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College of Agricultural and Life Sciences


Requirements for the Major
Honors in the Major

111 Biochemistry Addition, 433 Babcock Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-265-9846; UndergradAdvisor@biochem.wisc.edu; https://biochem.wisc.edu

Professors Craig (chair), Amasino, Ansari, Attie, Bednarek, Butcher, Clagett-Dame, Cox, Fox, Friesen, Hayes, Holden, Kiessling, Kimble, Landick, Markley, Martin, Mitchell, Ntambi, Palmenberg, Pike, Raines, Ralph, Rayment, Record, Sussman, Wickens; Associate Professors Senes, Weibel; Assistant Professors Hoskins, Pagliarini, Wildonger

Undergraduate advisor in the major: Contact the department office for an advisor, 1142 Biochemistry Building, 608-265-9846

Biochemistry is the basic science which has as its goal an explanation of life processes in molecular, physical, and chemical terms. It deals with the chemical and physical properties of living matter and chemical changes occurring in living matter. This includes the properties and chemical changes in genes (DNA) generally referred to as molecular biology.

The major in biochemistry is designed to fit the needs of the student who wishes to terminate his/her training at the B.S. level as well as those students planning on graduate or professional school study. The major will serve as an excellent background for health professional school admissions. This major also provides an excellent background for graduate study in biochemistry or other allied fields such as biology, bacteriology, genetics, molecular biology or oncology. The basic requirements for the degree include courses in general, organic, quantitative, and physical chemistry and biology. Depending on his/her particular interest, the student can concentrate on electives in either of these areas to lead to a degree which contains as much chemistry as a chemistry major, or which is more complete in the biological sciences. Students transferring into biochemistry from another major within UW–Madison must have a previous semester grade point average of at least 2.5 before entering into the major.

Many opportunities for laboratory research experience are available on this campus for undergraduate students and such experience is strongly encouraged. Independent study courses and senior thesis complement and extend these experiences. Research experience is viewed favorably by employers and admission committees for graduate and professional schools.

Graduates in biochemistry are in demand for interesting jobs as participants in research groups in hospitals, medical schools and academic institutions, as well as a large number of different government laboratories, and research institutions. There are many opportunities for biochemists in industries concerned with food processing and drug production and in the various areas of the chemical and petroleum industry.

More information about the major in Biochemistry is available from the undergraduate advisor located in the Student Services Suite, 1142 Biochemistry Building. Interested students should also visit the department website to obtain further information.

Students in the College of Letters & Science may major in Biochemistry without transferring to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Students who enter the biochemistry program are strongly urged to see their departmental advisor each semester for discussion of course programs and postgraduate planning.

Requirements for the Major

The basic requirements for the major include a minimum of 21 credits of chemistry, 9–10 credits of biochemistry, and 16 credits of biology. Depending on particular interests, the student can concentrate electives in these areas to lead to a degree that contains as much chemistry as a chemistry major, or which is more complete in the biological sciences.

Required Courses

Mathematics (9–15 cr)

This major requires calculus. Prerequisites may need to be taken before enrollment in calculus. Refer to the Course Guide for information about calculus prerequisites.

One (1) of the following sets:

(a) Math 221 and 222
(b) Math 171 and 217 and 222
(c) Math 275 and 276

General Chemistry (5–9 cr)

One (1) of the following sets:
(a) Chem 103 and Chem 104
(b) Chem 109

Biology (10 cr)

One (1) of the following sets:

(a) Biology/Botany/Zoology 151 and
(b) Biocore 381 and 383 and 485 and 587 

Physics (10 cr)

One (1) of the following sets:

(a) Physics 201 and 202
(b) Physics 207 and 208

Advanced Biology (6 cr)*

One (1) of the following sets:

(a) 6 credits of advanced biology as approved by advisor

(b) Two of the following labs: Biocore 382, 384, 486

*Minimum credits within introductory/advanced biology must equal at least 16; consult undergraduate advisor for credit discrepancies with transfer coursework.

Advanced Chemistry (16 cr)

Organic Chemistry: Chem 343 and 344 and 345
Analytical Chemistry: Chem 327 or 329
Physical Chemistry: Chem 565 (recommended) or [Chem 561 and 563]

Biochemistry Core (9–10 cr, starting spring 2016)

One (1) group required, plus the capstone course:

Group 1 (6 cr)

Biochem 507
Biochem 508

Group 2 (5–6 cr)
Biochem 501
2 additional credits from: Biochem 510, 550, 575, 601, 606, 612, 619, 620, 621, 624, 625, 630, 636, 660

Capstone (3 cr) Biochem 651 (prior to spring 2016)
Capstone (4 cr) Biochem 551 (starting spring 2016)


Freshmen are encouraged to enroll in Freshman Biochemistry Seminar, Biochemistry 100. Additional mathematics, computer sciences, or statistics are recommended. Other electives would include additional chemistry or biology courses. In addition, all biochemistry majors are encouraged to engage in independent research (e.g., Biochemistry 299, 699). These courses require department authorization. Students should see their advisor to obtain authorization.

Honors in the Major

To earn Honors in the Major in Biochemistry, students are required to take at least 20 honors credits in the physical sciences (math, physics and chemistry), and at least two courses in biological sciences for honors. In addition, students must take both Biochemistry 507 and 508 for honors.

Honors in the Major requires a senior honors thesis, Biochemistry 681–682, for a total of 6 honors credits, or an honors thesis for a total of 6 honors credits in another biological sciences department or in chemistry. A decision by the student to do his/her thesis in another department is subject to advisor approval. Honors in the Major requires a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.3 in science courses and an overall GPA of at least 3.3 in all courses taken at UW–Madison at the time of graduation.

Students should check with the department honors advisor at least once a year to seek guidance about planning the best possible Honors in the Major curriculum that reflects their special interests.

This page was revised 10/29/15; 3/10/16.