Biochemistry Website


Chair, Associate Professor STEPHEN SWOAP

Advisory Committee: Professors: ALTSCHULER, DEWITT, KAPLAN, LOVETT**, D. LYNCH**. Associate Professor: RAYMOND***, ROSEMAN, SWOAP, SAVAGE**. Assistant Professors: GEHRING, HUTSON, TING. Visiting Associate Professor: BANTA.

Biochemistry and molecular biology are dynamic fields that lie at the forefront of science. Through elucidation of the structure and function of biologically important molecules (such as nucleic acids, lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates) these disciplines have provided important insights and advances in the fields of molecular engineering (recombinant DNA technology, "intelligent" drug design, "in vitro evolution"), genomics and proteomics, signal transduction, immunology, developmental biology, and evolution.

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 would be taken in the junior year, students are advised to take the prerequisites for this course 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. In addition, students contemplating attending graduate school in biochemistry or a related field are strongly encouraged to take BIOL/CHEM 322.

The following interdepartmental courses serve as the core of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program.

BIMO 321 provides an introduction to biochemistry and molecular biology. BIMO 401, the capstone course for the concentration, provides students the opportunity to examine the current scientific literature in a wide variety of BIMO-related research areas.

To complete the concentration in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, a student must complete all of the required courses listed below, take two electives from the list below (one must have a laboratory component), and attend at least eight Biology and/or Chemistry Department colloquia. 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 two or three additional courses to complete the program.

Required Courses

Biology 101 The Cell

Biology 102 The Organism

Chemistry 151 or 153 or 155 Concepts of Chemistry

Chemistry 156 Organic Chemistry: Introductory Level

Chemistry 251 Organic Chemistry: Intermediate Level

Chemistry 256 Foundations of Physical and Inorganic Chemistry

Biology 202 Genetics

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

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 401 Topics in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Elective Courses

Biology/Chemistry 322 Biochemistry II-Metabolism

Biology 301 Developmental Biology

Biology 306 Cellular Regulatory Mechanism

Biology 308 Integrative Plant Biology: Fundamentals and New Frontiers

Biology 310 Neural Development

Biology 313 Immunology

Biology 315 Microbiology: Diversity, Cellular Physiology, and Interactions

Biology 409 Molecular Physiology

Biology 412 Biochemical Regulatory Mechanisms

Biology 413 Molecular Basis of Biological Clocks

Biology 414 Life at Extremes: Molecular Mechanisms

Chemistry 324 Enzyme Kinetics and Reaction Mechanisms

Chemistry 341 Toxicology and Cancer

Chemistry 342 Synthetic Organic Chemistry

Chemistry 364 Instrumental Methods of Analysis

Chemistry 366 Physical Chemistry: Thermodynamics

Chemistry 367 Biophysical Chemistry

Chemistry 436T Bioinorganic Chemistry

Chemistry 464T A Theoretical Approach to Biological Phenomena

Colloquium Requirement

Concentrators must attend at least eight Biology and/or Chemistry Department colloquia. The Biology and Chemistry Departments hold colloquia on Friday afternoons during the fall and spring semesters. Scientists from other academic or research institutions are invited to present their research to students and faculty. There are approximately a dozen colloquia offered each semester among which BIMO concentrators may choose. Attendance at the honors student research presentations and the spring BIMO Alumni Reunion poster session also count toward the colloquium requirement. Concentrators may receive credit for colloquia attended during any of their semesters at Williams College.