Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers a student with a strong interest in biochemistry, molecular cell biology, molecular biology, biotechnology, molecular genetics, structural biology, metabolism, or physical biochemistry, an Interdisciplinary Major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. This Interdisciplinary Major, under the auspices of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, gives you an opportunity to design an in-depth program in modern biochemistry and allied areas that is not otherwise available. Although the degree is offered by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Department is a part of the College of Medicine. The program requires your participation in basic research; this is the best means to learn modern biochemical approaches and laboratory techniques. The program is intended for students who will pursue an advanced degree in one of the life sciences or whose career goals are leading to medical school, veterinarian school, or dental school. It is especially suitable for students with a strong interest in biochemical or biomedical research. It is also appropriate for those students who may be interested in research but do not anticipate seeking a higher degree at this time. You should be aware that this program is at least as challenging as most other science majors.
An interested student should take during his or her first two years the same fundamental courses leading to majors in the other biological sciences. We require two semesters of general chemistry (core chemistry), two semesters of organic chemistry, two semesters of calculus, two semesters of general physics (with or without calculus, but we strongly urge the former), and two semesters of biology (core biology). Small deficits can be remedied early in the junior year. These are the same courses required by medical schools and dental schools.
A student interested in this program is urged to make an appointment with the Program Director in Biochemistry as soon as possible in his or her sophomore year or early in their junior year. The Program Director for this program is Professor Mary Koroly, whose address and telephone number are listed at the end of this description.
The strong research orientation of this program will require a major time commitment for laboratory research from each student. This research experience is a major attraction of the program and a valuable part of a student’s education. Some students have a strong desire to participate in research as part of their career while others can use this experience to aid in deciding the merits of a career in biochemical research.
The minimum requirements for this Interdisciplinary Major are included below:

  • The one semester biochemistry course (BCH 4024, offered by the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology in the College of Medicine) should be taken after completing organic chemistry. The course is currently taught in the Fall, Spring and Summer. This course will present a broad overview of the major areas of modern biochemistry. Topics include a discussion of the structure and properties of the amino acids, peptides and proteins, the nucleotides, RNA and DNA; major physical techniques employed in biochemical research; intermediary metabolism; the principles of modern molecular biology, gene expression, and the techniques of recombinant DNA technology. This will also prepare the student for more advanced courses. This course has, as prerequisite, two semesters of organic chemistry or consent of the instructor. The Chemistry Department also offers biochemistry courses which can be used for this requirement; those students joining laboratories where molecular biology is the major technique utilized in the research will find the Biochemistry course in the Medical School to be preferable.
  • A course in genetics. Any of several courses will meet this requirement. Genetics should be taken as early as possible, certainly before advanced molecular biology.
  • A course in cell biology. For most students the most appropriate course is PCB 3134 Eukaryotic Cell Structure and Function. MCB 3020 Basic Biology of Microorganisms or MCB 4403 Prokaryotic Cell Structure may be substituted. Cell biology should be taken as early as possible. For certain students, appropriate courses in immunology, , or higher level chemistry may be substituted for one of the requirements for cell biology or genetics.
  • One semester of physical chemistry. The course may be CHM 3400, for biology majors, or CHM 4411, for chemistry majors. CHM 3400 is offered in the Fall, Spring, and Summer B. These both carry a requirement for calculus. The laboratory in physical chemistry is not required. A student with a fairly good proficiency in mathematics will find CHM 4411 more satisfying. The laboratory and the second semester are recommended as electives for many students and will prove quite valuable for some students.
  • One semester chosen from one of our three biochemistry core graduate courses: Physical Biochemistry BCH 6740 in the Spring, Advanced Molecular Biology BCH 5413 or Advanced Metabolism BCH 6206, both in the Fall semester.
  • A 3000 – 4000 level course relevant to interests selected from the list of electives.
  • A minimum of seven credits of research in two continuous semesters. Usually this is Senior Biochemistry Research, BCH 4905. Dr. Koroly will provide you with a list of prospective research advisors. You should take the opportunity to interview several faculty members during the sophomore year while taking the first biochemistry course. Dr. Koroly can assist in arranging appointments. Other research advisors are available and need not be members of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department faculty. Students choose their research advisor through this interview process and agree with the advisor on an appropriate research topic and schedule. The choice of research advisor and topic must be approved by the IDS biochemistry Program Director.. Students are advised to begin research early in their sophomore year to develop the necessary understanding of the complex research areas typically studied by faculty in this area. The application for the IDS major requires a research proposal that requires the initial background reading of the literature of the area and practice in the experimental techniques utilized in the specific laboratory. A Senior Thesis based on your research is required by the IDS Committee and must be turned in by the last week of the semester you graduate.
  • The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences elective requirement. (a minimum of 18 elective credits at 3000 level or above). The Biochemistry IDS Program Director must approve of the electives. Among possible electives available are statistics, computer skills, immunology, animal physiology, vertebrate anatomy, analytical chemistry, and advanced specialized courses such as virology, cell differentiation and development, neuropharmacology, cell membranes, etc. Some of these latter courses may not be taught regularly. In addition, we recommend that the student select some elective courses in the humanities, especially those which provide practice and improvement in communicative skills.
  • College of Liberal Arts and Science requirements must be met, regarding course distribution, languages, and semester hour totals.

While the average student is expected to enter this program early in the junior year, it is possible to enter as late as two semesters before graduation if some of the core courses have been completed earlier. However, due to the complexity of research in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, it is strongly recommended that students apply during their junior year.
Please note that your research advisor will have the ultimate responsibility for monitoring the student’s progress in class and in the laboratory.
You should also be aware of parallel opportunities involving research in biochemistry, molecular biology, molecular cell biology or biotechnology. A true individual IDS major can sometimes be developed to meet the special needs of a student. Such a program can still be administered within the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department but will have a different title. Examples might be Visual Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Biophysics and Plant Biochemistry. Other IDS Programs are available at the Health Center: Neuroscience, Cell Biology, and Microbial Genetics. Again, the IDS committee must approve. Another option is also available: several departments allow their majors to gain credit for senior research through the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Students in the program may be eligible for Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors. Students with a couple of semesters of experience in a laboratory may be eligible for a scholarship from a national agency or university the summer after graduation.

Contact

Mary Jo Koroly, Ph.D.
Research Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
College of Medicine
Director, Center for Precollegiate Education and Training
Academic Affairs
PO Box 112010
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32611
Phone (352) 392-7685

For more information

email: korolymj@ufl.edu

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