The Undergraduate Concentration in Biochemistry

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FAQ's for Biochemistry majors and BS/MS students

Biochemistry BS

  1. I’m an incoming first year student. What courses should I register for if I am thinking about majoring in Biochemistry?
  2. Isn’t that a lot, taking two science courses plus labs (possibly plus math) in my first year?
  3. Couldn't I take BIOL 14 and 15 in my first year and Phys 11a,b in my second year, instead of the other way around?
  4. I need to take Math 10a (or both Math 5a and Math 10a). Will this put me behind in fulfilling the major requirements for Biochemistry?
  5. Why does the biochemistry major require so many introductory science courses?
  6. Do I have to take BIOL18a, the second semester of Biology lab?
  7. I did well on my Biology AP. Does that get me out of having to take BIOL 14 or BIOL 15?
  8. Is there a lab course for Biochemistry?
  9. Should I take advanced math courses?
  10. I got a C in Orgo (or Gen. Chem. or Intro Phys. or Calculus). Should I be a Biochemistry major?
  11. Can I be a Biochem/Neuro double major?
  12. How do I get approval to take a particular course to satisfy the elective requirement for the major?
  13. Which course should I take as my elective?
  14. What do Biochemistry majors do after they graduate?

Biochemistry B.S. with Honors

  1. How do I register for BCHM 99?
  2. Do I need to take BCHM 99? Can’t I just work in the lab?
  3. I’m confused. Should I register for BCHM 99a, 99b, or 99e?

BS/MS

  1. I heard something about a 152 credit requirement. What’s the deal?
  2. Which degree requirements apply to me, the ones in effect when I entered Brandeis or the ones in this year’s catalog?
  3. How many BCHM 99/BCHM 150 courses should I take?
  4. Do I need to take two semesters of 150?
  5. How do I get approval to take a particular course as an elective for the M.S.?

Biochemistry BS

  1. I’m an incoming first year student. What courses should I register for if I am thinking about majoring in Biochemistry?

    Brandeis students intending to be Biochemistry majors should take in their first year:

    -- a full year of general chemistry (CHEM 11a,b with corresponding lab CHEM 18a,b or honors chemistry CHEM 15a,b with corresponding lab CHEM 19a,b); AND
    -- a full year of introductory physics (PHYS 11a,b or the honors version PHYS 15a,b) and the accompanying lab, PHYS 19a,b.

    The possible exceptions to the above are students who placed into pre-calculus or differential calculus (these students cannot enroll in PHYS 11 until they have finished MATH 5 and/or MATH 10a); and some students who intend to receive credit for advanced placement exams in chemistry, and/or physics. Another possible exception is students who intend to fulfill some of their major requirements with Summer School courses.

    First-year students who placed into Math 10b should take Math10b in their first semester.

  2. Isn’t that a lot, taking two science courses plus labs (possibly plus math) in my first year?

    The honors biochemistry major requires 16 one-semester courses (not counting labs), so on average you will be taking two science lecture courses every semester. The major requires four labs, and it is highly desirable to complete these in the first two years.

  3. Couldn't I take BIOL 14 and 15 in my first year and Phys 11a,b in my second year, instead of the other way around?

    Unless one of the exceptions (see the answer to question #1, above) applies to you, you should take general chemistry and intro physics in your first year and NOT take BIOL 14/15. It is extremely important to take the lab courses at the same time as the corresponding lecture course (or, in the case of BIOL 18b, in the semester immediately following the lecture course). You will not be able to do this if you take BIOL first (because that would necessitate taking three laboratory courses in the same semester in your second year, which is essentially impossible due to time constraints).

  4. I need to take Math 10a (or both Math 5a and Math 10a). Will this put me behind in fulfilling the major requirements for Biochemistry?

    This is one of the exceptional circumstances. If you want to be a Biochem. major, in your situation you should take MATH5a (if needed) and MATH10a in your first year and defer taking PHYS 11a,b until 2nd year. Instead of taking Physics in your first year, you should take 2 semesters of General Chemistry with lab and BIOL 14a and BIOL 15b. If you can manage the two science lecture courses plus Math in your each of the first two semesters, you won't be behind on fulfilling the major requirements. If that seems like too daunting a schedule for your first year, you could also consider another major (e.g., Biology) that does not require physics or calculus, or you could consider the possibility of taking the math course(s) in summer school after your first two semesters.

  5. Why does the biochemistry major require so many introductory science courses?

    To complete the requirements for the biochemistry B.S. degree students take a series of advanced courses in biochemistry: Bchm 100a, 101a, 103b, 104a, and 104b. All of these courses are based on, and assume prior knowledge of, material from introductory biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics courses. This document lists describes catalogs some of the things that students should know from their introductory courses before taking the advanced biochemistry curriculum.

  6. Do I have to take BIOL18a, the second semester of Biology lab?

    That course is not required for the Biochemistry BS. (However, it may be necessary for students who want to apply for post-graduate medical education.)

  7. I did well on my Biology AP. Does that get me out of having to take BIOL 14 or BIOL 15?

    Starting in the fall 2018 semester, an appropriate score on the advanced standing exam in biology will be considered the course equivalent of BIOL 15b. This means that students admitted for the Fall 2018 (or after) that claim advanced standing exam credit for Biology (AP, IB, French Bacc, A-level) cannot also enroll in BIOL 15b at Brandeis. The advanced standing score in biology will fulfill the BIOL 15b requirement for the Biochemistry major.

    Students admitted to Brandeis prior to fall 2018 will be permitted to claim advanced standing credit and also take BIOL 15b at Brandeis, OR these students can claim advanced standing credit in biology and use the advanced standing exam as a course equivalent to BIOL 15b towards their major requirements. When claiming their advanced standing exam credit at the Registrar's Office, these students should indicate which set of rules they would like to use. Any questions can be directed to the Office of the University Registrar.

  8. Is there a lab course for Biochemistry?

    The Advanced Introductory Biochemistry course, BCHM 100, does not have an associated lab. Most biochemistry majors do independent research in a professor’s lab for their honors thesis, but that is optional.

  9. Should I take advanced math courses?

    There is no math requirement for the Biochemistry major, except that Phys 11a, Phys 11b, Bchm 104a, and Bchm 104b (which are biochemistry major requirements) have a calculus prerequisite. However, skill at more advanced math can be extremely valuable and we strongly encourage students with an appetite for math to take as much as they can fit in their schedule. Areas of math that are particularly useful for biochemistry and other science majors are linear algebra, multivariate calculus, statistics, and differential equations. Computer programming is also very useful.

  10. I got a C in Orgo (or Gen. Chem. or Intro Phys. or Calculus). Should I be a Biochemistry major?

    To be frank, you are right to be concerned. The advanced courses required for the Biochemistry major are demanding and require a strong background in chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Biochemistry majors are typically students with excellent performance in the introductory courses in these subjects. If you have questions about whether your preparation is strong enough to do well in the advanced courses, please feel free to ask the UAH and/or one of the UDRs.

  11. Can I be a Biochem/Neuro double major?

    Yes. The tricky part is that two required courses, BCHM 100a and NBIO 140b, are sometimes taught in the same block. When that is the case they cannot be both taken the Fall term of your Junior year. To get around this problem, you can:

    • take BCHM 100 and CHEM 25b concurrently in Spring semester of your Sophomore year, or
    • take NBIO 140 in Fall semester of your Sophomore year, or
    • in your Junior year take NBIO 140 in Fall and BCHM 100 in Spring.

  12. How do I get approval to take a particular course to satisfy the elective requirement for the major?

    Your choice of courses to satisfy the major requirements must be approved by the department. Please obtain approval before starting the course so that you will be certain that it will satisfy your elective requirement. All electives must be courses numbered 100 or higher* on a subject at least somewhat related to Biochemistry, but they need not be Biochemistry Department courses. When your elective choice is approved you will be notified by email; please keep a copy of this email for your records. Detailed instructions on how to receive approval can be found here.

    * Some Math and Statistics courses with numbers less than 100 may also be acceptable for the BS elective.

  13. Which course should I take as my elective?

    It is your choice. One possibility is to take BCHM 102, which is chosen as an elective by many biochemistry majors.

  14. What do Biochemistry majors do after they graduate?

    Biochemistry majors most often either go on to postgraduate education (for example, a Ph.D. program or medical school) or go to an industry job (e.g., in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology sectors). However, there are many other possibilities (some of our graduates have gone into law, journalism, teaching, public policy, and a variety of other fields).

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Biochemistry B.S. with Honors

  1. How do I register for BCHM 99?

    You cannot register for BCHM 99 through Sage. Instead, fill out an add/drop form and have it signed by the faculty member who is your research advisor. You will need to list the appropriate section number for your advisor; if he/she doesn’t know the number, ask the Biochemistry Office.

  2. Do I need to take BCHM 99? Can’t I just work in the lab?

    To get departmental honors, you must register for and successfully complete the number of semesters of BCHM 99 specified in the Bulletin.

  3. I’m confused. Should I register for BCHM 99a, 99b, or 99e?

    Register for 99a the first time you take the course and 99b the second. In general you should not register for 99e; that is a special 8-credit course that is taken only in unusual circumstances. (If you think “unusual circumstances” applies to you, please discuss your situation with the UAH, whose signature is required to register for 99e).

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BS/MS

  1. I heard something about a 152 credit requirement. What’s the deal?

    To get a four-year B.S./M.S. degree, you have to take 152 credits (i.e., an average of 4.75 full courses per semester over all eight semesters.) This is a university requirement for all dual Bachelor's/Master's degree programs (see http://www.brandeis.edu/registrar/bulletin/provisional/college/special/index.html).

  2. Which degree requirements apply to me, the ones in effect when I entered Brandeis or the ones in this year’s catalog?

    The requirements that apply to you are the ones in effect when you entered Brandeis. If the current requirements are more lenient, you can request permission to satisfy the current requirements instead.

  3. How many BCHM 99/BCHM 150 courses should I take?

    BS/MS students typically take 99a and 99b in their Junior year and 150a and 150b in their Senior year. Since 99 has a corequisite of Bchm 100, this plan requires that students take Bchm 100 no later than Fall semester Junior year.

    In unusual cases where it is not possible to take both 99a and 99b, students can request permission from the UAH and their advisor to take 99e, an 8-credit course that counts as two semesters of lab research. Students wanting to take 99e should discuss this with the UAH as far in advance as possible.

  4. Do I need to take two semesters of 150?

    Many BS/MS students will need to take two semesters of BCHM 150. For a four-year BS/MS, the university requires (see http://www.brandeis.edu/registrar/bulletin/provisional/college/special/index.html) four additional graduate courses beyond those required for the BS. Normally BS/MS students satisfy this requirement by taking 102, 150a, 150b, and the required elective.

  5. How do I get approval to take a particular course as an elective for the M.S.?

    If you are in the BS/MS program, you need a second elective for your MS degree in addition to the one approved for your BS degree. Please obtain approval before starting the course so that you will be certain that it will satisfy your elective requirement. Detailed instructions on how to receive approval can be found here.

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