Biochemistry and Biophysics

Overview

The interdisciplinary BCBP major comprises courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and computer science, in addition to the senior-year comprehensive requirements. Following a common set of six introductory courses in chemistry, biology, and physics, students will choose, depending on their particular scientific interests, either the “Biophysics” or “Biochemistry” track of the major. While these two tracks share much in the way of coursework (see the "Course Requirements" link on the left), they differ somewhat in the emphasis of the upper-level courses: the biophysical track offers a focus on computational and physical approaches to studying biological problems; the biochemical track provides a stronger emphasis on the tools and principles of molecular biology and biological chemistry.

In terms of course requirements, BCBP is one of the most academically demanding majors at Amherst: it requires 13 courses, some of which may have further prerequisites that don’t directly count toward the major. Moreover, at least 7 of the required courses in the biophysical track and 9 in the biochemical track have laboratory components (these numbers of lab courses could be even higher depending on a student’s course selection). We point this out not to discourage anyone from majoring, but simply so that students interested in BCBP will have a realistic view of the demanding trajectory required for completing the major.

BCBP majors may also choose to complete a senior honors-thesis project. Thesis work counts as 3 "courses," one in the fall and two in the spring of the senior year. A student’s thesis project will be in an area of ongoing research under the supervision of one (or more) of the BCBP faculty members. (Thesis research is not tracked; that is, any student could in principle work with any BCBP faculty member for his/her thesis research.)