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

All of the courses included in 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, and so on.

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 B&MB faculty following arrival to Campus.

Note that the Research requirement for B&MB 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 UEA or UQ).

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. Tom Arnold at 717-245-1319 or email or any of the contributing faculty.