What is Biochemistry?

Often referred to as the chemistry of life, biochemistry represents the study of organisms, cells, and cellular components at the chemical and molecular level. The field of biochemistry seeks to understand the relationship between chemical structure and biological function, chemical reactions that occur in living things (metabolism), and the chemistry involved in storing and transmitting biological information (the last topic is also intimately connected with molecular biology/genetics).

Studying biochemistry helps to prepare a student for future endeavors in many areas of science. As examples, in addition to basic and applied research, biochemistry students also find themselves well-equipped for work in health care fields, particularly as our understanding of human health and medicine at the molecular and chemical level continues to increase.

See also What can I do with Biochemistry?


  • Katy Mayer '18

    As a student who enjoys learning about the molecular connections to everyday processes, I barely had to give any thought as to which major I would pursue at Muhlenberg. The Biochemistry Program has afforded me so many incredible opportunities that have shaped me into the student and scholar I am today.

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  • Brock Juliano '18
    Biochemistry and Anthropology double major

    When I first came to Muhlenberg, I did not expect to graduate with a degree in Biochemistry; however, after my freshmen year it was clear that I wanted to major in a program that allowed me to work at the interface of chemistry and biology. I quickly found my home within the Biochem program, with its wonderful faculty and interesting courses.

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  • Suzi Birnbaum '18
    Biochemistry major with minors in German Studies and Asian Studies

    Biochemistry (roughly) spans the chemical to the cellular building blocks of life. I’ve found it has connections to all topics including (but not limited to) physics, mathematics, history, sociology/anthropology, ethics, medicine, etc.  The program is varied ranging from chemistry-heavy subjects to broader-picture biology applications.

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  • Thomas Hoffman '16
    Working in business sector (data management and analytics)

    I think the core classes (Biochemistry, Experimental Biochemistry, and Advanced Biochemistry) had to be my favorite part of the Biochemistry major at Muhlenberg.

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  • Rebecca Golden '14
    Now an M.D. student at Drexel College of Medicine

    Curiosity during introductory courses led me to biochemistry. In biology classes, I wondered “How does this really work?” During chemistry classes I wondered, “How does this apply to biological systems?” The Biochemistry program allowed me to explore these questions, forge lasting relationships with department heads Dr. Hark and Dr. Colabroy, and bond with my classmates as we conquered the major.

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  • Ed Quach '14
    Now a Ph.D. student at Emory University

    My interest in biochemistry has its origins in the same question that I believe prompts any science major to follow his or her passions: why? As I asked this question of my teachers, my textbooks, and yes, of Wikipedia and Google, I found that my answers always seemed to land me in the realm of molecular life sciences. Indeed, as the chemistry of life, how much more salient a truth can be offered than that with which biochemistry has enraptured me?

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  • Jenna Kotak '13
    Now in a doctoral program at Brown Univeristy

    As a freshman, the biochemistry major was initially interesting to me simply because it examined biological questions under a smaller lens.  After taking a few courses for the major, my appreciation grew for biochemistry as its own discipline, rather than any overlap of biology and chemistry. The required major courses provide a strong foundation in the many facets of biochemistry and the flexibility in the electives allows me to tailor my courses to my specific interests.

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  • Mike Baer '12
    Now a M.D. student at University of Pennsylvania

    I chose to major in Biochemistry because the discipline bridges and synthesizes two sciences that I find enjoying and challenging to study. The flexibility and scope of the major appealed to me. In a single major I could study the genetic basis of life, the biochemical foundation of metabolism, and the quantum mechanical underpinnings of chemistry and physics. In addition, many biochemistry courses focus heavily on analyzing primary literature, a skill that I felt was very important to master.

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  • Mazen Tolaymat ‘11
    M.D., Drexel University

    Why did I choose a Biochem major? Because it explores in detail the chemistry that is most important to understanding the reactions that underlie everyday life processes, covers the various branches of human function and metabolism that I will need to know as a physician, and provides the freedom to choose electives in whatever areas of biology or chemistry that interest the student most.

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  • Bobby Torphy ‘11
    M.D., University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

    My interest in the field of biochemistry stems from my desire to understand the underlying foundation of biological processes. In introductory biological courses I found myself repeatedly asking the question of “how does this work?” while in chemistry courses I wondered “how does this apply to a biological system?” Biochemistry answers many of these questions and allows me to integrate my curiosity for both biology and chemistry.

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  • Elia Wright ‘10
    Currently a Ph.D. student at University of Michigan

    I knew exactly what I wanted to do before I applied to Muhlenberg – study biochemistry as an undergraduate and pursue a PhD in biochemistry. I officially declared my major to be Biochemistry as a second semester freshman and never looked back.

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  • Chris Alvaro '10
    Ph.D., University of California-Berkeley

    Why biochemistry? I realized early in my college career that my interests lie in many areas of science and I was having trouble choosing just one concentration. When I learned about biochemistry, I realized I had the opportunity to explore several disciplines yet still be under a central umbrella.

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