Frequently asked questions about Biochemistry at Wellesley
• How do I decide between a major in Biochemistry, 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 Biochemistry, 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, allowing you to further explore your curricular interests. If you find that you want to keep taking significant upper-level courses in both disciplines, then the interdepartmental major in Biochemistry is likely 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 interested in biochemistry ideally take the equivalent of two courses in chemistry. In the fall, the most common introductory chemistry option is CHEM 105 or 105P, followed by CHEM 205 or CHEM 211 in the spring. Students with a 4 or 5 on the AP exam can enroll instead in a one-semester accelerated version of introductory chemistry, CHEM 120, in the fall. Students should also complete the first semester of biology (BISC 110, 110P, 112, or 112Y) during their first year at Wellesley. A new integrated interdisciplinary course premiered in the fall of 2016 and combined introductory chemistry and biology, called BISC116/CHEM116. This double course provides an excellent introduction to the discipline of biochemistry. Many students also take another course in mathematics or physics during the first year. While not essential, these courses give students a valuable foundation for subsequent studies at the intersection of biology and chemistry. For a student planning to major in Biochemistry, these courses are the prerequisites for Fundamentals of Biochemistry (CHEM 223), genetics (BISC 219), and/or cellular biology (BISC 220) which can be taken during her sophomore year.
• How can I fit all the courses for the Biochemistry major into my schedule?
Often students feel that there is a daunting number of courses required for the Biochemistry major. However, these requirements don't have to feel onerous, and can be quite manageable with 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. Many students complete the major along with a minor, a second major in another department, or a semester or year studying abroad. If you are worried about when to fit the requirements into your schedule, the program directors or any member of the advisory committee would be pleased to talk with you about your academic plan. We now also offer a new 7-course Biochemistry minor option, open to anyone but Chemistry or Biological Sciences majors; this can be a great option for someone with a strong interest in both biochemistry and the humanities, social sciences, or another science.
• Can I study abroad with a major in Biochemistry (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 Biochemistry. 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 biochemistry 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 directors or a member of the advisory committee to figure out a feasible plan to complete the major. The biochemistry minor might also be a viable option for students who discover their passion for biochemistry later in their college careers and might also want to major in another field.
• How do I get involved in research related to biochemistry?
Many students interested in biochemistry 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 biochemistry research being done by faculty in a variety of departments on the Biochemistry Program website.
• How can I learn about biochemistry events at Wellesley?
Seminars, informational events and social gatherings relevant to biochemistry are announced through the Biochemistry Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/WellesleyBIOC) and the BIOC CHEM Google Group. These events are always open to all students—not only biochemistry majors! Contact Mala Radhakrishnan if you wish to be added to the Google group.
• Who can I contact to learn more about biochemistry at Wellesley?
Current members of the Advisory Committee for Biochemistry are:
Mala Radhakrishnan (Chemistry), Director
Melissa Beers (Biological Sciences)
Dora Carrico-Moniz (Chemistry)
Louise Darling (Biological Sciences)
Don Elmore (Chemistry)
John Goss (Biological Sciences)
Mona Hall (Chemistry)
Vanja Klepac-Ceraj (Biological Sciences)
Adam Matthews (Biological Sciences)
Megan Núñez (Chemistry)
Elizabeth Oakes (Chemistry)
Kaye Peterman (Biological Sciences)
Julie Roden (Biological Sciences)
Mathew Tantama (Chemistry)
Marc Tetel (Neuroscience)
Any of these faculty members are available to discuss options related to biochemistry at Wellesley. Also, most science majors would be happy to talk with you about courses and other opportunities at Wellesley.