Biochemistry Website


Chair, Associate Professor MARSHA ALTSCHULER

Advisory Committee: Professors: DEWITT, L. KAPLAN, LOVETT. Associate Professors: ALTSCHULER*, D. LYNCH, ROSEMAN. Assistant Professors: ADLER, LASKOWSKI*, RAYMOND, SAVAGE, SWOAP***, WEISS*.

Biochemistry and molecular biology are dynamic fields which lie at the forefront of science. They have provided important insights and advances in the elucidation of the relationship between the structure and function of proteins, the molecules and cells of the immune system, enzyme structure and action, membrane assembly and structure, DNA and RNA structure, the nature of the genetic code, and the molecular basis of gene regulation. Recombinant DNA and other biotechnologies have provided new and powerful tools which have exciting applications. Current applications range from the diagnosis and treatment of disease to enzyme chemistry, developmental biology, and the engineering of new crop plants.

The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program is designed to provide students with an opportunity to explore living systems in molecular terms. Biochemistry and molecular biology are at the interface between the chemical and biological methods of looking at nature, therefore, the program draws heavily from these disciplines. While chemistry is concerned with the relationship between molecular structure and reactions, and biology focuses on cells and organisms, biochemistry and molecular biology probe the details of the structures and interactions of molecules in living systems in order to provide the foundation for a better understanding of biological molecules both individually and as members of more complex structures.


While aspects of biochemistry and molecular biology can be very diverse, a common set of chemical and biological principles underlie the more advanced topics. With this in mind, the program has been structured to provide the necessary background in chemistry and biology and the opportunity to study the many facets of the modern areas of the biochemical sciences. Students interested in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program should plan their course selection carefully. Since it is expected that Biochemistry 321 and 322 would be taken in the junior year, students are advised to take the prerequisites for those courses in both chemistry and biology during their first two years at Williams. While the program is open to all students, it is expected that it will appeal primarily to majors in biology and chemistry because of the number of courses required in those fields. In addition to taking the required courses, students planning to complete the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program are strongly encouraged to elect courses in mathematics and physics.


Biochemistry 321 and 322 provide a comprehensive introduction to biochemistry. These courses taken in conjunction with Biology 202 Genetics and Biology 306 Advanced Molecular Genetics provide a thorough background in essentially all of the areas of modern biochemistry and molecular biology.

To complete the concentration in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, a student must complete all of the required courses:

Required Courses

Biology 101 The Cell

and Biology 102 The Organism

Chemistry 101, 102/106 or 103-104/108 Concepts of Chemistry

Chemistry 201-202 Organic Chemistry

Biology 202 Genetics

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 321 Biochemistry I-Structure and Function of Biological Molecules

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 322 Biochemistry II-Metabolism

one 400-level biology course (from Elective Courses listed below)

and two of the following elective courses; one from the Chemistry Department and one from the Biology Department offerings:

Elective Courses

Biology 301 Developmental Biology

Biology 304 Neurobiology

Biology 306 Advanced Molecular Genetics

Biology 308 Plant Growth and Development

Biology 309 Mammalian Molecular Physiology

Biology 313 Immunology

Biology 314 Virology

Biology 410 Topics in Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology

Biology 412 Biochemical Regulatory Mechanisms

Biology 413 Molecular Basis of Biological Clocks

Chemistry 301 Physical Chemistry: Thermodynamics

Chemistry 303 Synthetic Organic Chemistry

Chemistry/Environmental Studies 304 Instrumental Methods of Analysis

Chemistry 306 Physical Chemistry: A Biochemical Approach

Chemistry 308/Environmental Studies 328 Toxicology and Cancer

Chemistry 310 Enzyme Kinetics and Reaction Mechanisms

Since the Chemistry Department counts two biology courses and the Biology Department counts two chemistry courses toward the majors (each of which can be completed with only eight other courses), a student majoring in either chemistry or biology would have to take only three additional courses to complete the program.