Courses and Requirements

An interdepartmental program of the Biology and Chemistry Departments, the Biochemistry Program provides a broad and deep foundation in biology and chemistry as a basis for studying the molecular aspects of biological phenomena. The program progresses through introductory studies to advanced courses in biology and chemistry, integrative courses in biochemistry, and a capstone laboratory research experience in the senior year.

Courses and Requirements

For academic requirements and courses, visit the Vassar College Catalogue.


Process for declaring a concentration (major) in Biochemistry

  • Students may declare a Biochemistry major after the completion of their first year.
  • Contact a faculty member in the Biochemistry Program about serving as your major advisor. If you have trouble finding a major advisor, contact the Biochemistry director for advice.
  • Meet with your new major advisor to discuss the Biochemistry major requirements and to complete a “Plan” for your major in degreeworks. You can find links to degreeworks and to a “Degreeworks Information Site” on the registrar’s website.
  • Once you have met with your new advisor and have completed the degreeworks plan, use the “What if” function in degreeworks to summarize all of your previous classes, current classes, and planned classes. Print this “What if” as a pdf and email it to your new advisor and the Biochemistry director.
  • Next, complete the major declaration form, also found on the Registrar’s website. Your advisor and the biochemistry director will approve your declaration form after reviewing your plan.
  • Note that all Biochemistry majors must complete at least 8 units of coursework outside the natural sciences division but we encourage you to take even more! AP or IB transfers cannot count towards this requirement but courses transferred in from another school can (e.g. taken during study abroad).

Planning advice for students considering a concentration (major) in Biochemistry

By the end of your first year you should have completed CHEM 125* and BIOL 107 (and possibly Biol 108)**. Although it is possible to start later on either one and still graduate on time with the concentration, if you plan to study a semester abroad your junior year (which we encourage!), you should complete CHEM 125 by the end of the your first year so you can take CHEM 244/245 your second year.

By the end of your second year you should have completed BIOL 108 and ideally you will have also completed CHEM 244 and 245 and possibly BIOL/CHEM 272 or genetics. BIOL/CHEM 272 can be taken at the same time as CHEM 245.

By the end of your third year you should have completed BIOL/CHEM 272 and ideally also the genetics and cell biology requirements. Recommended classes (physics and math) could be completed by this point as well.

Your senior year you will likely take BIOC 326, BIOC 356, and BIOC 399/300 or 377 along with any other requirements for the major that you haven’t yet taken (e.g. cell biology requirement).

*Take CHEM 121 prior to CHEM 125 if you have limited or no background in Chemistry. CHEM 121 is only offered in the fall; 125 is offered every semester.

**BIOL 107 must be taken before 108; both are offered every semester. You may be able to pass out of BIOL 107 and 108 with a high AP or IB score. See the Biology website or pre-registration info for more details. If you opt out of BIOL 107/108, we highly encourage you to gain additional laboratory experience through another venue (laboratory based course to fulfill cell biology requirement, summer research experience in the biological sciences, BIOL 298, or complete a year-long capstone research experience).

Planning for study abroad

We encourage all of our majors to study abroad at least one semester during their junior year. It is definitely possible but takes a little more advanced planning. If you are considering studying abroad, plan to take CHEM 125 and BIOL 107 (and possibly 108) your first year so that you can complete CHEM 244 and 245 (and possibly BIOL/CHEM 272) your sophomore year.

Some study abroad programs will provide opportunities for you to take coursework that may count towards your major. You can count a maximum of two units taken abroad towards your major but you must consult with your advisor and the Biochemistry director prior to studying abroad to determine which courses may count towards your major. If you opted out of BIOL 107/108 you can count two units from abroad towards your major only if you gain an additional laboratory experience through another venue (laboratory based course to fulfill cell biology requirement, summer research experience in the biological sciences, BIOL 298, or complete a year-long capstone research experience). If not, you can only count one unit taken abroad towards your major.