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Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology | Courses | Faculty

Lederle GRC Towers

Degrees: Bachelor of Science
Bachelor of Arts

Contact: Molly Fitzgerald-Hayers
Office: 916 Lederle GRC Tower
Phone: (413) 545-0235

Head of Department: Professor Danny Schnell. Professors F. Cannon, Cheung, Fitzgerald-Hayes, Hebert, Gierasch, O’Brien, Zimmermann; Associate Professors Gross, Normanly; Assistant Professors Chase, Garman, Heuck, Theis; Lecturer Roberts; Research Faculty M. Cannon, Wu.

The Field

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology aim to understand the chemical and physical principles that make life occur as we know it. They examine biological processes from physical, chemical, and genetic perspectives and, as academic disciplines, have great overlap with many other fields in the chemical, medical, behavioral, and biological sciences. Their demonstrated impact on the health and well-being of humanity have increased dramatically in the last generation, making them subject areas of great interest to those students interested in pursuing a scientific career.

From investigations into the chemicals that constitute living organisms, the focus has broadened to increase our understanding of how biochemical reactions are integrated and regulated and how the genetic information stored in living organisms is expressed and controlled. Most recently, the goal of utilizing this knowledge in practical settings in medicine and agriculture has spawned an extremely productive academic enterprise and a world-wide biotechnology industry, both offering unbounded opportunities for making new discoveries.

The interconnectedness of scientific disciplines is especially apparent in biochemistry. Students whose interest spans the fields of both biology and chemistry are frequently attracted to this discipline.

The Major

The program for majors provides the foundation for applications in an ever-increasing array of emerging and established areas such as medical genetic diagnostics, pharmaceutical design, neurobiology, bioinformatics, genomics, nano-technology, and paleontology. Career opportunities for students trained in this discipline are vast. The highly integrated curriculum prepares students either for employment at the B.S. level or for further training in professional or graduate schools. Majors receive fundamental instruction in chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics, and begin their introduction to biochemistry in the sophomore year. The program also encourages students to engage in independent research work in faculty laboratories. A strong high school background in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology is recommended.


A registration access code (RAC) is required for majors to register for classes through SPIRE. Students are required to meet with their faculty adviser to discuss course selections and to receive their RAC.

1. Three semesters of mathematics (two for the B.A. degree): 131, 132, and STATISTC 501; or 127, 128, Calculus for the Life Sciences and STATISTC 501. MATH 233 may be substituted for STATISTC 501. RES-ECON 211 can be substituted for STATISTC 501.

2. Two semesters of general physics with lab sections: 131-134, 151-154 or 181-184. Students taking the 151 or 181 series are recommended to take 261 or both 287 and 284.

3. Six semesters of chemistry including:
121H,122H General Chemistry for Majors or 111, 112 General Chemistry for Science Majors
261, 262 and 269 Organic Chemistry for non-majors
315 Quantitative Analysis or
312 Analytical Chemistry

4. Three courses in biology: 100, 101 Introductory Biology I and II, and 283 General Genetics

5. Biochemistry core:
285 Cell and Molecular Biology
H01 is recommended for all majors
471 Elementary Physical Chemistry or
CHEM 475, 476 Physical Chemistry
523, 524 General Biochemistry I, II
526 Biochemistry Laboratory
491H Senior Seminar

6. Advanced Course Requirements:
B.S. Degree: Three semesters of advanced electives in the life sciences, physics, chemistry, or biochemistry in consultation with adviser. For students who qualify, these may be satisfied by research participation.
B.A. Degree: One advanced course in the life sciences, physics, chemistry, or biochemistry.
Departmental Honors: A student must, in addition to meeting the B.S. and Commonwealth College requirements, write a thesis based on a research project.

7. Grade Requirements for Major:
Majors must obtain a grade of C or better in BIOLOGY 100 and BIOLOGY 101 for admission to BIOCHEM 285. A grade of B- or better in BIOCHEM 285 is required for admission to BIOCHEM 523. A grade of C- or better in both BIOCHEM 523 and 524 is required for admission to BIOCHEM 526.

The Minor

The department offers an undergraduate Minor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology geared toward majors in the physical and life sciences. It requires succesful completion of the following courses:
BIOLOGY 100 Introductory Biology I
BIOCHEM 285 Cell and Molecular Biology
BIOCHEM 523 General Biochemistry
BIOCHEM 524 General Biochemistry
One course chosen from BIOLOGY 283 General Genetics or BIOCHEM 526 Biochemistry Laboratory or BIOTECH 385 Introductory Biotechnology Laboratory.

No more than two courses required for the student’s major may be counted toward the Minor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. BIOLOGY 100 is a prerequisite for BIOCHEM 285, which in turn is a prerequisite for the 500-level BIOCHEM courses. Grade requirements are as described for the Biochemistry major. Students intending to complete a minor should meet with the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Departmental Chief Undergraduate Adviser.

Off-Campus Study

Selected programs administered by the International Programs Office allow students to obtain their four-year degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and enjoy the benefits of a year of education overseas. Cooperative internships are available at some laboratories in New England. These provide the student with an opportunity to gain valuable work experience in a research environment while earning academic credit.

Career Opportunities

The program in biochemistry trains students to be directly employable at the Bachelor’s degree level in a wide variety of fields. Graduates frequently find positions with major chemical and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, the food industry, scientific equipment suppliers, and various university, government, and medical research laboratories. Biochemistry majors are particularly well trained to undertake graduate work in biochemistry and in many areas related to the health sciences such as microbiology, cell or molecular biology, pharmacology, virology, physiology, nutrition, and environmental law. Biochemistry majors enjoy a high success rate of acceptance into medical and dental schools.

Five-Year Master’s Program

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology offers a Master’s of Science program designed to enhance the scientific education of its B.S.-level students who have strong academic records and have been conducting research in a laboratory in this department. Normally, the M.S. requirements are completed 15 months from receipt of the B.S. Students from other departments and institutions are not admitted. Laboratory research experience is a prerequisite for admission to the program, and thesis research projects are expected to develop from each student’s undergraduate independent research activity to be carried out with the same mentor. Undergraduate Biochemistry and Molecular Biology majors interested in the M.S. program should discuss it with their academic adviser in the sixth semester, if possible.

Secondary Teacher Education

Students majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology may obtain teacher certification for General Science, Chemistry or Biology. For the first two of these fields, no science courses beyond those already required for the major are needed. For Biology, one course in ecology and one course in human biology must be taken. Undergraduate students must achieve a passing score on the Communication and Literacy Skills Test of the Massachusetts Educator Certification Tests (MECT) prior to admission into professiona l preparation programs for educators. Each student in a program for which there is an MECT Subject Test must pass the appropriate subject area test as a prerequisite for enrolling in his or her practicum. To obtain information about these requirements and to enter the program, students should contact the Secondary Teacher Education Program (STEP) Advising Office, 121B Furcolo Hall, tel. (413) 545-4397 or email:

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology | Courses | Faculty