Courses & Requirements

IMPORTANT NOTE

The requirements below apply to those students with a 2022-2023 catalog year. Students are required by college policy to follow the major (and minor) requirements found in the catalog in effect at the time they declared their first major. To find your catalog year, please visit your Grades and Academic Records found in myOxy and access the catalog that matches your catalog year.

Biochemistry

Overview

Biochemistry explores the cell's molecular components and the chemical changes characteristic of living organisms. A thorough foundation in both biology and chemistry forms the core of biochemistry. Occidental's biochemists seek to use their scientific knowledge and broad education in the liberal arts to advance the public good and improve health care, economic opportunities, environmental stewardship, national security, as well as expanding human understanding through their teaching and research.

The core portion of the Biochemistry major includes BIO 130, the two biochemistry classes BIO 349 and CHEM 350, and the Biochemistry Senior Seminar, BICH 490. Classroom activities are supplemented by extensive laboratory experience involving the design, execution, and interpretation of experimental results. Biochemistry graduates generally elect to pursue graduate training toward a Ph.D. in Biochemistry or areas in Cell and Molecular Biology, a doctorate in the health professions, employment in the biotechnology field, or a career in education. Students planning on pursuing a Ph.D. are advised to take several more courses including the advanced Cell and Molecular offerings in Biology, and advanced Chemistry courses in Chemistry, to broaden their education. Biochemistry students are strongly encouraged to pursue their particular interests through an independent study-research project (BIO 395 or CHEM 395). The Biochemistry program is eager to accommodate the foreign study aspirations of its majors; however, due to the curriculum's sequential nature, careful advance planning is required.

Students wishing to declare the Biochemistry major should have completed two Biology and two Chemistry classes with at least a 2.7 GPA in these classes and arrange for the discussion of their schedule with one of the Program's advisors.

Requirements

Major

Biology Component

Students must complete five courses as detailed below:

BIO 130Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology

4 units

BIO 349Biochemistry I

4 units

 

One course from:

BIO 105Marine Biology

4 units

BIO 110Organisms on Earth

4 units

BIO 115General Zoology

4 units

 

One course from:

BIO 221Molecular Biology

4 units

BIO 224Genetic Analysis

4 units

BIO 226Cell Biology

4 units

 

And one course from:

BIO 320Developmental Biology

4 units

BIO 323Histology

4 units

BIO 325Microbial Diversity

4 units

BIO 326Molecular Phylogenetics

4 units

BIO 330Immunology

4 units

BIO 333Neurobiology

4 units

BIO 336Microbial Pathogenesis

4 units

BIO 340Sensory Biology and Neurophysiology

4 units

BIO 345Virology

4 units

KINE 306Biochemistry of Exercise and Energy

4 units

Chemistry Component

CHEM 120Foundations of General Chemistry

4 units

Or

CHEM 130Advanced Placement General Chemistry

4 units

 

CHEM 220Organic Chemistry I

4 units

CHEM 221Organic Chemistry II

4 units

CHEM 240Integrated Concepts in General Chemistry

4 units

CHEM 350Biochemistry

4 units

 

CHEM 300Physical Chemistry I

4 units

Or

CHEM 301Biophysical Chemistry

4 units

Mathematics Component

Students are required to take both courses listed below:

Calculus 1

4 units

Calculus 2

4 units

Physics Component

One course from:

PHYS 110Introductory Mechanics

4 units

PHYS 115General Physics I

4 units

 

And one course from:

PHYS 125General Physics II

4 units

PHYS 230Introductory Electricity and Magnetism

4 units

Senior Seminar

Students are to enroll in BICH 490 (2 units) each semester of their senior year.

BICH 490Senior Seminar

2 units

Honors in the Major

In addition to the requirements for College honors, the student will successfully defend a written thesis based upon the outcome of his or her laboratory research effort as an undergraduate. See the Awards section for more information.

Second-Stage Writing Proficiency

Students should familiarize themselves with the second-stage writing requirement at the time of declaring the major. Students majoring in Biochemistry will satisfy this requirement by completing an in-depth research paper  during the fall semester of BICH 490 (Senior Seminar). This paper is evaluated by the instructors for BICH 490 and by members of the Biochemistry Advisory Committee. Students who do not fulfill this requirement during BICH 490 must consult with the Biochemistry program Chair about available alternatives. This may mean enrolling in WRD 201 (passing with a C or better).  Students can meet with the Biochemistry program Chair for more detailed information about the process of fulfilling the second-stage writing requirement.

Comprehensive Requirement

The student must pass the Graduate Record Examination in Biochemistry at the 50th percentile rank or the American Chemical Society undergraduate examination in Biochemistry at the 50th percentile rank. The student will also satisfactorily write a research paper and present a seminar during the senior year on an area of current research in the field of Biochemistry to an audience of Occidental students and faculty. A student can earn a Pass with Distinction in Biochemistry with a 75th percentile rank and a distinguished paper and seminar presentation.

Advising Information

Students interested in majoring in Biochemistry are strongly advised to initially take an introductory chemistry course based on their placement (see below): CHEM 100, CHEM 120, or CHEM 130. BIO 130 is usually taken the semester after CHEM 120 or CHEM 130, but it can also be taken at the same time. Typically, students working toward the Biochemistry degree take two math/science classes each semester and are advised to actively participate in the AMP and SSAP programs associated with their math/science classes. 


Students wishing to declare the Biochemistry major should have completed two Biology and two Chemistry classes with at least a 2.7 GPA in these classes and arrange for the discussion of their schedule with one of the Program's advisors. 

Placement Information

Students who are interested in majoring in Biochemistry should take the Chemistry Placement Exam during the summer prior to their first year. Students scoring a 4 or 5 on the Chemistry AP exam have the option of enrolling in CHEM 130 without taking the placement test, but are encouraged to contact a department chair if they have questions about this placement.

Students who are interested in majoring in Biochemistry should take the Calculus Placement Assessment (ALEKS) during the summer prior to their first year. You do not need to take the Calculus Placement Assessment if any of the following are true:

  • You received a score of 4 or 5 on either the AP Calculus AB or BC exam; 

  • You received an IB Calculus HL score of 5 or above;

  • You have already taken a Calculus 1 course at another accredited college or university.  

An AP Calculus AB score of 4 or 5, or an IB Calculus HL score of 5 or above, fulfills the major’s Calculus 1 requirement. An AP Calculus BC score of 4 or 5 fulfills the Calculus 2 requirement. Students should make sure that their official score reports are sent to the Registrar’s Office for processing.

Sample 4-Year Plan


Fall

Spring

Year 1

  • Fall FYS course
  • Spring FYS course
  • BIO 130
  • Calculus 1 (CPMS)
  • Foreign Language

Year 2

  • Calculus 2 (CPMS)
  • CHEM 220
  • Core Requirement (4 units)
  • Core Requirement (4 units)
  • CHEM 221
  • 200-level Cell & Molecular
  • Core Requirement (4 units)
  • Core Requirement (4 units)

Year 3

  • PHYS 120 or PHYS 125
  • CHEM 240
  • General Elective (4 units)
  • General Elective (4 units)

Year 4

  • BICH 490 (Senior Seminar, 2 units)
  • CHEM 300 or CHEM 301
  • General Elective (2 units)
  • General Elective (4 units)
  • General Elective (4 units)
  • BICH 490 (Senior Seminar, 2 units)
  • CHEM 350
  • General Elective (4 units)
  • General Elective (4 units)

Curricular Notes

  • For their Introductory Organismal biology course, students can choose from BIO 105, BIO 110, and BIO 115.

  • CHEM 120 or CHEM 130 are prerequisites for BIO 130, though it is also possible to take the CHEM and BIO courses concurrently.

  • To complete your core requirements by the end of the sophomore year at least one course may need to satisfy two core requirements.

Transfer Credit Policies

The Biochemistry Program policy on transfer credit conforms to College policy. Students should reference the Transfer Credit section for details.

Information that can be included in this section include:
  • specific policies for majors/minors
  • AP/IB Exam credit - course equivalencies?
  • Online courses
  • Policies specifically for matriculating frosh, transfer students, returning students after a leave of absence
Information that can be included in this section include:
  • specific policies for majors/minors
  • AP/IB Exam credit - course equivalencies?
  • Online courses
  • Policies specifically for matriculating frosh, transfer students, returning students after a leave of absence

Courses

Biochemistry Courses