(BMB) Mission Statement
History of the Kenyon BMB Program
Current BMB Program
The intersection of chemistry and biology provides a creative focus for understanding the molecular processes of life. In the scientific literature, interdisciplinary research efforts are now commonplace, while in the classroom, chemists frequently address biological topics and the chemistry of biological processes is often treated by biologists. Kenyon's Chemistry and Biology departments offer an interdisciplinary program including two majors, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, each of which combines aspects of their curricula. The majors in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology are intended for students whose interests lie at the exciting interface of chemistry and biology.
The Biochemistry major provides a chemistry-based curriculum with a significant biology component, producing a solid background for continuing graduate work in biochemistry and chemistry.
The Molecular biology major combines a substantial chemistry background with studies in cellular and molecular biology that prepares students for research in fields such as biomolecular structure, gene regulation, genomics, and proteomics.
Our objectives will be assessed by evaluating:
Biochemistry Synoptic Major at Kenyon (1993-1994)
In the early 1990's and paralleling the trend nationwide, the Departments of Biology and Chemistry at Kenyon experienced increased student interest in molecular biology and biochemistry. Many of our honors and research students at that time chose to do molecular or biochemical projects, and increasing numbers of our students began attending graduate school in these fields. In 1993, in response to these demands, we instituted a Synoptic Biochemistry major, designed to provide students with biological and physical science background to go on in either graduate school in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology or medical school, or perhaps to enter a career in industrial biotechnology. Beyond the premedical core in Biology and Chemistry, the Synoptic major required 4 additional semesters of biology and 2 additional semesters of chemistry. The full list of these original requirements for the Synoptic major is given in Appendix I.
Formalization of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) Program (1995)
In 1994, the Biology and Chemistry departments presented a proposal to Kenyon’s Curricular Policy Committee for the formalization of the Synoptic Biochemistry Major (Appendix II). This proposal requested the institution of two new majors, Biochemistry (BCHM) and Molecular Biology (MBIO), under one new BMB Program. The proposal was approved for the 1995-1996 academic year, with the understanding that no additional staff and resources were required beyond those available to the departments of Biology and Chemistry. All students shared common core courses in their first two years, diverged at the upper-level, and were brought back together for a capstone Senior Exercise. Each student was assigned a mentor from both the Biology and Chemistry departments, and Senior Exercises, which consisted of an oral presentation and a 20 page research paper, were attended and evaluated by all members from each department. Along with curricular requirements, BMB students satisfied outside seminar speaker attendance requirements by participating in either department's program.
The current requirements for the majors in Biochemistry and in Molecular Biology are above. The main changes in recent years have been:
The BMB program initially drew interest from a small but intensely committed
group of students, some of whom had strong interests in research. Figure
1 depicts the number of majors in the program since 1993. It can be seen
that the number of majors in Biochemistry has been small but steady, whereas
the numbers in Molecular Biology grew rapidly in the first few years, then
declined in 1999-2002. This decline coincided with a period in which staff
departures led to key courses being taught by non-tenured visitors who
lacked commitment and inspiration for students. Since then, we have hired
two new chemists and two new molecular biologists who have done an outstanding
job. The MBIO majors have started to increase again, and key courses (BIOL
363 Molecular Biology and Genomics; and BIOL 364 Gene Manipulation Lab)
Core Faculty Participants
At present the core participants in the Program include:
Mohammed, Hemkin, Hicks, and Powell are all recent
hires that contribute tremendously to the building of the BMB curriculum
and research efforts. The program description and course requirements have
changed little since their inception. For comparison, the requirements
for the ACS-certified major in Biochemistry and as suggested by the American
Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) are given in Appendix
IV. The relatively young MBIO major currently has no equivalent professional
recommendations. As can be seen, the BCHM major meets the demands of our
professional organizations. We believe our MBIO major likewise meets a
high standard. Full descriptions of courses offered in the BMB program
and their syllabi are linked to the program web site.
While required courses have remained constant over the years, the contributing faculty have made improvements that have strengthened the education for our majors. Our MBIO major combines depth in molecular genetics with a strong basis in chemistry, including a semester of physical chemistry. The chemistry background ensures that students realize the dynamic molecular dimension of biological molecules, more than just strings of bases or amino acids. In the core course BIOL 363 Molecular Biology and Genomics, students combine genomic analysis of sequences with three-dimensional structural analysis of proteins and nucleic acids, including structure and function of the recently solved ribosome. A highlight of this course is the student-authored Chime tutorials on Biomolecules (see web site).
The Molecular Biology and Genomics course effectively complements the Chemistry Department's Biochemistry course. Students enjoy taking courses concurrently because they each emphasize fundamental structure of molecules: Biochemistry focuses on the essential chemistry of the building blocks, whereas Molecular Biology puts together complex structures within the framework of genomics and evolution and provide an excellent foundation for more advanced study in either department.
The experimental foundation of the MBIO major is the lab course BIOL 364 Gene Manipulation developed by molecular biologist Wade Powell. This course effectively applies techniques of gene cloning and RNA expression to a research system, examining effects of pollutant compounds on gene expression in local aquatic animals. Thus, the course not only trains students in basic skills common to biomedical research laboratories, it also directs these techniques to significant questions in environmental and evolutionary biology. This lab has become so popular (with straight Biology majors, as well as BMB majors) that we had to provide a second section for next year.
The BCHM major ensures a rigorous analytical background while integrating a strong biological component. Instrumental analysis is required for our majors and advanced courses focus on bio-analytical methodologies. For example, in Advanced Biochemistry: Biomacromolecular Structure and Spectroscopy (Mohammed) students use CACHE to do conformational searches on carbohydrates, nucleic acids, and peptides in addition to studying macromolecular structure by 2-dimensional NMR spectroscopy. Hemkin's course will offer mathematical modeling of biophysical processes in cells. Advanced courses in molecular biology are highly recommended. Students choosing the BCHM path have attested to the program's success by tackling intense molecular biological-based senior exercise literature with relative ease.
BCHM laboratories complement the physical nature of the general and advanced biochemistry courses. Advanced Laboratory: Biochemistry lab provides fundamentals of protein isolation and reactivity, and Advanced Laboratory: Biochemistry focuses on protein structure analysis using circular dichroism, uv-visible, and stopped-flow spectrophotometry and protein gel electrophoresis.
The techniques learned by the students in both MBIO and BCHM laboratories serve them well in Honors research and in the workforce. Indeed, students bring cross-disciplinary ideas and expertise to our research programs. For example, students in Marusak's laboratory brought DNA electrophoresis techniques to her mechanistic inorganic laboratory, resulting in two publications.
The opportunity for students of either major to do research in either
department remains one of the great strengths of the BMB program. Three
very successful recent cases include Biochemistry majors, Ansley Scott
('02) and John DePowell ('02), who carried out research in molecular biology
laboratories and Molecular Biology major, Kamille Johnson ('99), who carried
out her research in Chemistry. Scott comments "By being a Biochemistry
major I felt I had the tools to really attack the toughest problems in
molecular biology." Scott is going on to Berkeley for a PhD in molecular
biology, and Johnson is currently enrolled in the science education program
at Vanderbilt U.
Current Challenges and Future Goals
The BCHM-MBIO program faces several challenges to maintain our excellence and further develop our offerings for students.
Appendix I. Kenyon's Requirements for the Synoptic Biochemistry major (1991-1995)
In addition to the following, it is recommended that
majors take Calculus and 1 yr. of Physics.
ADVISORS: The Biochemistry major must select two faculty advisors, one in both the Biology and Chemistry Departments
HONORS: The Biochemistry major may choose to do Honors in either Chemistry or Biology.
Appendix II. ACS Requirements: Recommended by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Boyer, 1993) for a Biochemistry Major
ACS Requirements for Biochemistry Major
Beyond the introductory level, three semester hours of biology, which contains cell biology, microbiology, or genetics; six semester hours of biochemistry, which has organic chemistry as a prerequisite; and one semester of a laboratory in biochemical methods. Research in biochemistry culminating in a comprehensive written report is highly recommended.
Biochemistry Major Recommended by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Boyer, 1993)
General Chemistry and Lab (2 semesters), Organic Chemistry and lab (2 semesters), Physical Chemistry (1 semester), Analytical/Instrumental chemistry (1 semester)*, Biochemistry (2 semesters), Advanced Biology (2 semesters). Independent Research (strongly recommended), Physics (2 semesters), Calculus (2 semesters).
Appendix III. Student response to the preliminary questionnaire on Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (senior majors graduating in 2002)
Note: A more extensive survey of BCHM and MBIO graduates since the beginning of the program has been conducted. The results are provided in an Excel table in the review folder.
1. Why did you select the major in BCHM? What aspects of the major have been most helpful for you?