Life Sciences 


Degrees Offered:

  • BA
  • Minor*
  • PhD

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Degree Requirements

Sample Four Year Plan

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* = Minors are not technically a degree, but can be pursued to supplement a bachelor's degree

The Department of Biochemistry at the University of Colorado Boulder offers an exceptional, interdisciplinary research environment that combines chemistry and biology to study living things at a molecular level. 

The department engages in cutting-edge research across the breadth of the discipline, which provides some of the basis for advances in human and veterinary medicine, agriculture and biotechnology, resulting in distinguished professors, a Nobel Prize laureate and students that go on to be top scientists in the field.

By studying the intersection of chemistry and biology, biochemistry allows students to study the building blocks of life (DNA, RNA, Proteins), how they evolved and interact, and how those chemical reactions continue to impact human's lives.

By studying these important interactions, biochemistry has enabled a number of vitally important innovations over recent years, such as the creation of safe synthetic drugs, the development of new agriculture and food techniques, and the growth in expertise of forensic teams to solve crimes. If you’re struggling to decide between Biology and Chemistry, or you see yourself working as a scientist in a role that makes a direct impact on people's lives, Biochemistry may be the perfect choice for you.

The Department of Biochemistry at CU Boulder is also one of the best in the world, ranking in the top 50 programs globally by the most recent U.S. News & World Report.

In addition, the department has a number of excellent and award-winning faculty such as a Nobel Prize winner, two CU Distinguished Professors, a Professor of Distinction, two National Medal of Science winners, five members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, a member of and three fellows for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, two Guggenheim fellowship recipients, and a number of American Cancer Society Fellows, present and former Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators and Searle Scholars.

The Department of Biochemistry is nationally recognized in several areas of research, including nucleic acid chemistry and biochemistry, signaling and cellular regulation and molecular biophysics. Other prominent fields of research in the department include proteomics, genomics, bioinfomatics, bio-organic and bio-inorganic chemsitry, chemical biology and research into proteins and enzymology.

Their diverse faculty also include several who have joint affiliations or extensive collaborations with institutes and centers at CU Boulder like BioFrontiers Institute, other departments like Chemistry, Physics, Neuroscience, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and Chemical and Biological Engineering, and outside CU Boulder at institutions like Anschutz Medical Campus and the CU School of Medicine and CU Cancer Center and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree in biochemistry, there are a number of research opportunities beyond just class work:

  • The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data, and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596 or visit the UROP website.

  • Majors with successful research projects and strong academic records are eligible to graduate with honors in biochemistry. A candidate for honors must prepare a thesis based on the research project, present the work to an honors committee, and pass an oral examination on the work. It is important to identify a faculty mentor and initiate the research sufficiently early so that results suitable for an honors thesis can be achieved prior to graduation.

  • The experience of studying abroad can prove invaluable for you as a biochemistry major. A study abroad experience may prepare you for a place in the international scientific community. The university offers more than 100 programs throughout the world. You may earn credit that counts as if you had taken courses here, in some cases fulfilling electives and core requirements. Language study is a prerequisite for participation in many programs, so early planning is essential. Further information about study abroad is available from Education Abroad, 303-492-7741 or on the education abroad website.

There are many opportunities open to biochemistry majors, including laboratory work in research, clinical, and diagnostic laboratories which can lead to careers in forensic science and toxicology, as well as both research and manufacturing positions in biotechnology. Other possibilities include sales and service representatives for pharmaceutical, medical or laboratory products, positions in governmental agencies, technical editing and publishing, scientific illustration and a variety of management training programs.

The biochemistry major provides a strong foundation for graduate and professional training. Graduate study in areas related to biochemistry can lead to academic faculty appointments, or to academic, governmental or industrial research positions, or to professional degree programs in medicine, dentistry, law, business, engineering and computer science.

Other interdisciplinary graduate fields that attract biochemistry undergraduates include atmospheric and oceanic sciences, bioorganic or organo-metallic chemistry, molecular, cellular and developmental biology and chemical physics.

Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects:

  • The median 2016 pay for biochemists was $82,180, and
  • That the 2016-2026 job growth for biochemists will be 7 percent, equal to the average for all jobs.

Estimated Biochemistry Salary Info

At CU Boulder, Biochemistry graduates earn more than the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. CU Boulder alumni in this discipline earn an estimated annual salary of $89,404, based on a pool of 572 alumni who graduated between 1989 and 2018. This amount, however, is roughly the same as the average for all CU Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree, according to a survey by Esmi Alumni Insight of 25,000 alumni who graduated during the same stretch.

The Department of Biochemistry has an extensive alumni network working in a variety of industries across the globe. Some alumni of the program include:

  • Joanna S. Fowler (PhD '67) is a Scientist Emeritus at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. Previously, she served as professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and director of Brookhaven's Radiotracer Chemistry, Instrumentation and Biological Imaging Program, where she conducted key research that helped develop the PET scan for detecting metastatic cancer. She has received many awards for her pioneering work, including the National Medal of Science.
  • Jennifer Doudna (Lucille P. Markey Postdoctoral Scholar working with Thomas Cech, 1991-94) is a professor in the departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley and has been an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) since 1997. She directs the Innovative Genomics Institute, a joint project of UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, where she has been a leading figure in the development of CRISPR Cas9-mediated genome editing.
  • Bruce Walker (BA '76) is professor of Medicine and director of the Division of AIDS at Harvard Medical School and director of the Ragon Institute, a joint institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard. He also is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, adjunct faculty member at Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, South Africa, and a founding scientist at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV.
  • David Goeddel (PhD '77) was one of the first four scientists hired by Genentech and used genetic engineering to develop some of the company’s first blockbuster drugs, including synthetic insulin, human growth hormone and interferons. As director of the company’s molecular biology program he conducted groundbreaking research on isolating genes from the human genome. With two others, started the bitotech firm Tularik, which sold to Amgen for $1.3 billion dollars in 2004. He is now a managing partner with The Column Group, a San Francisco-based venture-capital firm.