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Undergraduate Biological Chemistry

The Biological Chemistry Option of the Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry is designed to provide students with a basic understanding of the chemical principles underlying chemical and biological processes.

The program emphasizes chemistry infused with an orientation towards the biological sciences. Its central theme is a chemistry core strengthened by biology and biochemistry courses. The choice of suitable electives will help the student to prepare for work or advanced study in areas such as chemistry, biochemistry, biotechnology, pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, medicine and other health sciences.

What is Biological Chemistry?

Chemists who use the basic techniques of computational, inorganic, physical, and organic chemistry to study biological molecules often call themselves biological chemists. This is a wide-ranging and ever-changing definition. Biological Chemistry is at the core a fundamental and rigorously molecular study of synthesis, mechanism, and structure of the macromolecules and minimolecules of life. As one focuses still further on how ensembles of these biomolecules interact to make a living cell, one enters into the realm of Biochemistry. Many students trained as chemists successfully move into advanced research in the fields of Biological Chemistry and Biochemistry; in contrast, students trained as Biochemists rarely move into the more fundamental studies of Biological Chemistry.

Declaring the Major

The Biological Chemistry Option of the Chemistry Major is open to all Stony Brook undergraduates. Perhaps the ideal time to declare the major is at the beginning of a student's sophomore year. It is usually unwise to postpone the declaration past the beginning of the student's junior year. Students who wish to elect this major should speak to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Plan of Study

Freshman students usually begin their studies toward the major by completing their introductory studies in chemistry and mathematics. In the sophomore year studies in biology and organic chemistry are combined with mathematics and physics courses. In the junior and senior years, physical and inorganic chemistry courses are completed as well as a series of advanced organic and biochemistry courses.


Biological Chemistry is based upon research. This is why students in the major have so many laboratory courses required for their degree. However structured instructional laboratories cannot truly introduce students to independent research. For this experience the student must seek out independent research opportunities. The faculty of the Department of Chemistry welcome qualified undergraduate students into their research laboratories. These opportunities are especially suitable for students in their junior and senior years of study. Interested students should review the research interests of the various faculty members and then discuss the possibilities for independent study or research with the individual faculty members who have the research programs of greatest interest. Each summer there are numerous special research programs available at Stony Brook, at nearby Brookhaven Laboratory and at universities across the country, open to qualified students. Interested students should talk to the Director of Undergraduate Studies several months in advance.


Students who have completed the Biological Chemistry Option are well prepared for entry level positions in many different industries. Such students are particularly attractive to the chemical industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the biotechnology industry and the various health care industries. The best jobs go to students with good records and with lots of laboratory experience, including research. Students who earn a degree certified by the American Chemical Society may have an edge (see next section). Many students choose to pursue graduate study in such fields as Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmacology or Health Science, at various universities around the nation. Masters degrees are usually obtainable after one and a half to two years additional study. Ph.D. degrees usually require four-five years study beyond the Bachelor of Science Degree. Graduate students usually receive substantial stipends throughout their period of graduate study.

Health Professions

The Biological Chemistry Option is an excellent choice for students preparing for a career in medicine, dentistry or the other health professions. The courses required for the major include most of the courses requested for admission to the major medical schools. Students who are interested in preparing for health professions programs should consult with advisors in the Center for Academic Advising in the Office of Undergraduate Advising. They will give you advice in regards to necessary course preparation, establishing a reference file, and participation in recommended extracurricular and volunteer activities. When you are ready to apply for admission to the health professional schools of your choice, the Faculty Committee on Health Professions will assist you in preparing your application. There are many criteria used for selecting students for admission, but all schools will look for students who have achieved superior academic records in a strong program of demanding courses throughout their undergraduate years.


Special internships are available for qualified undergraduate students majoring in the chemical sciences. These programs allow students to combine work in an industrial setting with their academic studies. Students in the program work in an industrial laboratory one or two days a week. In return they receive a salary from the company and academic credit from Stony Brook. Interested students should talk to the Student Affairs Coordinator several months in advance.

Double Majors

Highly motivated students often choose to complete the requirements for two majors. Students choosing to major in chemistry may wish to consider a second major in such fields as engineering chemistry, physics, mathematics or biology. Students electing the Biological Chemistry Option will find it particularly easy to complete a second major in biochemistry. This requires some additional courses, BIO 201, 203, 204 and 205, BIO 362 (an option in the CHE requirements), BIO 320, BIO 311 or 365, and one additional BIO elective. Students completing a double major will have an extra credential when looking for a job or when applying for graduate study. However a double major is certainly not a good idea for everyone. Often a better approach is to choose particular advanced courses as electives, matching one's own interests and abilities. And in all cases students should consider the importance of research and additional laboratory courses.

American Chemical Society Certification

The American Chemical Society is the national organization for chemists in the United States. The Society publishes the most prestigious journals, hosts the major national chemistry conferences, and influences chemical education in the country. The Society sets standards for the undergraduate chemistry programs at American universities. As part of this program the American Chemical Society's Committee on Professional Training has defined a minimum set of courses that they consider necessary for a student to achieve the skills needed for entry into the chemistry profession. Students who complete these requirements have their degrees certified by the Society. Students receiving certified degrees are eligible for immediate entry into the Society upon graduation. Certification requires the completion of a small number of courses in addition to those required for the major.

Major Requirements for the Bachelor of Science Degree

Candidates for the Bachelors of Science Degree in Chemistry who elect the Biological Chemistry option must complete the Chemistry Core Requirements of basic chemistry, mathematics and physics courses, plus a series of area requirements unique to the Biological Chemistry Option. In addition all students must fulfill the Upper-Division Writing Requirement.

All required courses must be taken for a letter grade; P/NC grades are not acceptable. All of the courses used to fulfill the requirements of the major (CHE, MAT, PHY, BIO, etc.) must be passed with a grade of C or higher, with the exception of three courses, for which the grade may be C-. No transferred course with a grade lower than C may be used to fulfill any major requirement.

Completion of the major requirements entails approximately 67 to 69 credits.

A. Core Requirements

  • CHE 129/ 130 or 131 & 132 or 152 ( General Chemistry I & II or Molecular Science I)
  • CHE 133 & 134 or 154 ( General Chemistry Laboratories I and II or Molecular Science I Laboratory)
  • CHE 301 & 302 ( Physical Chemistry I & II
  • CHE 303 ( Solution Chemistry Laboratory)
  • CHE 321 & 322 or CHE 331 & 332 ( Organic Chemistry I & II or Molecular Science II & III)
  • CHE 375 ( Inorganic Chemistry)
  • CHE 327 ( Organic Chemistry Laboratory) or 383 ( Introductory Synthetic and Spectroscopic Laboratory Techniques
  • CHE 385 ( Tools of Chemistry)
  • MAT 131, 132 ( Calculus I & II) (Substitutions are possible. See note 1.)
  • MAT 211 or AMS 210 ( Introduction ot Linear Algebra or Applied Linear Algebra) (Substitutions are possible. See note 1.)
  • PHY 131 & 132 ( Classical Physics I & II) with PHY 133 & 134 ( Classical Physics Laboratory I & Classical Physics Laboratory II) or PHY 141 & 142 ( Classical Physics I & II: Honors) or PHY 125, 126 & 127 ( Classical Physics A, B & C) with PHY 133 & 134 ( Classical Physics Laboratory I & Classical Physics Laboratory II)

B. Area Requirements for Biological Chemical Option

  • CHE 384 Intermediate Synthetic and Spectroscopic Laboratory Techniques
  • One organic or inorganic chemistry elective: CHE 345, 346  (see note 2), 348, 376, 378, or 496
  • BIO 202 Fundamentals of Biology: Cell and Molecular Biology
  • CHE 346 (recommended) or BIO 361 Biochemistry I
  • BIO 310 Cell Biology or BIO 362 Biochemistry II

C. Upper-Division Writing Requirement

  • Successful completion of CHE 385

D. It is recommended that students selecting the biological option take a minimum of one BIO lab (e.g., BIO 204).


  1. Alternate Mathematics Sequences

    The following alternate sequences may be substituted for major requirements or prerequisites: MAT 125, 126, 127, or 141, 142, or MAT 171, or AMS 151, 161 for MAT 131, 132. MAT 203 for AMS 210 or MAT 211. MAT 203 may be replaced by AMS 261.

  2. CHE 346

    CHE 346 may not be used as both an elective and as a substitute for BIO 361.

  3. Transfer Credit

    At least twelve credits of upper-division work in chemistry must be taken at Stony Brook; these must be taken in at least two of the major subdisciplines (inorganic, physical, and organic chemistry).

  4. American Chemical Society Certification

    The American Chemical Society's Committee on Professional Training has set nationally recognized standards for professional preparation in chemistry. The Chemistry faculty recommends that students intending to pursue careers in the Chemical Sciences secure ACS certification along with their Bachelor of Science in Chemistry degree.

    For ACS certification, students electing the Biological Chemistry Option need to complete the following courses:
    • CHE 304 Chemical Instrumentation Laboratory
    • CHE 357 Molecular Structure and Spectroscopy Laboratory
    • 496 Senior Research in Chemistry
    • Elective in chemistry or related area
  5. Additional Areas of Study

    Because knowledge of computer programming is of great value to all chemists, a course in computer programming is recommended.
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