Further Learning Opportunities

Biochem 301 is the starting point for Duke undergraduates to learn about biochemistry. Once students have completed Biochem 301, there are a number of further opportunities available, both in the classroom and in the laboratory, to continue to learn about the subject, and to explore potential ways of making biochemistry a part of one’s future career.

Assisting with Biochem 301 Learning Communities

There’s no better way to improve one’s own understanding than to teach, and undergrads who would like to strengthen and deepen their understanding of the concepts and material from 301 can do exactly that—while helping their classmates to learn—by serving as peer facilitators for Biochem 301 Learning Communities. Current 301 students sign up to be part of a learning community, which will then meet for one hour each week throughout the semester to review content and work through discussion problems. Peer facilitators are students who have already completed 301, who act as leaders and coaches for these discussion groups.

Peer facilitators work directly with the Biochem 301 teaching staff, with a weekly meeting to discuss course content and discussion problems, and each facilitator leads two learning communities.

This program is a partnership between the Biochemistry Department and the Academic Resource Center’s SAGE program. Peer facilitators become paid employees of ARC, and are expected to work four hours per week, including time for staff meetings and training as well as preparation and leading their groups.

For more information, see the recruitment page at the ARC SAGE website. Applications for Spring 2021 have already closed; please watch ARC’s website and my news page for announcements about opportunities to apply for future semesters.

Coursework Beyond Biochem 301

Biochem 302 is the official continuation of Biochem 301, and the logical next step for students who would like to keep learning about biochemistry in the classroom. 302 employs the concepts of catalysis, energetics, pathway organization, and regulation taught in 301 to understand new systems. It extends the knowledge base of human biochemistry learned in 301 to other important areas such as nucleic acids and cell membranes, and expands beyond human biochemistry to consider some of the essential processes of other kingdoms of life that are critical to life on earth (e.g. photosynthesis in plants). While 301 primarily discussed processes that degrade biological molecules in order to obtain energy and raw materials, 302 extensively covers processes of biosynthesis that create the building blocks of cellular structures. 302 is offered every year in the spring semester; it is not offered in the summer or fall.

Graduate biochemistry courses can be a wonderful way to extend one’s studies in biochemistry. The Biochemistry Department’s graduate courses are generally open to undergraduates with instructor permission, and most instructors are happy to welcome interested advanced undergraduates who have taken 301. Information about these courses is available here. Current or former 301 students should feel free to reach out for personalized advice on courses that might suit their interests.

The end of Biochem 301 touches on physiology, and many students find it a fascinating subject. For a deeper look, consider taking Animal Physiology (Biology 329L/329D) or Introduction to Human Physiology (Cellbio 503)(described here), which cover at the organismal level many of the processes which are discussed in Biochem 301 at the molecular and cellular levels.

Research Opportunities

One of the best ways to further one’s education in biochemistry is to participate in actual biochemical laboratory research. Labs in the Biochemistry Department generally welcome undergraduates interested in becoming involved in research. Students often begin by working as an assistant in a graduate student or postdoc’s project, but in many cases students who stay on in a lab for multiple years will be able to pursue their own independent projects and produce a senior thesis.

The Biochemistry Department organizes information sessions from time to time for Duke undergraduates interested in research. To be included on the mailing list for the next of these, please reach out by email.

Some faculty in the department post opportunities to Muser, the Duke database of undergrad research opportunities.

Another way to find laboratory opportunities is to review the websites of departmental faculty, identify those whose projects seems interesting, and then contact those faculty directly by email. Faculty inboxes are sometimes swamped, so it might be necessary to write a couple of times. Not all labs will have openings at any given time, but by identifying several labs and contacting several professors, there’s a good chance of finding an opportunity.

Undergraduates doing research in a departmental lab can apply for a summer fellowship from the Department. See here for more info.

Biology and Chemistry Degrees with Concentrations in Biochemistry

Though Duke does not offer a major in biochemistry, undergraduates majoring in Chemistry or Biology can choose to add a concentration in biochemistry.

Information and requirements for the biology major with Concentration in Biochemistry.

Information and requirements for the chemistry major with Concentration in Biochemistry.