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Bachelor Science - Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


The Program

The Biochemistry Department offers a major in biochemistry. This major provides training in both biochemistry and molecular biology, which are centered on the molecular events that take place in living cells. The sciences of biochemistry and molecular biology bring together the fields of biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics and microbiology as they describe how molecules important to life carry out their functions within cells.


For example, biochemist and molecular biologists are:

  • Creating genetically engineered crops that are more resistant to frost, drought, spoilage, disease and pests.
  • Perfecting techniques for identifying criminals based on a single strand of hair or a tiny blood stain left at the scene of a crime.
  • Developing better vaccines, antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, and pesticides that do less damage to human health and the environment.
  • Comparing proteins from different species and recording the changes that have occurred through evolution. The result will be a family tree for life on earth that is far more detailed than any developed from fossils.
  • Mass-producing life-saving chemicals that are usually found in the body in very tiny amounts. Some of those chemicals have been helping diabetics and heart attack victims for years.
  • Learning how cells recognize one another and communicate with enough efficiency to assemble a human being composed of a hundred thousand billion cells.
  • Discovering how certain diseases such as aids and cancer escape detection by the immune system, devising ways to enhance immunity to combat these diseases, and looking for ways to suppress the immune system to help people who have received a tissue transplant or have an immune system that has turned against them.
  • Testing out the chemical secrets of fertility.
  • Trying to program bacteria to clean up the environment by “eating” toxic chemicals.
  • Unraveling the full genetic code of humans.
If You Enjoy
  • Lab work
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
Program Highlights
  • A teaching faculty active in research, all of whom have their doctorate degrees.
  • An innovative curriculum that provides students with expertise in both the fundamental concepts and frontline applications of the rapidly expanding fields of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, especially in the areas of Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics.
  • State-of-the-art instrumentation
  • Development of specialized computer skills required for the acquisition of and analysis using genomic and proteomic databases.
  • An excitement for biochemistry and molecular biology fostered by participation in seminar courses discussing the latest advances for each of the four years in the program.
  • Opportunities to actively participate in a research project working one-on-one with faculty.


Career prospects seem bright for someone trained in the molecular life sciences. Projections for the next 20 years indicate that there will be thousands of unfulfilled science and engineering jobs. A large fraction of that shortage will be in the field of biochemistry and molecular biology.


Someone with a bachelor degree in biochemistry or molecular biology can use it to go to medical, dental, veterinary, law or business school. Some use their training as a stepping stone to careers in biotechnology, toxicology, biomedical engineering, clinical chemistry, plant pathology, animal science or other fields.


Some bachelor degree graduates enter the job market directly. Many employees have jobs that require their talents.


  • Government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and individual states have laboratories that employ skilled personnel in basic research programs and in the analyses of food, drugs, air, water, wastes, or animal tissue.
  • Drug companies have basic research programs on the causes of disease and applied programs to develop drugs to combat disease.
  • Biotechnology companies, which have interests in the environment, energy, human health care, agriculture and animal health, hire bachelor degree graduates for research, quality control, clinical research, manufacturing/production and information systems.


In addition, a bachelor degree graduate has knowledge that can be valuable in the fields of management, sales, marketing, regulatory affairs, technical writing or scientific journalism.


With additional courses, in the education field, someone with a molecular life science degree is ideally suited to teach science in elementary, middle and high school. An enthusiastic teacher can help inspire the next generation of scientists to tackle challenges that still, by today’s standards, seem insurmountable.


What classes should I have under my belt?
       High school students interested in biochemistry and molecular biology should take at least one year each of biology, chemistry, and physics, along with algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Introductory calculus is also useful. English courses that emphasize writing skills are strongly recommended because scientists must be able to communicate their results clearly and accurately through speeches and articles in biochemistry journals. If any of these courses are missing from your high school training they can be taken during your first year at the university.


What kind of salary do Biochemistry grads earn?
      In 2010, the median annual income nationwide for biochemists was $86,580 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).


Who do I contact for more information about Biochemistry & Molecular Biology?

Patricia Ellison, Assistant Professor, Faculty Advisor
Phone: (775) 784-4561
e-mail: ellison@unr.edu
Office: 154b Howard Medical Science Bldg, UNR Campus


Dr. Hanna Damke, Assistant Professor, Faculty Advisor
Phone: (775) 784-1830
e-mail: damke@unr.edu
Office: 216 Howard Medical Science Bldg, UNR Campus


Page last updated: 12/6/2013