Curriculum Petitions FAQ

Please refer to the curriculum pages for your track (BISB, BMI) when planning your courses and discussing your course plans with your advisor. For questions about exceptions, please contact the Graduate Coordinator.

Grading options

All required Core and Elective courses for the degree must be taken for a letter grade. Students must obtain a “B” or better in courses taken for the degree.

I would like to take CSE 101 with the S/U grading option.
If you do this, then you cannot count it towards your elective requirement.

Waiving core classes

This is unusual and will be denied unless you make a very strong case. If you took a graduate level class elsewhere that you believe is equivalent to one of the program's core classes:

  • Contact the instructor of the core class for them to assess the equivalence.
  • For the other school's course, provide the transcript with your grade and provide a detailed course description (such as it's number, title, instructor, catalog description, syllabus, website, what textbook was used, etc.). The instructor may request other information as well.
  • The instructor may give you an exam or other assessment.
  • If the instructor supports waiving the class, then you may write a petition requesting to waive it. Include the transcript, detailed course description, and a support letter from the instructor. Give the petition to the Graduate Coordinator, who will forward it to the Curriculum Committee.
  • If the petition is approved, it only waives the specific course, but not the units; you will need to take additional elective(s) to make up for the units.
  • This is not transfer credit. Classes already used for a degree elsewhere cannot be double-counted for another degree here.
  • In cases where there are two or more options of which core class to take, if you have already taken a course equivalent to one of the options, then use one of the other options.
  • If you took a graduate level class elsewhere that is equivalent to one of the program's electives, then select a different class from the list of approved electives to satisfy the elective requirements. Again, credit will not be transferred and units will not be waived.

Substituting electives

Please contact the Graduate Coordinator to inquire about using a class for the program's elective requirements that is not on the list of approved electives. In most cases, you should stick to the list of approved electives. However, courses may be discontinued, new courses may be introduced, and some courses may be helpful for your particular research. The course must be a graduate course (or in limited cases, an upper division course, but not a lower division course) and must be relevant to the scope of the program. As with other electives, you must take the course for a letter grade and must receive a "B" or better for it to be counted towards the program's requirements. The Graduate Coordinator will have you write a petition and will pass it on to the Curriculum Committee. Your petition should include the following information:

  • Your name, PID, year you entered the program, and track (BISB or BMI).
  • The quarter, instructor, course number, title, and description.
  • Which elective category (BIO-1, BIO-2, etc.) it best fits, and why.
  • One-time only courses and new courses are often offered as "special topics" courses (BENG 207, CSE 291, MATH 295, PHYS 239, ...). The generic catalog description of a special topics course is not sufficient, since these course numbers are used for multiple unrelated courses. We need information on the specific instance of the course. The instructor will typically provide a course description, syllabus, course website, etc.


I'm a first year student in the BISB track. In Spring 2014, I would like to take Yoav Freund's course
CSE 291. Topics in CSE: Big Data Analytics

The class website is
The topics covered in the course are listed at
It fits Elective CS-2 because ...
I would like to take it because ...

(Name, PID, email)


Bad examples:

I would like to take BENG 207. Topics in Bioengineering.

The catalog description is "Course given at the discretion of the faculty on current topics of interest in bioengineering."

This is insufficient because it is the generic description of a special topics class. Many unrelated classes are offered as BENG 207. You need to provide information on the specific special topics class requested.

I would like to take ECON 210A. Macroeconomics A in place of the Biology elective.

This is not a biology course and cannot be used to satisfy the Biology elective.

I would like to take CSE 8A. Introduction to Computer Science: JAVA for Elective CS-1.

This is a lower division course and cannot be counted as an elective for graduate program requirements.

Scheduling conflicts

A core class / the colloquium / the Student Research Talks conflicts with my weekly lab meeting.
Required courses take precedence over lab meetings. You will need to miss the portions of the lab meetings that conflict with your required classes.

I would like to take elective X but it conflicts with a core class.
The core classes are required. You will have to choose a different elective or take a future offering of the elective.

I would like to take elective X but it conflicts with the colloquium (BNFO 281 for the BISB track, MED 262 for the BMI track).
The Curriculum Committee is receptive to petitions to substitute a quarter of MED 262 for BNFO 281 or vice-versa, in the same quarter.

I'm a first year student in the BISB track. In Spring 2016, I have a scheduling conflict between BNFO 281 (Th 12-12:50pm) and CSE 250A (TuTh 11am-12:20pm). I would like to resolve it by substituting MED 262 for BNFO 281 in the same quarter.

(Name, PID, email)

I would like to take elective X but it conflicts with the Student Research Talks (BNFO 283).
The Curriculum Committee is receptive to petitions to resolve the conflict by deferring one quarter of BNFO 283, most likely to fall quarter of your third year. You will still be required to complete 6 quarters of BNFO 283.

I'm a second year student in the BISB track. In Spring 2016, I have a scheduling conflict between BNFO 283 (F 10-10:50am) and X [some elective] (MWF 10-10:50am). I would like to resolve it by postponing one quarter of BNFO 283 to fall of my third year.

(Name, PID, email)

Note that these sample petitions are for a conflict involving an approved elective. If you want to use a class as an elective that is not on the approved electives list, and that class has a conflict with the colloquium or Student Research Talks, please combine both issues into the same petition.


Extension on rotation project reports
The one-page rotation proposal, the five-page rotation project report, and the Rotation Mentor's evaluation of the student, are all mandatory program requirements and are needed to assign your grade in BNFO 298. These must be submitted by the deadlines or your grade in BNFO 298 will be in jeopardy. We do not expect that every short rotation will achieve an important research result; the results will often be preliminary or exploratory. For further questions, please contact the Graduate Coordinator or the BNFO 298 instructor.

I want to skip one (or more) rotation(s) because I already know which lab I will join.
Doing three rotations in different labs is a program requirement and will not normally be waived.

I want to drop a class but I will fall under 12 units, so I'd like to increase rotation units.
You should sign up for 4 units of rotation. In limited circumstances, you may petition to increase BNFO 298 from 4 units to 5 units, provided that will fix the problem. You will need to include a letter from your Rotation Mentor vouching for the additional effort you will put into the rotation to justify 5 units. This does not change the number of rotations you will need to do. We will not approve an increase to more than 5 units of rotation.


Currently, sites offering "MOOCs" are not accredited, do not provide standard A-F letter grades, and the courses do not count for college credit. There is no basis on which to award credit for them or to use them to waive or substitute for curricular requirements. The situation may change in the future.