Illinois logo MCB The Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology

Undergraduate Program

In the Department of Biochemistry we educate undergraduate students in the fundamentals of biochemistry and molecular biology. A bachelor's degree in biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign prepares students for entry into graduate programs in biochemistry, chemistry, molecular biology, or other areas of advanced biology. It will also prepare them for entry into medical, dental, veterinary, or pharmacy school. By majoring in biochemistry at Illinois students are well-prepared to enter positions in the biotechnology, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries.

Biochemistry at Illinois is an advanced, interdisciplinary field that encompasses the biological and chemical sciences. Our department is part of the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and has close ties with the School of Chemical Sciences, the Institute for Genomic Biology, the Center for Biophysics and Quantitative Biology, the Neuroscience Program, the Medical Scholars Program, and other interdisciplinary groups.

Biochemists deal with the chemical composition of living matter and the molecular nature of the processes of living systems. We seek to learn the chemical structure of biological molecules and to define chemical principles underlying biological functions.

Questions that we might ask include: What is the composition of cells? What chemical reactions go on inside cells, how are they regulated, and what are their functions? What is the chemical mechanism of inheritance, of growth, of cell division, of differentiation? How are the energy and material of food stuff converted to the material of new cells and energy of movement, heat, and so on? What chemical and physical properties of naturally occurring molecules enable them to carry out such highly specific functions? Our work also encompasses the practical application of this fundamental knowledge about biological processes. Biochemists are involved in medicine, pharmacology, agriculture, nutrition, microbiology, cell biology, food technology, pollution control, and biotechnology.

Since biochemistry pervades nearly all areas of study in biology, biochemical education offers entry into diverse academic biological disciplines. A substantial number of biochemists are teachers and researchers in colleges and universities. These positions usually require a doctoral degree and, frequently, post-doctoral research experience. Doctorate-level research biochemists also work in governmental research institutions, medical institutions, and industrial research organizations. Industrial research is focused in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, food processing, and fine chemicals areas. Many opportunities exist for biochemists with B.S. or M.S. degrees in all of these organizations. Executives, sales and technical personnel, patent attorneys, and other managerial workers in all the previously mentioned fields often have their college training in biochemistry.