Biochemistry is an interdisciplinary science that links biological sciences like molecular biology and genetics to physical sciences like chemistry and physics. We offer a separate major in biochemistry because biochemistry is a very large, dynamic subdiscipline of chemistry that requires a broad training program. The successful graduate will have the ability to communicate across different scientific fields while still being expert in an important specialty. The biotechnology revolution ensures that many employment opportunities in industry and government await the holder of the B.S. degree in Biochemistry.
A Biochemistry degree is also excellent preparation for advanced graduate and professional training in many fields. Skills in analytical and critical thinking developed by the major are broadly applicable to careers in medicine, pharmacology, environmental fields, technical management, teaching, business and law.
The Biochemistry curriculum in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry emphasizes a distinctly chemical perspective and quantitative training and hands-on experience with state-of-the-art instrumentation. Every effort has been made to ensure the best possible laboratory experience. Honors sections are available in the freshman and sophomore years. The laboratory courses form an excellent foundation for undergraduate research. While such an apprenticeship is not a requirement for the B.S. degree, it is looked upon very favorably by employers and educational institutions.
As befitting its interdisciplinary nature, the course of study leading to the B.S. in Biochemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry requires a broad range of introductory science and mathematics courses. These include courses in biology, physics, calculus and differential equations. General and organic chemistry also are required and normally completed in the first two years.
The first course in biochemistry normally is taken in the third year. It begins with the structures of important biological molecules and the properties of enzymes. The course continues with metabolic pathways and finishes with gene expression and inheritance. Courses in physical and biophysical chemistry with laboratory are taken, and the first opportunity to take upper division electives occurs this year. Electives allow the student to place an emphasis on one of the subfields of biochemistry. The student takes Inorganic Chemistry and more electives in the senior year. In addition to advanced courses in biochemistry and biophysics, electives exist in advanced organic, inorganic and physical chemistry, quantum mechanics, photochemistry, and statistical mechanics.
Well-qualified undergraduates also can work closely with specific faculty members on research projects. Quite differently from structured laboratory courses, involvement in undergraduate research represents a commitment to explore the possibility of undertaking a career in scientific research. The projects often involve 15-25 hours per week of work, extended research during the summers, and the opportunity to be directly involved with some of the most groundbreaking work in the field.