Major and Minor
Janet Kirkley, Biochemistry, chair
Macrophage activation and regulation
Diana Cermak, Chemistry
Linda Dybas, Biology (on leave Fall 2013 and Spring 2014)
Andrew Mehl, Chemistry
Esther Penick, Biology
Lawrence Welch, Chemistry (on leave Fall 2013)
Biochemistry encompasses the chemical, molecular, and cellular events that sustain life. Because biological functions in both the normal and diseased state are increasingly studied and elucidated at the molecular and cellular level, biochemistry is an essential foundation for more specialized fields, such as genetics, immunology, virology, and medicine. Advances in biochemical knowledge lead to a better understanding of life processes and to the development of treatments to prevent and cure disease.
Knox's biochemistry major requires courses in biology and chemistry to establish a solid foundation of basic principles in these subjects that are required for more advanced study in biochemistry. The core biochemistry courses then provide a well-rounded education in macromolecule structure and function, metabolic pathways and regulation, molecular biology, cell biology, biochemical techniques, and physical biochemistry. The early and strong emphasis on laboratory experience enriches the major with the opportunity to learn by doing. Biochemical techniques are vital to the discipline, and students learn to perform the methods that they study in class. Advanced laboratories and the capstone senior research project build on skills learned earlier in the program. Likewise, advanced classes, such as Immunology and Proteins and Enzymes, reinforce and extend principles from the core courses. These electives offer students the opportunity to pursue specific academic and career interests and demonstrate the application of biochemistry to other, specialized fields.
Faculty in the biochemistry program maintain ongoing research programs in such diverse areas as enzymology, immunology, and developmental biology. The outstanding array of instrumentation and techniques available to students includes nucleic acid and protein electrophoresis, UV-vis spectroscopy, circular dichroism spectroscopy, mammalian tissue culture, DNA sequencing, analytical and preparative column and high-pressure liquid chromatography, nuclear magnetic and electron spin resonance spectroscopy, electron and fluorescence microscopy, analytical and quantitative immunoassay, recombinant DNA technology, and polymerase chain reaction DNA amplification for cloning or gene expression analysis. Faculty frequently develop labs for class based on their research that utilize the research equipment, making the laboratory preparation of biochemistry majors up to date and highly useful for graduate study or employment. The opportunities for independent work in biochemistry and related fields at Knox are extensive and varied, and enable students to gain the additional lab skills and experience they desire to meet their post-graduate goals. Students present the results of their research at a variety of regional and national research conferences.
Given the current molecular emphasis in many biological and biomedical areas, a major in biochemistry at Knox prepares students for employment, professional school, or graduate study in a large number of fields. Graduates have been employed by premier academic and commercial research institutions; enrolled in graduate programs in virology, biochemistry, immunology, and nutrition; and matriculated at schools of medicine, dentistry, podiatry, and other health professions. The broad applicability of biochemical principles and techniques to many aspects of science makes biochemistry an unusually versatile major ideally suited to a wide range of interests and career plans.
The departmental curriculum contributes to the College's Key Competency Requirements as follows:
- Writing Key Competency - BCHM 140 and 310 serve as writing-intensive courses for majors
- Speaking Key Competency - BCHM 265 serves as a speaking-intensive course for majors
- Information Literacy and Informed Use of Technology - Scientific knowledge in the field of Biochemistry and related biomedical disciplines is growing at a pace that increases every year. To ensure that Knox Biochemistry majors acquire the ability to find, evaluate, and utilize scientific information correctly, the Biochemistry major incorporates instruction in the skilled use of technological and informational resources and tools. Required courses in the Biochemistry core curriculum (Biochemistry 265, 301, 302, and 310 teach specific skills (e.g., data capture and analysis, molecular modeling, literature searches, word processing) that a professional biochemist needs. Examples of software packages and computer resources that Biochemistry majors learn to use are Excel (data analysis), QuantityOne (data capture and analysis), RasMol (molecular modeling), GenBank (bioinformatics), KaleidaGraph (data presentation), and PubMed (literature searching).
Departmental Learning Goals
Students majoring in Biochemistry will be able to:
- Describe how the physicochemical nature of the macromolecules contributes to their function.
- Demonstrate comprehension of the scientific method and skill in research by being able to: Set an experimental objective, understand how the technique works, understand why that technique is important to that objective, use the technique to acquire data, analyze and present the data, come to a reasonable conclusion supported by the data, communicate that conclusion.
- Apply principles learned in prerequisite courses to a specific discipline in Biochemistry or a related field.