Home < Schools, Colleges, and Programs < College of Letters & Science < Majors, Certificates, and Concentration Programs < Biochemistry

College of Letters & Science


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 students who wish to terminate training at the B.S. level as well as those who plan on graduate or professional school study. The major serves as an excellent background for admission to health professional school. The major in biochemistry also proves an excellent background for graduate study in biochemistry or other allied fields such as biology, bacteriology, genetics, molecular biology, or oncology. Basic requirements for the major include courses in general, organic, quantitative and physical chemistry, and in biology. Depending on their particular interest, students can concentrate on electives in either of these areas to lead to a major that contains as much chemistry as a chemistry major, or that is more complete in the biological sciences.  Students must have at least a previous semester grade point average of 2.5 before entering the major.

Many opportunities for laboratory research experience are available on the UW–Madison campus, 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 jobs as participants in research groups in hospitals, medical schools and academic institutions, as well as government laboratories and research institutions. Opportunities are available to biochemists in industries concerned with food processing and drug production and in 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. Students should also visit the department website. 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 urged to see their department 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. The biochemistry department requires undergraduate majors in the department to maintain an overall grade point average of at least 2.0 (4.0 basis) as a requirement for graduation.

All L&S students must fulfill the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. For Biochemistry, any intermediate/advanced level coursework required for the major will also count towards the 15 credits of upper-level work.

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 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 of the following sets:
(a) Chem 103 (4 cr) and 104 (5 cr)
(b) Chem 109 (5 cr)
(c) Chem 115 (5 cr) and Chem 116 (5 cr)*
*Satisfies general and analytical chemistry

Biology (10 cr)

One of the following sets:
(a) Biology/Botany/Zoology 151 and 152
(b) Biocore 381 and 383 and 485 and 587

Physics (10 cr)

One of the following sets:
(a) Physics 201 and 202
(b) Physics 207 and 208

Advanced Biology (6 cr)*

One of the following sets:
(a) 6 credits of advanced biology as approved by advisor (see complete list of approved courses)
(b) Two of the following labs: Biocore 382, 384, 486

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

Advanced Chemistry (16 cr)

Organic Chemistry: Chem 343 (3 cr) and 344 (2 cr) and 345 (3 cr)
Analytical Chemistry: Chem 327 (4 cr) or 329 (4 cr) or Chem 116 (if 115 taken, 5 cr) 
Physical Chemistry: Chem 565 (4 cr) (recommended) or Chem 561 (3 cr) and Chem 563 (1 cr)

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

One group required, plus the capstone course:

Group 1 (6 cr)

Biochem 507 (3 cr)
Biochem 508 (3 cr.)

Group 2 (5–6 cr)
Biochem 501 (3 cr)
2 additional credits from: Biochem 510, 550, 575, 601, 606, 609, 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 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.