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Biochemistry is the study of structure, function and chemical reactions that take place in living systems. It’s a very broad field, with jobs and career opportunities ranging from medicine and dentistry to food science and agriculture. 

At Western, small class sizes and lab sections allow students personal attention, and plenty of hands-on experience with a variety of tools, techniques and instruments.

What Will You Learn? What Skills Will You Acquire?

Students in biochemistry receive training with instrument systems including infrared spectroscopy, NMR spectroscopy and capillary electrophoresis. Students also learn numerous molecular biology techniques, including PCR and DNA transformations.

Biochemistry encompasses several areas of science, calling creative, imaginative, hardworking students, who enjoy working and interacting with others scientists to make new discoveries.

Beyond the Classroom

Students in biochemistry take field trips to a variety of facilities. At the Crested Butte wastewater treatment plant, they collect water samples for metal analysis. Classes have also studied crime-scene analysis at the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI) lab.

Students attend a variety of conferences and work with faculty members on original research. Western students have also participated in summer research at Vanderbilt University, Montana State University, the University of Wyoming and other institutions offering Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs. Stipends for these summer research positions range from $3,500 to $4,500, with housing included.

After Graduation

Students with degrees in biochemistry from Western Colorado University can explore several career paths, including research in health and medicine, studying diseases and their cures. Biochemistry prepares students for research in drug development, gene therapy and stem cells. Biochemists also work in nutrition, forensic science, toxicology and environmental preservation.

Next Steps

If you're interested in Western's Biochemistry Program, we invite you to take the next steps towards becoming a part of the Mountaineer family.

Share your interest with friends and family:
  1. Email this to your friends or family    Share on LinkedIn    Share on Google+    Twitter    Share this on Facebook

  2. Get more information about the program.
  3. Schedule a campus visit so you can meet professors, see the beautiful Gunnison Valley, and find out if Western is the perfect school for you.
  4. Start the online application process - apply online now.
  5. Find scholarships, grants, or financial aid that match your interests and situation.


Sean Markey
From truck driver to neurosurgeon thanks to Western and its nurturing professors. 

Faculty & Staff


Dr. Shan Hays headshot
Associate Professor of Biology
B.A., University of Colorado, B.A., University of Colorado, Ph.D., University of Oregon
Phone: 970.943.2552
Office Location: Hurst Hall 238C
Chris Lee headshot
Assistant Professor in Biochemistry
B.A., Western Colorado University, Biology, Ph.D., University of Missouri - Columbia, Biological Sciences
Phone: 970.943.2256
Office Location: Hurst Hall 218


FOR REQUIRED COURSES AND DEGREE PLANS, VISIT THE OFFICIAL UNIVERSITY CATALOG. This is a sample of courses offered by Western Colorado University. To ensure the courses you need are offered during the current semester, please visit the university course search.

 BIOL 150 - Biological Principles (with laboratory) (4 credits)

An introduction to the central unifying concepts of biology including the biochemical foundations of life, cell structure and function, cell metabolism, genetics, and evolution. Laboratories introduce students to the process and methods of science through investigative experiences. This course is designed for the science major. A year of high school biology and a year of high school chemistry are highly recommended. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisites: University Entry-Level Expectations met for mathematics and English.

 BIOL 151 - Diversity and Patterns of Life (with laboratory) (4 credits)

An overview of organismal diversity and evolution. Through a taxonomic survey, students are introduced to prokaryotic and eukaryotic diversity and evolution including microorganisms, fungi, plants, and animals. Fundamentals of evolution including the history of life, evidence for common ancestry, mechanisms of evolutionary change, and speciation are covered. Organismic structure, function, and ecology are also explored. Laboratories introduce students to the process and methods of science through investigative experiences. This course is designed for the science major. A year of high school biology and a year of high school chemistry are highly recommended. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisites: University Entry-Level Expectations met for mathematics and English.

 BIOL 310 - Cell Biology (3 credits)

An introduction to cellular function and structure. Prerequisites: BIOL 150 and BIOL 151. Prerequisite or corequisite: CHEM 231 or CHEM 331; and COM 202.

 BIOL 312 - Genetics (4 credits)

A course in Mendelian inheritance, linkage, chromosomal aberrations, molecular genetics, gene regulation, genetic engineering, and population genetics. Prerequisites: BIOL 301, BIOL 310, CHEM 231, and CHEM 234; or CHEM 331.

 CHEM 471 - Biochemistry I (4 credits)

A study of structural biochemistry and metabolism. The course begins with an overview of the aqueous environment and its effects on solutes, including biomolecules. Other subject matters include the chemistry of proteins, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, and lipids; the mechanisms and kinetics of enzymes; and the stoichiometry and chemistry underlying the core metabolic processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Prerequisites: BIOL 150 and CHEM 332.

 CHEM 472 - Biochemistry II (with laboratory) (4 credits)

A continuation of CHEM 471. A study of the molecular mechanisms by which cellular processes are controlled in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Topics include the biochemistry of macromolecular processes, the structure of genes and chromosomes, the genetic and molecular techniques used to study gene expression, and the transcriptional and translational control of gene expression. The laboratory includes recombinant DNA techniques to manipulate the genome of a model organism. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisites: BIOL 312 and CHEM 471.

 CHEM 494 - Research Problems in Chemistry ( credits)

An advanced, supervised laboratory or literature research experience involving methods of chemical research in an area of analytical, physical, organic, or biochemistry. A research paper and oral presentation of research results is required. Prerequisite: CHEM 302.

 MATH 151 - Calculus I (4 credits)

A study of differential calculus, including limits, continuous functions, Intermediate Value Theorem, tangents, linear approximation, inverse functions, implicit differentiation, extreme values and the Mean Value Theorem. This course also introduces Integral calculus including anti-derivatives, definite integrals, and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. Prerequisite: ACT math score of 27 or above; SAT math score of 630 or above; MATH 141 with a minimum grade of C-; or Accuplacer university-level mathematics test with a score of 95 or above. GT-MA1

 MATH 251 - Calculus II (4 credits)

Topics include techniques of integration, area computations, improper integrals, infinite series and various convergence tests, power series, Taylor's Formula, polar coordinates, and parametric curves. Prerequisite: MATH 151 with a minimum grade of "C-."

 PHYS 200 - General Physics I (with laboratory) (4 credits)

A quantitative lecture and laboratory introduction to the basic principles of physics, using the concepts of calculus as a tool. Topics covered include the motions of particles, forces in nature, field concepts, energy, conservation laws, many-particle systems, and thermodynamics. A student may not receive credit for both PHYS 170 and PHYS 200. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite or Corequisite: MATH 151. GT-SC1

 PHYS 201 - General Physics II (with laboratory) ( credits)

A continuation of PHYS 200 dealing with electromagnetism, light, and the atomic structure of matter. A student cannot receive credit for both PHYS 171 and 201. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: PHYS 200.

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