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Biochemistry and Biophysics Major

Accredited by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Biochemistry and Biophysics Major

Accredited by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

RNA and protein DNA sequencing.

Biochemistry and biophysics majors study a broad range of courses centered on the chemistry and physics of life processes.

Biochemists explore the chemical structure of living matter and the chemical reactions occurring in living cells. Biophysicists use the methods of physical science to study the structure and functions of macromolecules and solve problems at the intersection of biological and physical sciences.

Biochemistry and biophysics majors have been very successful at gaining admission to medical, dental, and graduate schools. Nearly every year, at least one biochemistry student has won the highly competitive Goldwater scholarship— the top undergraduate award in the nation for sophomores and juniors in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Meet a BB major

Options in biochemistry and biophysics

Biochemistry and biophysics majors complete an option while earning their degree. Advanced biophysics and neuroscience are designed for students who want to pursue graduate work in biophysics, neuroscience, bioinformatics, and pharmaceutical research as well as work in health professions. Pre-medicine is ideal for students interested in careers in medicine and related health professions.

The advanced biophysics option is designed for students interested in pursuing graduate work in biophysics or entering the workforce in biophysics and pharmaceutical industries. It provides advanced training in physical chemistry and physics, bioinformatics, statistics, mathematics and other areas of current research in biophysics, in addition to the core courses in the major. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in undergraduate research, and up to three research credits can be applied to the upper-division science elective requirements. Faculty advisors work with students to help them identify electives, research opportunities and professional internships that align with their interests.

The neuroscience option is designed for students interested in combining foundational training in chemistry, biology, mathematics, physics, biochemistry and biophysics with training in psychology, neuroscience, and anatomy and physiology to deepen their understanding of the brain and the nervous system. This option supports students who want to pursue graduate work in neuroscience, biophysics, bioinformatics and pharmaceutical research as well as work in health professions. Students can engage with exciting research projects that match their interests.

This option is suitable for biochemistry and biophysics students interested in a career in medicine. In addition to offering a strong foundation in general chemistry, organic chemistry, mathematics, physics, biology, biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, biophysics, statistics and biological sequence analysis, the pre-medicine option meets the requirements for most medical schools in the U.S. by providing students with training in genetics, psychology, ethics and social sciences.

Students have a wide choice of medically relevant electives in areas such as anatomy and physiology, microbiology, neuroscience and immunology. They can also participate in meaningful undergraduate research projects. Faculty pre-medical advisors guide students to integrate undergraduate research and other relevant professional opportunities into their undergraduate experience and to prepare themselves as strong candidates for admission to the medical schools and health programs of their interest.

Career preparation

Biochemistry and biophysics majors receive excellent training for careers in medicine and related health professions, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries and drug design. Faculty in the department provide research strength in many arenas of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, including structural biology, enzymology, metabolic regulation, signal transduction and protein chemistry, and we encourage our majors to extend their education outside the classroom by taking advantage of opportunities for undergraduate research.

Biochemistry is extensively intertwined with biotechnology, which is the use of modern techniques in biology to achieve practical objectives. This has greatly expanded the industrial market for biochemists and biophysicists. Our graduates have found rewarding careers in medicine, dentistry, biotechnology, genetics, forensic science, pharmacology, toxicology and nutrition, as well as in biochemistry or biophysics. Others have used the degree as a springboard to nontechnical careers that benefit from a broad scientific background, including business, intellectual property law, journalism and healthcare administration.

Prospective students

High school students interested in careers in biochemistry or biophysics should prepare for college by taking four years of mathematics and at least one year each of physics, chemistry and biology.

Students transferring from a community college should have completed one year each of the following by the end of the sophomore year if they plan to graduate in four years’ total time: general chemistry, organic chemistry with ACS exam, calculus-based physics, general biology and three semesters or four quarters of calculus, including vector calculus. An excellent advising program is available to undergraduates, and prospective students are encouraged to consult with a departmental advisor or with faculty members working in an area of interest to them.

High school students, community college, and other transfer students interested in the BB program are encouraged to contact Dr. Kari van Zee (, the lead advisor for advice about preparatory courses before they attend or apply to OSU. She welcomes opportunities to meet with potential students and their families.

Delaney Smith standing in the Learning and Innovation Center (LInC) lobby.

"The biochemistry and biophysics professors are great. I couldn't have asked for a better education. All the professors know you by name and they are very passionate about what they teach."

Delaney Smith (Biochemistry & Biophysics '19), 2018 Goldwater Scholar, 2019 Fulbright Fellow at the University of Ghent, Belgium, currently enrolled in Biochemistry Ph.D. program at Stanford University.

Meet our students and alumni

Research opportunities led Eugene native to Oregon State

Biochemistry and biophysics senior Seth Pinckney chose Oregon State for the research opportunities. He wasn't disappointed.

Fulbright Award will take biochemistry senior to Spain to study neuroscience

Isabella Karabinas, a senior double majoring in honors biochemistry & biophysics, has received the 2020 Fulbright Award to study in Spain.

Deep dive into key COVID-19 protein is a step toward new drugs, vaccines

Biochemists have taken a key step toward new drugs and vaccines for combating COVID-19 with a deep dive into one protein’s interactions with SARS-CoV-2 genetic material.

Next steps