Biochemistry is the study of biological phenomena at the molecular level. Specifically, the scientific principles explored in chemistry and physics are related to the biology of organisms or communities of organisms. Although scientists have been fascinated with the molecules that compose living organisms for more than 200 years, biochemistry was finally recognized as a discipline at the beginning of the 20th century, as scientists strove to understand nutrition and metabolism in the context of human disease. Modern biochemistry is a vast subject that has applications to medicine, dentistry, agriculture, forensics, toxicology, pharmacy, anthropology, environmental science, and other fields.

Biochemistry is a dynamic and highly technical field. A degree in biochemistry presents students with many options for careers or advanced study. The biochemistry major will prepare students for graduate study in biochemistry (or related biomedical fields such as bacteriology, molecular biology, or immunology) as well as for many pre-professional programs of study, such as forensic science or pharmacy.

The biochemistry curriculum includes a strong foundation in the basic sciences, core courses central to the field, and electives that enable students to explore aspects of biochemistry in sub-fields of their choice. Most courses include an intensive laboratory experience, supported by equipment in biology, chemistry, and physics. Experimental work becomes progressively more sophisticated and creative in advanced courses as students gain insight to the primary literature and cutting-edge laboratory techniques. Students are strongly encouraged to engage in summer research, either in an academic setting—at Lawrence or another institution—or in industry.

The vision of a biochemistry Senior Experience is best described by a report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), Greater Expectations: A New Vision for Learning as a Nation Goes to College. A biochemistry major at graduation should be an “intentional learner who can adapt to new environments, integrate knowledge from different sources, and continue learning throughout their life. They should also become empowered learners through the mastery of intellectual and practical skills by learning to effectively communicate orally, and in writing; understand and employ quantitative and qualitative analysis to solve problems; interpret and evaluate information from a variety of sources; understand and work within complex systems; demonstrate intellectual agility and the ability to manage change; transform information into knowledge and knowledge into judgment and action.” Biochemistry majors can attain these skills in either the Biology or Chemistry Senior Experience course sequences.

Required for the major in biochemistry

Students who complete the major will be able to explain major concepts in biochemistry, including the structure/function relationship in molecules and the evolutionary forces that shape those molecules, processes of energy conversion in organisms, and processes of information storage and transfer in organisms. They will learn to critically analyze scientific literature and to conduct biochemical research.

The major in biochemistry requires the following:

Foundation courses:

  1. CHEM 116: Principles of Chemistry: Energetics and Dynamics
  2. CHEM 250: Organic Chemistry I
  3. BIOL 130: Cellular Form and Function
  4. MATH 140: Calculus
  5. One of the following:
    • BIOL 280 (or BIOL 170): Experimental Design and Statistics
    • CHEM 210: Analytic Chemistry
    • Statistics in the math department over the 200 level
  6. PHYS 141: Introduction to Physics I
  7. PHYS 151: Introduction to Physics II

Senior Experience (Please see course descriptions in the respective departmental portions of the course catalog)


  1. BIOL 650 (5 units and 1 unit) and
  2. BIOL 600 or equivalent for two terms (Fall and Spring, 1 unit S/U each)


  1. CHEM 380 (1 unit S/U)
  2. CHEM 480 (2 units S/U)
  3. CHEM 680 (3 units S/U)

Core courses:

  1. BIOL 354: Molecular Biology
  2. CHEM 340: Biochemistry I (cross-listed as BIOL 444)
  3. CHEM 440: Biochemistry II or BIOL 465: Advanced Biotechnology
  4. Elective courses: Students must choose three courses from the list below, including at least one CHEM and one BIOL. One of the three must be a laboratory class.
    • Biology courses:
      • BIOL 226: Microbiology
      • BIOL 235: Evolutionary Biology
      • BIOL 325: Cell Biology
      • BIOL 330: Aquatic Ecology
      • BIOL 340: Topics in Neuroscience (also PSYC 580)
      • BIOL 360: Introduction to Bioinformatics
      • BIOL 430: Immunology or BIOL 431: Immunology (lecture only)
    • Chemistry courses:
      • CHEM 210: Analytical Chemistry
      • CHEM 252: Organic Chemistry II
      • CHEM 320: Inorganic Chemistry
      • CHEM 350: Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry
      • CHEM 370: Physical Chemistry: Thermodynamics and Kinetics
      • CHEM 410: Instrumental Analysis
      • CHEM 450: Topics in Advanced Organic Chemistry
    • Other:
      • PSYC 347: Hormones, Brain, and Behavior
      • PSYC 348: Biological Psychology
      • PSYC 365: Brain and Behavior with Lab
      • PHYS 275: Introduction to Biophysics (also BIOL 275)
      • CMSC 205: Data-Scientific Programming

On-line coursework cannot be transferred to fulfill these requirements.

Students interested in chemistry-focused graduate programs or careers are encouraged to take CHEM 210: Analytical Chemistry and CHEM 370: Physical Chemistry. Students interested in molecular biology-focused careers or graduate programs are encouraged to take BIOL 226: Microbiology and BIOL 325: Cell Biology.