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Biochemistry and Biophysics

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The Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics is part of the School of Life Sciences.


P. Andrew Karplus, Head
2011 Ag and Life Sciences
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331-7305


Professors Ahern, Andrews, Barbar, Beckman, Frietag, Hagen, Karplus, Merrill

Associate Professors Gombart, Greenwood, Hsu, Johnson, McFadden, Mehl, Perez

Assistant Professors Hendrix, Nyarko

Senior Instructors Rajagopal, van Zee

Associate Professor, Senior Research Cooley, Estevez, Franco

Undergraduate Majors

Biochemistry and Biophysics (BS, CRED, HBS)

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BS, CRED, HBS)

Advanced Molecular Biology
Computational Molecular Biology
Pre-Medicine/Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Graduate Major

Biochemistry and Biophysics (MA, MAIS, MS, PhD)

Graduate Areas of Concentration

Graduate Minor

Biochemistry and Biophysics

The two majors, Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, provide a foundation in both the physical and biological sciences. They are designed to help students prepare for careers in the health sciences, for technical employment at the BS level, or for graduate study in the life sciences. Graduates of the department’s programs have found rewarding careers in medicine, dentistry, clinical chemistry, biotechnology, genetics, cell biology, forensic science, pharmacology, physiology, toxicology, and nutrition, as well as in biochemistry or biophysics. Others have used the degree as a springboard to nontechnical careers that benefit from a broad scientific background, including business, intellectual property law, journalism, and health care administration.

Undergraduate Studies

High school students interested in careers in biochemistry or biophysics should prepare for college by taking four years of mathematics and at least one year each of physics and chemistry. Additional course work in biology, computer science, written and spoken English, and foreign languages is highly desirable. Students transferring from a community college should have completed one year each of the following by the end of the sophomore year, if they plan to graduate in four years’ total time: general chemistry, organic chemistry, calculus-based physics, general biology and three semesters or four quarters of calculus, including vector calculus.

Biochemists, biophysicists, and molecular biologists find employment in colleges and universities, in medical schools, in government and private research institutes, in hospitals, and in industry. Industrial employers include chemical companies, food-processing plants, drug manufacturers, the cosmetic industry, and manufacturers of agricultural chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.). Biochemistry is extensively intertwined with biotechnology, which is the use of modern techniques in biology to achieve practical objectives. This has greatly expanded the industrial market for biochemists, biophysicists, and molecular biologists. Some rewarding careers require completion of a doctoral degree—PhD or a professional degree. This is essential for anyone who wants to direct an independent research program.

Dr. Kari Van Zee is the lead undergraduate advisor and is the one most familiar with undergraduate program requirements and career opportunities. The alternate advisors are Drs. Ahern, Karplus, Merrill, Nyarko, Perez, and Rajagopal. Also, students are encouraged to seek out any other member of the faculty for informal advice.

The department has defined curricular requirements (see below), which lead to a BS degree in Biochemistry and Biophysics or BS degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. All upper-division students are encouraged to take additional elective courses in areas related to their major fields of interest (e.g., chemistry, microbiology, genetics, nutrition, physics, pharmacy, biology, or computer science). All students are strongly encouraged to carry out a research project in the laboratory of a faculty member or an internship. 

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