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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-Hayes
Office: 916 LGRC Tower
Phone: 545-0235

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


1. Three semesters of mathematics (two for the B.A. degree): 131, 132, and STATISTC 501; or 135, 136 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 or three semesters of general physics with lab sections: 131-134 or 151-154.

3. Six semesters of chemistry including:
121,122 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
471 Elementary Physical Chemistry or 475, 476 Physical 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
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.

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 285 and 523 is required for admission to BIOCHEM 526.

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

It is possible for departmental majors to earn a Master’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in one year plus a summer, following completion of the B.S. degree in our program. Interested students should begin discussing their plans with their advisers as early as the sixth semester, in order to start making the appropriate course choices. All of the usual Graduate School regulations pertaining to study for the M.S. degree apply in this program, but with careful planning, the time required to obtain the degree will be less than usual. Six credits taken as an undergraduate can count towards the Master’s degree if they are in excess of those courses required for the Bachelor’s. An independent study project begun as an undergraduate is strongly recommended prior to admission to the M.S. Program. This program gives students helpful extra training before they enter the job market or apply to graduate or medical school.

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, 121 Furcolo Hall, tel. 545-4397 or e-mail:

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology | Courses | Faculty