Our understanding of the fundamental chemical processes that take place within the cells of living organisms has undergone dramatic change during the past several decades.  The discovery of the structure of the DNA molecule in the early 1950s has emerged as one of the central events in the history of both biology and chemistry and has led to unprecedented advances in our knowledge of life and in the ways by which we go about studying it. The approaches now becoming available offer promise of revolutionary changes in human health care and the treatment of disease. In some areas, the boundaries between Biology and Chemistry have disappeared and the traditional disciplines have merged into new fields such as biochemistry and molecular biology. Dickinson’s program in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology is an interdisciplinary major administered and taught by faculty from both the Biology and Chemistry departments.

Courses appropriate for prospective majors

The Biology and Chemistry courses that compose the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major are regular offerings of the Biology and Chemistry departments. The appropriate sections of this handbook and the Academic Bulletin should be consulted for information regarding individual courses, Advanced Placement, courses that fulfill distribution requirements, etc.

Due to its interdisciplinary nature, the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major requires more than the usual number of courses. It is therefore necessary for students intending to complete the major to plan their program of study carefully. It is strongly recommended that any student considering this major should seek advice from one of the contributing faculty as early as possible. Students with adequate preparation should begin by taking both the introductory biology and chemistry sequences during the first year. This is accomplished by enrolling in two courses from Biology (120 – 129) and CHEM 131 and 132 (or CHEM 141, depending on results of the Chemistry Placement Exam).

For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Suggested curricular flow through the major

There are several approaches for completion of the major; the flexibility is provided to enable students to study abroad. That being said, it is very important to start Chemistry during the first semester (based on placement scores in Chemistry and in Math). In addition to CHEM 131 or 141, interested students should take either a Math class or a Biology 120-level course.

If starting Chemistry during the first semester of college is not recommended (based on Math placement), then interested students should take MATH 151 during the first year (first semester if possible, so MATH 170 could be taken in Spring of the first year). Students also should complete the BIOL 120-level coursework during the first year (one BIOL class in each semester).

Therefore, during the first year, students are encouraged to complete four science/math courses towards the major; as noted above, initiating Chemistry during the Fall semester of the first year is the best approach (depending on the Math and Chemistry placement test results).

For more details in terms of planning the academic program after the first semester, it is helpful to get advice from BCMB faculty following arrival to Campus.

Note that the Research requirement for BCMB can be fulfilled on-campus during a semester (BCMB 560 - Student-Faculty Research), on-campus during a summer, or off-campus (typically during a summer, but some students have performed research when studying abroad at the University of East Anglia or the University of Queensland).

Option 1      
Semester 1 Semester 2 Semester 3 Semester 4
FYS Distribution Math 170 Math 171
Chem 131 Chem 132 Chem 241 Chem 242
Bio 120 level Bio 120 level Bio 216 Distribution
Foreign language Foreign language Foreign Language Distribution
Option 2      
Semester 1 Semester 2 Semester 3 Semester 4
FYS Distribution Math 171 Distribution
Chem 141 Math 170 Chem 241 Chem 242
Bio 120 level Bio 120 level Bio 216 Bio 313
Foreign language Foreign language Foreign language Distribution
Option 3      
Semester 1 Semester 2 Semester 3 Semester 4
FYS  Bio 120 level Bio 120 level Bio 216
Chem 131 Chem 132 Chem 241 Chem 242
Math 151 Math 170 Math 171 Distribution
Foreign language Foreign language Foreign language Distribution



A. Criteria for Honors
The BCMB faculty will award honors to a BCMB major based on the entirety of the candidate’s BCMB program. This includes grades in all courses required for the major (and related additional courses in Biology and/or Chemistry) and successful completion of a two semester (or summer and one semester) research experience. A minimum GPA of 3.20 is required in courses counting towards the BCMB major, including transfer (and study abroad) courses that receive BCMB credit.  The Honors research project should be distinguished by the originality and definition of the research problem, the sophistication of the experimental design and its execution, and the analysis and presentation (written and oral) of the results. Generally, Honors reports should be of publishable or near-publishable quality. The Honors Committee will consider all these factors in its recommendation to the Program faculty, and the Program faculty should be cognizant of all these factors when voting on Honors.

B. Procedures for Honors
1.  By the date of Roll Call during the Fall semester of Senior year, a student should indicate their intent to pursue Honors to both their research mentor and the BCMB Chair. The BCMB Chair will form a Committee of the research mentor (who will serve as Chair of the Honors Committee), a BCMB faculty member from Biology, and a BCMB faculty member from Chemistry.

2.  By noon on Monday of the penultimate week of Fall semester classes (typically, the Monday immediately following Thanksgiving), the student will submit a Research Proposal to the Committee. This Proposal should include a first draft of the Introduction section of the final paper (to help establish an understanding of relevant background of the project), outline the main goals of the student’s work in the laboratory, describe what research results have been completed to date, and indicate a plan for experiments to be conducted during the Spring semester.

3.  Prior to the end of Fall semester finals, the Committee Chair will convene a Committee meeting. The Committee will review the student’s BCMB coursework to verify the candidate is eligible to proceed, and will review the student’s Research Proposal to discuss its merit and feasibility, and to identify problems or questions that need to be addressed. The Committee will vote as to whether or not the student is to be accepted as an Honors candidate and then will notify the BCMB Program Chair.

4.  By the end of Fall term, the Program Chair will notify the student in writing of the Committee’s decision. If the student has been accepted as a candidate for Honors, the Program Chair will advise the student that the final decision on the granting of Honors will depend on the Honors research project, the remainder of the student’s coursework, and the quality of the final paper and oral presentation.

5.  By the end of the first week of Spring term, dates will be set for receipt of first draft and a final draft of the project paper for oral presentation and defense; the Program Chair will notify the student of these dates via e-mail, with a copy of the e-mail to be sent to the Honors Committee.  In order to provide time for the Committee to read the paper, the student to give the oral presentation, the Committee to meet with the student, and the student to make final corrections to the paper prior to the deadline for submission of Senior awards and prizes, the paper must be submitted to the Committee by 5 p.m. on the Friday of the 12th week of Spring term classes. The oral presentation will be scheduled during the penultimate (13th) week of the Spring term. The candidate will meet with the Honors Committee no later than the last day of Spring term classes.  A final version of the paper must be submitted by 5 p.m. Wednesday during Exam Week. The Honors Committee must make their recommendation for or against Honors to the Program faculty by 9 a.m. on the Monday prior to Commencement.

6.  During the course of the Spring term, the faculty research advisor should alert the Honors Committee to any problems that arise during the course of the work.

7.  By the deadline noted above (section 5), the student’s Honors paper should be written in a manner that conforms to the style of an appropriate journal. The student should prepare an oral presentation lasting for approximately 25 minutes (during the presentation, approximately 5 minutes will be allowed for questions from the audience).  All BCMB faculty are required to attend the oral presentation; students will be invited to attend.

8.  The student and Honors Committee can meet immediately following the oral presentation, or by the end of Spring term classes (as noted above in section 5); here, the student will defend the project. Based on the quality of the oral presentation, written paper, and defense, the Committee will make a decision on whether or not to recommend Honors.

9.  The Committee will submit its recommendation to the BCMB Program Chair, who will convene the BCMB faculty for a final vote prior to deadline for submission of senior awards and prizes to the Registrar (as described in section 5).

Additional Remarks

Careers. The Biochemistry & Molecular Biology field is one of the most active and exciting areas of science. Opportunities abound in medicine, industry, and academics for those with strong credentials in this area. The major includes all of the science and mathematics courses normally required for students planning to apply to medical school or to related Ph.D. programs. It also enables those who seek employment immediately after graduation to compete successfully for jobs in the rapidly growing biotechnology field.

Off-campus study information. In addition to off-campus research internships, it is possible for majors to spend a semester or year abroad. The most likely sites for this would be the Dickinson Science Program at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England (all year or one semester) or study at the University of Queensland (one semester). Again, very careful planning well in advance of the junior year is required.

Further information.  Inquiries are welcomed from students or faculty who seek additional information about the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology program. Please contact the program director, Prof. Michael Roberts at 717-245-1201 or email or any of the contributing faculty.