Frequently asked questions about Biological Chemistry at Wellesley
• How do I decide between a major in Biological Chemistry, Chemistry or Biological Sciences?
Students who are interested in fields between the intersection between biology and chemistry can be very well served by completing a major in Biological Chemistry, Chemistry or Biological Sciences. Students completing any of these majors regularly enter graduate programs in biochemistry, cellular or molecular biology, complete medical school, work in biotech or other industries, teach, or pursue other careers. Your choice of majors should primarily stem from which major includes the courses you are the most interested in taking at Wellesley. If you are unsure which major is right for you, the best advice is to begin taking relevant courses in both biology and chemistry for the first year or two. This will allow you to further evaluate your curricular interests. After doing this, if you want to keep taking significant upper-level courses in both disciplines, then the interdepartmental major in Biological Chemistry is a good fit for you. However, if you'd rather focus your upper-level coursework on either chemistry or biology, then the departmental majors in Chemistry or Biological Sciences may fit better with your interests. It's also worth noting that some students interested in studying biological systems on the molecular level do so through other majors, such as neuroscience or computer science, complemented by coursework in biology and chemistry.
• What courses should I take during my first-year?
Students who are interested in biological chemistry ideally take the equivalent of two courses in chemistry (e.g. CHEM 105 and 205/211 or CHEM 120) and BISC 110/112 during their first year at Wellesley. Many students also take another course in mathematics or physics during the first year. While not essential, completing these courses gives students a valuable foundation for subsequent studies at the intersection of biology and chemistry. For those planning to major in Biological Chemistry, completing these courses also will help students complete the prerequisites to take the Fundamentals of Biochemistry (BIOC 223) course and courses in genetics (BIOC 219) and/or cellular biology (BIOC 220) during their sophomore year.
• How can I fit all the courses for the Biological Chemistry major into my schedule?
Often students feel that there is a daunting number of courses required for the Biological Chemistry major. However, these requirements don't feel onerous with some advanced planning. In particular, students who begin their first-year with courses in biology and chemistry are often able to complete the major without taking more than two laboratory courses in any semester, leaving time for thesis research if desired. Some students even complete the major along with a minor or even a second major in another department. If you are worried about when to fit the requirements into your schedule, the program director or any member of the advisory committee would be pleased to talk with you about your academic plan.
• Can I study abroad with a major in Biological Chemistry (or Chemistry or Biological Sciences)?
Absolutely! Previous majors—including those who have completed thesis research or even a second major—have taken advantage of the exceptional study abroad opportunities offered through the college. If you are considering studying abroad, you should plan ahead as early as possible to make sure you are able to complete the courses you need during your semesters on campus. One issue can be that it is difficult to find sciences courses abroad that fulfill our requirements, although students have been able to get credit more easily for science courses at British and Australian universities and at Jacobs University in Germany. We recommend talking with a faculty member in your prospective major early during your planning process to help you construct a reasonable plan that includes your desired study abroad.
• I'm a sophomore (or junior) and just realized I want to major in Biological Chemistry. Is it too late?
While we recommend that first year students take courses in biology and chemistry, some students don't realize their interest in biological chemistry until later. In fact, a few students have completed the major after taking essentially no courses in these areas during their first year. Starting late often doesn't require as heavy of a courseload as you might expect, and we would definitely encourage you to talk with the program director or a member of the advisory committee to figure out a feasible plan to complete the major.
• How do I get involved in research related to biological chemistry?
Many students interested in biological chemistry do independent research with faculty. To get involved with research, you should contact a few faculty members you might be interested in working with to discuss projects in their labs. If those faculty members are currently taking research students, they will likely set up a time to talk with you further about their research projects and your interests in research. You can learn more about biological chemistry research being done by faculty in a variety of departments on the Faculty Research Projects section of the Biological Chemistry Program website.
• How can I learn about biological chemistry events at Wellesley?
Seminars, informational events and social gatherings relevant to students and faculty interested in biological chemistry are announced through the Biological Chemistry Facebook Page and the BIOL CHEM Google Group. These events are always open to all students—not only biological chemistry majors! Contact Don Elmore if you wish to be added to the Google group.
• Who can I contact to learn more about biological chemistry at Wellesley?
The current Advisory Committee for the Biological Chemistry Program is:
Don Elmore (Chemistry), Director
Melissa Beers (Biological Sciences)
Louise Darling (Biological Sciences)
John Goss (Biological Sciences)
Vanja Klepac-Ceraj (Biological Sciences)
Megan Núñez (Chemistry)
Elizabeth Oakes (Chemistry)
Kaye Peterman (Biological Sciences)
Mala Radhakrishnan (Chemistry)
Marc Tetzel (Neuroscience)
Didem Vardar-Ulu (Chemistry)
Adele Wolfson (Chemistry)
Any of these faculty members would be pleased to discuss options related to biological chemistry at Wellesley. Also, most science majors are happy to talk with you about courses and other opportunities at Wellesley.