Department of Chemistry


The chemical study of biological systems

The field of biochemistry centers around the study of chemical processes in biological systems – knowledge crucial to understanding living organisms. Rooted in both biology and chemistry, this unique discipline has produced important breakthroughs including the understanding of fermentation as a chemical process, large-scale production of insulin, identification and treatment of enzyme-linked diseases, discovery of connections between oxygen, hemoglobin and sickle cell anemia, and the emergence of metabolomics.

At Elon, biochemistry majors explore this exciting and crucial field through undergraduate research and an active curriculum that emphasizes the use of the most up-to-date instrumentation in laboratories. Students work with faculty who have extensive professional experience and scholarly expertise. Although the major is housed in the Elon Department of Chemistry, it includes a substantial number of classes in biology, as well as supporting courses in physics and mathematics. Graduates of the program are prepared to enter the biochemical profession, graduate school and a variety of health-related fields.  

“Imagine being able to conceptualize the tiny chemistry happening in your body. It’s what I have a passion for and what the Elon biochemistry curriculum is helping me to develop through individual lab application and close relationships with professors. I will keep the knowledge I gain from the classroom, the lab and my classmates with me through graduate school and beyond.”

Molly Strayer ’11

Premier facilities

In the McMichael Science Center, biochemistry students have access to some of the most modern and sophisticated instrumentation available, some of which is often used only at the graduate level at other universities. Ultraviolet-visible and infrared spectrometers, gel electrophoresis and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry units are used on a regular basis. More advanced experiments employ nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and dedicated apparatus for protein synthesis.

Working in well-maintained computer labs, students can mine, manipulate and analyze data from diverse sources such as the National Protein Data Bank, BLAST and EMBL. They have access to biochemical literature through resources such as Sci-Finder Scholar, Science Citation Index, STN and PubMed.

First-rate faculty

The biochemistry faculty includes award-winning, respected professors from Elon’s biology and chemistry departments. They have a wealth of knowledge in the different facets of biochemistry, a commitment to teaching and an enthusiasm for conducting research with undergraduates. Coming from prestigious institutions such as the University of North Carolina, University of California, Duke University and the University of Tennessee, faculty publish in prominent scientific journals, and author papers and posters with undergraduates at presented local, regional and national conferences.

The biochemistry faculty maintain active research programs that include structure-function studies of proteins, studies of enzyme kinetics and mechanisms, isolation and analysis of potentially bioactive natural products and the development of assays for bioactive molecules in drinking water. These research agendas often earn faculty institutional and national recognition; Dr. Kathy Matera recently was named Elon’s A.L. Hook Emerging Professor of Science and Mathematics, a three-year appointment.

“As a biochemistry major at Elon, I feel more like I am part of a family than just a curriculum. I have been given opportunities in learning and research that far exceeded anything I could have expected. Elon and its faculty, especially within the Department of Chemistry, believe in their students and constantly encourage them to excel.”

Amanda Clark ’11

Degrees offered

Elon offers a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry, which provides a student with the strong background and prerequisites for medical school and graduate programs in biochemistry, neuroscience, chemistry, toxicology, pharmacology, molecular biology and related areas. All biochemistry majors take the same core curriculum of general chemistry, organic chemistry, general biology, genetics, biochemistry and quantitative analysis. 

Upper-division courses allow for flexibility with an eye toward a student’s more specific career goals. Premedical students might take higher-level courses in molecular biology and medicinal chemistry, while students considering a pharmacy program might take microbiology. Students interested in research or graduate school might take physical chemistry.

A capstone biochemistry seminar course reveals the truly interdisciplinary nature of the major. Journal articles, discussions and oral presentations are used to provide a cohesive picture of the ever evolving field of biochemistry. 

The biochemistry major allows for flexibility in the pursuit of additional avenues of interest, including an American Chemical Society-certified B.S. in chemistry, a B.S. degree in biology, and Bachelor of Arts degrees in both chemistry and biology. These majors, coupled with the biochemistry major, provide excellent preparation for studies in biochemistry and health-related fields. 

Challenging fellows program

Exceptional high school students planning to major in biochemistry could qualify for the Elon College Fellows or Honors Fellows programs. These programs offer scholarship support, study abroad grants, special courses and much more. Visit the Elon Fellows programs Web site for more information.

Rewards of research

As a biochemistry major, you can launch an original research project as early as your sophomore year. These projects can take place during the academic year or in the summer through the Biochemistry department or the Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE). You will work closely with faculty mentors who will guide you through the discovery process. Students present their research findings at programs including Elon’s own Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF) or at regional or national research conferences of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS and ACS national meetings) and the Council for Undergraduate Research (NCUR). 

Recently, two biochemistry majors received the Lumen Prize, Elon’s premier award for academic achievement that supports outstanding students in their research during the final two years of study at Elon. Also, a biochemistry major received an honorable mention for the 2009 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a highly selective national award for students who major in the sciences. 

After Graduation

Students with a degree in biochemistry can pursue careers in research, medicine, pharmacy, toxicology, forensics, college and high school teaching, biotechnology and governmental agencies. Elon biochemistry majors are encouraged to pursue graduate programs in biochemistry, chemistry, molecular biology, agriculture and environmental science. Other students choose to enter medical and dental school, veterinary school and other health related fields.

Elon students with an interest in biochemistry have gone to medical schools and pharmaceutical programs such as those at Purdue University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and East Carolina University.

* Chemistry is the parent department of the biochemistry program.