Biochemistry Graduate Programs analyze what happens at the molecular levels. With so many advances in the field, students might take part in, or learn about, innovative research in dynamic areas such as genetic engineering, agriculture, pharmacology, veterinary medicine, and biotechnology.
written by Rana Waxman
Biochemistry graduate programs offer a rigorous and broad-based curriculum of research and coursework that could lead to a Master of Science (MS) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree.
Most programs include a set of core topics that provide a great foundation in biomedical sciences. These may serve as a framework for advanced study in more focused areas.
A diverse and dynamic array of faculty mentors might take part in a given program to represent research areas such as drug discovery, cancer biology, HIV and more. Classes might be taught in a lecture format that could be followed by interactive group discussions on selected topics.
Conference sessions might also be held at intervals. These could provide a chance for students to integrate lecture material. Also, to apply knowledge to solve problems, generate hypotheses, design experiments, and interpret experimental data.
Graduate biochemistry students often spend time in the laboratory to supplement advanced courses. This blend of theory and practice allows students to explore areas such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease more deeply. Lab work could help students learn to design and conduct experiments that test out theories or lead to discoveries.
A variety of program emphases could help students to zero in on a professionally meaningful topic to anchor their research interests. Also, through intensive science courses and experimentation, students might gain key skills as problem
solvers, critical thinkers, and effective communicators.i
Each biochemistry graduate school has its own set of standards and required components of a completed application. Below are a few things to look for, though individual schools should be the ultimate reference point.
The word biochemistry is the sum of two parts: (1) biology and (2) chemistry. Biochemistry is an active and laboratory-based branch of science that explores the chemical processes within and related to living organisms. Biochemists actually use their knowledge of chemistry and its techniques to solve problems in biology.
Biochemistry’s focus is on what is going on inside our cells and therefore, puts under a microscope, components like proteins, lipids and organelles. It also looks at how cells communicate with each other, for example during growth or when we fight an illness.
Biochemists need to understand how the structure of a molecule relates to its function, so as to allow them to predict how molecules will interact. While course lists vary, graduate biochemistry curriculums could draw from many fascinating topics. See below for a few examples.ii
DID YOU KNOW?
Nobel Laureate, Sydney Brenner’s work made it possible to link genetic analysis to cell division and organ formation.iii
Masters in Biochemistry programs could provide an integrated course plan. Students typically work at the interface between chemistry and biology to probe the ways biomolecules interact and direct cellular function.
The first year of a two-year MS program could involve a rigorous coursework that provides a broad foundation in biomedical sciences. Through a hub of core courses, students commonly build proficiency in key areas such as Chemical Thermodynamics and Molecular Genetics.
This base often serves as a framework for advanced biochemical studies that may be scheduled for the second year. In tandem, course plans are often designed to help learners more broadly apply chemistry and biology to exciting and modern areas. Forensic Chemistry, Biochemistry of Cancer and Biochemistry of Obesity and Diabetes are a few examples.
Some programs may allow students to culminate their degree with either a thesis or non-thesis option, each of which results in 30 to 36 graduate-level credits (depending on the university) and a Master of Science degree.
Within the umbrella of Masters in Biochemistry programs, there may be an array of related programs and degrees to consider. A few examples from partner schools are listed below to give you a sense of just how much there is to explore in this field of study.
A Master of Science in Green Chemistry bridges elements of sustainability and environmental studies with chemistry courses from all five sub-disciplines.
The program could also leverage business courses to strengthen students' management and communication skills. A course in Global Environmental Regulation could cover trends and basic policies in legislation both nationally and internationally.
A relatively new concept, green chemistry evolved in the business and regulatory communities as a natural evolution of pollution prevention initiatives.
Per the American Chemical Society, “Green chemistry takes the EPA's mandate a step further and creates a new reality for chemistry and engineering.” It asks chemists and engineers to design chemicals, chemical processes, and commercial products in a way that, “at the very least, avoids the creation of toxics and waste.”v
A Master of Science in Biochemical Engineering (MSBChE) program could highlight the study of new technology and modeling tactics for bio-pharmaceutical production and development. Oriented to applicants with an undergrad degree in Chemical Engineering, coursework could aim to foster real-world skills.
MS students may be exposed to upstream and downstream bioprocess basics. Curriculums could also provide the tools to design and optimize pharmaceutical facilities, processes and products, through the use of contemporary analysis and technology.
A Master of Science in Chemistry could meld research, courses in all five branches of chemistry and lab work. Research opportunities, which could differ between schools, might be available in analytical, inorganic, organic, physical and computational chemistry, as well as in biochemistry.
Students may be able to choose various options with this degree at partner school, Seton University. These are a research-based MS with thesis (30 credits); a coursework-based MS without thesis; a MS with a minor in business administration (34 credits); and a research-based MS that could lead to PhD candidacy (30 credits).
A PhD in Biochemistry is a terminal research degree. Biochemistry PhD programs could provide much the same rigorous course work as a MS program, but with more intensive research components. For instance, classes in biostatistics, ethical conduct and research methods.
On average, the duration of study for a PhD degree is five years. The PhD program trains individuals to become independent researchers and educators in related research fields. Graduates might pursue opportunities to lead scientific investigations in industrial and/or academic settings.v
Courses and research opportunities are often school-dependent and may invite applicants to really look into the faculty on hand to see whether there is a symbiosis with their active projects or theories.
For instance, at partner school, NYMC, research areas in the Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences might span molecular biology of the cancer process, molecular neurobiology, genetics and biochemistry of bacterial and viral pathogens and many others.
The first year of a PhD program could have students take General Biochemistry classes. Topics such as Biochemistry of Gene Expression Protein Structure and Function may also be required in the first two years. Students might also take several research rotations in the first year. The number of required rotations is often based on previous Masters-level research experience.
Second-year Biochemistry PhD students may need to take a Qualifying Exam. Success on the exam, coupled with completion of required courses and recommendation from faculty, usually means the student is accepted into candidacy. From there, studies and research typically turn to dissertation work.
A PhD in Chemical Engineering is a terminal degree program that stresses research and innovation. At the same time, a full spectrum of courses is meant to help students learn and apply knowledge.
For instance, a class in biochemical engineering could introduce students to the basics of biochemistry, microbiology, cell biology and molecular biology, as applied to several areas—among them, bio-product formation, enzyme kinetics, cell growth kinetics, and sterilization.
Interested students often look to see what active research projects a university’s department offers. For instance, at partner school, Villanova, students could choose from several areas. Some of these might include the following.
A PhD in Chemistry is a terminal degree where students might complete a dissertation and a range of between 40 to 70 credits spread across research, course work and seminars. Students may be able to tailor their studies through their course selection.
In some programs, students might choose from courses in analytical, organic, physical, inorganic and biochemistry. A curriculum might also enable students to take courses in Chemical Kinetics, Quantum Chemistry and Proteins. In the final year, participants might present a full seminar on their research contributions.
A Graduate Certificate in Biochemistry is often structured around just a few courses. While it is not a degree, a certificate could either help students prepare for one, or just provide graduate-level instruction.
As an example, a Certificate in Biochemical Engineering could be a set of courses that introduce the essentials of Biochemical Engineering. In addition, it may allow students to choose a few electives in topics related to Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical industries.
Students who want to earn a Masters in Chemical Engineering, but with an emphasis in Biochemical Engineering, might study to earn a Biochemical Engineering Certificate.
Too busy to earn a graduate degree in biochemistry on campus? Online Biochemistry Graduate Programs may enable students to learn the same material and earn the same degree through a flexible format.
In some programs, all lectures are pre-recorded, and students could log in anytime, from any internet-connected device. Assignments might be scanned and emailed to the professor or faxed in.
Biochemists and biophysicists need a PhD to work in independent research-and-development positions. PhD graduates might begin their careers in temporary postdoctoral research positions that could last several years. ii
The time it takes to complete a PhD in Biochemistry varies. It depends on whether a student commits to a full-time or part-time program, whether they smoothly pass exams, and complete research in a timely manner.
Also, some students might enter a PhD program right from college, which could add more courses than for students who enter with an earned masters degree. Bachelors and masters degree holders might pursue some entry-level positions in biochemistry and biophysics. ii
First off, biochemists might conduct basic and applied research in areas such as metabolism, reproduction, DNA, hormones and so on. Some may manage teams or labs, present findings at conferences, teach what they know, and/or develop new methods, drugs, cures.
Basic research is conducted with the aim to expand human knowledge. This type of research usually asks students to write grant proposals to fund their projects.
Applied research is directed toward solving a particular problem. Drug discovery, biofuels and genetically-engineered crops are examples of applied research.
Based on the May 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for Biochemists and Biophysicists was $82,180.vi
Easily compare more Biochemistry graduate programs from partner schools. Set filters such as degree level and program format. Or, look for Biochemistry graduate schools in a specific city, state or country. From there, the next step is simple. Fill out the on-page form to contact the programs on your list.
[i] onetonline.org/link/summary/19-1021.00 | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biochemists-and-biophysicists.htm#tab-4 |[iii]nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2002/brenner-facts.html | [iv] acs.org/content/acs/en/greenchemistry/what-is-green-chemistry.html | [v] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biochemists-and-biophysicists.htm#tab-2 | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biochemists-and-biophysicists.htm#tab-5