Master of Science in Biochemistry
(catalog code CHEMMS02)

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Program Overview & Resources

The MS program in Biochemistry combines advanced course work in biochemistry having a strong chemical emphasis with research in areas at the forefront of knowledge. We welcome those interested in reinforcing their chemical background to support their current careers, those making a career shift to a position that requires additional background in a chemical field, and those seeking advanced study to support entry into Ph. D. programs in the chemical sciences or entry into professional programs in the medical sciences:
Current biochemistry-related research in the department ranges from biophysical studies of protein structure and conformation to theoretical simulations of protein and nucleic acid structural transitions to studies in the regulation of biochemical pathways in cultured cells and animals and the biochemical basis of human diseases. Our analytical instruments include
Please see the Facilities page of the web site for further information. Information about the research interests of individual faculty can be found on our Research page. Biochemistry faculty and those with research interests especially relevant to biochemistry include Drs. Acey, Lopez, McAbee, Narayanaswami, Schramm, Slowinska, Sorin and Weers. More information can be obtained from the Graduate Adviser in Biochemistry, Dr. Doug McAbee (, 562-985-1558). See the main page for Graduate Programs for information on how to apply to the program.

Prerequisites for the Program

1. Acceptance as a graduate student by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

2. A bachelor's degree with a major in chemistry or one of the biological sciences. Students with majors in other areas may be considered for admission at the discretion of the Graduate Adviser. Prerequisite courses include CHEM 251, 320A/B, 322A,B, 377A/B, 441A/B, 443; MATH 122, 123; PHYS 100A,B or their equivalents, and courses in general biology and microbiology. A student deficient in any of these courses must complete the course(s) as a graduate student;

3. Entering graduate students are required to take a placement examination in biochemistry at the beginning of the first semester of the MS program. A second placement examination in either organic chemistry or physical chemistry must be taken by the beginning of the second semester. Any student failing to take and pass a placement examination, is required to pass, with a minimum grade of "B", an appropriate course as recommended by the Graduate Studies Committee. Usually the recommended courses are:

CHEM 320A and/or CHEM 320B if the subject is organic chemistry.
CHEM (371A or 377A) and/or CHEM (371B or 377B) if the subject is physical chemistry.
CHEM 441A and/or 441B if the subject is biochemistry.

Under some circumstances students may take both placement examinations at the beginning of the first semester, with the approval of the graduate adviser.

4. The placement examinations will be given on Monday and Tuesday of the week preceding the first day of instruction. The Graduate Studies Committee evaluates the examinations and recommends appropriate courses to correct any deficiencies in chemistry. The Biochemistry Graduate Adviser will meet with the student at this time to prepare a tentative degree program.

5. Entering students are required to select a research adviser within eight weeks following the first day of instruction. At this time the student and the adviser will select two additional faculty members to serve on the Thesis Committee. The Thesis Committee will meet before the end of the eleventh week of the semester and will plan a course of study for the student consistent with the area of thesis research, in consultation with the Graduate Adviser. The research adviser and/or the Thesis Committee will require the student to take the second placement examinations (in organic or physical chemistry) in addition to the examination already taken. A student who fails this examination is required to enroll in an appropriate course as recommended by the Graduate Studies Committee, usually the recommended course listed in paragraph 3.

6. Each student shall prepare a thesis proposal in collaboration with the research adviser, stating the specific topic of the research and its significance, the specific objectives of the research, and the methods to be used. The student must obtain approval of the thesis proposal and must make a public presentation of the proposal by the end of the second semester in the MS program. Any major change in direction during the course of the research shall be subject to the approval of the Thesis Committee.

Advancement to Candidacy

The regulations governing each student's master's degree are those in effect at the time of the student's advancement to candidacy. The Department recommends advancement to candidacy after the graduate student has:

The criteria above should be met by the beginning of the third semester of graduate study. Deficient students may continue at the discretion of the Department Graduate Studies Committee.

Requirements for The Master of Science in Biochemistry

1. Advancement to candidacy.

2. The completion of a minimum of 30 units as follows:

(a) 12 units or more of 500-level chemistry lecture courses including CHEM 541 (3 units) and excluding CHEM 595 units;
(b) 3 units of BIOL 540 (in some circumstances, 3 units of another 500-level biology lecture course may be substituted with the approval of the Graduate Advisor);
(c) 2 units of Chemistry 595 colloquium;
(d) 1 - 3 units of Chemistry 660 seminar;
(e) 4 - 6 units of Chemistry 697 directed research;
(f) 4 - 6 units of Chemistry 698 thesis;
(g) and additional 400- and 500-level science courses (excluding CHEM 595 and required courses in the BS Biochemistry degree program) as recommended by the Thesis Committee and approved by the Graduate Advisor.

Changes in the above pattern of course requirements may be made only at the discretion of the Graduate Studies Committee and the Graduate Advisor subject to approval by the College's Associate Dean.

3. Completion of an acceptable thesis, of publication quality, acceptable to the members of the Thesis Committee and a public presentation of the thesis research. The public presentation must be completed before the thesis is signed by the committee members.

4. A record of regular attendance at departmental seminars, poster sessions, thesis proposal presentations, and thesis defenses.

5. While not a requirement for the degree, students in the MS program normally gain experience teaching laboratory sections of Chemistry courses, as preparation for professionally related teaching activities in their future careers.