Biochemistry and Biophysics is an interdisciplinary major that integrates the three disciplines of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, using the principles of chemistry and physics to explain and explore biological phenomena. The requirements for the major include coursework and a comprehensive component, both described below.


BCBP majors complete seven foundational courses in the three disciplines (see below for specific courses). Students choose either a Biophysics track or a Biochemistry track, and accordingly choose six intermediate/advanced courses to develop a more specialized exploration within the BCBP major. This includes one required capstone course for all BCBP majors: BCBP/BIOL/CHEM/PHYS 400 (Molecular and Cellular Biophysics). 

Course details are listed below and also shown in table format in the tab at: Course Requirements (Tabular).

Four categories of required courses for all BCBP Majors:

  • Seven common foundational courses: CHEM 151/155, CHEM 161/165, BIOL 191, BIOL 291/371, MATH 121, PHYS 116/123, and PHYS 117/124. NOTE: For the BCBP class of '23 and '24, the following classes can also be used to fulfill the requirement for BCBP/BIOL 291 (Cell Structure/Function) or BCBP/BIOL 371 (Molecular Genetics): Developmental Biology (BIOL 221), Neurophysiology (BIOL 351), Genetic Analysis (BIOL 241), and Small Proteins (BIOL 311)
  • One common advanced capstone course BCBP/BIOL/PHYS/CHEM 400 
  • One DEI course that engages with issues of systemic racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion, or social justice as it pertains to science and scientific communities. This requirement begins with the class of 2024.  Examples of existing courses that fulfill this requirement are listed here.  Substituting other courses at Amherst or offered in the Five Colleges requires advanced approval by the Program Chair.
    • ANTH-245: Medical Anthropology
    • BIOL-150/CHEM-250: Being Human in STEM
    • ENST-220/HIST-104: Environ Issues 19th Cent
    • ENST-225: Climate Science/Society
    • ENST-260: Global Environ. Politics
    • ENST-306/SOCI-306: Pandemics and Society
    • ENST-314/SOCI-314: Climate Justice
    • LJST-255: Community and Immunity
    • PHYS-255/ASTR-155: Phys, Astro, Society
    • SOCI-228: Feminism and COVID-19
    • SOCI-314: Climate Justice
    • SWAG-209: Feminism in Sci and Med
  • Additional required courses, depending on the chosen track:

Biophysics track additional required courses:

A) One course in each of the following three categories: 

      • MATH 140 (Mathematical Modeling), MATH 260 (Differential Equations), MATH 271 (Linear Algebra), MATH 272 (Linear Algebra w/Applications), MATH 284 (Numerical Analysis), MATH 365 (Stochastic Processes), MATH 370, Theoretical Statistics, STATS 230 (Intermediate Statistics), or STATS 231 (Data Science)
      • PHYS 225 (Modern Physics) or CHEM 351 (Quantum Chemistry and Spectroscopy)
      • PHYS 230 (Statistical Mechanics & Thermodynamics, no laboratory) or CHEM 361 (Physical Chemistry w/laboratory)

B) Two additional elective courses, at least one of which must be a biology laboratory course. (Note: A BIOL course ending in "1" indicates a laboratory course; a BIOL course ending in "0" indicates a course without lab). 

      • Biophysics Track Electives:  BIOL 221, BIOL 241, BIOL/PHYS 265, BIOL 270/271, BIOL 291, BIOL 301, BIOL 310, BIOL 320/321, BIOL/BCBP/CHEM 331, BIOL 350/351, BIOL/BCBP 370/371, BIOL 380/381, CHEM 221, CHEM 330, COSC 111, COSC 112, MATH 211, MATH 260, PHYS 343, or STAT 235.   Other elective courses not listed here may satisfy this elective upon approval by the BCBP Program.

Biochemistry track additional required courses:

 A) Four courses: CHEM 221, CHEM 231 (Organic Chemistry I and II), BIOL 331 (Biochemistry with lab), and either PHYS 230 (Statistical Mechanics & Thermodynamics, no lab) or CHEM 361(Physical chemistry with lab)

B) One additional elective course that is a biology laboratory course (Note: A BIOL course ending in "1" indicates a laboratory course; a BIOL course ending in "0" indicates a course without lab). 

      • Biochemistry Track Electives:  BIOL 221, BIOL 241, BIOL/PHYS 265, BIOL 271, BIOL/BCBP 291, BIOL 301, BIOL 321, BIOL 351, BIOL 371, BIOL 381.   Other elective courses not listed here may satisfy this elective upon approval by the BCBP Program.

Special Topics Course BCPB 490 may be elected for students who wish an intensive laboratory or research tutorial in Biochemistry and Biophysics with individual members of the faculty, but cannot be used to fulfill the above requirements.

Pass/Fail for the Major
Courses with pass/fail grades cannot be used to fulfill the BCBP Program requirements. 

Comprehensive requirements for all BCBP majors:

For completion of the major, in their senior year, BCBP majors attend 6 or more BCBP-approved research seminars, and make an oral presentation of a research paper to a committee of BCBP faculty. 

  1. Attendance at 6 or more BCBP approved seminars during your senior year. If you have any questions you may contact Ms. Catherine Stillerman.  Please check with your BCBP advisor ahead of time to make sure that the seminar content is appropriate to count toward the major.
  2. The second element is to present a research paper and engage in discussion around that paper with a small group of faculty, your “Committee.” For thesis writers, this presentation can be based on a paper related to you thesis topic, and should be presented before the end of the fall semester. Students not writing a thess will carry out their paper presentation in the spring semester before spring break, and should consult with their Advisor in choosing a paper.