Required for the Major

The requirements for the major in molecular biology and biochemistry provide a multidisciplinary yet integrated approach to examining life at the macromolecular, cellular, and organismal levels. The major is composed of 15 required courses including foundation courses, advanced courses, and four electives selected among three thematic suites. Required foundation courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology establish a strong, broad understanding of the science necessary for advanced study. Required advanced courses in the core areas of molecular biology and biochemistry build on this foundation. Finally, elective courses offer advanced opportunities to explore a wide variety of specific topics including neurobiology, developmental biology, computational biology, data science, molecular genetics, and biochemical mechanisms. Students may engage in mentored independent research in these areas.

To declare the MBBC major, complete a major declaration form and forward it along with the names of three MBBC faculty affiliates who could serve as your academic advisor to Grace Spatafora at spatafo@middlebury.edu. The MBBC Director will work with you to identify who will serve as your academic advisor. Feel free to reach out to the MBBC faculty with questions.

Required Background Courses

A single course may not fulfill more than one requirement.

  • A course in Mathematics
  • PHYS 0109 Newtonian Physics
  • BIOL 0140 Ecology and Evolution
  • BIOL 0145 Cell Biology and Genetics
  • BIOL 0211 Experimental Design and Data Analysis or MATH 116 Introduction to Statistical Science
  • CHEM 0103 Gen. Chemistry I or CHEM 0104 Gen. Chemistry II or CHEM 0107 Adv. Gen. Chemistry
  • CHEM 0203 Organic Chemistry I: Structure and Reactivity
  • CHEM 0204 Organic Chemistry II: Synthesis and Spectroscopy

Required Advanced Courses

A single course may not fulfill more than one requirement.

  • BIOL 0314 Molecular Genetics
  • CHEM 0322 Biochemistry of Macromolecules

Required Elective Suite Courses

A list of appropriate electives is provided within each suite. However, not all listed courses are offered every year. Also, as other appropriate courses may become available on campus, there may be additional course options within each suite. Majors will be kept informed of currently available courses that fit within the two elective suites below. 

1. Quantitative Suite (students must take 1 class in this suite)

  • CHEM 0355 Thermodynamics and Kinetics*
  • CSCI 0201 Data Structures*
  • CSCI 0321 Bioinformatics Algorithms*
  • MATH 0200 Linear Algebra
  • MATH 0223 Multivariable Calculus*
  • MATH 0118 Introduction to Data Science (formerly MATH 0216)
  • MATH 0315 Mathematical Models in the Social and Life Sciences*
  • BIOL 1230, ENVS 1230, NATH 1230, NSCI 1230 Data Science Across Disciplines    

2. Advanced Elective Suite (students must take a total of 3 distinct classes in this suite, one of which must be a laboratory course that can be MBBC500, MBBC700, or MBBC701.)

  • BIOL 0225 Human Genetics
  • BIOL 0280 Immunology
  • BIOL 0305 Developmental Biology
  • BIOL 0310 Microbiology
  • BIOL 0324 Genomics
  • BIOL 0330 Mechanisms of Microbial Pathogenesis
  • BIOL 0331 The Genetics of Cancer
  • BIOL 0333 Receptor Biology
  • BIOL 0350 Endocrinology
  • BIOL 0365 Molecular Microbial Ecology
  • BIOL 0449 Extremophiles: conquering Earth’s Extreme Environments
  • BIOL 0450 Topics in Reproductive Medicine
  • CHEM 0303 Chemical Biology
  • CHEM 0355 Thermodynamics and Kinetics*
  • CHEM 0425 Biochemistry of Metabolism
  • CSCI 0321 Bioinformatics Algorithms*
  • MBBC 0500 Independent Research
  • MBBC 0700 Senior Independent Research
  • MBBC 0701 Senior Thesis
  • PHYS 0241 Biomedical Imaging*

*Courses with pre-requisites other than courses already required for the MBBC major (or by waiver for some).

There is no minor in molecular biology and biochemistry.

Prospective students are encouraged to begin the Introductory Chemistry and Introductory Biology sequences and Mathematics during their first year. CHEM 0204 may be taken either concurrently with CHEM 0322, or afterwards. BIOL 0331 or BIOL 0310 are examples of courses with sections that fulfill the CW requirement.

Placement

Students may be able to bypass introductory courses in chemistry on the basis of AP credit or proficiency exams. Those who bypass CHEM 0103 may begin with CHEM 0104 (fall or spring) or CHEM 0107 (fall only). AP Physics credit will satisfy the physics requirement (PHYS 0109).

AP Statistics will not satisfy the statistics requirement. Students with AP Statistics credit will be required to enroll in BIOL 0211 or MATH 0116. AP Calculus, IB or A-level Mathematics exams, bypass exams, or any pre-college course in calculus will not exempt a student from the background math course requirement. Students will need to enroll in a math class that they are placed into by the Math Department. Placement is decided by the Math Department based on either scores on advanced placement exams or review of high school records. 

Some graduate schools may require two semesters each of mathematics and physics. Students interested in the health professions can learn more about the pre-health requirements and are encouraged to reach out to the health professions team for individual support.

Study Abroad and Transfer Credits

Students who consider taking summer courses or courses abroad must consult with their advisor about the process of transferring credit from another institution. With approval of the Program Director, transferred credits may count towards the major requirements. 

Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Research

Research is an important component of a well-rounded academic pursuit; it contributes to the development of independence and creativity, as well as to the depth of knowledge needed to become an active contributor to the scientific community. Majors may undertake independent research with a faculty mentor in MBBC or in other Departments and Programs, provided the research falls within the mission of the major. Any major is eligible to perform an independent study research project (BIOL 0500, CHEM 0500, NSCI 0500, or BIOL/CHEM/NSCI/MBBC 0700) with the consent of a mentor.

Requirements for Honors

Senior thesis research may be initiated by any junior with the consent of a mentor. Students considering senior thesis research are urged to begin conversations with faculty early in their junior year (certainly by winter term) because many thesis projects begin during the summer preceding the senior year. Those eligible for honors or high honors in molecular biology and biochemistry will: (1) complete at least two semesters of research, which may include winter term; (2) enroll in MBBC 0701 for their final semester of research; (3) graduate with a minimum GPA of 3.3 for all courses counting towards the major; (4) present a public seminar describing the significance, methodology, results, and conclusions of their research; (5) successfully defend their thesis before a committee of three faculty, two of whom must be affiliated with the MBBC program; and (6) earn a grade of at least B+ for MBBC 0701, as determined by the members of the MBBC program, with the grade based on their research performance, their written thesis, their thesis presentation and their thesis defense.