Biochemistry

Biochemistry draws on all sciences to explore the living world and causes of disease at the molecular level.

Our program is one of only a few that is accredited by the American Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology.

As a biochemistry student, you'll be encouraged to test your ideas through research from your very first courses and often using advanced equipment that other schools reserve exclusively for graduate students. In addition, all biochemistry faculty have active research programs. As a student, you'll gain valuable experience investigating real-world problems while working one-on-one with faculty.

Students majoring in this field often go on to pursue a professional degree in one of the medical fields. Others continue with graduate study in biology, chemistry or biochemistry, or enter the workforce.

We offer a major in Biochemistry.

Students working in a lab

Students experience biochemistry firsthand through research with faculty

  • Mechanisms of antibiotic resistance in disease-causing organisms
  • Estrogen and androgen signaling pathways
  • The effects of hormones on gene expression 
  • Molecular mechanisms controlling cell shape
  • The origins and evolution of meiosis
  • Enzymes important in metabolism and chemotherapy
  • The purine biosynthetic pathway in archaea

Nicholas Wright ‘16

Nick WrightWright graduated with a degree in biochemistry and is now a doctoral candidate in biochemistry at Duke University.  

“Having a rigorous, yet fun, educational experience at Roanoke College prepared me well for my scientific career. The small class sizes and hands-on laboratory course experiences enabled me to quickly learn scientific concepts and ideas. Most importantly, the opportunity to get involved in independent research starting from freshman year was key. Under the supervision of my undergraduate advisor, Dr. Tim Johann, I was given a tremendous amount of freedom to explore my independent studies in the biochemistry lab. These opportunities are rare for undergraduates at most schools." 

Lydiah Mpyisi

Photo of Lydiah Mpyisi conducting an experimentLydiah Mpyisi ’16 has a knack for lab research. While at Roanoke, she studied four Tuberculosis proteins to identify targets for antibiotics. “I got interested because tuberculosis is a big problem in Africa and Kenya, where I come from,” said Mpyisi, who was born in Kenya, and is majoring in Biology and Environmental Science and minoring in Chemistry. Her research helped Mpyisi land an internship last summer at Salem-based Novozymes, a global biotech company. Mpyisi hopes to continue her research and lab work in medical school or a biochemistry job.

At Roanoke, first semester freshmen use instruments that are available only to seniors or graduate students at many other schools. Alumni tell us that their experiences with instrumentation here distinguish them from the norm when they enter graduate school or the workforce.

Understanding Research Leads Student to Embrace Dentistry

Cooper Tyree graduated from Roanoke College in 2015 with a major in biochemistry and a minor in Spanish, and is now studying at the VCU School of Dentistry in Richmond. During his time at RC, he was able to do an independent study on the microbiology and biochemistry of dental caries - or cavities. "I have always been interested in dentistry, and so figuring out what is actually happening in dental caries was a great way for me to explore that passion further," says Tyree. Tyree plans to finish dental school and then practice dentistry in Virginia/Carolina region.

Sample Course Offerings:

  • CHEM 340: Pharmaceutical Chemistry
    Students working on an experiment
  • BIOL 315: Genetics
  • CHEM 341: Biochemistry I  

View all courses

Our students go on to highly regarded grad schools

Logos of: Boston University, University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, Virginia Tech, University of Pittsburgh, Notre Dame

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Alumni News – June 2021

Maroons are newsmakers! Read about the latest accomplishments of Roanoke alumni.

Community connection helps students further understand HIV

In advance of Transgender HIV Testing Day, this class is examining overlooked aspects of HIV with the help of a local community center.

Searching for a gene to prevent chemotherapy relapse

Using a new, revolutionary technique in hopes of discovering a new gene has Matthew Johnson '19 excited for the future. "We are using a new, revolutionary technique called CRISPR/Cas9 in hopes of discovering a new gene," he said.  

During a research internship at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY, his research focused on Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Johnson is particularly interested in cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy in order to prevent cancer relapse. He is working now in Dr. Cathy Sarisky's lab. "I've gained so much experience through this research and it's helped me apply to medical school this year," Johnson said.

What Have We Learned From COVID-19:

Christopher A. Haines, MD, MA will discuss his experience with the pandemic including his most recent books: Covid-19 Essays from the Front: the First Six Months, and the follow up, COVID-19 Essays from the Front: the Second Six Months

Learn more

Date | Time: Tuesday, November 9, 2021 | 7:00 PM
Location: Virtual Zoom Webinar (registration required)