Science classes

Available courses vary from year to year and from semester to semester. For complete and current course offerings and descriptions, please search our online catalog. Or read about specific subjects below.

The Science Department offers classes in a broad range of science disciplines.

While almost all GCC students are required to take two four-credit lab science classes, we also provide courses for students from other two and four year colleges and universities as well as interested learners in the community at large. We offer a full range of classes in the subjects of chemistry, biology, food science, environmental science, geology, oceanography, physics, engineering, and general science.

Human Anatomy and Physiology

Human Anatomy and Physiology ClassGCC’s anatomy and physiology (A&P) courses explore the human body.  Anatomy is the study of structure while physiology is the study of function.  For example, anatomy labs might examine the organization of the heart through dissection, models, and tissue slides.  In order to understand heart physiology, students must learn how cardiac muscle contracts to pump blood.  Muscle contraction changes heart structure in such a way that blood flows.  Because the function of the heart is intimately related to its structure, anatomy and physiology is taught as a combined course with a lab.

GCC offers both a one semester course in A&P (Bio 194) as well as a two semester progression (Bio 195 followed by Bio 196).  Both options cover all major physiologic systems; however, the two semester courses provide more detailed instruction.  The courses are especially relevant to students pursuing careers in health sciences.   Students interested in the licensed practical nurse (LPN) program might choose Bio 194 while students pursuing an associate degree in nursing (ADN) are required to complete Bio 195 and Bio 196.


An introductory course in how we, our Planet, our Sun, our Galaxy, the chemical elements, all came into being.   The ultimate history of everything as seen through the eyes of modern science. We study the basic laws on the Universe, the history of how humanity discovered those laws, and how the application of those laws have created everything now into existence. We study the lives of planets, stars, and galaxies. The strangeness of our universe and the miracle of our existence in it.  The evolution of energy into matter, of  hydrogen into the 92 natural chemical elements, of  stars into people and the processes by which all this came about. GCC provides loaner telescopes for direct observations of objects close by to us. (SCI103)


GCC-1082Biology, the study of life, extends from the global scale of the entire living planet to the microscopic scale of cells and molecules.  Biology 126 (Bio I) is an introduction to biology with a focus on biological chemistry, cellular biology, and genetics.  While a prerequisite for anatomy and physiology and a requirement for environmental science students, it is also recommended for those students seeking an engaging overview of the mechanisms of life that occur on a very small scale.  Biology 127 (Bio II) can be taken after Bio I, and examines the diversity of life at a larger scale, including plants, animals, and ecosystems. The focus is on an examination of life from an evolutionary perspective.


Microbiology is the study of the microscopic world, particularly the relationship between microbes and the progression of disease.  Microbiology (BIO 205) is a required course for the Associates Degree of Nursing Program and the Liberal Arts Option in Food Sciences, yet is often taken by any student pursuing a career in the health field.   Students are exposed to the basic techniques necessary to work in a micro lab such as transfer technique, gram staining, unknown identification and antibiotic sensitivity.


GCC offers three levels of Chemistry.  Chem 105, Basic Principles of Chemistry, is a one semester non-lab course.  This course is a survey of chemical principles including topics such as chemical nomenclature, the basis of chemical reactions, acids and bases, and an introduction to Biochemistry and Organic chemistry.  This course is a great complement for students that are interested in going further in their study of science.    The second level of chemistry is a two semester General Chemistry laboratory course, Chem 111 and Chem 112.  The first semester combines an introduction into the periodic table, nomenclature, stoichiometry and chemical bonding with a weekly laboratory.  This course is a requirement for many science majors.  The second semester combines chemical kinetics, acids and bases, chemical equilibrium, electrochemistry, the environmental impact of chemistry, and an introduction into Organic chemistry with a weekly laboratory.  The weekly laboratory portion of Chem 111 and Chem 112  requires active student participation. Laboratory experiments are performed using standard chemistry lab equipment such as beakers, burets, balance, flasks, spectrophotometer, burners, pipettes, and graduated cylinders. The third level of Chemistry is a two semester Organic Chemistry Laboratory course, Chem 201 and Chem 202. These two courses delve into the topic of Organic Chemistry and require students to take a lab course that thoroughly investigates properties of organic chemicals. During the second semester of Organic Chemistry, students have the chance to design their own experiment in order to look more in depth into a topic in the organic chemistry field.

Introduction to Engineering, Technology, Science and Society

Students in an engineering lab
Students in an engineering lab

A survey introductory course that combines hands-on experience with sociological analysis of engineering, science, and technology using lab, lecture, research, design, and discussion. Includes aspects of electrical, mechanical, environmental, civil, and chemical engineering.  This is a lab based intro course that examines the application of various sciences into specific applications and their many consequences. (EGR/SCI 105)


Students on a geology field trip
Students on a geology field trip

Geology is such a diverse field and the Connecticut Valley is one of the best places in the world to study this exciting science of the earth! In our beginning geology classes you will learn about such wide-ranging topics as rocks and minerals, volcanoes, floods, glaciers and resources. All these topics have important examples in the Valley region and class discussions and field trips will illustrate how geology affects our land and life.

Students in a geology lab
Students in a geology lab

Geology 101, Physical Geology, covers such things as the origins of basic earth materials such as rocks and minerals, plus how the earth is shaped by both surface processes like rivers and glaciers, as well as internal processes such as plate tectonics leading to the origin of mountains, volcanoes and faults. In Geology 102, Historical Geology, you will become familiar with fossils and gain practice “reading the record of the rocks” as we study the origins and history of sedimentary rocks. Field trips are scheduled to collecting sites in eastern New York State to view the ancient environment and life of a tropical ocean that existed along eastern North America before the Pangea super continent about 400 million years ago, as well as trips to local Valley sites where Jurassic Period (Age of Dinosaurs) geological history is particularly well displayed.


An introduction to the patterns in our atmosphere that we call weather.  How the energy of the Sun delivered unevenly to our Planet results in patterns that move that energy around , creating storms, Hurricanes, Tornados and the many phenomenon we observe around the planet. We analyze these patterns daily, using data from the GCC weather station and the internet to make predictions of upcoming weather. We study past events and long term climatalogical data, and anthropogenic effects on this very thin layer of air around us we call an atmosphere. (SCI 117)


The oceans have a volume of 320 million cubic miles and cover over 2/3rds of the earth with an average depth of 2 miles! The ocean realm has profound influences on life on earth. Humans depend on ocean resources ranging from water and food supplies to fossils fuels and other mineral resources. The ocean – climate connection is especially relevant to life on earth. Our GCC oceanography class, Geo 104, is a general introduction to ocean science. There are 3 major sections: Marine Biology, Marine Geology, and Chemistry and Physics. Topics include: marine life identification and classification, marine ecosystems, coastlines and beaches, sediment types, plate tectonics, water properties, and how the ocean moves due to waves, tides, and ocean currents. A field trip to the coast to view ecosystems, marine life, and coastal processes offers some practical experience with oceanography.

Natural Sciences

Within the field of Natural Sciences GCC offers Botany (BIO 102), Ecology (BIO 103), Natural History (BIO 104), Introduction to Environmental Science (BIO 120), Freshwater Ecology (BIO 122), Introductory Horticulture (BIO 124), Permaculture (SCI 137) and Soil Science (BIO 138).  These courses weave together themes of the natural environment, biological diversity, sustainability, evolution and the human impact on the environment.  Hands-on labs and eclectic learning experiences expose students to the natural world and increase their understanding and appreciation of biological diversity and ecological systems.  Exciting on- and off-campus field trips and in-depth explorations throughout Western Massachusetts allow students to explore such treasures as Harvard Forest, Mount Toby, the Green River, the Raptor Rehabilitation Center and the Amherst College Museum of Natural History.  Rigorous scientific exploration combined with an understanding of policy implications elevates students’ understanding of the environment.  Those who choose the Environmental Science Liberal Arts program option are provided with coursework geared toward transfer requirements for a four-year baccalaureate degree in the environmental field.


Students in a physics lab
Students in a physics lab

GCC offers two levels of Physics, a Calculus based Physics (PHY 111 & 112) and an Algebra based physics (PHY 101 & 102). Both Physics programs require the use of scientific calculators and the use of the software program Mathematica. The 101/111 Physics courses are offered fall semester only, they cover classical mechanical physics dealing with Kinematics, Acceleration, Newton's laws, Centripetal motion, Energy, Momentum & Collisions, Rotation, States of Matter, Elasticity, Waves and Sound, Properties of matter, Thermal energy, & Thermodynamics. These courses are very lab based and focus on the solution of practical problems. They combine lecture, Q &A sessions, problem solving, and hands on labs. During the spring semester we offer courses in Electricity and Magnetism (102/112) which follow the same format as the fall courses but cover material dealing with Charges, Electric and Magnetic fields, Circuit components and analysis, Wave motion, and Electromagnetic waves. We use a circuit analysis program (Spice) and specialized Mathematica packages. Our modern classrooms and Labs feature Computerized Engineering Workstations with the usual scientific analysis programs like Excel for spreadsheets, Mathematica for analysis and 3D graphing, Vectorworks for CAD, and Spice for circuit analysis. Classes are usually small with as much individual attention as possible.

Renewable energy & sustainability

Solar panels on the south lawn of GCC
Solar panels on the south lawn of GCC

Our RE/EE classes provide students with the knowledge and skills needed for entry-level employment opportunities in the renewable energy/energy efficiency field, as well as broader understanding of the scientific, economic and political context of the industry.

For students already employed in the trades, classes in the RE/EE program offer professional development and skill enhancement relevant to specific renewable energy/energy efficiency technologies. They provide all students with knowledge and skills needed for continued learning and education in the renewable energy/energy efficiency field, including the option to transfer into an associate’s degree or four-year programs.