The Biochemistry B.S. Major
Biochemistry is one of the most important interdisciplinary fields in science today. Drawing on all sciences, particularly biology and chemistry, biochemistry explores the living world at the cellular and subcellular levels. The chemical reactions and structures of biomolecules form the crux of this discipline. Metabolism, energetics, and nucleic acid chemistry are a few of the major divisions of this field. Students majoring in this field might go on to advanced study in biology, chemistry, or biochemistry; they might seek employment in the biotechnology industry or the pharmaceutical industry; or they might pursue a professional degree in the medical field.
Students earn a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree by completing 12.5 course units
- Two units of General Chemistry are required (CHEM 111 and 112).
- Two units of Introductory Biology are required (BIOL 120 (Principles of Biology) and BIOL 210 (Cell Biology)).
- Two units of Organic Chemistry are required (CHEM 221 and 222).
- Two units of Biochemistry are required (CHEM 341 and 342).
- One unit of Genetics is required (BIOL 315).
- One unit of Advanced Biology is required (BIOL 380 (Advanced Genetics) or BIOL 400 (Molecular Biology)).
- One unit of Physical Chemistry is required (CHEM 331). Note that either MATH 118/119 or MATH 121, MATH 122 and two units of physics are required prerequisites for this course.
- One half unit of Seminar is required (CHEM 280).
- One of these two options:
One unit of research in either BIOL or CHEM culminating in a formal paper and oral defense
One additional unit chosen from Chemistry courses numbered 250 or higher.
Additional coursework and undergraduate research experiences are encouraged.
Student researchers do oral presentations and written reports.
Biochemistry Research Opportunities
A variety of research projects in the Biology and Chemistry Departments at Roanoke College exist for Biochemistry students.
Dr. Tim Johann: Dr. Johann is interested in the relationship between the structure and the function of biological molecules. His current work is focused on the enzyme 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate synthetase (MTHFS), which is important in metabolism and in chemotherapy. The goal of the project is to better understand the function of MTHFS by elucidating the bonding contacts its amino acids make with its substrates (folinic acid and ATP). To accomplish this, one amino acid in the natural form of MTHFS is exchanged for another using a collection of techniques from the fields of chemistry and biology, creating a mutant protein that is then characterized using spectroscopy and kinetic analysis. Structural or functional changes in the mutant enzyme give clues as to the role of the changed amino acid, enhancing the overall understanding of this important enzyme. Link to Dr. Johann's web page.
Dr. Chris Lassiter: Dr. Lassiter is interested in developmental biology and cell biology in general. His work has focused on the estrogen and androgen signaling pathways. These hormones are important in the developing embryo and in the adult vertebrate. Currently, his lab is focused on characterizing androgen receptors in zebrafish. The pleiotropic effects of hormones on gene expression could affect neural architecture resulting in morphological and behavioral effects well into adulthood. Link to Dr. Lassiter's web page.
Dr. Len Pysh: Dr. Pysh is interested in the molecular mechanisms controlling cell shape. Molecular, cellular, and genetic techniques are combined to explore these mechanisms, using the root of the simple plant Arabidopsis thaliana as the model system. Link to Dr. Pysh's web page .
Dr. Marilee Ramesh: Dr. Ramesh is interested in the origins and evolution of the process of meiosis. She studies genes associated with meiosis across a number of protists reflecting the full length of the evolutionary tree. Her work uses computational analysis as well as molecular biology methods. Link to Dr. Ramesh's web page.
Dr. Cathy Sarisky: Dr. Sarisky's research focuses on the purine biosynthetic pathway in archaea. Students in her lab use a variety of biological, chemical, and analytical techniques to characterize enzymes suspected to participate in purine biosynthesis. Her present focus is the penultimate step of the synthesis of IMP, which is catalyzed by a unique enzyme in some archaea. Link to Dr. Sarisky's web page.
While many projects are completed during the normal academic year, summer is an ideal time to do an independent study project. Many Roanoke graduates report their summer research activities to be among the most memorable experiences of their undergraduate careers. Several special funding sources provide students with stipends to support their summer research projects.
Additional projects are available in both Biology and Chemistry. Please contact those departments for more specific details, or consult the online materials provided by individual faculty.
Health Professions Advisory Group (HPAG)
Five faculty members (two from the Biology Department, two from the Chemistry Department, one medical sociologist) assist students preparing for Health Profession careers such as medicine, veterinary science, dentistry, etc. Informational meetings and materials are available, as are internship opportunities, field trips, and test preparation assistance. This group also coordinates the interview process for students applying to medical schools. Here is a link to the HPAG web page.