Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology
Director: James E. Russo
Sara M. Belchik
Douglas H. Juers (on Sabbatical, 2013-14)
Daniel M. Vernon
The program in biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology (BBMB) offers interdisciplinary courses and a major at the interface of the physical and biological sciences. The curriculum focuses on the understanding of biological processes at the molecular level and seeks to prepare students to enter the rapidly developing fields of biotechnology, biomedicine, and structural biology. Courses in the BBMB major apply to the science and quantitative analysis (selected courses) distribution areas.
The BBMB major: Biology 111, 205; either Chemistry 125, 135, 126, 136, or Chemistry 140; 245, 246, 251, 252; Physics 155 or 165, 156 or 166; Mathematics 125, 126, 225; BBMB 324, 325, 326, 334, 335, 336, 400, and three credits of 490 or 498; at least seven additional credits taken from biology, chemistry or physics courses numbered 200 and above and approved by the BBMB faculty. The P-D-F grade option is not allowed for any BBMB, biology, chemistry, or physics course that applies to the BBMB major.
In the senior year, all BBMB majors must take a senior comprehensive exam containing both an oral and written component. The written component consists of the GRE exam in biochemistry, cell and molecular biology. A score in the 20th percentile or higher is required to pass. The oral exam consists of a one-hour comprehensive question exam with two or more participating faculty.
x, 3 Staff
The application of concepts and approaches from physics (e.g. mechanics, thermodynamics and electromagnetism) to deepen understanding of molecular and cell biology. We will focus on simplified models that capture the salient features of biological systems. Example topics include diffusion, hydrodynamics and cellular locomotion, free energy transduction, ligand binding, entropic forces, enzyme kinetics, molecular motors, macromolecular conformation, and signal propagation in neurons. Three one-hour lectures per week; weekly problem sets; exams. Prerequisites: Physics 155 and Mathematics 225. Corequisite: Physics 156.
3, 3 Fall: Staff; Spring: Russo
A detailed examination of protein structure and function, focusing on the role of proteins in molecular recognition and catalysis. Topics include: techniques used to characterize proteins; enzyme kinetics and mechanisms; signal transduction across membranes; bioenergetics; catabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates; integration of metabolism and disease. Three lectures per week. Fulfills the Molecular/Cell Biology requirement for the Biology major. Prerequisites: Biology 111, Chemistry 246.
326 Molecular Biology
3, x Vernon
A detailed examination of nucleic acid structure and function, focusing on gene expression and mechanisms of gene regulation. Other topics include molecular biology of viruses, mobile genetic elements, the genetic basis of cancer, and principles of genomics. Three lectures per week. Required for BBMB majors. Fulfills the Molecular/Cell requirement for the Biology major. Prerequisites: Biology 205 and BBMB 325; consent of instructor required for non-BBMB majors.
334 Biophysics Laboratory
x, 1 Staff
Laboratory exercises on a range of biophysical topics. Experimental testing of models developed in BBMB 324. Study of macromolecules using techniques that may include absorption spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, circular dichroism, nmr, crystallization and structure determination via X-ray diffraction. One three- to four- hour laboratory per week. Corequisite: BBMB 324. Open to other students only with consent of instructor.
335 Biochemistry Laboratory
x, 1 Russo
Laboratory exercises in protein biochemistry, which will include biochemical reagent preparation, enzyme isolation and purification, enzyme and protein assays, and gel electrophoresis. One three- to four-hour laboratory per week. Fulfills the Molecular/Cell Biology requirement for the Biology major. Prerequisites: Biology 111 and Chemistry 136 or 140; Corequisite: BBMB 325. Chemistry 240 is strongly recommended. Open to other students only with consent of instructor.
336 Molecular Biology Laboratory
1, x Vernon
Laboratory exercises in nucleic acid biochemistry, including molecular cloning, PCR, and DNA and RNA isolation and analysis techniques. One three-hour laboratory per week. Fulfills the Molecular/Cell Biology requirement for the Biology major. Prerequisite: BBMB 335; Corequisite: BBMB 326; consent required for non-BBMB majors.
400 Senior Seminar
x, 1 Russo, Vernon
The senior seminar will serve as the capstone of the major by providing a forum for all seniors to make a full-length oral presentation. Each student will describe the background, methodologies, and experimental results of the senior research project and respond to questions and critiques of his or her peers. Open to other students with consent of instructors.
430 Current Topics in Biochemistry: Infectious Disease
3, x Russo
The role of infectious disease in human mortality and morbidity. Discussion topics include: epidemiology and etiology of disease, cellular targets of microbial infection, immune responses, design and mechanism of action of antibiotic drugs, drug resistance, the development of vaccines for disease prevention, and the ethical dilemmas and social consequences of infectious disease. Case studies may include polio, influenza, malaria, tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, and HIV. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.
481, 482 Special Projects
1-2, 1-2 Staff
Research projects or independent studies arranged with individual students. The students must consult with a faculty member prior to the semester of the anticipated project to determine if the project is suitable, and the project must be done with the supervision of a Whitman faculty member. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.
490 Senior Research
1-3, 1-3 Staff
Each student will collect data and write a thesis on his or her research in accepted scientific style. One or more initial drafts of the thesis will be required before the final version is due in the last week of classes. Each student also will give a short presentation of his/her results in a public forum. Prerequisite: consent of the research adviser.
498 Honors Thesis
3, 3 Staff
Required of senior honors candidates, who will conduct more extensive research than students who take only BBMB 490. Honors students will finish data collection and write a thesis on the research in accepted scientific style. One or more initial drafts of the thesis will be required before the final version is due in the library. Presentation of results in a public forum to the staff and other BBMB majors is required. Credit cannot be earned simultaneously for BBMB 498 and 490. Prerequisites: consent of the research adviser, and admission to honors candidacy.