Biochemists study the ‘glue’ that holds living organisms together — atoms, molecules, and ions. Biochemical scientists work in the lab and computer lab, exploring complex and socially important problems, from the effects of pesticides to the action of DNA. A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution is the entry-level requirement for beginning a career in biochemistry. Biochemistry does not have its own accrediting body, but programs should hold regional accreditation with a federally recognized entity.
Biochemistry has seen a surge in recognition and popularity over the last decade. In this environment, a number of programs are tightening their admissions requirements, and students are making finer distinctions among programs that offer biochemistry majors. To join the foray, get to know this list of the best biochemistry schools nationwide, according to U.S. News & World Report.
1. University of California at Berkeley
A premier national university, California-based UC Berkeley is one of the country’s best public schools and boasts top-rated Biology and Chemistry programs. Its Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, part of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, includes an interdepartmental emphasis in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) leading to a B.S. in Biochemistry for successful undergraduates. Divisional affiliations are chosen after year one. Berkeley students can explore bioinformatics, flow cytometry, mass spectrometry, gene targeting, and more. For graduate students, 5- to 6-year Ph.D.s are available, including a unique, interdisciplinary option in Comparative Biochemistry.
2. The Scripps Research Institute
The Scripps Research Institute in coastal La Jolla, California boasts an international reputation for high-level research, intimate student-faculty ratios, and deep translational connections to industry. It is a world-class, graduate-only school with two main sites; the California campus is highly ranked in biochemistry. At the Kellogg School of Science and Technology, the Doctoral Programs in Chemistry and Biology offer five curricular tracks, including chemical biology, which has its own lab rotations, classes and electives. There is also a multi-institutional chance to work toward a Ph.D. at both Scripps and the renowned Oxford University in the UK.
3. University of Wisconsin at Madison
Located in the Midwestern capital of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin at Madison is known as a ‘Public Ivy’ due to its impressive academics and intensive research opportunities, from the undergraduate to the graduate level. This large urban university offers affordable in-state tuition and well-equipped facilities for student-researchers. These include NIH-funded labs like the National Magnetic Resonance Facility and Center for Eukaryotic Structural Genomics. Madison undergraduates can earn a B.S. in Biochemistry after completing a thesis. Graduate students at UW participate in the IPiB, or Integrated Program in Biochemistry. IPiB, home to about 100 grad students, is jointly offered by the Departments of Biochemistry and Biomolecular Chemistry.
4. Harvard University
Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University is the oldest and most selective postsecondary school in the U.S. It offers a stellar biochemistry program through the Department of Biological Chemistry & Molecular Pharmacology within Harvard Medical School, specializing in teaching and research in molecular, chemical and structural biology. Outside the Medical School, undergraduate biochemistry is studied as the Chemical and Physical Biology concentration in the Life Sciences curriculum. The undergrad SB (Bachelor of Science) program is geared towards aspiring researchers. For graduate students, a Ph.D. in Molecules, Cells & Organisms with a Biochemistry, Chemical & Structural Biology track is available via the Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology.
5. University of California at San Francisco
UC San Francisco is a top-tier public West Coast option with an award-winning medical school. In 2007, the National Research Council (NRC) said UCSF had the best Biochemistry and Molecular Biology doctoral program in the nation. In the Biochemistry & Biophysics Department in the School of Medicine, there are two doctoral programs: the Markey Program in Biological Sciences and the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program. The former includes the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Chemistry & Chemical Biology tracks; the latter focuses on a variety of interdisciplinary studies in disease research of interest to aspiring biochemists.
6. Stanford University
An elite national university in suburban Stanford, California, Stanford University is a private school not far from the Pacific coast. The number one school in the nation for Biophysics, Structural Biology, and Neurobiology, Stanford offers opportunities to study alongside some of the world’s leading biochemical scientists. Undergraduates pursuing a B.S. may major in Biology with a specialization in Biochemistry & Biophysics, or in Chemistry — Biological Chemistry. Ph.D.s are available through the Department of Biochemistry in the School of Medicine, with most work occuring in the state-of-the-art Beckman Center. Undergraduates can also take classes at Beckman. Biochemistry students can easily pursue research interests based on their experiences rotating among 135 labs across 11 departments.
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is globally considered a top-tier place to study technology and applied science. MIT’s Department of Biology (Course 7) places a strong emphasis on biological chemistry and molecular science. Biochemistry is one of the Department’s core tracks. Here, students benefit from the expertise of a faculty loaded with Nobel laureates and National Academy of Sciences members, plus more than 60 faculty research laboratories. Bachelors can engage in research via the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Candidates for the SB in Biology also get the chance to take graduate-level classes.
8. Yale University
The top educational draw in the East Coast port city of New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University is a prestigious Ivy League private school with a highly-regarded Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry (MB&B). The Department, part of the Yale School of Medicine, largely graduates students who go on to medical school. Students benefit from renowned faculty, grade A facilities like the Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine, and Yale’s solid reputation for excellence. For undergrads, there is a B.S. and B.A. in MB&B, varying in the allowance of general studies and research, respectively. The Ph.D. in MB&B is jointly offered by the School of Medicine and the School of Arts and Sciences.
9. California Institute of Technology
Located east of L.A. in Pasadena, California, the California Institute of Technology, known as CalTech, is a renowned destination for the study of science and technology. CalTech affords innovative and multidisciplinary training at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Nearly two dozen laboratories participate in biochemistry, structural, and molecular cell biology research. Undergrads can get a B.S. in Biology or Chemistry, either via the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology track in the Biology Division or via the Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics track in the Chemistry Division. Graduate students can pursue a Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics (BMB), an interdisciplinary unit jointly offered by the Divisions of Biology and Chemistry.
10. University of California at San Diego
Located by the beach in La Jolla, California, UC San Diego’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry carries out cutting-edge research in areas like enzyme-nanomaterial relations, catalytic RNA, and laser-based analysis. UCSD students are regular recipients of NSF Research Fellowships and NCI training grants; many faculty hold positions with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Degrees include the B.S. in Biochemistry or Chemistry, M.S. in Chemistry, and Ph.D in Chemistry or Bioinformatics. Graduate tracks include Chemical Biology and Cellular & Systems Biochemistry. Students regularly collaborate on research with the Departments of Pharmacology, Biology, and Bioengineering.