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 including coursework and a capstone component are both described below. Also descriped are policies for the Major.


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).

15 Required courses for all BCBP Majors:

  • Eight foundational BCBP courses: Introductory Chemistry (CHEM 151/155), Chemical Principles (CHEM 161/165) , Molecules, Genes, and Cells (BIOL 191), Cell Structure and Function (BIOL 291) or Molecular Genetics (371), Introduction to Calculus (MATH 111), Intermediate Calculus (MATH 121), Introductory Mechanics (PHYS 116/123), Introductory Electromagnetism (PHYS 117/124). See Placement Information for placing out of any of these courses. 
  • Three intermediate BCBP courses that complete either the Biochemistry track or the Biophysics track:
    • Biophysics track required courses:
      • One of the following: 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). Additional advanced math courses are possible with the approval of the BCBP Chair.
      • PHYS 225 (Modern Physics) or CHEM 351 (Quantum Chemistry and Spectroscopy)
      • One elective course:  BIOL 221, BIOL 241, BIOL 261, BIOL/PHYS 265, BIOL 270/271, BIOL 291, BIOL 301, BIOL 310, BIOL 311, BIOL/NEUR 313, BIOL 320/321, BIOL/BCBP/CHEM 331, BIOL 350/351, BIOL/BCBP 370/371, BIOL 380/381, CHEM 221, BIOL/CHEM 330, COSC 111, COSC 112, MATH 211, MATH 260, PHYS 303, PHYS 343, or STAT 235.   Other elective courses not listed here may satisfy this elective upon approval by the BCBP Chair.
    • Biochemistry track required courses:
      • Organic Chemistry I (CHEM 221)
      • Organic Chemistry II (CHEM 231)
      • Biochemistry with lab (BCBP/BIOL/CHEM 331)
      • One Biology lab elective. (Note: A BIOL course ending in "1" indicates a laboratory course; a BIOL course ending in "0" indicates a course without lab). Courses that fulfill the requirement: BIOL 221, BIOL 241, BIOL 261, BIOL/PHYS 265, BIOL 271, BIOL/BCBP 291, BIOL 301, BCBP310/BIOL 310, BIOL 311, BIOL/NEUR 313, BIOL 321, BCBP/BIOL/CHEM 331, BIOL 351, BCBP/BIOL 371, BIOL 381. Other elective courses not listed here may satisfy this requirement upon approval by the BCBP Chair.
  • Two advanced BCBP courses: 
    • Molecular Biophysics (BCBP/BIOL/PHYS/CHEM 400)
    • Statistical Mechanics (PHYS 230) or Physical Chemistry (CHEM 361)
  • 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.  Courses that fulfill the requirement:  
    • AMST/HIST 147 Drugs and History
    • AMST-243: Indigeneity and Science in the Archives
    • AMST/BLST/SWAG-296: Black Women and Reproductive Justice in the African Diaspora
    • ANTH/SWAG-209 or SOCI-207: Feminist Perspective on Science and Medicine
    • ANTH-211: Feminist Science Studies
    • ANTH-232 or SWAG-231: Contested Bodies: Race, Gender, and Embodiment in Biomedicine
    • ANTH-245: Medical Anthropology
    • ANTH/SOCI/ENST-226: Unequal Footprints on the Earth: Understanding the Social Drivers of Ecological Crises and Environmental Inequality
    • ANTH-268: Race, Nature, Power
    • CHEM/SOCI-250, BIOL-150: Being Human in STEM
    • CHEM-260: Chemistry in Society
    • ECON-212: Public Economics: Environmental, Health,  & Inequality
    • ENST/HIST-105: Global Environmental History of the 20th Century
    • ENST-120: The Resilient (?) Earth: An Introduction to Environmental Studies
    • ENST-220/HIST-104: Environ Issues 19th Cent
    • ENST-225: Climate Science/Society
    • ENST-226: Social Drivers of Ecological Crises and Environmental Inequality
    • ENST-260: Global Environ. Politics
    • ENST-306/SOCI-306: Pandemics and Society
    • ENST-314/SOCI-314: Climate Justice
    • ENST/SOCI-328: The Pandemic
    • HIST/SWAG-258: American Medical Injustice
    • LJST-255: Community and Immunity
    • PHIL-212: Public Health Ethics during COVID-19
    • PHYS-255/ASTR-155: Physics, Astronomy, Society
    • POSC-109: Pandemic Politics
    • PSYC-220: Social Psychology
    • SOCI-228: Feminism and COVID-19
    • SPAN-316: Language and Power
    • STAT-136: Stats and Mental Health
    • STAT-200: Health Injustice
    • Substituting other courses at Amherst or offered in the Five Colleges requires advanced approval by the BCBP Program Chair. To receive advanced approval from the current BCBP Chair (Prof. Ashley Carter), students must send the course description and a short paragraph on why the course 1) engages with issues of DEI and 2) pertains to science.  If the course engages with issues of DEI, but does not pertain to science, then the student will need to show that there is a project in the course that is worth a significant portion of the grade (>30%) and will need to agree to do the project on a scientific topic. In this case, the student must send Carter an email with this information and cc the professor of the course. Then, the professor of course will also need to reply and say that they agree to the plan.

Capstone Experience

For completion of the major, BCBP majors need to attend 6 or more BCBP-approved research seminars in their senior year, and make an oral presentation of a research paper to a committee of BCBP faculty. Please see the Capstone Experience  page for more details. 


Special Topics Courses for the Major 

Special Topics BCPB 290/390/490 may be elected for students who wish to explore a topic with a faculty member, complete an intensive laboratory, or do research in Biochemistry and Biophysics with individual members of the faculty, but cannot be used to fulfill the coursework or capstone requirements for the Major.

Pass/Fail for the Major

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

Double Counting Courses for the Major

Double counting courses for a double major is allowed.  There may be restrictions by the other major, but no additional restrictions imposed by BCBP.  

Policy for Study Away

When choosing courses to take while studying away or studying off campus, students should consult with their advisor and seek approval from the BCBP Chair for courses that they want to count toward the BCBP major. For more information see our webpage on Study Away. Approval of courses during study away will require emailing the BCBP Chair a course description and syllabus. Students on the Biochemistry Track must take Biochemistry (BCBP 331) at Amherst College.


NOTE: Capstone experience begins for the class of '25. Prior to that students needed to fulfill the comprehensive requirement.

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).

NOTE: DEI requirement begins with the class of 2024. 

NOTE: For Spring 2020, BCBP will accept pass-fail grades for courses in the major.