigate the challenges and opportunities that are part of being a university student (see testimonials below).

2022 BIOS students posing in front of slidesBIOS has always attracted a diverse set of students, and in the last couple of years has been made available at a discount for BioPioneers—first year, first generation students enrolled in Intro Biology. As the program has advanced and matured, special attention has been paid to recruiting a diverse group of students to serve as peer mentors.

Student Testimonials

“BIOS was one of the best opportunities that I took before even officially starting on campus. I was able to get a feel for how a lecture will be, and if you have [Professor Phillis] as a teacher it puts you ahead of the game.”

~Michelle Gitau from Worcester, Ma
Biology and Psychology Expected 2023

“BIOS incredible benefited me during the first month of BIO 151 because I was already familiar with the material (which is very challenging). Moreover, I got to better know my fellow BioPioneers and build my relationships with Professor Randall Phillis and my SI for BIO 151. Plus, I got to find all my classes with few people around campus; I also moved in early!”

~Taylor Dill
Biochemistry and Psychology Expected 2023

“BIOS is an incredible way to meet people within your major in a small group before classes start!! The friends that I made during my week at BIOS are still some of my closest friends (+ even my roommates!) at UMass three years later and we probably never would have met if it wasn't for this program.”

-Isabel Aluia from Arlington, Ma
Kinesiology and Biology Expected 2021

“As a freshman entering college, the BIOS program was a great opportunity to get a taste of college life before jumping straight into it. The program not only introduced topics I would be learning later on in the fall semester, but also allowed me to familiarize myself with the academic buildings on campus. Lastly, the program was small enough that I was able to make close friendships but large enough that I was able to see at least one person I knew in every biology course I have taken.”

-Amanda Butura from Bedford, NH
Biology/Pre-Health Expected 2022

“The BIOS program was a great way for me to start off my college experience positively. Freshman year can be difficult to navigate between learning how to study for college courses, make friends, and figure out a new atmosphere. BIOS gave me a strong friend group built around academic success. Come the first exams I already had peers who wanted to study together and help one another succeed. Sophomore year I found the friends I made during BIOS were the ones that got me through Organic Chemistry and Cellular & Molecular Biology.”

-Erik Bratland from Georgetown, Ma
Microbiology Expected 2021

Timelines and Due Dates

The BIOS program will start on Friday, August 23, 2024 and run through Wednesday, August 28, 2024.

The application deadline is July 12, 2024 (online application). Letters with detailed BIOS information will be emailed around July 18, 2024.


The total fee for BIOS 2024 is $1050.00 ($675.00 program cost and $375.00 room & board). Students live on campus for the duration of the program.

Financial assistance will be offered at a rate that corresponds with your academic year award; please indicate your interest in receiving financial assistance when you complete your application.

Final billing for BIOS will appear on your normal academic bill distributed by the Bursar’s office in the Fall semester.

Schedule - Tentative

Friday, August 23, 2024
2:00 – 5:00 PM Residence Hall check-in
5:00 – 5:30 PM BIOS overview for parents/families [MAH 108]
5:45 - 6:45 PM Dinner in Dining Commons
7:00 – 8:45 PM Lecture 1: Critical Checkpoints in Cell Division - Kinetochore
Signaling in the Metaphase to Anaphase Transition – [MAH 108]

Saturday, August 24, 2024
7:00 – 10:00 AM Breakfast
8:00am – 12:00 Personal Time
12:00 – 1:00 Lunch
1:15 – 2:30 -Lecture 2 – Stem Cells – Cell division and differentiation [Morrill2 222]
2:30 – 3:00 PM Break
3:00 – 4:15 PM Lecture 3: Explanation of Project – Design a novel stem cell therapy [SOM 137]
5:15 – 6:30 PM Dinner
6:30 – 8:00 PM Mentor Panel – navigating coursework at UMass

Sunday, August 25, 2024
7:00 – 8:00 AM Breakfast
8:15 – 9:15 AM Exam 1 [MOR2 222]
10:30 –11:15 AM Lecture 4: Stem Cells - Signal Transduction and Cell Signaling Dynamics [HERT 227]
11:15 – 12:30 PM Team Time [ILC 110, 111]
12:30 – 1:15 PM Lunch
1:30 – 2:45 PM Lecture 5: Gene Regulation in Stem Cell Differentiation [MORN 375]
3:00 – 5:00 PM Team Time [ILC 110, 111]
5:00 – 6:30 PM Dinner
6:30 – 8:00 PM Mentor Panel - Make the most of all that UMass has. [MOR2 222]

Monday, August 26, 2024
7:00 –12:00 PM Move-in to Permanent Residence Hall
12:00 – 1:15 PM Lunch
1:30 – 2:45 PM Lecture 6: Genetic Manipulation of Cells [ILC 110, 111]
3:30 – 5:00 PM Team Time [ILC 110, 111]
5:30 – 6:30 PM Dinner

Tuesday, August 27, 2023
7:00 – 8:00 AM Breakfast
9:00 – 10:00 AM Lecture 7 Molecular Analysis of Cellular Genes and proteins [MOR2 131]
10:15 – 12:00 Group Project and Project Review [ILC 110, 111] OURS visit 11:30
12:15 – 1:00 PM Lunch
1:15 – 3:00 PM Facilitated Group Work [ILC 110, 111]
5:30 – 8:30 PM Pizza Night/Exam Prep [MOR3 203 & MOR2 222]

Wednesday, August 28, 2024
7:00 – 9:00 AM Breakfast
9:15 – 9:30 AM Group Photo
9:30 - 10:30 AM Final Exam
10:30 -11:30 AM Set up Time/Final Presentation [ILC 110, 111]
11:30 – 12:30 AM Prep and Presentations [ILC 110, 111]
12:30 – 1:30 PM Celebration Luncheon [Marriott Center 11th floor Campus Ctr]