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Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

How does life work at the molecular level? This question is at the core of the concentration program Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. In earlier years of this discipline, the focus was on structure and function of proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, carbohydrates and small molecules such as vitamins. Today the logical approach and tools of biochemical science are being expanded to new areas in neuroscience, developmental biology, immunology, pharmacology and synthetic biology (the design of analogs of biological systems). Training in biochemistry begins with a foundation in mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology. Some courses offered in other departments, including engineering, geology and computer science, are also useful. A key component of this program is the year of hands-on research carried out in collaboration with a faculty member here at Brown. Faculty sponsors are drawn from both the Chemistry Department and the Division of Biology and Medicine, and include basic science and clinical faculty.


Standard program for the Sc.B. degree

Students must take twenty courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics, including the following core requirements, some of these may be fulfilled with AP credits.

Three courses in mathematics including two courses in MATH 0090/0100 or MATH 0170/0180 with a third class in statistics, math, or computer science 13
Two courses in physics, typically: 12
Basic Physics A
Foundations of Mechanics
Introduction to Engineering
Basic Physics B
Foundations of Electromagnetism and Modern Physics
Dynamics and Vibrations
Three courses in physical and organic chemistry:3
Equilibrium, Rate, and Structure
Organic Chemistry
One course in biophysical or related chemistry, such as:1
Inorganic Chemistry
Four courses in biochemistry: 24
Inquiry in Biochemistry: From Gene to Protein Function
Plus two of three upper level biochemistry courses:
Advanced Biochemistry
Chemical Biology
Select two semester courses of independent research approved by a concentration advisor:2
Directed Research/Independent Study
Undergraduate Research
Suggested Elective Courses:
Students are required to take five courses from the chart below or, with approval from a concentration advisor, from any science or mathematics course relevant to biochemistry, cell and molecular biology. 35
Applied Mathematics Electives:
Methods of Applied Mathematics I, II
Mathematical Methods in the Brain Sciences
Essential Statistics
Biology Electives:
Principles of Nutrition
Techniques in Regenerative Medicine: Cells, Scaffolds and Staining
Biotechnology in Medicine
Phage Hunters, Part I
Phage Hunters, Part II
The Foundation of Living Systems
The Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease
Microbes in the Environment
Inquiry in Plant Biology: Analysis of Plant Growth, Reproduction and Adaptive Responses
Cell and Molecular Biology
Introductory Microbiology
Principles of Immunology
Principles of Physiology
Biology of the Eukaryotic Cell
Polymer Science for Biomaterials
Cell Physiology and Biophysics
Topics in Signal Transduction
Stem Cell Engineering
Protein Biophysics and Structure
Synthetic Biological Systems
Physiological Pharmacology
Cancer Biology
Biomolecular Interactions: Health, Disease and Drug Design
Developmental Biology
Biology of Reproduction
Innate Immunity
Molecular Genetics
Development of Vaccines to Infectious Diseases
Drug and Gene Delivery
The Biology of Aging
Chemistry Electives:
Inorganic Chemistry
Physical Chemistry: Quantum Chemistry
Physical Chemistry: Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
Computational Tools in Biochemistry and Chemical Biology
Chemical Biology
Advanced Organic Chemistry
Organic Reactions
Computer Science Electives:
A First Byte of Computer Science
Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming and Computer Science
Introduction to Algorithms and Data Structures
Computer Science: An Integrated Introduction
Computer Science: An Integrated Introduction
Computational Molecular Biology
Education Electives:
Introductory Statistics for Education Research and Policy Analysis
Engineering Electives:
Materials Science
Neuroscience Electives: 4
The Brain: An Introduction to Neuroscience
Biology of Hearing
Principles of Neurobiology
Neural Systems
Introduction to Neurogenetics
Neuropharmacology and Synaptic Transmission
The Diseased Brain: Mechanisms of Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders
Physics Electives:
Introduction to Relativity, Waves and Quantum Physics
Public Health Electives:
Essentials of Data Analysis
Total Credits20

Honors Requirements for Biochemistry

All ScB Biochemistry concentrators are candidates for Honors; no separate application is necessary.

The requirements for Honors in Biochemistry are:

* Students in the class of 2021: A strong grade record in concentration courses. This means a grade point average for the concentration that is higher than 3.25. For students in the classes of 2022 and after: Students must have a majority of either As or S with distinction grades in concentration courses. 

* Two semesters of Independent Study (CHEM 0970, CHEM 0980 or equivalent. Guidelines and requirements associated with Independent Study are in the Undergraduate Concentration Handbook which can be found at the department website.

* A Thesis in a form approved by the research advisor, and recommended by the research advisor.  Additional information about thesis guidelines will be provided by the Concentration Advisor in the first half of the fall semester.