Bachelor Science - Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
The Biochemistry Department offers a major in biochemistry. This major provides
training in both biochemistry and molecular biology, which are centered on the molecular
events that take place in living cells. The sciences of biochemistry and molecular
biology bring together the fields of biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics and
microbiology as they describe how molecules important to life carry out their functions
For example, biochemist and molecular biologists are:
- Creating genetically engineered crops that are more resistant to frost, drought,
spoilage, disease and pests.
- Perfecting techniques for identifying criminals based on a single strand of hair
or a tiny blood stain left at the scene of a crime.
- Developing better vaccines, antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, and pesticides that
do less damage to human health and the environment.
- Comparing proteins from different species and recording the changes that have occurred
through evolution. The result will be a family tree for life on earth that is far
more detailed than any developed from fossils.
- Mass-producing life-saving chemicals that are usually found in the body in very
tiny amounts. Some of those chemicals have been helping diabetics and heart attack
victims for years.
- Learning how cells recognize one another and communicate with enough efficiency
to assemble a human being composed of a hundred thousand billion cells.
- Discovering how certain diseases such as aids and cancer escape detection by the
immune system, devising ways to enhance immunity to combat these diseases, and looking
for ways to suppress the immune system to help people who have received a tissue
transplant or have an immune system that has turned against them.
- Testing out the chemical secrets of fertility.
- Trying to program bacteria to clean up the environment by “eating” toxic
- Unraveling the full genetic code of humans.
If You Enjoy
- Lab work
Career prospects seem bright for someone trained in the molecular life sciences.
Projections for the next 20 years indicate that there will be thousands of unfulfilled
science and engineering jobs. A large fraction of that shortage will be in the field
of biochemistry and molecular biology.
Someone with a bachelor degree in biochemistry or molecular biology can use it to
go to medical, dental, veterinary, law or business school. Some use their training
as a stepping stone to careers in biotechnology, toxicology, biomedical engineering,
clinical chemistry, plant pathology, animal science or other fields.
Some bachelor degree graduates enter the job market directly. Many employees have
jobs that require their talents.
- Government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, and individual states have laboratories that employ skilled personnel
in basic research programs and in the analyses of food, drugs, air, water, wastes,
or animal tissue.
- Drug companies have basic research programs on the causes of disease and applied
programs to develop drugs to combat disease.
- Biotechnology companies, which have interests in the environment, energy, human
health care, agriculture and animal health, hire bachelor degree graduates for research,
quality control, clinical research, manufacturing/production and information systems.
In addition, a bachelor degree graduate has knowledge that can be valuable in the
fields of management, sales, marketing, regulatory affairs, technical writing or
With additional courses, in the education field, someone with a molecular life science
degree is ideally suited to teach science in elementary, middle and high school.
An enthusiastic teacher can help inspire the next generation of scientists to tackle
challenges that still, by today’s standards, seem insurmountable.
What classes should I have under my belt?
High school students interested in biochemistry
and molecular biology should take at least one year each of biology, chemistry,
and physics, along with algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Introductory calculus
is also useful. English courses that emphasize writing skills are strongly recommended
because scientists must be able to communicate their results clearly and accurately
through speeches and articles in biochemistry journals. If any of these courses
are missing from your high school training they can be taken during your first year
at the university.
What kind of salary do Biochemistry grads earn?
In 2010, the median annual income nationwide for
biochemists was $86,580 (Bureau
of Labor Statistics).
Who do I contact for more information about Biochemistry & Molecular Biology?
Patricia Ellison, Assistant Professor, Faculty Advisor
Phone: (775) 784-4561
Office: 154b Howard Medical Science Bldg, UNR Campus
Christie Howard, Assistant Professor, Faculty Advisor
Phone: (775) 784-6243
Office: 236 Max Fleischmann Ag. Bldg, UNR Campus
Page last updated: 11/21/2012