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Biochemistry Major Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about the Biochemistry Major. (And hopefully some answers)

Who is the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Biochemistry major?
Click here.

Who are the advisors for Biochemistry majors?
Click here.

What are the requirements for the Biochemistry major?
Cliick here.

Can I take any of the required courses at another institution?

Yes, BUT, you must get permission IN ADVANCE. The Curriculum Committee must see the following before giving permission: The text used; a course syllabus; the course must be given at a four year institution. Exceptions may be made for BASIC courses in chemistry, physics, or biology. i.e. Basic Chemistry, basic physics, some math. courses, some basic biology courses. Certain basic courses at community colleges are acceptable at Stony Brook, but check with us first. Advanced courses at community colleges are NEVER accepted. Basic courses in chemistry, physics, and mathematics must be approved by the respective departments; We can do the biology courses using the criteria above.

What are the requirements for transfer students?

Transfer students who wish to complete the requirements for the Biochemistry major must take Biochemistry I and II (BIO 361 and 362) and must complete at least a minimum of nine (9) additional credits at Stony Brook in required upper-division Biology courses (BIO 310, 320, 311, and 365) and/or approved upper-division Biology elective courses. Click here for more information.

Can I get a required course waived?

Usually not; in some cases the Curriculum Committee will grant a waiver, but usually requires at least one additional elective course above the required two electives.

Can I take BIO362 before BIO361?

No. A grade of C or better in BIO 202, 203, and 361 is a pre-requisite for BIO 362.

How do I petition the Curriculum Committee?

Send your petition to the Director of Undergraduate Biochemistry

Do AP [Advanced Placement] courses get me a waiver of some basic courses?

AP credit in biology will not get a waiver for the introductory biology courses. However, waiver for calculus, chemistry, or physics may be possible, depending upon the AP course taken and AP exam score obtained.

Does Bio 487, Undergraduate Research, count as an elective?


In which courses must I get a grade of C or better?

All Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics courses.

Are there any other acceptable upper division biology electives other than the ones in the Undergraduate Bulletin?

Yes. New approved upper division electives are being added all the time. Check with your biochemistry advisor. Also, a student may petition the Curriculum Committee (send email to the to Director of Undergraduate Biochemistry) to get a course accepted as an elective. Do not take a course and then petition; get the course accepted first.

What happens if I get one grade of C- in the above courses, but the rest of my grades are OK?

Usually you must repeat the course. You may petition the Curriculum Committee for a waiver of that one course. If a waiver is granted, the Curriculum Committee usually requires at least one additional elective, sometimes two.

What is the Senior Writing requirement or in the new Stony Brook Curriculum (WRTD)?

This is a University WRTD requirement mandates that a student can write effectively in their discipline. Many Biochemistry majors satisfy the requirement by registering for a zero credit BIO 459 (Write effectively in Biology) and submit their best, graded laboratory report from either BIO 365 or BIO 311. Students planning to do this should submit their report as soon as possible. Do not wait until just before graduation. Submit by at least February 1 if you intend to graduate in May; June 1 for August and October 1 for December graduation, the earlier the better. If you need help in writing, consult The Writing Center: or call them at 632-7405. They are located in Room L-77, Life Sciences Building Library. For more information on the Biochemistry Upper division writing requirement click here.

How can I find research opportunities in Biochemistry?

For more information on Undergraduate research click here. Remember, research takes time. You can’t “do” it one or two hours a week. You may be required to come in evenings or on weekends. Cells don’t watch the clock and quit at 5:00PM. Make sure you have the time for it. A lab will want you for a minimum of a year in most cases; a graduating senior with one semester to go is not a top choice.

I want to go to medical/dental/veterinary/optometry school; will a Biochemistry degree help me?

The best source of information on health-related careers is the Faculty Committee on Health Professions located in the Undergraduate Advising Center in the main library. Their web site: is the best such site in the United States and is updated daily. There are two main health profession advisors, Mr. James Mantren and Jean Marie Maniach. They are the most knowledgable persons on campus in this area. They can be reached by phone or email for an appointment. The present Chair of the Faculty Committee on Health Professions is Prof. Harvard Lyman who is also the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Biochemistry & Cell Biology, and a member of the Admissions Committee of the Stony Brook School of Medicine. He can also give some insight into applying to schools in the health professions.

I want to do research; how do I get into graduate school?

Identify the areas within Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Developmental Biology, etc in which you think you would like to do research. Using Peterson’s Guide to Graduate Education [in the main library] or [better] the web pages of major institutions, find at least four or five schools in which you have an interest. Request their brochures. Ask faculty members their opinions on graduate schools and programs. Never go to a school where there is only one person working in your area of interest; when you get there their lab may be full; they may have left or retired or they may have decided to leave science and become an itinerant musician. Grades, research experience and letters of recommendations, and competitive GRE scores are required. All good science PhD programs will pay you a stipend and give you a tuition waiver.

Will doing research help me get into medical/dental/veterinary/optometry school?

Yes and No. Many people have the idea that research is required to get into these schools. This is simply not true. On the other hand if you have an interest in research, then by all means do it. The experience is valuable in professional and graduate schools, and if your research advisor is impressed with your work, their letter of recommendation is most valuable in your application. Don’t waste a laboratory’s time and materials just because you think it will “ look good” on your application.

What can I do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry?

Entry-level laboratory jobs in industries such as pharmaceutics, reagent companies, scientific instrumentation are possible, and having research experience is needed to be competitive for these positions. These companies employ BS students in biochemistry in sales and administrative positions also. This is also true for entry-level jobs in the government such as NIH, USDA, Commerce, Department of Interior. Many BS grads take a few extra courses and become science teachers at the secondary school level. Some Wall Street firms use BS biochemistry grads to help analyze biochemically-related companies. Several of our students have gone on to law school; while there is no shortage of lawyers, there are few who understand the details of biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, etc. as an aide to litigation in these areas. The United States State Department employs science officers to analyze science in other countries. A Master’s Degree in Biochemistry allows a person some additional opportunities in the areas above.

Where can I get help with my resume?

The Career Center, W-0550, 2-6810 in the Melville Library is a good resource. They provide counseling and guidance on how to get letters of reference and preparing effective applications and resumes. They also are part of a credentials file management system Interfolio Inc. for sending out your credentials. Look at their web site for more information:


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