If you’re looking for a career exploring the edges of today’s scientific knowledge, you may be interested in biochemistry. Most of today’s advances in medicine, agriculture and biology draw on research in this relatively new field of science. Searching for answers to how chemistry and physics relate to life, biochemists research beyond the cell, examining the life-sustaining reactions of plants, animals and microorganisms at the molecular level.

University of Wisconsin-Madison biochemists are examining and redefining the basic concepts of heredity, the body’s disease resistance capacity (immunology), the nature of viruses, nitrogen fixation, enzyme pathways and biotechnology. This research is changing our ability to control problems ranging from cancer to the world food supply.

Is Biochemistry Your Best Career Choice?

More than half of the biochemistry graduates continue in school for an advanced degree in medicine, veterinary medicine or graduate school in a biological or chemical science.

An undergraduate degree in biochemistry- without additional graduate training- is sufficient for technical positions in academic, business and government laboratories. Agricultural, pharmaceutical and food processing industries require many technicians with biochemistry training for their research, production and quality control laboratories.

However, if you want a leadership or supervisory position in industry or teaching, you’ll need to continue to graduate school for a masters or doctorate degree.

Biochemists who have completed a doctoral program can work on university faculties as researchers and teachers in biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, nutrition or medicine. Others develop research careers in industry and government laboratories. Biochemists often direct hospital diagnostic, biological or analytical laboratories.

Undergraduate Training

Biochemistry course work includes physics, math, chemistry and biology in addition to biochemistry courses. You’ll need to have a strong high school background in these subjects or to take these courses through the university’s biochemistry program. Biochemistry undergraduates are required to take at least 26 credits of chemistry, 16 credits of biology and at least two semesters of calculus.

However, the course work is flexible and can be suited to your own interests—chemistry, botany, genetics, microbiology or nutrition.

Experience Outside of Class

Many students who want some hands-on experience with biochemical research take advantage of the large number of faculty laboratories in this and related departments. Undergraduates can work in labs preparing solutions, caring for animals or assisting with experiments. Working in a laboratory is essential if you are considering graduate school and gives you experience working closely with faculty members and other biochemistry researchers.

In addition, during junior and senior years, students can do original laboratory research on a senior thesis project supervised by a faculty advisor.

Where You’ll be Learning

About 350 undergraduates and 120 graduate students are currently enrolled in the biochemistry program. The faculty includes specialists in the structure and function of genes, vitamin research, nitrogen fixation, protein structure, enzyme kinetics, bacterial behavior, hormone action, immunology, viruses and metabolic pathways.

The Department of Biochemistry is housed in the Biochemistry Building which contains classrooms, laboratories and faculty research facilities. The biochemistry department is internationally known as a top research center.

Financial Assistance

If you can establish need, the UW-Madison offers low-interest loans and work-study programs in the department. In addition, numerous scholarships are available for qualified students.

For more information contact the Department of Biochemistry:

Prospective Student Services: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Office of Academic Affairs

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